A Year of Sheep

JLMUELZ

FNG
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
88
Location
Hawaii
Well, it has been quite the past couple years and figured it was time for my first post. This years’ worth of stories actually started back in March of 2020. As the world was flipping upside down in the early stages of COVID 19, myself and 300 of my Shipmates were headed out for another surprise deployment. With no planned port calls I knew this was going to be a long one, so I downloaded an unthinkable number of podcasts to help me through as I ran miles and miles in a little circle on the ship’s aft missile deck. One of these was Tundra Talk, listening to these guys talk about Dall sheep hunting really got me thinking, not just about the sheep, but the adventure that comes with it. But like many people seeing the price tag of these hunts was a bit of a shock and discouraged me from fully jumping in.

Fast forward to November 2020, I still feel the drive to hunt sheep but think to myself, how? So, I start looking into options, and land on the “poor man’s sheep hunt, Aoudad”. My father has been talking about going Aoudad hunting as long as I can remember. So, I think this will be a great opportunity for us to do something together and fulfill a dream of his. I find an outfitter (Roy Hurley H.E. Sproul Ranch) get all the information and call my dad and we talk about Aoudad hunting, I tell him that if he is ever going to go, we need to make it happen. Long story short, after that conversation we were booked for November 2021.

Some months go by, and I continue to listen, watch, and read everything I possibly can about sheep hunting, primarily Dall’s. After 2 years of sea duty and 18 months of that being underway, I had an itch for adventure. I start seriously kicking around the idea of booking a sheep hunt, I think to myself, I am on shore duty, in my mid 30’s, and decently in shape, the time is now. I start researching outfitters and sending emails and talking with them. Most importantly, at this time, I start talking to my wife about sheep hunting and dropping little hints as much as possible. After a while I decide, I am going to seriously discuss this with her, I narrow my list down to 3 outfitters. I decide the best way to bring this up and explain what I want to do and why is to build a power point. I build a 7-slide power point, covering everything from why I want to do this, why 2022 is the year, to a deep dive on the 3 outfitters I wanted to decide between, etc, etc. Guess what? It worked! After I presented the brief, she said I needed to do it and after discussion we both decide I should book with Luke Tyrrell of Tyrrells Trails. I do want to be clear; my wife has always supported me and my hunting obsession, I was just surprised because of the overall investment of this hunt and that she green lit the Aoudad hunt a couple months earlier. Luckily, Luke still had one open spot for 2022 and I took it.

Let the preparation begin, I started knocking out the gear list orders, started the MTN Tough workout programs, and spoke with my command who strongly supported me and approved 28 days of leave for August 2022!

Fast forward to October 2021, I decide to fly back home to Missouri and bring my oldest son with me so we can drive down to Ft. Davis with dad. Fortunately, we were able to hunt Missouri’s youth deer season before we headed for Texas, the hunt went well.
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Alright, lets get to the sheep hunting. The title is “The Year of Sheep” after all!

We grind out the 18-hour drive to Ft. Davis Texas and get in the day before. Right before pulling into town, we see a big band of Aoudad that had a really big ram in it. We are pumped!!! After checking into the hotel, we decided to drive back and look at them some more! Needless to say, it was pretty tough to sleep that night. Next morning, we get up, get some breakfast, and meet Roy at the ranch around noon. Once we do a little paperwork, shoot the guns and eat lunch we were head out for an afternoon hunt. Dad was up first and It didn’t take long to find a good ram. Dad was done within the first hour of the hunt, taking an awesome 33” TANK at 50 yards! I don’t think I have ever seen him so happy and excited; it was a great experience for us, and I am so happy I brought my oldest son so he could be a part of it.

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Now I am up, once we were done with dad’s ram we headed further up the mountain. We get to a good glassing point and find a big band with several nice rams; one really wide ram caught my interest. Roy and I decide to head around the mountain and put a stalk on the ram. We slowly picked our way down the ridge the rams were on, trying not to bump several smaller bands of sheep. Crawling from rock to rock we finally find our ram bedded under a tree with at least 10 other rams and unknown number of ewes. After about 10 minutes he finally stands and works to the right, stops broadside at 220 yards and I let my 300-win mag rip, hitting the ram right in the shoulder, he goes about 40 yards and piles up. We all get to the ram, and he is a solid old 31.5” tank with awesome chaps, I couldn’t be happier. High fives and celebration all around, unfortunately though, our hunt was over on the first day. We get the ram cleaned up, hike out and head to the ranch for dinner.

