Hunting Washington Forum

Big Game Hunting => Other Big Game => Topic started by: Bushcraft on October 18, 2019, 11:36:00 AM

Title: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Bushcraft on October 18, 2019, 11:36:00 AM
When you are standing in the “Batter’s Box” of this one life that you’ve been granted by the Almighty, you’ve got to swing.

Sometimes you’ll whiff. Sometimes you’ll get a single, double or triple. And occasionally, sometimes you’ll knock it out of the park.

Months ago I scanned through my online WDFW Special Permit Application results and saw “Selected” for a California Bighorn Ewe tag. While incredulous, knowing first-hand how hard some of our wild sheep herds in Washington are faring due to MOVI pneumonia outbreak issues, I had a less than exuberant reaction to drawing the ewe tag. Like a lot of people I just automatically put in for everything, but there was no way I was going to shoot a ewe. Part of me thought, “Well, that’s one more ewe that gets to stay on the mountain.”

It was only when I reviewed the game regs again for the specific dates did I realize I could take a juvenile ram instead of a ewe. Alrighty then…game on…more meat in the freezer, baby!
Unfortunately, by the time WDFW had finally came out with their draw results, I had already committed to a mule deer hunt with dates that significantly overlapped my sheep tag’s limited window of opportunity.

The area where I prefer to hunt the High Buck season is a special place for me. It’s a sacred place whose raw and wild beauty - at least to my eye, is beyond compare and where some of my ashes will someday be spread. And, I was going back in there with one of my best friends who hadn’t been able to make it back in there with me for a couple years.

Some sheep hunting friends that were knowledgeable about the area thought I was crazy for not changing my plans. There were rumors of some really nice juvenile rams in the area and I was risking losing an opportunity at a good one to some other hunter. But, I had made a commitment and I determined that I’d rather go after big mule deer deep in the wilderness than play cat and mouse with small immature juvenile rams in a patchwork of public and private lands any day of the week.

So, @Colville and I spent an EPIC nine days hunting the high-country and I logged 40+ miles and 29,288 vertical feet over the course of the trip with a ugly 14+ mile haul-out while carrying a 100+ lb. pack. The rain and exposure was Old Testament biblical at times. My body needed some time to recuperate after our successful hunt, especially my feet.
 
I used the post-hunt downtime to catch up on some work and BOD committee business, feed my body copious amounts of red meat and veggies, attend a Ducks Unlimited fundraiser in Seattle with friends, make a run over to the canyon to try and help a kiddo and her father fill her sheep tag, and somehow catch a head cold that kept pushing out the date for me to leave and start my sheep hunt.

Finally, with the shot clock ticking down on my season, I just said, “Screw it!” and packed the truck and headed for the Yakima Canyon, head cold be-damned.

The wild sheep in this particular area had been hit hard by the Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi) outbreak. Movi is a bacterium that often leads to deadly respiratory disease such as pneumonia in wild sheep and goats. It is initially contracted from domestic sheep and goats and can spread like wildfire through a band of wild sheep. It’s a serious pathogen that can wipe out bands, especially the young.  And, frustratingly, the survivors can harbor the disease as "super carriers", thereby making it nearly impossible to regain a population. The tag I drew was one of a few that were set aside as part of a “management test cull” to see how many ewes and juvenile rams were affected. If it’s determined that a large enough percentage is infected, then a larger effort will be made to capture and selectively euthanize the carriers rather than kill off the entire herd and start over. It's my understanding that the approach has had some success in different parts of the state and is far less expensive than a wholesale removal and restocking effort.  (A big thanks to SCI and WSF volunteers for working hand in hand with WDFW bios on this important issue!)

Anyway, I was warned that the longer I put it off into the pre-rut, the more difficult it would be for me to be successful in harvesting a particular juvenile ram. As the pre-rut escalates there is no rhyme or reason to when and where the rams decide to go. They could hang out in a relatively small area for days on end. Or, if they catch a whiff of some pheromones, they could be miles away in a totally different drainage system in a handful of hours trying to mix it up with the neighboring ladies. It’s amazing how much hardscrabble country they can cover in seemingly no time at all when they put their mind to it. Add to that patterning problem a patchwork of public and private landholdings.  And yes, I could have forked over the trespass fee to Red's, but I wanted to try and get it done on public land.

While it’s not particularly hard to find a ewe or juvenile ram (or a mature ram for that matter) in this unit, it proved to be damned difficult to find and keep track of a single particular sheep. Within the first day or so while out with a friend that wanted to help glass, we ended up coming within yards of group of rams that held a juvenile ram who was just on the verge of not being legal. I really didn’t want to tempt that sort of fate with WDFW enforcement. Plus, it’s cape was really scuffed up from its lamb tips and general rough-housing with the other rams and it was mor or less the first day of my hunt. It was shortly after deciding to not pull the trigger on that one that we glassed up a stunner juvenile a long way off through the all-seeing eye of the big Swarovski spotter that was making a bee-line for some private lands. Not only did it appear to just barely be legal, but it also had an absolutely gorgeous cape, which was my primary goal. I decided then and there that it was "The One" I wanted to go after. The hunt was on!

