Oregon FNAWS
Hunt Stories - Gary Prahl
Gary Prahl 1
Ram Down Baby!
By Gary Prahl
The morning of Thursday June 13th started out as normal as any other weekday. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. and being to work by 6:30 a.m. Business was as usual, coffee, visiting with stories and teasing, then down to work. By around 10:00 a.m. our resident tag draw fanatic, Ron was boasting results were out early once again, and of course he had both deer and elk draw tags. No one was buying into Ron and his early tag draw information being out, even though he had printed off the successful results so all could see!
So I told Ron I would need to see this with my own eyes. He came over to my cubical with his ID# and we opened the ODFW website and plugged in the number. Sure enough it is true. So right away Ron wants to know what I got. Well I had not even looked of course, having so much fun giving him a bad time, as I do each year.
As Ron looks over my shoulder, I enter my ID# and what do you know, up pops "Elk successful" and I am really happy but here is where the explosion happens. Ron is yelling at the top of his lungs, "You got a big horn tag" over & over. Sure enough, as I look at the results, Rocky Mountain Big Horn - Successful!
Instantly I am trying to comprehend what this means. WOW, a BIG HORN TAG!
First I call my wife Cindy, quite possibly breaking the sound barrier and her eardrums. Then I'd say within 45 minutes everyone on complex knew I had a big horn tag. By the end of the day, my whole family knew, all my out of town hunting friends and probably our whole company knew. Oh, and just to be sure, I bought my tag on the way home that night.
Now settling down to earth, I had to start planning. Gear, Scouting, logistics, invites, anything at all involved with an exciting new adventure.
My wife Cindy, bless her heart, supported and endorsed this whole adventure and project from the start, stem to stern, with no hesitation, doubts or questions. Well, almost none. Her first comment was, "So Gary, I suppose you are going to need a new rifle for this hunt?" This is a big tease in our house as she knows me so well.
As we laughed and chuckled, I told her thanks, but I would shoot something I already had and was comfortable with. Either the custom Schultz and Larsen 7mm mag her father had given us or my trusty old Remington 700, 30-06. Which ultimately after shooting 100-200 rounds out of each gun, from zeroing @ 200 yds., out to 500 would end up being the 30-06. The final deciding factor was my buddy Ted bringing some special hand loads he has used for a # of years. Precise handloads, each bullet 2 weighed, 150 grain Hornady projectiles. Ted's heat seeking guided missiles - actually shot the best overall group.
Gary Prahl 2
So aside from that, when it came to turtle skin snake gaiters, Kenetrek Mountain Extreme (non insulated) boots, a two place ATV trailer, an outdoorsman's light weight tripod, fuel, lodging, and countless other items and necessities, no expense was spared.
Now settling down and into a plan for scouting and gathering intel. I received a call from one of our store management personnel. Allen knew a customer and friend who lived close to my unit and was a sheep hunting fanatic. That is an understatement! John has a passion. He eats, sleeps and breaths for sheep hunting. Supported by his wonderful wife Cheryl, we plunged into a fast friendship. We talked via phone, came up with a first scouting weekend plan and dove in.
By the time that first 3 day weekend was over, I had garnered a multitude of sheep and unit information and had solidified a relationship with a true friend and a passionate man. I invited John to join our group for the hunt of myself and long term best friends and buddies Rick and Ted. John gladly accepted the invitation. So our group is 3 novice sheep hunters and one professional, knowledgeable, passionate sheep hunter named John.
Also during my research and information gathering I contacted and visited the local biologists in the area and bought every BLM, Forest Service & unit map I could find. I also attended the FNAWS Seminar in The Dalles and met other hunters, more very passionate members and organizers, Nick who offered his assistance for the hunt as well and countless other sources of knowledge and information. This seminar put on by FNAWS members is time well spent and provided a wealth of knowledge.