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Roy says we can stay as long as we want, so we decide to ride around his ranch the next day. I had never been to West Texas before and was just floored at how beautiful and rugged I was. I also had no idea of how many different animals were in that country, it is a truly target rich environment, from Aoudad, Mule Deer, Whitetail, elk, hogs, and javelina, all free range. Also, Ft. Davis is a really freaking cool place, I felt like I went back in time. If you are looking for a place to hunt Aoudad or any of the other animals, I cannot recommend Roy Hurley at the H.E. Sproul Ranch enough.
 
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JLMUELZ

JLMUELZ

FNG
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
88
Location
Hawaii
Next up, Lanai state youth hunt. Our primary goal is a nice Mouflon ram for my oldest son. This would be the first time these rams had been hunted in years and the kids get first crack with rifles. Christian and I get over there the day before the hunt as usual, get settled in and head out to do a little scouting. We find plenty of sheep and are excited for the next day.

Opening morning we sit at our normal spot and see some nice rams about 1000 yards down from us, against my proper judgment we start chasing the band of rams, and we chase, and we chase, we work our way down towards the ocean and can’t turn up the rams. While glassing we spot a heard of Axis headed toward the bottom of a nearby gulch, and there is a GIANT buck in the group. We decide to start deer hunting. Once the heard worked out of sight we move even further down to try and make a play. I am dead convinced they would be hanging out under a patch of Kiawe trees and it will be a chip shot. We work our way into position, and you guessed it, the deer are gone. After sitting and hopping they would show up, we decide to head back up and work a big gulch hoping to run into some rams. As we are working our way up we spot some deer in the bottom of the gulch, as we are moving in on them I hear a sheep warning call and our side of the gulch explodes with sheep, ewes and lambs are running everywhere! I frantically glass and see some rams up at the head of the gulch casually running away not terribly spooked. I look at Christian and tell him “if we hustle, we can maybe cut them off”. We start going up as fast and as cautiously as we can, stopping and glassing in an effort to not further spook the band of rams. After a half mile sprint up the mountain we work around a little nob and boom there they are about 200 yards away. Christian and I crawl into position, I range again, I tell him “200 yards”, he is a bit nervous because where we live on Oahu there is only one 100-yard public range, so 200 yards is double what he is used to shooting. I tell him “Just aim a little high and squeeze the trigger” he nods, settles into the gun, and says, “I feel good”. At the crack of the rifle the ram completely disappears, the band runs to our left and I see a good ram still with them, I had only seen one good ram in the group before the shot, so I think “Did he miss?”. He said he was rock solid and felt great, and the way the ram disappeared after the shot I am assuming he dropped in his tracks. We head over to inspect, and sure enough the ram dropped stone dead and fell behind a rock that blocked him from our view. Man were we ever excited, it feels so good to be hunting with my son and us achieving the goals we set out for. The rest of the week would go well, Christian was able to harvest his second Axis buck, and a non-typical ram. I am amazed at how good of a hunting buddy he is becoming and how well he handles himself before and after the shot.
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I was fortunate to draw a third week rifle tag and headed back to Lanai a couple weeks after Christian and I were there. This time my dad and stepmother decide to come out and hunt. Unfortunately, I would only have one day to hunt due to unforeseen circumstances. Again, we head over the day before, do a little scouting and shoot our guns. Next morning, we head to my normal spot, I position my dad and stepmother, and I take off. I slowly worked my way down and spotted several sheep but no shooters, I continued working and finally saw a decent ram, I decided not to shoot him, but I knew there had to be more sheep with him. As I work into position, I spotted a couple other bigger rams at about the same time they spotted me. They bolted about 40 yards ahead and stopped to look back, I pick out the better of the two and shoot, the ram runs about 60 yards and piles up. Shortly after I get to my ram I hear a couple shots from the area I had left my dad and stepmother, the band I had shot my ram out of worked up towards them and my stepmother took the second biggest ram out of the group.

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JLMUELZ

JLMUELZ

FNG
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
88
Location
Hawaii
August 4th, I am finally headed to Fairbanks and arrive the morning of the 5th. I was so relieved at the airport to see all of my luggage and rifle had arrived. I am not sure why, but this was a great fear of mine. After the airport I was headed to Pikes Waterfront Lodge for the next two nights, where I would go through my gear packing and unpacking multiple times.

August 7th, Today is the day I had been waiting the better part of two years for. Woke up got breakfast and headed to Wright Air and arrived way too early to fly into basecamp. After a couple hour wait, I boarded the plane and was on the way to Lake Chandalar. The two-hour flight to base camp was awesome, with amazing country to see the entire way.

