I was flying a Super Cub 200 feet over the trees during a bald eagle survey in Alaska when I got a call from my wife. She told me these life-changing words, “You drew Idaho bighorn sheep!” I told her that wasn’t possible. I had used Huntin’ Fool’s Application Service and told them I wanted a top-notch sheep tag if I was going to be leaving Alaska in the fall and knew my odds were slim to none. My wife guaranteed I had drawn the tag.
The next day, I did the most sensible thing after drawing such a coveted tag. I quit my job! I had been thinking of leaving my job for some time, and not wanting to barter for time off, this seemed like the perfect catalyst to push me over the edge. I called all my buddies who had killed bighorns before, and they told me that life was over and nothing else could consume my every waking thought until I killed a huge ram. The problem was, I was quitting my job, buying a house, and simultaneously building a 7,000 square foot hangar house in the month of July alone. I called two of my brothers-in-law, Travis and Tom Schneider, and told them the great news. We made a plan to show up a few days early to figure out the hunt.
We got to the trailhead a few days before the season opened in late August. A small two-track road barely suitable for a full-size truck led us to where we wanted to set up camp. We knew there would be other hunters around since there were only a few access points for this hunt. We met some of the other hunters at camp, and they were a little shocked to see I had drawn the tag. I’m not your typically sized sheep hunter, standing 6'2" and a light 255 lbs. These guys had been up scouting many times throughout the summer and had been really getting after it. Usually, we feel pretty confident with competition that we can outhunt them, but this was not the case. These guys were young, in shape, had an outfitter with them, and were loaded up with all the right gear and long-range rifles.
The first morning of scouting, I walked down a ridge where a friend had told me to go where they had seen a big ram the year before. Tom and Travis each picked a different ridge to glass from, and we would meet back up at camp around lunchtime. I made it to my pre-determined glassing point right at first light and set up to find a sheep. This was my first time hunting bighorns, and I was not used to all the timber I needed to pick apart. This area didn’t hold a lot of game, and it was a very quiet, serene morning.
I had done as much research as my busy schedule allowed me. One thing I kept hearing from folks is that even in August and September, rams will hit horns with one another. While glassing, I thought I had heard this, but I second guessed myself, figuring it was most likely a rock falling. Twenty minutes later, I heard it again and pinpointed the exact location. Within 30 seconds, I spotted two smaller rams playing around with each other. Twenty yards above them, I saw the lead ram. I could instantly tell he was a shooter. He is the ram you see in your dreams where it only takes one second to confirm he is worthy of your once-in-a-lifetime tag. This was the case with this ram. I could tell he had at least 15" bases, carried his mass into the third quarter, and had a big Roman nose, a sway back, and a pot belly. He was most definitely a very old ram and would be the one I would go after.
All three of us met back at camp and compared pictures of my ram to the smaller one Tom had found. Travis didn’t see any sheep in the direction he went and talked to another hunter who said they had heard wolves in the area a few days prior.
The day before the opener, I glassed at first light. The wind and the thermals weren’t right, so I backed out. This ram had been living in the same 100-yard patch of trees every time I found him, and I didn’t want to mess that up. That evening, all three of us went in to make a game plan on this ram for the morning. On our way to our glassing spot, we stumbled upon a tent. There wasn’t anyone in it, but we assumed they were glassing the ram we were after. We backed out and had some thinking to do.
This is a big unit with low densities of sheep, and all the hunters were at one trailhead. I figured this ram had many hunters going after him in the morning and this was public land, so we were going to give it our all.
I was up on opening day after absolutely zero sleep due to anxiety and anticipation. Knowing we were on public land with one big ram and many hunters, I knew the day would end with extreme happiness or depression. I told Travis, “May the best man win today; I just hope that man is me.”
We left camp at 2:14 a.m., and after three hours of hiking, we were crawling over the last ridge in the dark to get to a pre- determined shooting position we had glassed the night before. As we crested the ridge, we knew we would be within shooting range of the ram, so we turned off our headlamps and crawled through the last cliff band in the dark. We found the only flat spot to shoot from and prayed the ram would be in one of the few shooting lanes I had.
As shooting light approached, Tom said, “I see a ram.” The sheep were further down the canyon than they had been previously. It didn’t take long for the ram to present a shot, and I made sure I had a good range and was as steady as I could be. I positioned myself behind the Gunwerks 7SAUM, and while I exhaled all my air, I could see a very pronounced heartbeat in the scope. It was now or never, and I hoped that the shot would break during the respiratory pause. Right when I was finishing the squeeze of the trigger, Travis told me not to shoot as the ram was taking a step. It was too late. The shot missed high as the ram fed down the hill. I quickly cycled the bolt and got a new range as the ram stood there confused. The second shot hit high and a little far back, but I knew it would be fatal. The band of rams ran down the hill and stopped again.
The sheep were now out of my shooting lanes, and we had to quickly move. The three of us moved in perfect sequence to another shooting location. This was on a 45-degree slope, shooting across a canyon, and I had the bipod resting on a blow-down log. This was far from an ideal shooting position, but it was my only option. I did my best to try and finish him off as he was moving through the trees but missed. I knew the ram was wounded and I had a job to finish. The ram stopped once more before going into the dark timber. I hit the ram perfectly on my last shot. We were all elated when we saw the sheep run straight downhill and pile up in a band of cliffs.
We made sure he was dead, and after hugs and high fives, we went down there to check him out. We made our way through the cliffs to the ram, and I was astonished at what I had shot. I’d never laid my hands on a bighorn, and I was surprised at how big he was. My goal was a 165"+ ram as a worthy trophy for this unit. This ram taped out to way more than I could have ever dreamed of at 181 3/8" B&C. We got back to camp around midnight, which has happened many times before with my two brothers. We have been on many hunts together, but this one was very special.
I would like to thank my wife, Tana, for never saying no when it comes to hunting, and I’m very blessed she supports this addiction. I also want to thank Huntin’ Fool for helping me draw this tag and getting the list of previous tag holders for the unit. I forget to apply in multiple states every year and left the application and unit choice up to them and their team of experts. Finally, I wanted to say thank you to Tom and Travis for coming along. They both had many tags to fill but selflessly came along to help me find the ram of my dreams and to pull off a crazy plan for a giant bighorn!
Watch Adam’s sheep hunt film on the Stuck N The Rut YouTube Channel.