The first thing of importance we covered was taking care of ourselves, as we would be hunting in some horrific heat, void of trees. Extreme hunting. Hydration, #1 importance, sheep shape, Hike/Walk/Run/Bike, get in shape! Sunscreen, food, be aware, be alert, watch out for each other, know signs of heat stroke, dehydration, etc. Caution around snakes, how to handle. All went well with a couple of minor issues. As a bonus, we each got a snake for a new hat band.
Then we covered optics. This is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of sheep hunting. Sheep have 10X eyes, you must see them before they see you. I would recommend the best optics you can acquire. I use a pair of 10x42 Swarovski binoculars for looking, and then a Leupold 12-X40 compact spotting scope. Both were set up for attaching to an Outdoorsman's light weight tri-pod.
Rick and John both used Swarovski 20-80 spotting scopes on tri-pods. Rick had 8x42 Leupold binos and John has 15x60 Zeiss binos. Ted was set up with Leupold 8x42 3 Windriver binos, but opted for a pair of 10x42 Steiner Predators. It seems to me 10x is a minimum for good glassing and being able to judge and find sheep. We spent countless hours in optics. "If you are not glassing, you are not sheep hunting." Wisdom from John.
Four wheelers came in handy and saved wear and tear on my pick-up. Covered ground faster & smoother and gas was less expensive than diesel.
My backpack is a Badlands with a 102 oz bladder. When I left the pick up or 4 wheeler, the bladder was full. I also had 2 extra 20 oz bottles of water and two 20 oz bottles of Gatorade G2. Before going out and after getting in I drank as much as I could force down. Most days after being out hiking and in the heat, I would return with about 8 oz. of water only left in the bladder. The weather was 86 to 103 degrees.
The Kenetrek boots were to me one of my best and most crucial purchases. Key to the hunt for safety and foot protection. Also breaking them in and putting 2 layers of fresh socks on daily. Thanks to FNAWS & Kenetrek for the ability to get a discount for such a fine boot.
So now the fun part - scouting and hunting. We saw sheep every day and we saw rams every day. We scoured the unit and sheep were found sometimes bedded and other times on the move. To say the least, this was the most memorable hunt I have ever done. Every aspect has been one of anticipation, planning, learning and enjoying.
The new country, the vast open expanses, making new friends and learning about sheep in general. All very rewarding.
Gary Prahl 3
Day 1 of the hunt: Saturday 8/17/2013. We located two rams, both young, we spotted them on a side hill on the move at about 1100 yards. We then went to another area about 10 to 15 miles away and we spot only 1 ewe.
Day 2 of the hunt: Sunday 8/18/2013. We glassed & glassed. After about half day and only seeing a few ewes and one young ram with temperatures at 103 degrees, we took the afternoon off and stayed cool.
Day 3 of the hunt: Monday 8/19/2013. We did a quick recon of a given area and decided to make a climb and hike up and in to view some draws and areas not visible from vantage points into an area we had seen rams. After about a 2 hour climb, we were coming up to an area of limited cover and started glassing from behind a big boulder ridge of rocks. We spotted two bedded rams at 750 yards. There was no cover between them and us. They were a little higher and in the shade. We decided we had a 50/50 shot for them to go up or come our way, heading for shade. One was a very nice ram, so we decided to wait them out. Much to our dismay, after keeping tabs on them 4 for 5.5 hours, the sun got to them, they stood up and started a 500 to 1000 foot move up and over the butte they were on. Out of our reach. We then took up a position of overlook until 1 hour before dark in case anything came through going to water and then came out.
Day 4 of the hunt: Tuesday 8/20/2013. First thing in the morning Rick spotted 5 rams on a ridge. After close scrutiny and seeing not exactly what we wanted, we went to plan B. John and I would do a big recon hike looking for some pockets of sheep. After a few hours of climbing and glassing, we spotted a group of 9 ewes, all of which were moving higher. We then made our way back down and out with no further encounters.