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Once we landed, we were greeted by Luke, Wesley, their father, and a whole host of others, who helped us with our gear and four wheeled us to camp. I cannot describe to you the beauty of base camp at the lake, it truly took my breath away. Anyway, I was up to shoot first while the others did their paperwork. Gun checked out at the range with only two shots fired. Then it was my turn for paperwork, where I was informed that I would be leaving very soon. With that, my guide and I would go through and check all my gear, slam a salmon salad sandwich (which was amazing), and head down to the lake to get on the float plane. This flight in the supercub was one of the reasons I booked with Luke, I just wanted to ride in a cub! After a Quick flight I was finally in my hunting area and about to hike into sheep country. Once our assistant guide Alex flew in, we headed up the mountain. After a couple hours we reached the top where the wind was kicking and the temperature was dropping rapidly, and to add to it we were all soaked after sweating from the hike up, it was very COLD! We make our first camp out of the wind and no sooner we set the last tent it starts to snow. We glass as long as we can, but after dinner we all crawl into our tents.

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August 8th, I woke up to what I though was the sound of light rain hitting my tent, but once I opened my eyes, I realized it was still snowing. We hunkered down most of that day due to weather, glassing when possible but overall was a slow day. When we could see the views were unbelievable and just seemed to go on forever.

August 9th, weather has not improved much but had stopped snowing for a bit. I think around noon Wesley looks at all of us and says “we got to cover some ground and get further along the ridge” in hopes of being in a better position for the opener which was the next day. As soon as we packed everything up the weather rolls in and we decide to just push on very slowly. It was a great experience walking through all of that. Due to the weather we decided to not go as far as we wanted to ensure we didn’t accidently bump sheep we couldn’t see. So, we set up camp did a little glassing and called it a night.

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JLMUELZ

JLMUELZ

FNG
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
88
Location
Hawaii
August 10th, the day we had all been waiting for. The weather is clear and cool, and we woke to the most beautiful sunrise I think I had ever seen. We quickly pack up camp and head for the top of the ridge and start picking our way along. Once we got to a good glassing point it didn’t take long to find our first four rams. They were about three miles away on another small group of mountains connected to ours by a big saddle. Out of the for we could tell that one was substantially bigger than the other three. I was excited and ready to make the trek after them, but we needed to make sure there were no sheep on the mountain we were already on. Fortunately, we could keep tabs on the four rams the whole time we worked the ridge. We slowly worked toward another glassing knob and just like the last stop we found rams immediately. Three rams two of which appeared to be close to legal and need a longer look. After a short time, Wesley determined the one ram was just short. The other ram was broomed on his right side and would never give us a good look at his left. Unfortunately, the three rams work around to the far face and disappear without us being able to confirm legality of the one ram. All the time we have been watching the four rams we had originally seen and all of us just keep talking about how big the one looks. They also work around the far side of the mountain they were on and disappear for the night. We all decide its time to drop down set up camp and get some dinner. Due to the terrain we all had to camp a bit aways from each other. Sitting on that mountain eating my dinner taking in the scenery and quiet solitude, I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe that I was in the Brooks Range hunting sheep. With a very early wake up ahead the next morning I hit the rack as soon as I was done eating, however the wind that night would ensure that none of us would sleep well.

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August 11th, we get up around 3am eat, pack up, and head to the glassing knob in hopes of finding the ram from the day before. Sure enough there they were just like the day before, but much like the previous day that one ram will not show us his left side. We settle in and watch this ram for several hours, finally he gives us the right look and Wesley determines he is not legal. No big deal, now we can focus on the four other rams on the other mountain. We reposition up the ridge to our first glassing spot and find the rams in the exact same spot as the previous morning. Again, we all can tell there is one ram that is obviously the boss of the group and looked big from several miles away. We decide to make our move toward them. We had to back track up the ridge a way, get on another finger and drop down to a huge saddle. Once in the saddle we found a ton of water. We decide this is a good place to stop for lunch and fill up on water. As we ate, we watched the rams working the mountain. They were working it just like they had the day before. After lunch we crossed the big saddle and side hilled staying out of sight. Once we got as far as we could without being seen we set up the glass and watched the rams hoping they would work to the backside of the mountain like they did the day before. After a couple hours the lead ram got up and headed out of sight. After a short time to make sure they didn’t come back into view we bolted for the next cover about a mile away. I am not too sure how long it took us to get there but we hustled our asses off and covered that ground in a hurry. It was getting late in the day, so we decided to set camp and get another early start the next morning. We had seen the rams do the same thing two days in a row so we were confident we knew where they would be the next morning.

