Manages Parisian Family Office. Began Wall Street, 82. Founded investment firm, Native American Advisors. Member, White Earth Chippewa Tribe. Was NYSE/FINRA arb. Conservative. Raised on Native reservations. Pureblood, clot-shot free. In a world elevated on a tech-driven dopamine binge, he trades from Ghost Ranch on the Yellowstone River in MT, his TN farm, Pamelot or CASA TULE', his winter camp in Los Cabos, Mexico. Always been, and will always be, an optimist.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Montana. 2013 Sheep

I had a great teacher in my high school geometry class. We all know that that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. There are no straight lines in sheep hunting. None. All I knew for sure is that hunting sheep is hard. Come to think of it I have never noticed a fat sheep hunter in any magazine and sure hadn't done any sheep hunting to know enough to bring great hiking poles along on the hunt. My experience with sheep hunting was zilch. I have watched sheep in Colorado, Montana and Canada but never went on a sheep hunt. I have watched some great rams and had a friend kill a huge ram in Colorado some years ago after putting in for a tag for many years. He had scouted the ram for months on end and hiked up and killed the ram at daylight on Day 1. Sounded simple enough. The unit we were hunting in is the best sheep unit in Montana for good reason.

This year, the Montana bighorn sheep Governors tag was a winning bid by Con Wadsworth of Draper, Utah, for $480,000 which shattered the state’s record of $300,000 set in 2012. The “Governor’s tag” holder has an edge with special privileges to hunt prized trophy areas with more favorable seasons than roughly 160 hunters who will draw ram permits in the state lottery. That sheep was killed not far from where my pal was going to be hunting!

When my friend called some weeks ago and told me he had drawn a tag in one of the greatest sheep hunting units in America, (after applying for about a dozen years or so) Unit 680 in Montana I knew he was calling for a reason we both didn't realize at the time. I told him I would do two things for him; I'd work my butt off to help him get a ram and I would not whine. That's what friends do. I have good hunting eyes, am in fairly good shape for turning 60 in 60 days and am a good solo camper. I told him that's all I could do! Now, I am glad he called and I know he is elated I answered. Sheep hunting is a team sport. I told him I would work out my schedule and if he hadn't tagged out on a ram after a few weeks of the season being open I'd meet him in the rough stuff north of the Missouri River on a certain day and give him a hand in getting his once-in-a-lifetime tag put on a great ram. I had decided to drive to Montana with a 1997 Ford Expedition, 4x4, with 175,000 miles on it. It's always a good feeling to drive into Montana!


It took well over 2 days and when I arrived at camp I had logged 2,033 miles to get there. Those miles were a beautiful jaunt across America in the fall and I'm constantly impressed with America, truckers, our ability to feed the world and our infrastructure. I am not impressed with our narcissistic politicians and their incompetency. I stayed with a client in Pella, Iowa the first night out and enjoyed some wonderful hospitality in a great little town, home of Pella Windows. Going through South Dakota was amazing. Eastern and Central South Dakota were ablaze in fall color and when I got further west, the great snow-storm of 2013 was clearly visible. This is at a gas station in Rapid City. The number of dead livestock was simply staggering. Between 50,000 and 60,000 head of cattle died. It was sad to see so many dead animals in such good health simply die in the wet snow because of suffocation and not having their winter coats on yet. 

This is how far it was from home as the crow flies. 1604 miles! Roads don't always run straight!

  The last yards of my trip involved taking a ferry across the Missouri River. Jack Carr was the ferry master and was not only a great chef but a great guy, well-versed in sports and cards.

I had packed the rig to be ready to step out and make camp. Fall was in the air and I snapped a picture of trees near my tent.

My pal wanted a great ram on the wall and we had to find one. There seemed to be plenty of sheep around. This is the first sheep we found, about a mile away.

Big rams leave big tracks. My boot is a size 12.

The nights were cool, actually freezing and had the coyotes on the move. We had a family pack swing by every night hunting rabbits in the high sage and they were loud. Sheep are probably in the best shape of the year in October and they looked ready for winter. I like having the range finder and Swaro's at the ready. I carried the big spotting scope and tripod in my big Eberlestock pack.

We saw plenty of ewes and rams and were working hard to find a good ram. Every sage flat or ridge seemed to have these guys buzzing and I will never be caught again without good snake gear. I had two pair of snake boots sitting at home and snake chaps in a hunting closet. My pal had snake gaiters and I followed him in the sage. The little ones sounded as nasty as the big ones.
We found a great ram that we nicknamed "Flare". He had a great curl and his tips were picture perfect, nothing was broomed. He was only a bit "light" in his mass and my buddy liked him but not enough. We needed to keep working. Flare had a pal that was broomed but older and heavier. We had put Flare and his big pal "to bed" one afternoon and we made the decision to climb up into the high country without the heavy spotting scope and tripod to get a better, up-close and personal look. I was doing my best not to sway my friend in shooting any ram. I wanted it to be his decision because it was a once-in-a-lifetime decision, at least in Montana for him. We awoke early and headed up. Little did we know we were sadly lacking in two important items. We didn't bring enough water and we didn't bring ample flashlights and head lamps. We worked up to a ridge to peer into the ridge where we had put the two great rams "to bed" the night before. Slowing moving up and looking over the ridge this is what we saw. No, we didn't see the two rams. There, at 245 yards lay 6 full-curl rams. Now what? Making a decision as to which one to shoot was going to take some time. You need to look at them from the front, the back and the side and all 6 were chewing their cud and not moving a muscle in the beautiful morning sun. The wind was in our favor as was the sun. This is what they looked like. Look in the middle of the picture through the trees and you will see sheep asleep.

