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December 22, 2016

Sheep People: Those willing to help others accomplish a life-goal of killing a bighorn sheep--anywhere, anytime! Sometimes referred to as, "Wannabe's," "Hopefuls" and "Didn't Draws." This sentence says it all, "...the people I see adorning those lucky enough to have drawn or earned a place in time, to hunt Bighorn Sheep."

I was returning from a business trip in eastern Oregon when my phone started sounding off more than normal. My Fiance' Renee' looked at me and said, "I think tag results are out..." In the State of Oregon, drawing a Sheep tag is by lottery, and a once in a lifetime event.

It was mid-June, and results normally would come out online prior to receiving a mailer from O.D.F.&W, so I couldn't wait myself, and had Renee' enter my numbers to see what I may have received. Well, that is a story for another time. When my phone rang and my good friend Russ sounded like a middle school girl, I knew something big had happened; bigger than last year's Snake River Unit tag for Elk rifle, or the 1 in 5 muzzle loader antelope tag, the previous year--Dad had drawn a Bighorn Sheep tag and in a unit I knew well.

I was quickly inviting myself as politely as I could, as I had taken my first buck there thirty years ago and was simultaneously looking at my work calendar all the while suggesting my Brother-in-Law also participate who knew this area even better than me, and lived just thirty road miles away.

Now that my head was racing, summertime plans were being drawn up to research and travel multiple times to the area and build knowledge on the Unit. I had Topo maps purchased upon arrival in Bend four hours later and was on Google Earth once home. The elation that I might get to help was overshadowing the fact that I had FORGOTTEN to apply for my own hunts and my oldest daughter's first deer hunt.

The months flew by and I couldn't believe the weekend opener was a day away. A late take-off from home and a late evening meeting with friends that had converged from both sides of our great state, plans were drawn to wake early and travel in tandem as a two teams of three. We had two UTV's and two spotting scopes, one for each team. 

Well, something else that has rarely happened, happened--our opening morning alarm didn't go off. The time for alarm was set for the PM instead of the AM, and a knock on the door of the camp trailer was an ominous beginning.

We drove five miles with the trailered UTV's and disembarked in the dark. Driving in the gathering light we rode through blinding dust--good thing it was dark and we couldn't see what we were breathing. All of us were wearing Oregon Pack Works Packs and BinoBro's. The incredible dust never touched most of our expensive optics.

The road to our hunt is a popular recreation portal to the Snake River and archery season had been underway for two weeks.  Dozens of public land users and many vehicles per day created a main travel route deep with dust.

The first canyon that was chosen to travel into and sheep were spotted right away. We made a number of uphill and across canyon attempts, but the rams evaded us in the steep unforgiving folds of Hells Canyon. Without hearing the shot, just one canyon over, the non-resident had filled his tag about the timen we called off our first-day, morning hunt, in the increasing mid-morning heat."Two rams down out of five tags", Russ stated. 

Moving and glassing, moving and glassing is the game. Using high-end optics is also important for all day glassing and field judging. After three months of learning to judge Bighorn sheep, the preparation had leveled all of us to within a few inches of field judging scores. We all had very close estimates and I felt like we all were on the same page when it came to scoring our quarry.

Lunch came and went and we voted on a move, and  Russ immediately spotted a shooter ram from our new vantage point. The move afoot to a hillside that would cover our movement was on, and six of us headed toward a pair of rams. By the half-way point, two-hours into it, there were four of us, and in the end, a blown stalk--busted at 450 yards.

Day Two: We changed plans for the second day, and began our pursuit back in the same canyon, but with more patience. It was decided that we would spread out in a north/south direction along the river-road and glass. Within minutes of daylight breaking another shooter ram was spotted.

A serious game plan was devised and we were hiking within a few minutes. Team One moved off a mile and set up spotting scopes and Team Two proceeded straight uphill to a high point above the three rams, taking many breathers, as the sea-level dwellers climbed and rested, climbed and rested.

Within :45 minutes we were above the rams and we were ready to proceed. Team One was behind the scopes watching us proceed to a shooting advantage above the rams.

Hells Canyon, Oregon

 More to come in Part Two...

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