I never thought I would go on a sheep hunt. Living in the southeast, I figured I might elk hunt one day, but sheep was barely on the radar. Growing up in a family business where we were full line Browning dealers, there were often posters of animals in far away places, and rifles in calibers I knew had no place in middle Georgia. I knew about them, I just never entertained the idea I might get the chance to chase them. Then I went on a dall hunt in 2018 for my 40th birthday to self. It was the greatest experience of my hunting career, and was truly a life changing trip. After awhile I grew bored with the whitetail hunting back home, and in 2020, put a deposit down for a 2023 stone hunt.
As the date drew closer, I went through the same "which rifle, which bullet" merry-go-round that I did before the dall hunt. Too much time on my hands I guess....I finally settled on my 1996 Browning A-Bolt 270 w Boss, that my Dad gave to me just 3 years before he passed away. Even though it weighed more than 9# all up, with 140 gr ballistic tips, it held 1/3 MOA out to 300+ yards, and beat out the best loads I could find for a 280 AI Forbes, a 300 win mag Cooper, and a Christensen 7mm-08. On paper it wasn't sexy, it wasn't new, and it didn't fit the 2023 "sheep rifle" profile, but I just kept coming back to it.
We got into sheep country 2 days before the opener, smoke filled skies masking anything more than a mile away. Glassing was difficult, but we did manage to see several different rams on the skylines, most of which were just shy of being legal, but one of which was very wide, flaring with both lamb tips intact. He was very light colored, almost as light as a dall. My guide also showed me the pic on his phone of another ram he had seen 2 days before I got there, not as wide or long, but very dark, a deeper curl than the white one, and carrying a noticeable amount of mass down into the curl. I remember getting excited when he showed me that pic, and I told him if I got a chance on that ram I would absolutely take him.
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The day before the opener, rain finally came to clear the smoke away, and what it left in place of the smoke was fog, and a low canopy preventing us from glassing as well as we would have liked, but also keeping other hunters from getting flown-in, we hoped.
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Opening day arrived, and while we were excited to be able to pull the trigger on a ram, the fog hung low and thick again. We couldn't stand the idea of sitting down in the valley when we had seen other hunters glassing nearby, so we charged up through the buckbrush and got up into sheep country. Once we got up there, the fog was thick, but there were small pockets that would open up for us for 5 minutes at a time. We carefully and methodically checked each bowl/chute, before going farther down the ridge. After seeing so many sheep up high the 2 days prior, we were surprised to not be seeing any sheep anywhere.
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As we made our way towards the last shoulder of the mountain, we saw the band of rams with the big white one all the way down in the trees! 900 yards away. We watched them spar, thrash a couple of trees, and generally goof off. The wind was blowing hard in our face, I'm guessing 20 mph. We decided to go around to a spot where when they fed up we would hopefully be within 300 or so yards of them, but while we were climbing down there, they actually fed right up to where we had just been, and at about 520 yards, saw one of us on the skyline and ran the other way, vanishing around the far side of the mountain on a saddle. With thunderstorms rolling in, we spent the next couple of hours making our way back to camp in the pouring rain.
With no end to the rain in sight for the next 24 hours, we spent the next day in the tents, resting and waiting for the weather to break. Book, courtesy of @DuckDogDr
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At the end of the day, the rain did let up, and we hiked up to a nearby knob to glass. We noticed another hunter about a mile away glassing the saddle where the rams had run to. We saw lots of other sheep around, but no legal rams, and neither the white ram, nor the dark one. We all agreed that we should get up at 4:30am the next morning and be hiking up the hill by 5am.
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After getting our things together, we were hiking up at first light. There were fresh wolf tracks in the mud. In every direction, we could see for miles. We saw peaks and far mountains we had not seen in the days before. There were stone sheep on almost every mountain. Most too far away to tell what we were looking at, but the ones close enough were not legal, barely. We were excited. As we approached the saddle where the white ram had led his band the other day, we saw a group of sheep, but after some cautious and careful glassing, it was not them. And the rams were too short
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We pressed on and finally got up to the saddle, and could see into the first couple of bowls on the back side of the mountain. We fanned out on the grassy knoll, and each set up our spotters in different directions. After about 5 minutes, my guide motioned for me to come over and bring my rifle. (Adrenaline spike!) As I got next to him, he said "It's the dark one". 500+ yards away. I got my spartan bipod set up, and got the ram in the crosshairs, and did all I could do to try and get ahold of myself as I followed him.
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I was constantly looking up to range the ram with my Leica 2800, and the guide was telling me the distance from his El Range as confirmation. I don't know if it was divine intervention, or my Dad, or maybe both, but the ram all of a sudden started heading in our direction, leading the band right towards us. The range went from 500 to 400 to 300.....the video tells the tale.
I ended up taking him at 120 yards. I was overcome with emotion, joy, disbelief, thankfulness, and a good dose of more adrenaline. My hands started shaking after the shot.
I cannot overstate the beauty of Northern BC, or the respect that I have for the sheep, the guides, and the hunters who spend time in these mountains on a regular basis. The experience was truly the greatest and most fulfilling so far in my 41 years of being a hunter.