Oregon FNAWS
Hunt Stories - Kim Woodward
Kim Woodward 1
Kim's Ram
By Kim Woodward
This is the story of my 'once in a lifetime California Big Horn Sheep hunt.'
Written my way.
It all started when I went to the mail box and received notice that I had drawn a Big Horn Sheep Tag for the East John Day River, 2006. It was quite a surprise because I didn't even know I put in for it. You see, My husband Clay Woodward is a hunting guide here in Central Oregon, (Centerfire Outfitter) and every year he will briefly discuss various hunts with me and send me off to put in for the draw. I'm usually pretty lucky. He on the other hand has yet to draw a California Big Horn Tag.
After the word got out in our small town, I received phone calls to congratulate me. One came from a long time friend and hunting acquaintance of ours Don Smith. He told me of "how he put in for the very same tag for many years, and to this day has never drawn this tag." This made me realize just how amazing this adventure was going to be.
So, we began making contacts, reading maps, and putting various supplies together because initially we had plans to float the John Day River. However, while I was gathering information about floating the river, waterproofing everything, food for a week, and pack out what you pack in (including human waste). I decided to hunt the gorge from the top down instead of the bottom up. It was just Clay and I. My husband had told me that I should make the most out of this one time adventure, double check my supplies, document the hunt, etc. So, I did. But, I refuse to write a typical hunting story with all the boring technical hunting terms. So, here it goes.
The first morning I was so excited I woke up raring to go. The sky was clear, even though it was early you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. It wasn't anything I had expected. My life as a hunting guide's wife has been somewhat a sheltered one until now.
You see, Clay being a guide for most of his life, and me coming from the valley just a few short years ago is some what comical to our friends and family. Previously, when I would come home with a trophy animal it was usually because Clay knows the lay of the land, weather, wind direction, etc. Not because I'm a great huntress. And that's o.k. with me. But this time I had to hunt. We hiked straight up and straight down. My legs would shake from strain and at times I was cold and miserable. Clay would glass and spot sheep with his high powered spotting scope that were so far away you couldn't see them with the naked eye. Then he would say "were gonna have to get a better look at them." And that would mean we had to hike. A lot. The sheep were amazing acrobats. At times we were so close you could watch there every expression. They were very inquisitive animals, they would rather get close to you than let you get close to them. At one point a young ram came so close and was so curious Clay joked about feeding him out of his hand. We did get a good look at about 30 nice rams the first day.
The second day, was more exciting than the first. It was a typical November day, cold and windy. My eyes were watering, and I wanted to huddle under juniper trees and drop down below giant boulders to protect myself from the weather. It was all a huge learning experience for me. We saw 3 different colored rams, salt & pepper, buckskin and chocolate (which happened to be my favorite color.) We hunted a different drainage than yesterday and saw about the same number of rams as the first day. We had seen a lot of rams, each one unique in some way. So, I came up with my own system, I named the biggest one we saw for the day and had Clay come up with an educated guess on what he thought the ram might score. Ultimately leaving it up to him to get me back to the same spot where we saw it last if I decided it was the one I wanted. By the end of the second day, we must have hiked 20 miles straight up, down, and side hill watching ram after ram go by, I was beginning to get anxious.
Day three began the same as the first 2 days, except it was raining and we were fogged in. I'll bet you couldn't see 50 yards in front of you. I began to panic. If the weather doesn't clear, I won't get my ram. So, Clay said we'll hunt down below the fog. Which to me meant more hiking! But now I felt more desperate. A new found energy that only lasted about 6 hours. It was noon straight up, I was cold, tired and hungry. We stopped for lunch and almost like magic the sun came out and cleared the fog. Off we went to find my ram. It wasn't too long after the sun came out, Clay spotted a 'shooter'. It was the first time in 3 days, almost 40 hours of hunting, that he saw one that I was suppose to get ready to shoot. Boy was I excited. We hiked side hill, stayed below the sky line, kept the wind in our favor, but before we got to the big ram Clay looked up and between us and the 'shooter' was a young ram looking right at us. We sat still and quiet and so did that young ram. Finally he left and so did my 'shooter'! I was so discouraged because I thought my moment of opportunity may have gone down the mountain.
Day four felt like day ten. All the hunting and hiking was getting to me. All the rams started looking the same. They are very hard to judge, it's difficult to compare mass and length of horn unless the rams are together. It was the fourth day and after looking at close to 100 rams I had decided I wanted a dark colored, (chocolate) heavy horned, broomed ram. But, I was beginning to wonder if we would ever find him.
While looking at a mature ram across a big canyon, we spotted a group of ewes and two mature rams about 2 miles down the ridge that we were on. One of these rams appeared to be worth a closer look. Time was not on our side, we had less than an hour of daylight and over two miles to cover. We got into a small draw and ran to the top of the ridge. The sheep were out of sight so we hustled down the ridge about a mile and a half. We stopped just shy of a small rise, I stayed back while Clay crawled to the top. Before I had time to catch my breath Clay crawled back down and said "there's your sheep, but he's out of range, and we'll have to hurry". We dropped our heavy packs and half crawled half ran down the ridge. There were a few juniper trees and some tall sagebrush for cover, the wind was good and the sheep hadn't seen us. We slowed the pace when we felt we were getting close, but we still couldn't see the sheep. There was a small rise ahead of us, and as we peaked over there stood four rams, and nine ewes looking right at us. Clay said "there he is, shoot him"! But I couldn't get a shot without standing because of the tall grass and sagebrush. I stood up, shouldered my rifle and just before I pulled the trigger Clay said, "Not the one on the left! He's on the right" just then the sheep bolted and I couldn't get a shot. We ran about 100 yards and could see the sheep again at about 175 yards. My ram went behind a juniper tree and as he came out I was ready. He stopped to look back and I shot him behind the shoulders. He ran 50 yards and dropped. As we approached the downed sheep, I was amazed at the massive, beautiful horns. We spent the next few hours taking pictures, and taking care of the cape and horns. Then the hard work began packing the meat, cape, and horns out of the canyon. We made it back to camp around 1:00 o'clock a.m.
Kim Woodward 2
I like to compare this hunt to labor & delivery. It feels like hell while your going through it, but the end result is worth all the pain.
Kim Woodward
Prineville, Oregon
 
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