Day 5 of the hunt: Wednesday 8/21/2013. This day found us viewing a big ram moving up and over a ridge, thus adding to patterning him as we had seen him twice before. We then encountered 24 ewes, lambs & young rams. After spotting another lone ram out on a ridge, we decided to go way out and look. Both for him and others, which we never did find. As John went in for the day, I decided to stay until just before dark watching a draw with trails coming & going. I saw another group of 12 with ewes, lambs & young rams again. Then as I hunkered by a clump of sage brush, a nice ram approached at 200 yards and after watching him warily close the distance by 100 yards in about an hour I decided he was maybe about 4, a beautiful ram but not quite what I wanted.
Day 6 of the hunt: Thursday 8/22/2013. Back in sheep country trying to pattern the big ram. We spotted him at 1500 yards in the same area. He chose to bed on the East slope this morning much to our amazement. As in the past 3 sightings, he went to the West, NW side. As Rick was in a spotting position to the NW and Ted and I were watching from the East, we had him pinned & patterned. John was setting up to come out and help with what would be a huge stalk. No wind to speak of, a bedded ram and about a 5 hour hike. Up to a draw that would take us down into a canyon, then up a ridge line behind the bedded ram and into a position for a possible shot as he moved in the afternoon. As we (Ted, Rick and myself) were in position and waiting for John, we were feeling pretty good. Ted and I had a great rock ridge we were behind with capabilities to watch the bedded ram move around and not be detected. I asked Ted if he would mind keeping tabs on the ram as I decided to move about 20 to 30 yards down from the ridge line we were on and set up in hopes of a ram coming up the draw. I found a large growth of sage brush to put my back against and conceal myself and lean on. I set up my shooting tri pod, removed my pack and sat down. After excavating rocks from under me to make sitting more comfortable, I repositioned my pack for water & snacks. I adjusted my shooting sticks, removed the scope covers and put a round in the chamber of the 30-06. I then took out my range finder, a Leupold TXR 1000 and ranged the bottom of the draw at 210 yards. I then looked through the Leupold 4.5x14 VariX III w/Boone & Crockett reticle to see how the rest felt. Since I was zeroed for 200 yards as I looked through the scope I put it on 6 power. I then repositioned my sitting, picked up my Swarovski binos to start glassing and looked into the bottom of the draw. WOW! There stood a ram! I instantly saw he had a blue ear tag. I put my binos on him and Ole #63 came into view. He was a beautiful sight. Battle scarred, roman nose, broomed, broken horns. I was thrilled! This is what I came for! Ted was watching the other ram and I had no way to let him know what was about to unfold. I grabbed the 06, put it on the shooting sticks, took aim, and lucky for me in my haste and excitement, I had not taken the safety off. I flinched & jerked. Holy crap Gary! Calm down! I was shaking, the adrenaline was pumping. I got myself under control, took a deep breath, let some out, took the safety off and squeezed the trigger. KAWOMP! I heard the bullet hit. Ole #63 took off running and with no spotter close, I didn't know what had happened. I took 2 running shots (both misses) as he went 50 to 60 yards dead away from me. He then stopped and stood broadside to me. I thought that maybe I had missed the first shot and that he stopped, confused as to what was going on. Actually not realizing a lethal shot had entered behind the left shoulder and lodged in the right shoulder. He was quartered a little on the first shot. So I then put the crosshairs on his neck and squeezed the trigger. He instantly dropped. RAM DOWN!
Ted was hollering what is going on and all I could utter was RAM DOWN! Needless to say I was ecstatic. A lot of hard work had gotten me a ram of a lifetime! My Ram, a beautiful, battle scarred, ear tag #63 ram.
Later we found out he is 11 years old and had the tag in his left ear since he was 1 yr. old. I have a tremendous depth of gratitude to all involved. From my lovely wife to John, Rick and Ted. And many others who offered help, information, friendship and involvement through the whole process and hunt .
I will never forget Thursday August 22, 2013 at 8:22 a.m. in the morning when at the age of 63 I shot Ole #63.
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