Stone Sheep Hunt, Day 7
The rain has made the rimrock slick and we've had some tricky maneuvers over the mountain's rocky spine.
September 15, 2009
Day 7, 8:30 a.m.
Almost to the top (huff, puff). Almost. It's been a looonng climb up the vertical slide, though knowing rams are up there makes it easier. At least I hope they're still there, as Brandon expects.
Wouldn't you know, it started raining right after we topped out. Blowing a gale, too. The rain has made the rimrock slick and we've had some tricky maneuvers over the mountain's rocky spine.
Now we are turning away for two reasons: 1) The wind is blowing up our backs right in the direction we need to go to look for the rams; and 2) Brandon has spotted another band of rams way over yonder, and there's a big one. Since it's 12 hours till dark we've got lots of time. And if that doesn't work we'll just come back for the neighborhood duo.
Seems logical. Or so it sounds when Brandon lays out the plan.
1:45 p.m. PDT
Time for a late lunch. After steady hiking we've almost reached the ridge where my guide figures the rams have bedded down. Haven't seen them for hours, but he's pretty sure they'll be right up there.
The rain has started/stopped/started again a dozen times. A bit of sleet as well, and a few minutes of sunshine. Only the cold, fierce wind has been consistent, except that now it's whipping harder that ever.
For the past hour we've been trudging over a rocky moonscape that must stretch thousands of acres. In one creekbed there were untold numbers of seashell fossils, all different sizes. Mind-boggling to think this was once an ocean.
Exhausted, I lay back on a bed of rocks as I eat my sandwich and cookie. Wind, rain, sleet, whatever, I am fighting sleep.
3:30 p.m. PDT
One, two, three, four, five. We're counting sheep. Rams. A couple of decent, legal specimens here, but not the big guy we walked so far to find. When we spotted the group from two mountains over there were six. Now Big-Curl is gone and there are only five.
7:45 p.m. PDT
If nothing else, I'm happy we're back in the high rocks where we began simply cause we're closer to camp. We've been cold and wet all day. And thank God, it's all downhill from here. Brandon was trying to glass but it was really too foggy. Now he's gone down the ridge to look over one more set of rocks before we head back down the slide to where we tied the horses. If he spots the rams he'll signal Max and me to join him.
There's Brandon. He's waving. I check him in my binos. Both hands waving frantically. That must mean ... !
8:05 p.m. PDT
Things have changed fast. First, the weather: fog blew out, sky brightened a bit and then the wind abruptly shut down. Second, my luck. Brandon led me up a narrow bench and just across the way, no more than 125 yards, was the big, dark ram bedded down. As I slid into place the ram hopped up and I shot hurriedly. The ram just stood there so I fired again and with that he tumbled off his perch and rolled a little way down the mountain. Just like that! Now we need to get down there. The horns are etched in my mind, but what I really must do is get my hands on them.
Go to Day 8.