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August 12th, morning came fast, and we were feeling confident that today was the day. After packing up camp we head up the mountain to find a good glassing spot. It took a while to get a good vantage point, but once there we had eyes on the rams. The rams were feeding in the same grassy slope they had been in the past couple of mornings. We were now about 700yds away. There was obviously one big ram in the group, the other three were all young, five years and younger. We glassed that ram for what felt like an eternity to try and get a good look and make sure he was full curl. All he was giving us were frontal views. I will never forget the image of that white ram laying in the green grass chewing his cud, it is seared into my brain. He just looked so damn heavy to me, and I kept trying to convince Wesley he was legal (I know nothing obviously. I just enjoyed going back and forth with the guys we were all pretty excited at this point. We had built a really good rapport up to this point and were constantly joking back and forth. To be clear I was NOT trying to pressure my guide, it was all in fun). But Wesley insisted we had to confirm he was full curl. I understood but enjoyed giving him a hard time. Finally, the ram stood up turned and gave Wesley the look he had been waiting for, I hear Wesley declare “HES FULL CURL!”. The excitement was at an all time high, we just new they were going to work around like they had the previous days and come to within a couple hundred yards of our current position. But after a few minutes the big ram led his little buddies in the completely opposite direction and headed over to the backside of the mountain. We were so confused, we knew we didn’t bump them, we had the wind and were well out of sight. They just decided to change their pattern and frolic in a different area. We sat in the cold wind for the rest of the day hoping the rams would work back around but that never happened. We were all pretty low at that point and a bit perplexed. We dropped down out of the wind and got some cover for that night’s camp. We ate and made a game plan for the next morning. If the rams weren’t in the grassy slope, we were going to go up to the peak and work the ridge till we found them.

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JLMUELZ

JLMUELZ

FNG
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
88
Location
Hawaii
August 13th, I arose to my alarm at 0330 and excitedly packed camp in hopes that today was going to be the day. It was an overcast and an oddly warm morning, by far the warmest we had experienced to that point. Once we were all ready, we picked our way to the glassing nob we were at the day before. Our rams were not on the grassy slope. It was time to climb up and find them. We hiked slowly to the top constantly scanning for white sheep in the rocky terrain. I followed Wesley as we continued along the ridge quietly praying, we would find our rams. We had hiked most of the “sheep country” and were running out of mountain. I was feeling pretty low at this point and figured we would be hiking out to get moved to a new area if the weather held out. As we walked along one side of the ridge our packer Reagan peaked over the other side and whispers “I see them, way down at the bottom”. I couldn’t believe it!!! WE HAD FOUND THE RAMS!!! We all snuck over the other side of the ridge. The rams were 450 yards below us. Without angle compensation they were at 500ish. Earlier in the hunt Wesley and I discussed what range I was comfortable at. I had been practicing out to 700 yards but didn’t want to push it over 400 yards, and that was our goal. Due to the extremely steep angle, it took me a while to find a good spot to lay and shoot. It seemed like it took forever to find a good spot. Finally, I find a place where I can lay down and my feet wouldn’t be trying to roll over my head. The rams were still casually feeding about 420 yards now. Wesley and I discuss our options and we decide we are not going to be able to get any closer. There was a little rise close to where the rams were. I asked Wesley what the range of that spot was, “right at 400 yards” he says. I tell him “Once the ram gets to that knob, I am going to take him”. While all of this is going on Alex and Reagan are setting up to observe the shot. As the rams milled around, I was dry firing and attempting to calm my nerves for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, the big ram worked his way to the little knob at 400 yards, I flipped my safety off, told Wesley “I am going to take him”. I breath and BOOM! Shot number one rang out, Alex says “you hit him! I am not sure where, but he is hit”. I rack another round, find the ram, BOOM! Alex, “you hit him again! Far back, get another one in him!” BOOM! Clean miss, made a hell of a ricochet sound like you would hear in an old western film. As you can imagine I was a bit frantic at this point. I throw another round in my rifle, find the ram still in the same spot and BOOM! Alex, “YOU HAMMERED HIM!”. The ram drops and rolls about 50 yards and stops. What an amazingly overwhelming feeling and sigh of relief as I watched the ram slide down the hill. The celebration was on! I think I tackled Wesley and yelled some expletives at that moment. Hugs and high fives all around, we celebrated as a team! We all couldn’t believe it had happened. We were literally at the end of sheep country, the last possible place the rams could have been, at the end of this little mountain range. After the initial celebration I texted my wife “RAM DOWN!” She was as happy and relieved as I was.
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We worked our way down to the ram and began to celebrate once again upon arrival. We looked him over and over. I don’t think his head touched the ground again for 15 minutes due to all of us admiring him. He was heavy and old, and we were all so happy and took an uncountable number of pictures. After celebrating, we feasted on all the summer sausage, cheese, and whatever other heavy good food we had. During our well-deserved feast we all came to the consensus that the ram was at least 10 years old. After our meal was over, we began to break the old warrior down. We made quick work of him, packed him up and headed off the mountain to our extraction lake about three miles away. By far not the brutal pack out I had expected, but hey ill take it.
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JLMUELZ

