7 Year  Ram

by Jerry H

For six years my buddy Matt and I have chased Alaska Dall Sheep rams. While we were successful in getting Matt a ram a few years back, I was still without one.  This was my seventh year trying and could I finally get my ram?

Matt was unable to make it out this year due to some life events, so I got my other buddy Berke to go with me.  It was short notice, but we called around and were able to get a fly out drop off hunt into the Talkeetna Mountains.  We didn’t know where we were getting dropped off till the day we left, as the pilot wanted flexibility.  Normally we have everything mapped out, Topos printed, and plan in pace.  This time we were literally flying by the seat of our pants, and this made us a bit nervous.  Typically this does not bode well for Alaskan adventures…

We connected with the pilot, ran through a few options, and off we went. We got dropped off in what seemed like great sheep country.  We were excited to get moving and find some rams! Then Alaska did what Alaska does, and the first night it snowed on us.  The snow was deep enough that it changed the plan we had in place, forcing us to go the opposite way.  We spent a couple days working our way through the mountains looking for sheep and not finding any.  Eventually we made it to a plateau around 6,000 feet elevation.

The pilot had mentioned previous hunters had seen some rams in this area, so we stayed put for a couple days and glassed the terrain all around us.  As typical, we saw a few rams but none that were legal.  It was fun to see a bunch of caribou all around us, but was surprised to see the caribou feeding above the rams!

We spent two days glassing from the plateau and debating what was next. The weather was far from good, and it was still raining, as it had done every day since the first day’s snowfall.  As we debated options, we kept glassing, and noticed a new ram.  It did not take long for us to determine it was a full curl ram.  The problem was that there was no way we could get to within shooting range without him seeing us.  Since he was on another plateau below us, we waited.

Eventually he fed into a grassy area below us.  He first started feeding away from us, but then came straight toward us.  When he got to the bottom of the cliffs, we began to think we might just pull this off!!  Berke pulled up the Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 Range finder, looked at me and said “I think he is in range”.  Sure enough he was 374 yards away, a range I knew my rifle was capable of. I got set up, slowed things down, and put him down.

As a transplanted Alaskan, and a diehard hunter, it’s long been my dream to take as many different Alaskan species as possible. A Dall Ram was one I wondered if I could pull off. The moment I realized I had accomplished this goal was amazing, and my mouth watered at the thought of all that amazing sheep meat!

In order to get hands on my ram we had to hike around a cliff face, and then get down to him.  Those who have spent time in sheep country know that navigating this high country is rarely easy. By the time we got to him, caped him out and bagged him up, it was 2 a.m.  We then had to climb back up the mountain with headlamps to make it to camp, a long day to say the least.

We spent the next couple days glassing and exploring the terrain, but were unable to find another full curl ram.  The weather continued to hammer us and we were thankful our tent held up, and our trust in our Sitka Dewpoint rain gear was deepened.  At this point time was running out, so we hiked the 12 miles back to the landing strip.

As I look back to this hunt, I continue to be amazed by the experience.  Seven years of trying, and just about killing ourselves doing it, and finally a ram.  It was a bittersweet experience, as I wish Matt could have been there.  I was thankful to Berke who worked his butt off helping me get my ram.  I could not ask for two better friends to hunt with.

This seventh hunt was the coldest and wettest one I have gone on.  If it wasn’t for high quality gear, we would have been in a dangerous situation.  My Crispi Hunter GTX boots continue to impress me.  They stood up to brutal terrain and days on end of rain.  As previous years have proven, Sitka’s Dewpoint raingear is the mountain hunting standard for light weight performance.  Its durability, breathability, waterproofness, and ability to dry quickly were critical to our comfort and well-being.  The integrated knee pads in our Sitka mountain pants made glassing and stalking much more comfortable and feasible. The Stone Glacier Sky 7400 pack is a proven sheep hunter’s must have. Our ability to get a tuned fit, combined with its light weight, load hauling capability and durability has made it our expedition pack of choice.  Detailed reviews are out there on this gear, both here on Remote Pursuits and other places so I won’t go deeper here.

I would like to expand on our tent a bit though.  In the years Matt & I hunted together we utilized a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3.  We both came to really depend on that tent, but a few storms (despite the tent surviving them) made us leery of how it would perform in “3.5 season+” weather.   As such I took my Marmot Limelight 3 tent on this hunt.  Matt & I have come to appreciate the space a 3 person tent offers.  We have spent more time in the tent than planned on more than one hunt due to weather, and the extra space is a must have in our book.  As Berke is 6’5” a roomy tent is a must have with him as well!

I was disappointed in a few things on the Marmot. While it was durable and had plenty of room, it was much heavier than I would like.  Additionally the design of the tent allowed the wind to rip right through it. The bath tub floor should go higher up, or the rain fly should be extended to drop closer to the ground.   This design flaw made for colder than usual sleeping and I was concerned that rain would come in with the wind (it did not).

First thing after the trip Matt & I got together and analyzed many tents.  In the end I decided that the MSR Access 3 specifications fit all my needs. The MSR tent is going through initial testing and will be going with me on my 2018 sheep hunt.

My keys to success lay in being adaptable to what the trip through our way. Quality gear and a developed mountain mindset made this possible. Every year I wish I was in better mountain shape, but each year I put mind over matter and get it done. Mind over matter trumps all.

Looking up that full curl ram on the wall is something I will never get tired of.  There is something about that first ram, and all the effort it took to get.