Once again, my wife, Melisa, had some more of her great luck this year, both in drawing a tag for Desert sheep and then again on the hunt. We live in Idaho, and she drew the only non-resident tag for Desert sheep in California! After seeing the great news when we checked the draw results, we started doing research. We had a lot of help from former hunters and some folks who had helped others in previous years. Matt, in particular, not only gave us a great general overview of the unit, but he has turned into a friend and maybe one day we will end up hunting together.
After Melisa and I talked about it, we decided we had more time than money so we would try to hunt self-guided with the info we had and help from my brother and some good friends. After months of planning, research, looking at photos and maps, and attending a mandatory orientation meeting with the DFG, we traveled down from Idaho to spend Thanksgiving with family. We made a stop on the way to drive into the unit to find a camp spot and get eyes on a couple of the main roads.
After Thanksgiving and some time with family, we went back out on Monday morning so we could spend the five days before the hunt learning the unit and hopefully spotting some sheep. The first couple of days, we spotted a few sheep and some decent rams. Rusty, a friend of ours, came out for the day on Wednesday to help us glass. The other guys, my brother, Daren, and our friends, Jim, Rick, and Travis, came out before the weekend to help us scout and on the hunt.
The first couple days of the hunt, we saw quite a few good rams. However, most were not in a good spot as they were all way up the mountain on the ridges and with the ewes, so there were too many eyes and unfavorable wind conditions. We attempted a few stalks, but they did not go as planned. On the first stalk, the rams moved way before we got near them, our spotters lost them, and we didn’t get the message until we were an hour into the climb. The next day, as we were moving in above the rams, they moved into a position 297 yards from us. Unfortunately, it was directly downwind. We blew the two rams off the mountain, and they ended up picking up several more rams and ewes on the way down. Our spotters watched them go all the way down, across the floor of the desert, up the next mountain, and then over the top of it. They went about six miles in total. That’s not exactly what we were trying to do.
On Monday morning, Melisa and I went to a spot where we had been watching a very nice ram the night before. Daren, Rick, and Travis said they would check out a couple of spots where they had seen rams the night before and we could then decide what our best play was. Melisa and I were watching three rams way up the mountain. Two were really nice, and one appeared to be a bit smaller. We had some phone service right there, so I called my brother to check on what they had seen. They were watching two rams and nine ewes about 10 miles away from The rams they were watching were on a much smaller mountain, and Daren said it was a lot better access for a stalk, so it was an easy decision on what to do next.
By the time Melisa and I got there, they were trying to relocate one of the rams. It had crossed a over a saddle and out of sight, disappearing. The other ram was with nine ewes and at the top of the mountain looking down at all of us. They had the ram in the spotting scope, and after we looked at it, the ram walked back over the top. We drove around to a different road to see if we could still see him. We got to the other side and started glassing. There he was up at the top again, still looking down at us. Melisa and I drove further until we were around the mountain and out of sight of him. I asked the guys to keep track of him and told them we were going to try and stalk up to see if we could get up to the ridgeline and spot him from there.
The wind was perfect for us, and we started slowly working up a wash to the base of where the incline started going up steeply towards the ridge. We were about 600 yards from the ridge when I got a message from my brother that the ram had gone over the ridge and they could no longer see him. He said it may be heading in our direction, so I kept looking up while we continued to move ahead. It wasn’t too long until I caught movement in a large section of rocks above us. I threw up the binos and immediately saw it was the ram. He was quickly working down through all the rocks. I whispered to Melisa to get down. We set up the shooting sticks, and she tried to get on the ram as he came down, but he was moving quickly and pinballing down the mountain. He would hold up for a few seconds and then continue down right towards us. He ended up about 115 yards from us and ran into a bit a brush in the ravine just above and to our left. I was worried that he had seen us move while she was trying to adjust the shooting tripod and her rifle to get on him. I thought he was going to blow out of the brush and run, but he ended up coming out and moving across the hillside to our left. I whispered that I would try and stop him, but I ended up saying, “Shoot him!” He was now so far to the left that she would not be able to shoot past me if he went any further as I was sitting to her immediate left. She was able to get on him and took the shot. The ram stumbled with a broken front shoulder and didn’t go far. He turned a bit, and I saw the exit wound. I knew he was hit hard, and then it was over as he fell.
Melisa asked me to verify that he was really dead, and I told her, “Yes!” We sat there for a few seconds and then hugged. We started to realize that she had done it, something most people will never get the chance to experience. We were both so thankful for being able to have this opportunity, to be here and have this experience. I let the rest of the guys know the ram was down, and then we took a few photos and waited for them to get to us. Once they drove around and hiked up to us, there were a lot of hugs and everyone was excited to see how heavy the old warrior’s horns were. They were very battled scarred. Melisa took a nice bull elk last year in Idaho. He was also an old warrior with many battle scars and broken points, and she was so happy with being able to again have success with taking this great ram. We broke down the ram, and everyone took some of the quarters. Melisa took the head and cape out. Before we started hiking down, my brother, Daren, said a prayer of thanks for being able to enjoy God’s creation and for all of us having the ability and health to do so.
As we headed down the mountain, each of us hoped that maybe someday we would have some of Melisa’s luck and draw a sheep tag so we could return and try to repeat the magic we had all just experienced.