JLMUELZ

FNG
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
88
Location
Hawaii
Date.jpg

We beat feet to the lake and shortly after arriving the cub was circling and in short time was landing and taxied to our location. The pilot jumps out and we show off our ram, while he is looking at it, we ask him “how old he thinks the ram is” and he quickly responds, “at least 12, probably 13”. Celebration number three began! Just to explain the pilot guided in this area for many years and was very experienced with these Brooks Range rams. Not that my guide was not, I think he was just being modest and didn’t want to over sell.
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We loaded the ram and my gear into the cub and pushed off. As we taxied on the lake it hit me that my adventure was coming to an end. As the engine revved and the floats lifted my heart sank. As happy as I was, I wanted the adventure to continue. I have no idea when, if ever I will be able to experience this amazing wilderness, adventure, and comradery again. The flight back to base camp wasn’t terribly long. Landing on lake Chandalar we were greeted by Luke and Wesley’s father, where we unloaded the plane, loaded a four-wheeler, and made the short drive to camp, while the cub took off again to ferry everyone else back. As we pulled in unloading the gear and hanging the rams head on the pole with a couple other heads, I was greeted by the rest of the team at Tyrrells Trails with handshakes, high fives, and cold beers. Celebration number four was in full swing! And boy was it a celebration! We celebrated and ate an amazingly well-deserved meal of grilled sheep ribs and caribou backstraps that night at base camp.


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The next morning, I got up early and hit the shower house, that hot water felt so damn good. Best shower I have had since my post SERE school shower. Then it was time to clean up the meat and get it already for transport back to civilization. While I was processing the ram, I had the pleasure of watching the Grey Jays pick at the skulls and try and steal chunks of meat off the table while I wasn’t paying attention. These little guys were pretty neat and added to the experience. After taking care of the meat I just hung around camp and tried to take it all in. Lake Chandalar is such a beautiful place, pictures and words cannot do it any justice. I would reluctantly fly back to Fairbanks the next day.
My biggest take away from this hunt that I would like to pass onto anyone else doing a guided hunt that costs this much is, once you are there, and in the field, DON’T STRESS! The money is already gone, and it is not coming back, now you need to enjoy this adventure and focus on getting it done. I hated that the cost was always in the back of my head, and I felt an un-needed pressure. Don’t let the pressure stop you from enjoying every step of this experience. In no way am I saying that pressure ruined it for me, but it was always in the back of my mind.

In closing I want to thank my wife Mallory for supporting me on all of my hunting endeavors. Without her none of this would be possible. And I want to thank my guide Wesley, assistant guide Alex and our packer Reagan. I don’t think I could have been with a better group of guys. We worked hard and laughed from the beginning to the end.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.
 

jofes

WKR
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Messages
335
Awesome write up! Congratulations, seeing your ram in camp was great motivation! He had great mass.
 

f16jack

WKR
Joined
Jun 27, 2020
Messages
319
Location
Utah
Congrats and great writeup. Thanks also for your service.
My Dall hunts have been my top hunts. It sounds like yours has been also.
 

Geewhiz

WKR
Joined
Aug 6, 2020
Messages
2,177
Location
SW MT
What an adventure. I need one of those. Super jealous man, looks like you had a trip of a lifetime!
 

Axlrod

WKR
Joined
Jan 8, 2017
Messages
1,240
Location
SW Montana
Great story and pics! Loved the idea of using Power point. Congratulations and thank you for your service.
 

Murphy

Lil-Rokslider
Joined
May 3, 2016
Messages
228
Great write up! I'm headed up there this August. I'll be happy if I have half the adventure you had.
 
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