The hunt for my first Dall sheep and Mountain Caribou had a rocky start to say the least. After three long days of traveling to the NWT we finally arrived in Norman Wells. After loading the float plane we were ready to continue our journey…But it wouldn’t start! After changing a solenoid and a battery, we were finally able to get in the air on the third attempt, which was a little unsettling, and made it to base camp four hours later than our planned arrival. Short on time, we sighted in our rifles and ate some caribou steaks before saddling up for the eight hour horseback ride into sheep country.
The next day we woke up early in great anticipation for our ride through the Mackenzie mountains which was some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Well 11 hours later on what was suppose to be an eight hour ride, we pulled in to where we were going to make are base camp. Exhausted from our travels, we set up camp and went straight to bed. We woke up early and rode for another 2 1/2 hours into a back drainage that hadn't been hunted in over eight years! We would make a spike camp if we found something we liked back there. As soon as we arrived, we saw caribou and sheep everywhere. We were all smiles and proceeded to set up a simple spike camp which consisted of a couple of small tents and a tarp for a cook camp. While the guides were setting up the camp I took the spotter out and started to assess the quality of sheep in the area.
That afternoon I only spotted ewes and lambs but it definitely gave us confidence that the rams would be there somewhere. The next morning we decided to hike up one of the highest points we could find to have a commanding view of the area and optimize our glassing opportunity. After a long day of glassing, we found a band of six rams two miles away and a separate group of 14 unidentified sheep. We made the plan to go back to camp and pursue them in the morning. Arriving at camp that night we cooked some dinner and waited on my buddy OJ and his guide to make it back. It got late so we went to bed and assumed they were crashed out on the mountain hunting a ram. They made it back and woke us up about 1:30 to tell us they found a band of six Rams and were hunting them, it turns out that they were the same six rams that I had found earlier!
On the sixth day we woke up a little late before making the long hike to where the 14 sheep were the day before. None of them were rams! Our hearts sank knowing we would have to start over and locate new sheep to hunt. We picked are heads back up and continued. As we were about to enter the next drainage we crested a hill and saw a pretty good caribou bull bedded and looking in the opposite direction from us about 300 yards away. As we looked him over we decided he was a bull we wanted to take. With the wind being in our favor we crept up to 150 yards, and waited for him to stand up. After about an hour he finally did, with one well placed shot he dropped right back into his bed. I had just shot my first caribou bull and couldn't have been happier with him! While we were cleaning and caping out my caribou we heard a single shot from the drainage the six rams were hanging out in. Well we all arrived back into camp at around noon and were all exhausted from each of our pack-outs. OJ had shot the biggest ram of the bunch, heavy horns and 11.5 years old. My caribou wasn’t too bad either! Definitely a day none of will ever forget.
The next couple of days we checked every drainage except one looking for rams only to find grizzly bears, caribou, ewes and lambs. On the second to last day we were decided to check the last drainage and prepared for the two hour ride and subsequent steep hike into a glassing spot. Upon our arrival, we immediately spotted 7 or 8 sheep in the furthest corner of the drainage, upon closer inspection, they were rams! An immediate relief was just lifted off my chest as I was really starting to feel the pressure of only having one more day left to hunt.
sheep in the area.
The rams were bedded in a perfect spot for us to get into position and wait for them to feed down the drainage. We watched them for five long hours until they started to feed around 8:30 pm, which is still light in the NWT. This gave us an opportunity to close the gap to within reasonable shooting distance of the group. They fed down the hillside perfectly, surprisingly the wind was in our face too! As we began to crest the last hill, a younger legal ram was 45 yards away and staring right at us. He must have fed back up the hill when all the other ones fed down. We sat there for probably five minutes until he assumed we were just rocks, thanks to our Sitka Gear camo, and fed back down to the other rams. We creeped up a little higher up and were now able to see all eight rams. Our the target ram was at 125 yards and straight downhill. I settled my crosshairs on his shoulder and and eased the trigger expecting the ram to collapse where he was standing. Well that didn't go as I had envisioned in my head hundreds of times shooting at the range. My guides both said I had shot high! With the excitement of almost getting busted by the young ram compounded by thinking my hunt was almost over, It just didn't register that I needed to aim a lower than normal because of the steep angle.
All eight Rams ran out to 450 yards to stand there and looking back towards where the shot had just come from. I'm in a panic, thinking I had just blown my chance at a ram that I had worked so hard for and dreamed about my whole life! I took a couple deep breaths as the rams stood motionless, I regained my composure, dialed the scope in to 450 yards, and slowly squeezed the trigger. I’ll never forget my guide tell me "great shot Ram down!” I was elated with happiness and of course relief, I couldn't believe I had just killed a dall sheep! I proved to myself that hard work, persistence and making the choice to succeed will always pay off.
This trip by far exceeded my expectations in every way possible from the scenery, the horseback riding, the abundant amount of game and then to top it all off being able to harvest two great animals it was a trip that has been etched into my memory to never be forgotten. I don't know how I will ever get back to the Mackenzie Mountains but I highly recommend that everyone should try and hunt this beautiful piece of the earth at some point in there hunting career. I feel so blessed for being able to go on this hunt and want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to experience his beautiful creation.
This trip exceeded my expectations in every possible way, forever etched into my mind and never to be forgotten. Simply beautiful country literally covered in game and to top it off, I was able to take two great animals. I am beyond blessed for being able to go on this hunt and thank God for giving me the opportunity to experience his beautiful creation.
This trip exceeded my expectations in every possible way...