Oregon FNAWS
Hunt Stories - Daniel Jacobson
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2009 Wallowa County
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram
by Daniel Jacobson
With the cross-hairs tight behind the ram's shoulder, I slowly squeezed the trig-ger. Click! The sound of the dry fired pin made my veins feel like icicles. Here we were at about 9000 feet in the Wallowa Mountains after a summer of hard work; hiking about 230 miles, endless hours behind the spotting scope, and most weekends away from our families.
My good friend, Joey Vanleuven, (who quickly jumped aboard the hunting wagon as soon as he heard the news of my draw for a big horn sheep) started helping right away by finding people with previous tags, maps of the Hurricane Unit, and scouting. He had been applying for this tag for 25 years and wanted to be a part of this hunt just as badly as if this had been his own hunt. I couldn't have been more happy, as Joey is an accomplished hunter, not to mention very determined.
However, it didn't take us much time of scouting to see that every time we found a group of rams we would loose them over a ridge, never to see them again. The sea-son was quickly approaching, and the last month before season passed without a single ram to be found. Five days before the season started, Joey's parents were kind enough to pack our camp on four horses and trek the seven miles up into the Eagle Cap Wilderness where we set up base camp. The very first afternoon, Joey caught me sitting by the fire and said, "you don't get paid to stay here and do camping, get the spotting scope and go find some sheep". So I crossed the valley and picked a bench up the slope, and 15 minutes later I spotted three rams across from me on another ridge. One of them was a very dark chocolate brown and was heavily horned.
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Two months prior I had photographed a ram just like that one, in the same vicin-ity, and I thought he was beautiful. I had even printed the picture and carried it around the rest of the summer with me, hoping to see him again. So, the next four days we monitored every move this group made. Where they bedded down and at what time, where they crossed the ridge and at what time, etc. We thought we had figured out everything. Being an avid bow hunter, I wanted this to be a bow hunt.
The day before opening, we hiked up to a nearby ridge and spent the night with just sleeping bags. Joey's brother (Ricky) had joined us the day before for photography and video support. So the three of us got up by 4:30 am and tried to be in position by daylight. Slowly moving along the back side of the ridge, we found the rams still bedded down and planned that Ricky would stay right there and video. Joey and I would make a final stalk for a bow shot. We knew where they would be crossing, so we positioned ourselves for a ten yard shot and waited. The rams got up and they were feeding toward us. At some point we heard rocks rolling in the chute right by close by, but nothing appeared. Slowly I looked over the ridge and one smaller ram was now looking at me. I felt pinned and I knew he would bolt and take the others with him. At that point I knew I wanted the dark chocolate ram. So I asked Joey for my rifle. So here we are, as at the beginning of the story, dry firing. Confused, I pulled the action open and there was no bullet in the chamber. I got the bullet pushed in this time and waited for Joey (who was shaking like a leaf in anticipation) to be ready again with the video. The second shot was true and the ram went down right in his tracks. I was overwhelmed. A hunt of a lifetime was spent in the fraction of a second. All the preparation. All the miles hiked. All the research and careful mapping....
Joey's brother, Ricky, finally joined us, and to our disbelief we found out that it was two mule deer bucks that had busted us. They had come in front of the rams and entered into the chute to cross into the shade. And the younger ram was watching them, not us. The ram ended up short a few inches from B&C Book, but with 17 inch bases, who cares, he is #1 in my book.
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