Oregon FNAWS
Hunt Stories - Debby Bennett
Debby Bennett 1
Debby Bennett's Ram
by Debby Bennett
My story is very similar to the rest of the "chosen few" How I nearly exploded and could hardly contain myself when I looked at my draw results on the computer. My husband Joe and I were in total disbelief and kept opening and closing the ODFW web site on the computer to see if this was really true. I had actually drawn a Bighorn Sheep tag for the McClellan Unit that is in my own back yard (so to speak). As best I can recall this is only the third time I had even applied for a sheep tag. I wanted to wait until our children were raised and IF I was ever to be so lucky to draw a tag I could dedicate the time required to do this ONCE IN A LIFE TIME hunt with 100% of my effort.
After we got ourselves under control the very next thing we did was contact our great friend John Marciel who has been with me on nearly every hunt we gone on and, John himself has successfully taken a Bighorn sheep. John and Joe were my primary hunting crew but I had offers of assistance coming out of the woodwork. Our good friend and a neighbor Walt Kight called me as soon as he found out I drew a tag and offered his as-sistance. Walt has taken Dahl and Stone sheep and knows sheep hunting quite exten-sively. So ... I had a tag and some really good support lined up.
I started walking up every hill I could find at least 4 days per week as soon as I knew I drew my tag. I have small feet, and finding a good pair of non-insulated hunting boots was a bit of a challenge. I finally found the perfect pair of Danner boots in a size 5 and started getting them broke in immediately. I was waking and hiking every chance I got. This was hard for a horse back junky to have to give up some saddle time to get myself into shape. We had our plan in place for the hunt, did the scouting, glassing and packed our camp in with the pack animals prior to the arrival of the big day.
The temperatures had dropped and it was actually quite cold the day before the hunt opened. We got up early and headed out on foot with my heart pounding with excitement on opening morning. I could hardly believe I was actually heading out to hunt Bighorn Sheep. About 45 minutes into the first climb I got to see the first ram. He was only 150 yards from us. He was alone and not too worried about seeing us. He looked HUGE through my scope but John told me he was a "runt" and promptly placed a stick in my gun barrel to discourage my arguments that I really wanted to shoot him. So ... that dis-cussion was over and the hike resumed. We walked for seven hours that day and never saw another ram.
We found out later that afternoon why we hadn't seen the sheep that we were expecting to see in the area we were hunting. While sitting in camp after walking and walking we herd the sound of motorcycles. We saddled up the horses and tried to get up to the trail where we heard the ATV's. We did not see them but could clearly see all the tracks they had left. We called the authorities to report this, as it was our understanding that we were hunting in a non-motorized vehicle area. This was SO disappointing to have this happen after all our planning and preparation to know that the ATV's had driven out all the game. This fact became even more apparent when after two more days of hard hunt-ing only see one buck deer. The wildlife and rams that we had previously seen there were simply scattered to who knew where. Joe and John had to get back to work so we road out on Monday afternoon.
Debby Bennett 2
Monday evening we started our plan "B" hunt and started glassing the Rooster Comb area of Fields Creek. We saw three rams and one looked pretty nice through the spot-ting scope. Since Joe and John were working and I had taken the entire hunting season off from work, I called Walt Kight Monday night. I was tired and we decided to take Tuesday as a scouting and resting day for me. Walt and I saw the same three rams on Tuesday and made a plan of attack. We headed up Wednesday morning before the sun came up and spotted the rams. It was nearly 11:00 a.m. before we decided where we could start a stalk and not end up pushing the rams over the top of the mountain.
As anyone who has ever hunted sheep very well knows they do not live in flat areas in the McClellan Unit. We climbed, crawled and scrambled up the rims and loose rocks and finally got a good look at these rams. They were just leaving the draw where we had seen them and were heading out to bed down. It was 500+ yards and just not a good shot. We sat and discussed what to do, it was my decision not to pursue a stalk since I did not know that side of the mountain well enough to know if we might just end up spooking them out too far. So ... down the mountain we came.
