Aug. 13, 3:45 PDT
So far we have seen a sow grizzly and cub, a looney band of caribou that nearly collided with our packtrain and several groups of wild sheep--small rams only. The land is lush and green, laced with many creeks and flanked by towering ridges and peaks. That's where we will have to go to find and shoot our rams. Clearly, there's no easy way. I am anxious to get started, perhaps chiefly so that I can get my hands on the doubt that has been dogging me for months.
But for now, we ride on. A couple more hours, says Brandon Ponath, a late-20s cowboy/mountain man who will be my guide. I love horses, truly. But after a couple hours in the saddle, I don't like riding one bit.
Aug. 13, 9:45 PDT
In camp we met the rest of the crew. Tyler Berry and Robert Hofsink will tag-team guide Drew. Max Gauthier, the French-Canadian wrangler is tending the horses and doing odd jobs around camp.
I am bunking in my own two-man pup. This camp is more plush than I anticipated.
Aug. 14, 6:30 a.m. PDT
When we get to the junction of two creeks, Drew, Tyler and Robert go one way while Brandon and I continue parallel to the main creek stem before veering uphill on an old horse trail cut through the dense spruce-pine forest. Today's plan is to work adjacent sections of the same mountain because Tyler spotted a giant ram there prior to our arrival. The guides feel this ram is so good that we should pool our efforts in order to up the odds that one of our party will get him. Naturally Drew and I agree.
Brandon and I emerge from the timber to find an impossibly steep, grassy expanse and up above are towers of rock. Intimidating to say the least.
Now or never. Do I still have what it takes to do this? Before we even take a step up the mountain my heart is beating like a piston. Time to see if my preparation and will are good enough.
Aug. 14, 10 a.m. PDT
We can also see our partners steadily approaching from the other side of the basin. Clearly, they too, have spotted the rams. And since Tyler was the one who found this big bruiser, his client (Drew) gets the first opportunity. It's only right, but still kinda tough to sit back and watch when Brandon pulls back from his spotting scope and says, "I don't know when I've seen such a ram. The mass is incredible; like a bighorn's. I'm pretty sure he'll go 40 inches, probably better, and he might even make book."
Aug. 14, 1:35 p.m. PDT
The rams have been bedded for a couple hours within shooting range of the basin's west rim. For 40 minutes Drew and company have been poised above their quarry and so we're wondering what's up. C'mon, shoot already! Perhaps the angle isn't right since the big ram is facing in Drew's direction.
We continue glassing the impending cliffhanger when suddenly the ram lurches. Brandon gasps, "Must have spined him!"
I see the big, dark stone sheep roll and kick and then the sound of the shot reaches us. The giant ram is down! Good shootin', Drew.
Aug. 14, 9:30 p.m. PDT
I am happy for my friend who, after hours of hard hiking to get just to the basin holding the rams, had to then scale a near-vertical wall of powdery black shale. Step forward, slide back, all the way to the top. He did it, and then had to wait patiently for the ram to shift position, to move his massive headgear out of the way. When the ram finally dropped his chin to the ground, Drew had an open shot at the spine. A perfect shot, firing Federal's new 130-gr. Trophy Bonded Tipped from his Bansner .270.
What a day! What a long day...