“How about Matt St. Martin?” I will never forget those words announced by Donald C. Martin, President of the California Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation at their 2021 fund raising banquet in Sacramento. It was a dream come true. I had just won an Alaska Dall sheep hunt!
My hunt was scheduled for September 2023, so I had plenty of time to prepare. I immediately knew that my son, Jonston, would be going with me on this once-in-a-lifetime hunt. My contact was Donald C. Martin, and I would speak with him periodically about preparations.
On August 22, 2023, Jonston and I flew to Anchorage, and the next morning, with much anticipation, we met up with our guide, Jay Stanford, and continued the long drive to McCarthy. We were then flown in a Super Cub to the Ultima Thule Lodge. We prepped our gear and planned on leaving later the next morning for the flight to the Wrangell St. Elias Wilderness, looking for one specific ram.
On the 24th, we picked up a group of rams miles from our location, but almost immediately, we were shut down due to heavy rains. The next day, we made the long trek to where we last saw the rams. After bushwhacking to their location and crossing glacier rivers, we were finally able to get a closer look. Unfortunately, they were not what we were looking for, and after a long trek, we made it back to the landing zone. We were planning to be picked up that evening, but due to the weather conditions, we had to wait another day and a half.
After being relocated to a different area, we soon picked up one of the target rams. We hiked to the base of the mountain, prepared for the next day, and then made the decision to put him to bed. In the morning, we located him and traversed 2,000 feet, but he winded us and blew out. This was turning out to be one of the most grueling hunts of my life. It was now day 8 of a 10-day hunt. Jonston located a nice moose, which was hard to pass up. After discussion, we all agreed to keep our sights on a Dall sheep. As it turned out, we located a group of rams that were miles away and made the decision to go after them the next morning.
We began hiking, and about four miles in, we were hit by a blizzard and had to hunker down for a while. We then made the decision to keep moving towards the group of rams. At about 3:00 that afternoon, the storm lifted and there they were, the rams. Out of the group, there were two good rams. Jay, Jonston, and I slid down the hill to get in range. After about five minutes on the gun, Jay gave me the go ahead on the lead ram. Jay said, “As soon as he turns broadside, kill him”
After about eight seconds the ram turned broadside and the gun went off. Jay said, “You got him.”
I asked, “Do you want me to put one more in him?” Jay said, “No, I think he is dead.”
Immediately, the emotions flowed through Jay, Jonston, and me. We all hugged and high fived and then headed down to the ram. After putting our hands on the ram, we realized he was much bigger than we had thought. Jay commented, “This ram is big!” We packed out the ram to our pickup location where we had a quick celebration with dinner. That night, we got our first clear skies and were able to see the Northern Lights for the first time.
Being a sheep guide in California for the past 26 years, this hunt was one of the most extreme I have been on. Having my son there was one of the biggest highlights of my life!
Jay Stanford showed his years of experience, and he is now a friend for life. I cannot thank him and Ultima Thule Outfitters enough for this dream come true.