Thursday we had the assistance of Donny Binschus on the ground as our eyes to guide us after we located the rams that morning. We left the road on foot up a long ridge to where we had last seen the rams. Donny lost sight of them but we thought we had a pretty good idea of where they had bedded down so Walt and I walked around to that area. No rams ??? We came back north to a timbered area and jumped out a nice 6X6 bull elk, he made quite a bit of noise, so we decided to just sit for a bit and see if Donny could find the rams again from his view point across the canyon. Still no rams seen at noon. Walt and I decided to it would be to our advantage to sit on the mountain and wait rather than walk all the way out and try to come back up for an evening hunt. We had a good visit and some shade to keep us cool. That afternoon about 3:30 Donny saw the rams and attempted to direct Walt and I to them. Donny thought he knew where Walt and I were at but we were actually one complete draw south of where he thought were at (proof that our camo was hiding us very well). So to say the very least we had a very, very, frustrating afternoon trying to follow Donny's directions up and down through the rims. Oh, and one vital piece of information I'm afraid of heights - I can now say I'm no longer afraid of heights after this day of hunting. Finally we figured out where we needed to be and got into position at about 6:00 p.m. I got a good look at the rams through my scope but had a rotten shooting position. I tired and tried to get a rest for a shot but there just wasn't one. This was probably the most disappointing day of the entire hunting sea-son. So close but still unsuccessful. Off the mountain at dark again.
Friday, same crew, same plan same three rams were located and the hiking began. We knew the pattern of these rams and we were determined this would be the day. We got up the mountain, it was still cool and we were just about to where our three amigos were located and ... What the heck ... Walt is looking at FOUR young rams we had never seen before ... right in the face within 40 yards !!!! EEEK - We tried to back off on the rim rock we were on but it was too late. The four new rams blew out of there like rockets and took our three rams with them. They were running too fast and too far after they broke out of the timer for me to get a shot at any of them. My heart just sank! They had split up with the mid sized ram and one of the small rams going over the top and the big-gest ram and 4 other rams going around the mountain. We sat in disgust for a little bit and then contacted Donny.
Donny had seen where the five rams went and we started our stalk. We decided to come in from higher up the back side so not to spook them and that is where the biggest ram that I had been watching since Monday was at. Lots more walking climbing and crawling. We finally determined where we needed to be to come in above these same rams, and started our final stalk. On the way down the rims I saw a gold colored animal coming up the rocks toward us at a rapid rate of speed. Walt was slightly ahead of me and did not hear me or see me pointing at the COUGAR!!!! that was stalking MY RAM. About twenty yards further Walt saw the cougar's track and said look at this - I said yep, I saw the crit-ter that made the track. We were NOT going to ruin this stalk to shoot at the cougar. We finally got our position but it was a crazy little pinnacle and my BIG ram was lying down under a mahogany only 75 yards away but directly below me. After a bit of scrambling around I finally got this evasive ram in my sights with a good clear shot but he was fac-ing me head on and I had no rest for my rifle. Walt was whispering " you can wait " and BAMM! I shot him right at the base of the neck with my Ruger 7mm Magnum, and he tipped over backwards upside down ... Walt finished his sentence of "until he turns broad side". I never lost sight of him in my scope and he never moved again. I had a good shot, I had chased this ram for several days and I was not going to wait one more second for him to turn broad side. At that point I pretty much went berserk. Walt said he thought he was going to have to pounce on me to hold me down, in doing what he de-scribed as a totally crazy happy dance. We slid our way down the rocks to the ram and a second version of the happy dance began and some photos.
We got the ram down under a tree to dress him out and stop him from rolling to the bot-tom of the mountain. I called my husband and advised him we were going to need a crew to haul out a ram! Donny and Joe and our brother in law Shane Giffen hiked in with the pack gear to get this wonderful ram off the mountain. We finally got the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - a beautiful 162.5/8 California Bighorn Sheep Ram.
I cannot express enough thanks to our friends and family who helped me make this event one that will NEVER be forgotten!
Debby Bennett 3
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