I’d found and lost this particular ram several times over the course of the next six or seven days. Sometimes I couldn’t find him at all for days on end. More often than I’d like to count, I’d find him only to have him vanish in the many twisting rocky basalt fissures of the Yakima Canyon. Other times, I’d glass him up with the frustrating realization that he was safely on private ground.
 
The cat and mouse game went on like that all week with many miles and a few thousand vertical feet put on my already tired legs every day. Fortunately, my head cold was going away and I had a comfortable camp at Umtanum with a warm Kifaru tipi, a comfortable bed and real food I could come back to every night to refuel my body and mind.

On the morning of the second to last possible day everything fell into place. "The One" had been hanging out with four mature rams the evening before at last light, but he was nowhere to be found with them or in any of the neighboring canyon drainages that I desperately searched in the early morning light. Amazingly, nearly seven miles away (walking distance when skirting the ridgelines as the sheep tend to do), I located a ram that I thought was him skylined on a ridge hanging out with a one-horned unicorn ewe…and he was on public land not particularly far from the road. Unsure if it was the scruffy ram or "The One", I impatiently watched him through the Swaro for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for it to stand up and move around.  When it stood up I immediately realized I'd found him and NOW was the time to act. I fought to regain my composure and quickly put a plan together. A good friend of mine was coming over to hang out for the day and help glass, but I couldn’t afford to wait the couple hours for him to get there and film the stalk and shot. It was “now or never” as they say.

My time this year shooting precision rifles competitively in PRS and NRL matches in wonky field positions paid off as I was able to efficiently build a solid rest and quickly settle the custom 300 WSM's Nightforce reticle on his heart. A moment later a 168 gr. Barnes TTSX cleanly and humanely put him down.

It’s been a long time since I’ve shook that hard and been overcome with such a flood of emotional reactions after the culmination of a successful hunt. The massive adrenaline dump had me shaking like a leaf for a good twenty-five to thirty minutes after the shot.  I couldn't believe the long odds of me, or anyone else for that matter, being able to harvest this particular animal.

Even though it wasn’t an Any Ram tag, I had lucked out and drawn a sheep tag. I had done so in my home state with nearly impossible odds. With some luck and sweat equity I was able to find the nicest possible legal ram in the entire area for the tag I had drawn, and perhaps the entire state. Furthermore, it had a stunningly beautiful, un-marred dark chocolate cape, which is uncommon for juvenile rams. I’d found the proverbial needle in the haystack several times in the patchwork of public lands only to lose him to the safety of private lands. Even though I had been using the best optics on the planet, my eyes were getting tired (and bored!) of the constant glassing for hours and hours on end all day, every day of the same public areas. My legs were getting smoked after climbing up and down steep basalt canyon walls day after day. The odds of taking a sheep like this were long indeed but my dream had come true.  I'll chalk it up to karma for volunteering so much of my time and energy to hunting advocacy and wildlife conservation in this state and beyond.
 
I’d finally tagged out on "The One"…and was very severely bitten again by the sheep hunting bug in the process.

This could get expensive.  :chuckle:



#DIY #fieldtofeast #hunting #meateater #clean #redmeat #organic #flavor #sheephunting #wildsheep #californiabighorn #wildsheepfoundation #wsf #safariclub #sci #firstforhunters #kifaru #kifarulife #mountainhunting #solo #usethequadsgodgaveyou #knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom #swarovski #nightforce #zeiss #reallyrightstuff #barnesbullets #kuiu #scarpa #wildernessathlete #publicland
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Ridgerunner on October 18, 2019, 03:08:19 PM
Beautiful ram, what a great end to your fall.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: full choke on October 18, 2019, 03:15:17 PM
Nice ram!  :tup:

Cool story, thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: hunterednate on October 18, 2019, 03:24:42 PM
So cool! Way to keep after it. You've inspired me to go duck hunting tomorrow in spite of my head cold.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Rainier10 on October 18, 2019, 03:52:14 PM
beautiful ram, you did very well.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Machias on October 18, 2019, 04:52:12 PM
VERY nice, congrats!!
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: SuperDave on October 18, 2019, 06:55:18 PM
Great ram and story, congratulations!
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: idaho guy on October 18, 2019, 07:50:32 PM
 :tup: great story and ram.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Widgeondeke on October 18, 2019, 08:15:56 PM
That was a phenomenal read.  Thank you for sharing and CONGRATS!
                          :tup:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: CaNINE on October 18, 2019, 09:10:10 PM
 :tup: :tup:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: SWHUNTER on October 18, 2019, 09:29:24 PM
Great job! Congrats. :IBCOOL:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: X-Force on October 18, 2019, 11:24:50 PM
Pretty ram
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Tree Killer on October 19, 2019, 04:41:18 AM
Congratulations on your bighorn!
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: bowhunterforever on October 19, 2019, 01:03:44 PM
Nice ram :tup: Congrats
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: hunting4sanity on October 19, 2019, 01:32:43 PM
Beautiful ram, congratulations!
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Bushcraft on October 19, 2019, 01:40:38 PM
Thanks folks!  I wish everyone had the opportunity to go after this unique species.