So, there we laid. All of sudden, Flare, farthest to the right, (east), in this picture we were looking due north, comes to his feet and we hear the sound of a sheep. In a nanosecond, we now have 6 rams in a tight group all looking east. When you have that many sheep in a tight group you can't judge horns. They bolted over the ridge and were moving out fast. Suddenly we see a huge bodied ram chasing after them. I range him at 364 and my pal is thinking about taking a shot if he were to stop. He never stopped. He was running after the other rams and the quiet day in the hills continued. We just laid there dumbfounded. What just happened? We think this big ram just showed up in some kind of pre-rut display of dominance to let the little guys know who is boss and the chase was on.

We moved out quick up the ridge and headed north at a good clip to try and cut them off. We got up a few canyons to the north, came out on a bench and sat down, hoping we would see sheep on the move. Nothing moved. We had some water and a protein bar and made the decision to hunt out each little canyon as best we could back toward the south where they were laying. We didn't think they had gone far and that we would sooner or later bump them. We were going awful slow just picking along trying to peer into every nook and cranny and all of a sudden my buddy steps back and is quickly taking his pack off. I move up to range the ram. He is asleep on a near vertical ledge and we take our time to glass him. To me, he is a great ram. To somebody else maybe he is just a good ram. I told my pal that he was at 105 yards and he started to take a picture or two before he was going to start shooting. By now, I was running iPhone video camera to film the entire ordeal. This picture has the ram across the canyon under the black soil laying down.

The ram must have looked up across the canyon and got up and my pal had his shooting sticks up and at the ready in no time. When the echo of the muffled gunshot that anchored him subsided he was already kicking his way down the cliff on his nose and chin and he slid out of sight at a high rate of speed. My buddy isn't the kind of guy who whoops and hollers and high fives when an animal goes down, in fact he is a professional fishing and hunting guide, who doesn't like to hear the crap you hear on most TV hunting shows. At that moment, I swear, I was as pumped up as I ever have been after a kill shot without even firing a gun! I was so darn happy for my buddy and we both hoped the ram was dead and hadn't broke off half of his bone headed down that mountain!       

It took us far longer than we thought to get down to the sheep. We had to find a way down without killing ourselves and it wasn't easy. Leather gloves are mandatory!

My pal guides fly fisherman all summer and he rows constantly every day he is fishing. In the fall he guides deer hunters across Montana for whitetails and muleys and is a great guide. I am proud to call him a friend. His name is Lindsey Channel and this is his company. His upper body is extremely strong and thank the Lord for his strength! As we worked down closer to the sheep I let my friend go ahead to give him some time with the animal. It's the right thing to do.

I don't think this picture gives an accurate view of how darn steep it was in the bottom of this canyon. The ram had lodged in a narrow gully and because of his size we had a hard time to get him up and out of there. We caped him and deboned him as quick as we could, not having much space to move about. I put as much meat into game bags that I could carry in my pack and took meat in game bags to carry by hand. We did NOT leave a single piece of meat to waste. Our intention was to get the hand carried meat to the bottom of the canyon where there was a bit of water running in a rock filled creek and leave it overnight and come back for it the next day. When I first put my pack on I almost buckled! It took us longer than we expected to work our way down to the creek and here are pictures we took long before it got dark and long before we were out of water and exhausted. My pal who is simply a beast, carried not only his rifle but a heavy pack, the head, cape and a whole lot more sheep meat than I did. Here we are with about 3 hours to go before we got to a road. We felt good then, but little did we know we were in for the most grueling experience ever coming up quick.

The effort we put in was what this hunt was all about. We both knew we wanted to never set foot in that canyon again to fetch meat and we manned up and kept going, carrying the hand-held meat bags! Sweat had soaked my pack and there was nothing straight or flat for more than 3 steps. As day turned to night we were maybe a mile from the road as the crow flies and maybe 3 by walking. I had to keep up with my pal as he only had a head lamp to see where he was stepping. I have never been so dry in my life. I don't ever remember running track in high school and having such cotton-mouth! We were about delirious when we finally stepped up on the road about 9 p.m. and we both knew we couldn't have gone much further. Here is the meat the next morning. Sheep meat is darn tasty!
It was a great trip. Great weather, priceless memories.   To me, it’s hard work to have fun.  The effort is as enjoyable as the results.  It’s good to drink deeply of life.  There will be no mention of any "score" of this ram's horns.  To me, that is not what this animal represented.  I take the same approach to deer.   I like to hunt for big deer, not scores.


To live this long, to fend off winters, cats, coyotes, hunters, lions, eagles when young, this magnificent sheep deserved only tremendous respect. It will make a great trophy on the wall for my friend and his family for sure but the memories of that day and the work we put in to bring him out will last as long as well.  Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to kill a sheep.  I know I will be ready, God-willing.  Maybe I will have to go to work and figure out how to get a sheep tag in my life because I have always believed that if you really want to do something you will find a way.  If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.   Life isn't a straight line. I still think the best is yet to come. I hope you do too!

Thanks for coming along!

No comments: