When it comes to drawing quality trophy hunts, my wife is definitely the breadwinner in our family. I have been submitting draw hunt applications for 20 years now, with no success, but whatever Sherry puts in for, she gets! We sent in her application for California Big Horn Sheep on her birthday, the 13th, and she actually drew! Last year 190 applicants put in for 6 tags!
I called Idaho Fish and Game (IFG) immediately to get harvest history on her unit. I was informed that sheep numbers were way down in Sherry's area and they were considering closing the unit in order to let the herd build itself back up. After flying an area that normally held 200 sheep, IFG found only 25. The reason numbers are down is unclear and the reasons vary depending on whom you're talking to. Some say cougars are the problem, others think the Air Force jets that buzz the canyons have driven the sheep into Nevada. Still others blame the decline on poachers. IFG flew the area again and found a few more legal rams so they decided to let the season open.
Not knowing as much as I would like to about sheep hunting, I started making phone calls to everyone who was familiar with the elusive critters. We eventually hooked up with Cass and Betty Akins who both drew in Sherry's area and harvested nice rams. Cass drew in '94 and saw 25 to 30 sheep on his scouting trips. He actually passed on several legal rams waiting for Mr. Big! Betty drew in '98 and saw about half the number but still scored a nice ram. Cass and Betty shared their valuable experiences they learned on their scouting and hunting trips. The recommendations they made helped Sherry and I decide where and how to hunt her unit.
We invested as much time as possible scouting the unit with disappointing results. No legal rams were found and lambs and ewes were scarce. I flew the area with a friend and saw no sheep at all! With optimism, I blamed it on the heat, hoping the rams were in the cool shade of the canyons. I knew they would venture out as the weather cooled.
Opening day found us on the rim of a historically successful canyon. We crawled to the edge and what do you think we saw? Two rams were standing in a shadow looking right at us! I grabbed the laser range finder and zapped them at 450 meters. Too far for Sherry's 308. I told her to shed her daypack and that we were going to get closer. I no sooner said that than the rams spooked and were gone in about 2 seconds. I couldn't believe the eyesight of these guys! 450 meters and that was too close for them. We never saw another sheep in 7 days of hunting. We were disappointed and had serious reservations about finding a legal ram. On the drive home Sherry and I motivated each other and made plans to return. We decided to take the 300 Win Mag next time. We didn't want to let another hard to come by ram escape because we were out distanced!
Due to work commitments we couldn't hunt again for a couple of weeks. When we did return, the weather was cooler and our spirits were high. Being an avid elk hunter, I found it hard to sit in one spot for a couple of hours and glass rocks. The thought of a monster ram just right around the next bend always got me up and moving sooner than I should have. I didn't settle into the game until Sherry found a banana ram and a ewe right across the canyon from the position I just finished glassing! We spent 5 days in the area and saw sheep every day, but no legal rams.
Having spent considerable time on the west side of the canyon we decided to see what the east side had to offer. On the third and final trip, we found a way to access an area that looked very "sheepish" on the map. We were on the rim as the sun peeked over the horizon. I was glassing the far side when something caught my eye on our side. I brought the Leica 10X binoes up and couldn't believe what I saw. The same two rams we saw on opening day were bedded down 258 meters away! The larger ram was definitely legal, and after a very quick discussion we decided to go for the only legal ram we saw in 13 days of hunting. Sherry got into a prone position supported by a perfectly placed rock and my hat as a buffer. The rams didn't know we were there, so she had all the time in the world. Sherry's ram was facing us head on, presenting a very small target. I told her to wait for him to stand up hoping he might give her a broadside shot. After a while Sherry's back started cramping, so I told her to take the shot. As I watched through the binoes, she let a 180 grain Nosler Partition fly. When I herd that wonderful WHUMP sound I knew she hit him! The ram threw his head back and twitched his legs once, never getting out of his bed. The ram was six and a half years old with 13" bases. The left side measured 26" and 28" on the right. Not a monster, but a wonderful trophy. He will look great on "Sherry's wall" next to her moose and 30" buck. This was definitely the toughest, but most rewarding hunt we have ever experienced. All the hard work, time, and persistence paid off.
We really need to thank Sherry's mom, Janice Cassidy, for taking the time to baby-sit our two kids. Without her support, this hunt would not have been successful. And thanks to all the people who offered information, encouragement, and advice.
I have to give credit to my wife, Sherry. Through all the walking, climbing, heat, cold, rain, wind, dust, sleep depravation, lousy meals, and lack of rams, she didn't complain once. It would have been easy for her to give up and blame low ram numbers for not harvesting a trophy. But she stuck with it, and filled her once in a lifetime tag!
We submitted Sherry's application on the 13th, she harvested on the 13th day of hunting, and the ram had 13-inch bases. Lucky 13 for us!