Oregon FNAWS
Hunt Stories - Mike Macy
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Deschutes River Record Ram
by Mike Macy, Culver,Oregon
Drawing a once in a lifetime Oregon Bighorn sheep tag, was a dream I never imagined would actually come true. When the automated voice said I was successful on June 14, 2013, I had to listen to the message three times to believe it was real. I was so excited I called nearly every person I knew to tell them my big news.
I have fished for steelhead on the Deschutes River for years and watched the California Bighorn sheep, always imagining I would someday draw a tag. I am a farmer so I knew if I ever drew the tag I would need to hunt after harvest on our farm was over. I had always applied for the second season which is in mid-October when the rams are just beginning to rut. This season also did not interfere with either deer or elk season; it fell right in between the two.
The third weekend in July the Bighorn Sheep Workshop and Orientation was held in The Dalles put on by Oregon FNAWS and ODFW. The class was incredibly informative and motivating. The district biologist, Jeremy Thompson, an AGR fraternity brother of mine from Oregon State, was very helpful in narrowing down the areas I should begin scouting.
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37 inch steelhead at the Deschutes
Following the class, my family and I began our first of many weekends scouting on the Lower Deschutes. My wife, Milne, and daughters Tegan, 9, and Kailee, 7, were troopers. We loaded up every Saturday night after work on the farm was done and headed for the river two hours away. We were able to familiarize ourselves with the area and were able to begin judging the size of rams. One Sunday we saw thirty-four different rams. We were also able to fit in some steelhead fishing, constantly scanning the hillsides for sheep. My dad, Ed, and my brother, Eric, were also able to scout with me.
Deciding what gun to use was the easiest part of the hunt. On the morning I found out I had drawn the tag, a good friend and neighbor, Mark Hagman, gave me some advice. He said, "Don't go and buy a new gun. Use what you are used to." I would use the Pre-64 Winchester Model 70 .270 that Grandpa Macy had given me when I was 16 years old. It is my favorite rifle and the one I have always reached for first on every hunt.
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Evan and Mike packing out
We finished harvest and I was ready to hunt. I was able to go a couple of days early to scout and set up camp on some private land above the river. My wife and daughters showed up late Thursday night. Friday morning a friend, Gary Richards, came and set up his wall tent for our friends and family who were coming for the hunt. My dad, brother, cousin, James Macy, and friend Evan Thomas all came to be a part of the hunt. On Friday we scouted in an area where the bachelor rams had hung out all summer. We discovered most of the rams had moved now that the rut had begun. There was a shift in our thought process and our new focus was on where the ewes were located.
Opening morning we split into two groups to start glassing on opposite ends of the area I was hunting. I was with my dad, wife and daughters, and we located a decent 160's ram. He was working his way uphill towards us. This was when all the scouting paid off. I was in perfect position to take the ram surrounded by my family, but I was able to assess this ram was not the one I was looking for. My dad thought I was insane as I had just passed up an easy shot and a nice ram. I prayed I would not regret my decision not to shoot. I passed up some other smaller rams throughout the day. Just before dark the other group of guys spotted sheep a couple of miles upriver.
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Ed Macy and Mike
Sunday, October 13th, the second day of the hunt, we started the day glassing the rams upriver. I made the decision I wanted to get a closer look, as one of them looked to be a trophy ram. I had to break the news I was going on a big hunt to my girls, who wouldn't be able to make the more demanding hunt. They had invested so much in the hunt and were pretty sad they could not join me. The group of rams we were going after were very close to the river. I called friends, Loren and James Roff, and they were thrilled to meet my dad, wife and daughters at the river with their boat. Loren and James are always looking for an excuse to get off their farm and steelhead fish. The plan was for the six of them to be in the boat and to be able to watch me hunt the rams we had spotted.
Eric, James, Evan and I were about halfway down to the river when Eric spotted two sheep on the other side of the draw, a ram and a ewe with a collar. We sat down and glassed and immediately Eric said, "You need to go after him, he is big." The ram was well over 1,000 yards away. The ram spotted us, got nervous and ran uphill and into a large draw away from us. I was fairly certain I would never see him again as he had crossed onto private property.
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Bill Hammel and Mike
Evan and I crossed the draw to where the ram had been. Eric and James stayed in position to watch if the ram left the draw he had gone into. Being overly conscientious about BLM boundaries, I made my way up as high as I could to see if I could spot the ram again. When I got to the highest point on BLM and looked down into the draw, the ram and ewe were 100 yards below me on private property. At this point, I realized just how big the ram was. When the ram saw us and spooked, he ran back down the draw and then side hilled down towards the Deschutes River. By the time he crossed back down onto public ground, he was out of sight. The ram and ewe crossed in front of Eric and James. Eric came on the radio and said, "That was the biggest ram I have ever seen!"
Evan and I crossed over into the next draw hoping to get in front of the ram as he had gone all the way to the river. The draw he moved into was full of other sheep. Three different times rams walked within 100 yards of us, but I was waiting for the big ram. The boat with my family was now glassing from the other side of the river the large ram I had originally been after. After an hour of glassing, I was sure the ram had somehow gotten past us. Because of all the sheep surrounding us, I knew I had to take a different approach to the river and the other large ram.
As I was making my way down to the river, the big ram I had been after stood up 80 yards in front of me. Evan kept whispering, "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" I was shaking so bad I knew I needed a firm rest for my once in a lifetime shot. I sat down and slid downhill to a rock and used it as a rest. I pulled the trigger knowing the 140 grain Nosler Accubond bullet Eric had loaded for me would do the job. The ram dropped, shot through the lungs. The collared ewe that had been with him all day jumped up and ran confirming I had shot the correct ram.
I called Milne on the radio and told her I had shot the ram. She responded, "You shot the wrong one! I am looking at the big ram!" I reassured her and said, "I think you will be happy with this ram." Loren took the boat across the river and James Roff, Milne, Tegan and Kailee were able to make the little hike to the ram. The girls were so excited to see my trophy!
I was grateful for the short pack down to the river to the boat. Being able to be with my friends and family, made this hunt even more monumental. The next day the ram was scored at ODFW in The Dalles unofficially at 179. My college roommate, Bryan Martin, sheep hunter extraordinaire, gave the ram an SCI score of 178 7/8. On December 16, 2013 the ram received an official Boone and Crockett score of 179 1/8. It is the largest California Bighorn ever taken on the Deschutes River.
I did not go into this hunt with the intention of having a record breaking ram. I am so thankful I had this opportunity. This entire experience was better than I ever dreamt it could be.
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Back James Roff, James Macy, Evan Thomas, Middle Eric Macy, Tegan, Milne, Kailee and Mike
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Mike, Milne and daughters Tegan and Kailee
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Mike, Milne, Tegan and Kailee Macy
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