Lessons Learned by a Rookie Sheep Hunter

Ohio Darin

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jun 1, 2012
Messages
351
Travelled to NWT on 7/26, for a 12-day horseback Dall’s sheep hunt with Gana River and thought I’d share some lessons learned along the way. Some of you more seasoned guys may get a chuckle out of some these but figured they may just help someone out.

The outfitter suggested wearing hunting boots on the plane in case luggage got lost. Rushing to get out the door to catch my flight I put on my Lowa’s for the first time this year and thought these are going to suck walking through the airport. I threw on my Salomon 4D’s and thought much better and out the door I went. Once at the airport reality set in and I thought what an idiot. I saw a Stone sheep hunter wearing gym shoes and his boots lashed to his carry-on. Ding –ding –ding – what a novel idea. Good thing my guide had a new pair of insoles to give me at least a fighting chance. I had brought a couple pairs of liner socks and wore a pair each day as they helped take up the volume in the boots. I cranked on the laces and they worked OK but by end of day my ankles would start rolling from muscle fatigue. I taped up a hot spot on the 3rd day but after that I was good. By the end of the trip both soles were starting to separate.

If overnighting in Edmonton stay at the Radisson Hotel at the airport. I thought it would be better to stay down in Ludec where there was at least a little bit of town to see. Messing with shuttles with gear and a rifle was just a pain in the rear. On the way home I stayed at the Radisson. You grab your gear and riffle at baggage claim and wheel an airport cart right into the hotel. In the morning I wheeled the same cart right out of the hotel up to Delta check in. Room and restaurant are very nice and well worth the extra $30-40.

When flying out of Edmonton to the US you go through US Customs in Edmonton. I allowed for a 3-hour layover in Minneapolis to allow time in case I got an idiot agent. Could have caught an earlier connection if I knew this going in. The agents in Edmonton are familiar with hunters travelling with rifles and archery equipment so it was a breeze. They took my baggage and rifle before even seeing the officer so no need to open the case, verify serial number etc. Told him I had a rifle – OK. Told him my 4457 was folded in passport he had – OK. I was even able to complete my enrollment interview for Global Entry in Edmonton.

With 21 hours of daylight it was tough getting to sleep the first couple nights. Good thing I had some melatonin and Tylenol PM’s to help out with this.

Be prepared to just embrace the suck. I read this somewhere on this forum and it holds true. Outside of the first day it rained everyday. Everything I owned was wet or damp. I happened to take a Peleton 97 just because and wasn’t sure how it would fit into my layer system. I ended up wearing that thing everyday as it was the only piece of clothing I had that felt dry. I had a cotton ball cap I wore that was a water magnet and everyday just felt like a damp piece of greasy grossness regardless of how long I let it dry out. A synthetic or mesh back cap would have been much better.

Going #2 required picking your poison. Either go in the rain or go when not raining and have a 100 heat-seeking missile mosquitoes attack your rear and nether areas. I learned real quick to be about your business and get the heck out of there. Also, unscented baby-wipes are your friend, especially if your guide cooks everything (and I mean everything) in lard.

85cba0bb2fbbdb28481fe6501ebded3b.jpg


I never imagined how excited I’d get about clean underwear day. I changed every 4 days and think I would switch that to every 3. Also, I took 2 SS merino 125 tee’s that I wore every day and 2 LS 145 tee’s that I didn’t wear at all. I will take 4 SS tees on next trip and change on clean underwear day. Also, may pick up some synthetics to combat dampness. I took 2 merino 210 but one would have been plenty as I only wore a couple mornings. Another Peleton 97 would have been nice but the stench wasn’t too earth shattering after wearing 12 days straight. Took 2 pair of long underpants and didn’t wear at all. Same with merino beanie and gator. I wore a Peleton 240 beanie at times but mostly just pulled up the hood of the 97 or 240 jacket.

Leave the water bladder at home and just take a Nalgene bottle. There is clean flowing water from springs and glaciers everywhere in the NWT. No point in lugging around all that water when it is so easily available. Plus pulling the bladder to fill when your pack is full can be a pain.

On a guided hunt you can pretty much leave your kill kit at home. The guide has everything he wants to use already. A knife is definitely handy to have. Also, with 21 hrs of daylight, spare batteries or back up light is not needed. We hunted one day from 9:00am and didn’t roll back into camp until 8:00am the next day. There may have been 30 minutes where a headlamp was handy. I’ll probably just take a e+Lite or similar next time. My possibles pouch could also get a trim. Some tape and mattress repair plus a leatherman squirt is about all I think I’ll take next time. My lightweight rifle cleaning kit did come in handy after my rifle took a dunk in the river compliments of my horse.

Horses really suck balls. I enjoyed the nostalgia of a traditional horseback hunt but they add another level of stress and irritations. Of the 3 horses I rode I didn’t have a favorite but maybe a most tolerable. They will want to eat and not pay attention where they are going then stumble and give you a ride of your life. Or they may decide they want to cross the river a little bit further upstream and you and your rifle get soaked as the horse begins to float. Maybe they just decide to go halfway up the mountain while you sleep and it takes the entire next day to find them. Overhanging trees? No worries the horse will duck those while you take a branch square to the chest. They do allow you to cover a lot of ground and get you to a mountain base faster than on foot but just be aware of the additional problems that can arise.