Beautiful ram, what a great end to your fall.

End to my Fall?  :dunno:  Haha.  My wife wishes!!! :chuckle:

I still have elk and waterfowl and maybe an assist or two on some OIL tags.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: starbailey on October 19, 2019, 03:03:52 PM
Congratulations on your trophy and what sounded like a great hunt.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Birdguy on October 19, 2019, 04:46:37 PM
Way to go! Great read, glad you got out after it and what a trophy to go with the feast! Just a really cool opportunity and you sure made good on it!
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Falcon on October 19, 2019, 09:20:24 PM
BC

Congrats on a fantastic hunt. You hunted hard and made your own luck.  Also thanks for the great writeup :tup:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: scrapperdude on October 21, 2019, 12:39:49 PM
congrats on your Ram, I'd be interested to see what the biologist said on that one
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Bushcraft on October 21, 2019, 01:43:50 PM
congrats on your Ram, I'd be interested to see what the biologist said on that one

Thank you.

And yes, it's definitely legal if that's what you were wondering.  Note that the head is turned slightly, which makes it seem even closer to the imaginary line than it actually is. To paraphrase what the biologist said, it was something along the lines of: "Wow!  That's a really nice one.  Congratulations!"
 
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: milldozer on October 21, 2019, 04:07:19 PM
Congrats!   Now lets hear the HH story..
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: idaho guy on October 22, 2019, 05:16:13 PM
Congrats!   Now lets hear the HH story..
 

 :yeah:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: Boss .300 winmag on October 23, 2019, 07:49:24 AM
Congrats!   Now lets hear the HH story..
 

 :yeah:

 :yeah: 👍
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: pianoman9701 on October 23, 2019, 08:43:58 AM
Thanks for sharing the story. That's a nice ram. Congratulations.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: elkoholic1 on October 25, 2019, 08:11:32 PM
 :tup:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: nwhunter on December 01, 2019, 08:48:40 AM
Congrats on your ram.. Can you educate me on how or why WDFW decides to allow taking a juvenile ram rather than a ewe on these hunts. I am not a sheep expert but the areas I have been in and sheep I have looked at it would seem like if we are going to cull sheep from our herds it would not be a perfect immature ram that could be the next 180 ram but would be broken older ram that none of the ram tag holders want to shoot.? I'm not pointing a finger at the hunter I am just confused at the logic of WDFW on this when we can't seem to get sheep numbers high enough to continue to raise tag numbers over the years in our state.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: wheels on December 01, 2019, 11:42:09 AM
congrats
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: RB on December 01, 2019, 11:43:47 AM
Right on congrats on a nice Ram!  :tup:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: 87Ford on December 01, 2019, 12:01:30 PM
Nice!  Good story  :tup:
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: eskimo on December 13, 2019, 07:21:52 PM
Great story ,great ram,and a great hunter and outdoorsman. You earned it. Good luck the rest of the season.
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: greenhead_killer on December 13, 2019, 08:03:13 PM
Congrats on your ram.. Can you educate me on how or why WDFW decides to allow taking a juvenile ram rather than a ewe on these hunts. I am not a sheep expert but the areas I have been in and sheep I have looked at it would seem like if we are going to cull sheep from our herds it would not be a perfect immature ram that could be the next 180 ram but would be broken older ram that none of the ram tag holders want to shoot.? I'm not pointing a finger at the hunter I am just confused at the logic of WDFW on this when we can't seem to get sheep numbers high enough to continue to raise tag numbers over the years in our state.
they gave the option of shooting an ewe or juvenile ram out of the canyon herd this year to reduce it to the point they can go in and do testing. Pneumonia is running through this herd and they wanted to gauge where the herd is standing. If they are infected or clean. I’ve also heard that the ewes that are infected have only been giving birth to male lambs. Over abundance maybe? I know a lot had to do with the reduction of the herd and who’s not going to try and shoot a ram if given the choice?
Title: Re: 2019 California Bighorn Sheep Hunt - Tag Filled
Post by: snake on December 13, 2019, 08:03:44 PM
Congrats on your ram.. Can you educate me on how or why WDFW decides to allow taking a juvenile ram rather than a ewe on these hunts. I am not a sheep expert but the areas I have been in and sheep I have looked at it would seem like if we are going to cull sheep from our herds it would not be a perfect immature ram that could be the next 180 ram but would be broken older ram that none of the ram tag holders want to shoot.? I'm not pointing a finger at the hunter I am just confused at the logic of WDFW on this when we can't seem to get sheep numbers high enough to continue to raise tag numbers over the years in our state.
Long story short, the biologist told me that a disease (I think it was pneumonia) is spreading and the older sheep have a certain amount of immunity to it.  The younger ones do not, if they cull the young/middle age animals they are hoping to stop the spread. That is why they gave so many juvenile and ewe tags this year in the canyon.  The biologist also didn't agree with the continued efforts to maintain a sheep population in areas that have domestic sheep, The wild ones will continue to die off.  This is putting the biologist words into Lehmans terms.  I discussed it at length with him when I got my ram pinned this year.