Written by: Justin Fernandez
“Do I have enough food, water, and warm clothes to stay down here overnight?” because I wasn’t walking out of there without him.
Who would have thought this would be the most accomplished hunt of my life? Not drawing the tag last year, I pretty much knew I had it this year.
I started scouting in the Sunlight area because that is where my family had always hunted. I spotted a few rams a week before opening day but wasn’t positive on how big they were. My friend was in a different drainage that same weekend and spotted a really nice ram. I looked at a few pictures and contemplated all week about where to go. A storm had moved in and I wasn’t sure how far the rams had traveled. Even though I was set on Sunlight, I decided to take a chance in a different drainage on a ram I knew would be worth the hunt.
We packed in camp on Friday before opening day. After camp was set up, we rode to the top to glass. We spotted about six rams that looked decent but they were so far away. At this point, there was still no sign of the big ram I was after. On Saturday, we glassed all day. We split up trying to cover more area and no sign of any rams. About 5 p.m., we spotted the six we saw on Friday but they had moved even farther away. It started to get dark and I knew something had to be moving to feed. Then right at dark he came out of the timber for maybe five minutes and went back into the thick timber. Feeling confident we rode back to camp and made a plan.
Sunday morning, opening day, we saddled the horses at 3:30 am and left camp in the dark. We rode as far as we could, then hiked to the top still in the dark. At dawn, all of us were glassing where he was last spotted the night before. He came out right when the sun was about to show. He was pretty far away, so my friend and I scouted the terrain trying to find the best way down. Realizing there was not an easy way, we just went for it.
We left my dad, brother, and girlfriend at the top to keep an eye on him while my friend and I started the journey down. We picked our way down a game trail, jumping off 10-foot cliffs, and trying to be as quiet as possible. As we made our way down, we kept looking to make sure he stayed in the same spot. My dad radioed that he had gone into the timber. At that point, I felt empty and thought I had lost him. My first thought was “Do I have enough food, water, and warm clothes to stay down here overnight?” because I wasn’t walking out of there without him.
We kept picking our way down a little farther and the guys up top radioed us saying they spotted him again. He was feeding in the dark timber moving in and out of view. My friend and I were about 300 yards away next to a large rock. It was a tough place for a shot and once again I took my eye off for a few seconds and he was gone again! The guys up top said he moved down into the timber. We knew the area he was in and figured he must have bedded down. We sat and watched for a while glassing in every little pocket he might be in. I was glassing further down the drainage, and sure enough, he was bedded down enjoying the warm sunlight. We ended up waiting for him to stand up for about an hour and a half.
I got set and waited for him to turn just enough and fired my first shot. I missed! He barreled off into a nasty drainage. I sat there in disbelief. After about 30 seconds, he came back towards his bedding area. Quickly, I fired a second shot. I hit him with a high lung shot. He started running over some sharp fingers and was headed to the edge of the timber. I fired a third shot and felt a rush of emotions after I saw blood. Finally, he went down and I had the ram of my life!
Anyone working on their Sheep Grand Slam? If so, what do you have and what are you still lacking?