24261c466b341e20c827d22fa9893c0b.jpg


Don’t look up or down. Not being very good with heights I learned a while ago not to look down. I found out not to look up as well as it seemed to make the climbs bigger. I would just look about 10 -15 yards out and make a series of mini climbs. Seemed to work best for this flatlander from Ohio that relied a lot on 16” box step ups for training.

70e914d12f69a629e974fa5b10e53a15.jpg


The sheep aren’t going anywhere – especially in crappy weather as long as you don’t spook them. I was slightly above the ram I killed and had all the time in the world to keep resetting for my shot to get my muzzle to clear the ridge I was laying on. I would get set up and realize I needed to scoot closer. Set up and still closer. After the third try I still had plenty of time to double check my rest and sight focus before touching off a 225yd shot on the bedded ram that never knew what hit him.

14f498fb007f00f7c50a44c65580ed19.jpg


I’ll use a couple lines from Last Man Standing for the last two.

“Prepare for the un-preparable.” Moving over to a nice grassy spot to get into a prone position and opportunity for a possible follow up shot is always a great idea. But if a sheep that has you pinned down decides to stand from its bed above you and present a shot from a crouching tiger position from behind a boulder - chill out and don’t pull the trigger and pull the shot. Again, he wasn’t really going anywhere at least until the shot went slamming into the rocks above him. Shot over the back of a 40” ram on the 3rd day at 350yds.

“Expect the un-expected.” I had a caribou tag in case I killed out early in the hunt. I got my sheep on the 9th day and the 10th day we slept in, relaxed and dealt with the meat, cape and horns. On the 11th day we rode out from camp a few miles for a “caribou hunt” in the rain. After an hour or so the sun came out for the first time in days and we just napped in the warm sun and dried our clothes out. Not seeing anything all day, I called it a hunt around 4pm and was happy with how it all went. I would fly out to base camp the next morning. The next morning was like every other morning, rain and fog. All planes were grounded – even the planes out of Norman Wells. Sitting around the campfire around 3pm talking old westerns and still waiting on the possibility of the Super Cub making it, a bull caribou walks by camp at 10 yards in the river. I asked my guide who had his back turned if it was a shooter and he said yes. I ran into the tent and grabbed my rifle and rummaged through my gear bag for bullets as I was all packed and ready to go. Running behind our tent I found a clearing where I could shoot the bull at 150 yards. Shoving bullets, grass and everything else into my action I lost the angle on him. I got up and ran across camp. The wrangler was calling out yardage as the bull walked straight away. 200, 225, 250, 275. Getting too far for my liking , I yelled for a pack to lay my rifle on. 300, 325, 350. He hit some deep water in the river that caused him to pause and turn broadside. Heard the bullet from the 6.5CM hit and he stood there. One more shot and he was down.

4316db9b3d7b52a94ef0561cea693ea2.jpg


Again, I know this may be common knowledge to many but I hope you enjoyed reading anyway. Maybe this will help out another rookie sheep hunter as they head out for their trip of a life time....



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Last edited:

BRWNBR

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
732
Forget the sheep! That caribou is sweet!!

Going number 2 in bugs. Check wind. Tightly roll a dozen squares light them on fire and set just upwind. It will smolder and smoke and as they say.... save your azz.
 
Last edited:

realunlucky

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 20, 2013
Messages
11,187
Location
Eastern Utah
Now that's a great trip. Thanks for sharing your experiences enjoyed the read. X2 on a great caribou

Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
 

PNWGATOR

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Oct 14, 2014
Messages
1,720
Location
USA
Awesome write up and what a great trip! Thanks for sharing. Good stuff.
 

idig4au

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jun 1, 2012
Messages
701
Location
On one of the 7 continents….
Some nice lessons learned. I think we've all been there. It all adds to the memory and the experience.

So to quote Jack O'Conner, "There is no half way. After his first exposure, a man is either a sheep hunter or he isn't. He either falls under the spell of sheep hunting and sheep country or he won't be caught dead on another sheep mountain"

So the question that needs to be asked, did you catch the sheep fever?
 
OP
Ohio Darin

Ohio Darin

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jun 1, 2012
Messages
351
Some nice lessons learned. I think we've all been there. It all adds to the memory and the experience.

So to quote Jack O'Conner, "There is no half way. After his first exposure, a man is either a sheep hunter or he isn't. He either falls under the spell of sheep hunting and sheep country or he won't be caught dead on another sheep mountain"

So the question that needs to be asked, did you catch the sheep fever?

Can't wait to chase to another! Hard to explain but I found myself getting pushed beyond my normal everyday comfy zone and the grit of my youth is still there alive and strong.
 
OP
Ohio Darin

Ohio Darin

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jun 1, 2012
Messages
351
Forget the sheep! That caribou is sweet!!

Going number 2 in bugs. Check wind. Tightly roll a dozen squares light them on fire and set just upwind. It will smolder and smoke and as they say.... save your azz.

Thanks - I'll give it a go next time. That's the beauty of this site, always learning something. I was not hunting in a very good caribou area and ended up out doing the 2 caribou hunters in camp. Definitely a gift from above
 

tommy1005

Junior Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2016
Messages
42
Location
Katy, TX
Congrats on a nice ram and caribou. Hoping that I get to do the same hunt soon


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

TXCO

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Aug 18, 2012
Messages
691
Congrats and interesting notes on that time of year. I hadnt thought about the minimal use of a headlamp/extra batteries or being wet and warm where synthetic could be better than merino.
 

Silver

Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Messages
51
Location
Northern BC
Awesome advice- especially embrace the suck. There is nothing about sheep that mostly-normal people would consider “fun”. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
 
Top