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"Plan C" - An Alaska sheep story


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"Plan C" - An Alaska sheep story

Sometimes, when Plan A doesn’t work out…. and Plan B falls apart… you just have to wing it. 2018 was one of those years.
My “A” plan for 2018 didn’t involve sheep at all. After an excellent 2017 hunt with bambistew, I had decided to focus on moose this year, with a visit to our traditional family moose camp. Unfortunately fate and nature threw a wrench into the plans with a series of events (involving a failed salmon run among other things), and moose camp was canceled for the first time in about 25 years. It was a sad day, but these things happen.

I have a basket of “Plan B” hunts for just such eventualities, so I fairly quickly re-organized and had a hunt planned with a co-worker and friend. The new plan was simple and roughly like this:

1. Take ATV’s into the mountains on well-established trail
2. Set up a comfortable base camp
3. Hike and spike out 8-10 miles into a different drainage and look for sheep

My friend happened to have a caribou tag for the mountain range we were in, so he and his teenage son were going to focus more on locating a decent bull, most likely from base camp, while I chased the white critters. It was a good plan.

Unfortunately, even good plans can have weaknesses, and this one happened to hinge on the weather. August 2018 did us no favors at all with a series of rainstorms that frustrated sheep hunters everywhere. Nevertheless, when the day came in late August, we donned our raingear and headed out… hoping for the best.

The “best” however, wasn’t very good. Immediately we had issues with the happy little creek the trail followed being blown out into a full grown river. The trail was completely underwater for large portions and the crossings were dicey to say the least.

We struggled for hours, winching machines, searching for crossings, and hand cutting out old grown over by-pass trails. After one last crossing left me with an air box full of water…

...we finally called in quits for the day and set up camp still below tree line and still many miles from our intended jumping off point. We were so far off plan in fact, that we hadn’t even made it to the edge of the maps I had printed off for the trip!

With low clouds and obscuring the peaks, it was hard to even tell where we were. Luckily, as we contemplated our options that night, I found that I had downloaded digital maps of the area on to my phone at some point in the past. AND… there was a pin dropped on the map that simply said “ram” on the ridge directly above us. Going back through my mental files, I had a vague recollection of seeing a ½ curl ram posted up on a knob above the creek on some previous trip into the area.

So… Plan C it is. The weather forecast was for an ok day tomorrow, and we had nothing better to do. I would climb the nearby ridge with day gear to see what I could find, and the other guys would try and bushwack up the creek far enough to get above treeline and maybe find a caribou.

- - - Updated - - -

Morning brought more showers and clouds, but again… nothing better to do… so I rolled out anyways and hoped it would improve as I climbed.

Found some interesting things along the way. This lamb didn't make it through the winter.

Topping out on the ridge late that morning was great. The sun was starting to break through, and I was more than pleased to see a series of bowls and finger ridges on the other side that had “ram country” written all over it. I didn’t actually see any rams, but it seemed worth carrying on, so I kept climbing and pushing further back working my way through the country.

Just before noon, I reached the furthest high ridge line and slowly crawled over the top to avoid skylineing myself. I immediately saw four rams in the bowl on the other side, walking directly away from me at just 300 yds. One of them looked mature through the binos, so I quickly unloaded the spotting scope to get a better view… and just that fast a cloud rolled in and they disappeared!

I strained through the spotter to find them again, but except for an occasional glimpse through a thin spot, we were socked in. Finally after 20+ minutes the cloud blew away, just in time for me to watch them walk over a rocky knob 600 yds away and disappear…. but one was legal.

What followed was one of the most interesting stalking exercises I’ve had in a long time. With the wind quartering at my rear, I couldn’t chase them directly so I had to drop down the other side and come up from a down wind direction ½ mile away. Being that they looked un-disturbed when I last saw them, I bet that they would bed down in the sun somewhere in the broken outcrops along the ridgeline. This meant I was still hunting in the blind. With the wind now in my favor and rifle in hand I stalked that ridge for two hours, taking two steps and scanning… two steps, scan again. Moving at glacial speed.

Finally, it paid off, and I caught a glimpse of white on an outcrop. I belly crawled closer until I could a full view from 150 yds. Unfortunately, the biggest of the bunch was bedded looking directly at me!

I lay belly down in the scree for several minutes looking around and contemplating how the heck I was getting to get set up for a shot on him. He hadn’t seen me, but there was zero cover between us and he had chosen his perch well indeed. I was pinned in a low spot, with no way to maneuver the gun on to him.

Finally it dawned on me that he actually wasn’t very far away. Pretty darn close as a matter of fact. Sometimes you have to quit screwing around. I flicked off the safety, rolled up on one knee, looked at a very surprised sheep through the scope… and nailed him.

Well that was that. One day and done. Sometimes you get lucky.

My GPS said I had six miles to get back to camp, so after a few quick pictures and a butcher job I loaded him up still bone-in to try and beat the dark.

With 100+ lbs on board, I found the steep descents pretty rough, and made it about four miles before I ended up stashing the head and half the meat under a tarp at the brushline to make it back right at last light. I was very happy to be sleeping in a heated tent that night!

to be cont...


Well-known member
No caribou had been spotted on the previous day, so the guys decided to work even further up the creek while I retrieved the rest of the sheep. Another wet day, but the meat was dry and cool under the tarp.

When I got back to camp at noon, I found a note that said “might camp out” scrawled out in charcoal. The rain and wind had returned in full force, and when I checked the tent I found they had left their sleeping bags in the name of lightness, which was going to make any “camping out” pretty interesting I thought.

Later that afternoon I got an inreach message relayed through my dad that they had indeed gotten a caribou many miles from camp and were going to bivy camp and come out with a load in the morning.

That night it stormed….. a lot. They were camped at 3200’ and the snow line went from 6000’ to 2500’ in a few hours. Their tundra bivy camp consisted mostly of sleeping pads, plenty of puffy clothes and a MSR Carbon Reflex tent that wasn’t rated for snow AT ALL.

Yeah, that is a tent in that picture.

By all accounts, it was an interesting night. Did I mention this was the kids first real big game hunt? Dad was breaking him in right.
They broke camp at 0400 after giving up on “sleeping”, and I met them on the trail coming out at first light incredibly wet but still carrying good attitudes and half the caribou.



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After a clothes drying session that lasted the rest of the morning, and a meal of fresh grilled sheep heart...

.... we went back in sunny weather that afternoon and retrieved the rest of the bull.

Some trips are hard and success elusive. Sometimes it's hard.. but you get lucky and it all works out. Plan C this year turned into three days of packing meat, which is all you can ask.

Also have to give props to the son, who tolerated a wet trip with a work ethic and attitude that few older men could have managed.
He is welcome on any future trip.


AK Troutbum

Well-known member
Right on, great read with some great character building opportunities to boot! Oh, and ya just gotta love that good ‘ol Arktika, as l’m sure you do.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


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Thanks guys. I figured we needed more hunt stories this time of year.

We are in the last year of data collection. Hope to start processing the final database soon. Can you give me you email address.
[email protected]

email sent as requested. Let me know if it doesn't show up.

For the right numbers guy there should be some interesting stats that fall out of all that data.


Well-known member
Great story, and super ram. Glad you didn't get washed away. This last fall was a bit rough on sheep hunters.

Over the four days or so we were there, my ATV trailer collected some serious water.

At least 2.5"+ of rain I'm sure, which is about the normal TOTAL August rainfall for that region.

Soggy to say the least, and I know were weren't the only ones to "enjoy" that weather. We were lucky to get a couple short breaks to make it happen.

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