Well… Yet another year in my quest for a Big Stone's Ram has come to an end… Ramless! And that's okay, The trip was awesome, the country was beautiful we saw legal sheep and a ton of other game.
We left the Island via the 5:15am Nanaimo ferry to Vancouver and drove to Grande Prairie AB, where we met up with my Dad (32 years guiding sheep) and went over all our last minute details, where we were hiking in, what areas to concentrate on etc… All really good and appreciated advice.
The following day we once again rose early and began the 2nd leg of our journey… From Grande Prairie we drove all the way to Muncho lake lodge where we spent the night… Really Nice Place but it's expensive! This was our last resort as both the other lodges further south were already full… We wanted one more night in a warm bed with a warm shower before starting our hike in.
Anyways… We were on the trail by 7:15am the next morning beginning our long ascent up the mountain. We followed a game trail for a little while and broke out of the timberline rather quickly. The first 3/4's of this mountain was a relatively easy climb, It was when we reached that last 1/4 when the going got tough. We were into the steep shale cliffs and with our 60 pound packs it was an exhilarating climb thats for sure… We had to carefully choose our routes or risk being turned into hamburger at the bottom.
It took us about 5 hours to make the lower top of this mountain where were both out of water… Never being into this country before we were a little worried about where we might find it… But as we crested the top we found a snowpack that was draining into a little tiny pond… Just as we got there to fill up our bottles a Duck gracefully flew in and landed on the lack… Trivializing our 5 hour journey to the top.
Coming down the backside of the mountain and dropping into a high saddle in sheep country took us another 3 hours and we had our base camp setup. We were using my Integral Designs MKIII for this trip and it's a fabulous tent…
That first late afternoon I was glassing the mountains with my Zeiss 85mm Diascope when I heard a rockslide on the opposing side of the valley… I quickly spun my scope around and was onto a band of 9+ rams running across the shale about 1000' feet or so above us. I quickly shouted to my partner (who was napping) I've got RAMS! and he was out of bed faster then if we'd had a Grizzly in camp.
I got a pretty good look at what I thought was the lead ram (there could have been 1 or 2 ahead of him). He was a heavy old ram and a shooter for sure (I won't pull unless 10 years of age or 40" – whichever comes first), the ram behind him looked to easily make 3/4 curl but I didn't get a good enough look at him, as he went over the ridge he was definitely not as heavy as the first ram, the 3rd ram looked to be 3/4 curl and they started getting smaller from there as they were travelling in their peking order. In short, This band of rams saw us waaay before we spotted them and that messed things up a little for us. It's critical that you pick apart every part of new real estate in sheep country before you enter… We'd spent a few hours glassing on our descent into the saddle, and a few more from base camp but as we later found out (after hiking the ridge) they had numerous beds where they could see us and we had little to no chance of seeing them. They definitely don't live long by being stupid.
We spent several more days in this patch of mountains, glassing for hours on end from various vantage points around the valley and surrounding mountains. We watched Stone's sheep morning, noon and night every day but all were young rams, ewes and lambs with several dozen caribou mixed in for good measure. Not for lack of trying, we never did find that band of rams again which is something that can happen, even to the most experienced of sheep hunters.
I'd also drawn a Grizzly bear tag for the liard and we went into this patch of mountains expecting to hunt bear afterwards so we'd only packed 6 days worth of food. We pulled out on day 5 when the weather decided to take a turn for the worst. Instead of coming in our original route we dropped right down off the saddle and into the creek below. It was one of the toughest hikes out I've had yet with several impassable waterfalls and cliffs that needed to be carefully navigated. Several times I slipped on wet rocks and took some good tumbles as did my partner. We did make it out though…!
My Dad drove up and met with us and we decided instead of going after Grizzly we'd just keep hunting sheep for a while… The weather was supposed to get better and we'd likely still have a chance at some other rams if we wanted. We chose sheep!
Most of our hunting from this point on was glassing many of our known spots along the highway and some surrounding roads. We went for a 54 mile quad ride up and down the Davis Keyes mine rd and saw some sheep up there as well as quite a few other hunters. There is quite a bit of pressure up here so we opted to just enjoy the scenery and will likely not go back there to hunt again. It was really pretty country though and the quad ride in was an absolute blast.
We spent another few days up in the area before deciding to head south. We thought with our trip coming to an end we might as well pickup an Elk tag and see if we couldn't bag a bull off some private land we had permission on… The rest of the story will follow.
Gear I have reviewed and used on this hunt: