Washington Chapter FNAWS

Banquet Auction Hunt:   A SUCCESS!

By Jerry Terrell

I purchased the hunt at the Washington FNAWS banquet in February for the 1995 season. The hunt was sold as a sheep hunt if a tag was drawn in the Delta permit area. Grizzly bear would be substituted if the drawing was not successful. Alaska does not draw controlled hunts until July, so it was an anxious seven months of waiting. The drawing date finally arrived and the results were not worth waiting for... I was unsuccessful!

Jerry Terrell and his Alaska Range Dall ram. 
Photo by Deltana Outfitters


To say I was disappointed is an understatement, as I had no interest in a grizzly hunt. Ralph Miller, the owner of Deltana Outfitters, had made it clear the hunt was to be held in the 1995 season with no substitution, so I held little hope of hunting sheep in his non-permit area, but that changed after having an opportunity to meet Ralph while on a business trip to Alaska. 

Ralph graciously offered to take me in his non-permit area if I wanted to wait for the 1996 season. I decided to accept before he changed his mind. Ralph made it clear this would be a backpack hunt on a glacier and would be, as he put it, physically challenging. He also said he had room for one more hunter, so I talked Mike Smith, a friend from Reno, Nevada, into making the trip with me.

Ralph's comment about physically challenging was in the back of my mind for the rest of the year and served as a lever to keep me on a workout schedule that would hopefully enable me not to embarrass myself. The year passed quickly and it was soon time to head to Alaska. 

Mike and I met in Seattle, flew to Anchorage and drove to Delta. The next day we flew into base camp by Super Cub and met our guides Mike (Ollie) North and Kent Monroe. We decided to make a pack and set up our spike camp, which was an easy six-mile walk but quickly turned into twelve miles when we decided to return to the base camp and make one more pack the following morning.

Sheep spike campWe saw one band of six rams on our second hike in, and after we set up the spike camp and got organized, we spotted another group of fifteen rams. The sheep were across a glacier

Sheep spike camp

 approximately three miles away so it was difficult to judge horn size, but several looked to be full curl and one was broomed and heavy, just what I was looking for. The decision was made to cross the glacier the following day and get a closer look at the sheep. I found out glaciers are deceiving, what looks flat and easy going from a distance, is not so! Three and one half hours were required to cross the three mile distance, but we finally got into position to glass our mountain side. The day was spent glassing without success, our rams were nowhere to be seen. We were a dejected group as we returned across the glacier to camp. We had just finished crossing the glacier and climbing the last moraine when I decided to glass the mountain one last time. You guessed it, the sheep were feeding just around the bend of the mountain and out of sight from our earlier vantage point. We hoped our luck would change before the hunt was over.

Day four found us hunting the group of six rams we had spotted close to camp and glassing the large group across the glacier. The easy-to-reach group contained six rams which were all about the same age and 7/8 curl. We did manage to find a better spot to glass the large group and spent most of the day watching them feed. We also determined there were at least five legal rams in the group. We had hit the jackpot!

Day five found us crossing the glacier for the third time, but we decided to move our camp and take enough food for five days in case the sheep pulled another disappearing act. We managed to cross the glacier in record time and quickly set up our spotting scopes around the corner from our original spot.

The band of rams were quickly spotted in two separate groups about 400 yards apart and 1000 yards from our vantage point. The good news was they were feeding close to the bottom of the mountain and a moraine that paralleled the base of the slope would provide cover to within 200 yards of both groups of rams….if they didn't feed up hill too far. We set up the spotting scopes looking for that magic 40' ram or one that was old, heavy and broomed. None of the first group fit the description but several appeared to be mature, full-curl rams. The scopes were trained on the second group and one ram stood out. He was not the 40" sheep I was dreaming of but he was old , heavy and broomed with exceptionally dark horns. The old ram had a group of five rams with him, one of which appeared to be larger than any in the first group. The decision was quickly made to try for the two larger rams in the second group before they fed up the mountain. We slipped behind the 100 ft. moraine, picked out a large boulder as a land mark and headed toward the sheep at a fast pace. We stopped before we got to our landmark to check out the first group and much to our surprise both groups had fed into the same area. We now were looking at one group of fifteen sheep, all rams! The sheep were approximately 400 yards off and feeding slowly away so Mike and I quickly got in position for a shot. There were at least five full curls in the group and it seemed to take an eternity to get organized and decide which sheep were the largest of the group. This was made more difficult by the fact that there were sheep with convergent and divergent horns in the herd. I found the broomed ram, and Mike picked one that looked to be the largest of the group. My sheep finally turned broadside so I decided to shoot before they moved any further up the mountain. The shot was good and the sheep rolled 100 feet down the mountain.

The remaining sheep milled around for a minute and resumed feeding, giving Mike an opportunity to shoot. We soon found out Mike damaged his scope in a fall crossing the glacier, the first two shots were clean misses but the third shot connected and the ram went down hard. The celebration was on: it's not every day that a plan comes together as ours had--at least that's what we thought until Mike's ram got up and started running! The chase was on. Mike and his guide, Kent, scrambled up the mountain after his ram and Ollie and I decided to take care of my ram and packed him back to our spike camp.

Guide Ralph Miller (left) and assistant guide Jim Weidner with a load of sheep horns in the Alaska Range. Photo by Deltana Outfitters.

Several hours later the look on Mike and Kent's face told the story--the ram had gotten away but not before several more shots were fired. After we got back to the spike camp we ate a quick meal and started glassing. A Ram was soon spotted bedded in the rocks about 1500 vertical feet above camp. A quick look with the spotting scope confirmed it was a full curl with flaring horns and looked like the ram Mike had wounded earlier in the day. Mike and Kent decided there was not enough daylight for a stalk and we went to bed hoping he would be there in the morning.

The pack across the glacier, the quick trip down the moraine, combined with a cold drizzle, made a warm sleeping bag and a dry two-man tent seem like a suite at the Ritz and I don't think anyone moved until first light the next morning. Mike was the first to the spotting scope and his sheep was still there! A stalk was planned and he and Kent started climbing. The ram cooperated, staying in his bed and after a one and one-half hour climb he was able to get above the sheep and stalk within 50 yards. One shot from my borrowed .280 and Mike had his ram. Further examination showed that it was the sheep wounded the day before which explained why he stayed in his bed for an extended period. We were all ecstatic that we had taken the wounded sheep and that Mike had his first ram, an eight year old, wide, flaring beauty. Ecstasy soon turned to agony as the glacier had to be crossed and the nine-plus miles to main camp had to be negotiated. The glacier that took three hours to cross with camp gear on our back took five hours with our heavier loads. The final six miles back to main camp was easy going but seemed to take forever with the heavy packs, but is sure made a cold drink and a camp stool seem like a real luxury. Dinner of sheep backstrap that night was even more of a luxury after five days of freeze dried food.

The next five days were spent trying to stay dry and hoping the weather would clear long enough to get the Super Cub into camp.

I would like to thank Ralph and his guides for a great hunt and encourage anyone interested in a great fair chase sheep, caribou, moose, or bear hunt to contact Ralph at:

Jerry Terrell is a vice-president of the Washington State Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, 187815 Pacific Ave, Spanaway, WA 98387. Terrell’s group is affiliated with the national FNAWS, 720 Allen Ave, Cody, WY 82414 (307) 527-6261.

 

 

  


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