What’s so Hard About This Dad?
Over the years we have all sorts of folks come through our camps, a number of these being very memorable and some you are more than happy to forget! Now don’t let that bother you, but some folks are simply not that pleasant and if that’s you, we are all sorry and we hope you get better soon! I’m sure some of my clients left thinking I was less than Mr. Rogers and this is just part of the people business. That being said, it’s been awhile, but I thought it was about time to write about a father and son who I consider among the best of clients I have had. Todd and his son Colin originally came in several years back with Todd set to pursue sheep while Colin would take caribou if available. We wrote an article back in the day about that hunt because Todd exemplified the optimism we so desire in a hunter and it paid off for him as day 10 closed out on this hunt with a brutal stalk, a full curl ram taken and a night spent on the river bottom next to a frail fire, waiting for an early dawn! Now it would be time for Colin to get his chance in sheep country and the caribou was still on the agenda as well since Colin had taken a black bear rather than a bull during the first hunt.
It’s somewhat funny that the first hunt started across the ridge directly opposite of our cabins and this hunt would start essentially right behind our base. This spot had been a steady producer for us and it was not the most difficult place to hunt either, especially when we landed at 3,750’ elevation.
Colin was beginning the long years in college in the footsteps of dad who headed an ER in Michigan and as great as shape as these two were on the first hunt, it seemed they were even more streamlined for this round. We came into camp with an apprentice the day before the sheep opener just as we did on the previous hunt. The goal being to cross the high slope behind camp in the morning to see what we could see.
Everything went smoothly the next morning and we got up the 1,000’ climb without any trouble and quickly made our way over to my familiar little perch from which we routinely glass from, just 100’ below the skyline or so. If memory serves me correctly we spotted a ram across the valley on a cliff face I call the Coliseum and it was just a bit far to determine legality, thus we continued to glass to make sure we were not missing anything.
The drainage we glassed is really not much more than 2 1/2 miles from timberline to the head of the valley and I call it Paradise Creek simply because the biggest ram of my outfitting career came out of here and once again it has been a great producer for us and quite honestly it looks like paradise. The side we always come up and over is relatively benign with the opposite slope being a series of black terraced faces, many with huge sheer drops and no lack of escape terrain. The creek bottom is laced with both caribou and sheep trails and it culminates in some emerald pools at the base of the bowl in the head of the drainage. The valley we would discover had more cuts, ravines and dead ends than what we imagined or knew firsthand from our previous experiences.
It wasn’t long, probably before 10:30-11 AM before I got a glimpse of rams moving on our side near the valley head. It seems there was 4, but they vanished as soon as the appeared, then they popped out again, and back out of sight. It went on for less than 1/2 hour I suppose before we saw them March steadfastly into a higher offshoot valley, or sub valley if you will and we quickly got ourselves together and started their direction. For all intents and purposes they were on the same slope as we were so we ascended on up to the ridge line and started cutting the distance. They were out of sight and we made fast time navigating about 1/2 mile, perhaps just a bit more of razorbacks and sheep beds and then it happened! A ravine was before us that could not be crossed, so the sad truth was we were going to have to drop around 1,000’ to cross below the obstacle then we could try climbing up what appeared to be an easier route!
It isn’t that any of the sheep family is such a bright creature. We hardly use words like cunning, crafty, shrewd or intelligent when discussing sheep and I often point out my conviction that the fact that the Bible refers to believers as sheep is cute, but I’m not sure it is a compliment! The point is sheep hunting is exceptionally difficult due to the intelligence of rams, but the terrain itself is what breaks the will of men, if not their body! When it seems that closing the gap on an animal should be relatively straightforward, boom! The hammer drops and the earth opens up beneath you, sometimes more literally than others! You can’t predict when it will happen, only that it will!
This was essentially an unknown scenario for us! I had not been in the little, high valley that the rams had vanished into, nor was I one hundred percent sure we could even climb into without another dead end! Yet we moved swiftly down and started up through a series of steep, grass covered cliff faces and trails. It was somewhat like a labyrinth inasmuch as you could never know for sure if the next boulder or face you climbed by was going to actually lead anywhere. It was very warm and we were sweating hard to get up high enough to get a glimpse of the rams, then I spotted one loner, high up around the 5,300’ mark and I was having to work all the harder than to keep him from spotting us or spooking. We kept our eyes on him and finally by this time we had made it back up 1,000’ and we were looking at a valley that was little more than a half mile in depth, and if I remember correctly we may have even seen the second of the four rams on the same, steep right slope, but now we had some decent big boulders to provide some cover as we moved forward on the level. It wasn’t very far, perhaps less than 300 yards before I spotted two rams in the head of the valley, just above our level. At least one was bedded and an exquisite emerald lake lay just before us and the huge boulder fields on each side and at the far end. We all got settled in quickly as I grabbed my Zeiss spotter to get the necessary look. We were already in range and I’m pretty sure it was right around the 400 yard mark, so I could see the curl on the one bedded ram very well. The other ram was a 4-5 year old but the bedded ram was full curl, the horn tip coming clearly up above the bridge of the nose and extending to the level of the base and it didn’t take us long to decide it was too risky to try to get closer due to the other rams possibly spooking. Colin and his dad got up in front of me and nestled into the prone position. Nothing rushed, and every effort was made to get into a solid rest, so needful on the long shot. I gave Colin the go ahead and when the shot rang out it all got crazy for a few seconds, perhaps even a couple minutes. The ram was hit, but as is often the case it didn’t want to go down easily! Several shots later and it was over and we were swiftly making our way around the lake. By the time we covered that distance it felt like a long 400 yards!
Often the shot is climatic and walking up on the kill is less than, especially with a giant bull moose, but this was a very special moment for these two hunters and I was simply glad I had a share in it! The ram was another beautiful full curl and the backdrop for the photos simply was unparalleled! After we wrapped up all the work we made a dead end run about 300’ above the kill site only to be forced to turn around and backtrack the whole day’s route back to our camp, and I can assure you it was a hard day’s work, but rewarding above the norm! The rest of the hunt was easier, though the next day Todd took his bull caribou, over that same sheep slope behind camp, was pretty brutal. Colin would take a bull himself a few days later then 60 mph winds would flatten our cook/gathering tent and bring the great stretch of weather to an end, and I never actually heard him say it (though he may have while stitching up a laceration his dad got on his wrist after a fall) I am convinced Colin had to ask Todd”What’s so hard about this dad?”