Brooks Range 2010 Dall Sheep Hunt

By Jim Wilson

Brooks-Range-Dall-Sheep HuntAt the 2010 Eastern Wild Sheep Foundation Saturday night auction I purchased a Dall Sheep hunt with Alaskan Perimeter Expeditions. Henry Tiffany, the outfitter had donated the hunt for 10 days into the Brooks Range. One of our directors, Jeff Fushe had hunted with Henry 3 times and highly recommended him. Being as I had never hunted Alaska and was looking to hunt the “white sheep of the north” again this seemed looked like a good chance to accomplish both goals. Henry was very organized and within a short period of time, the dates were set and all the information I needed was in hand. Leading up to the hunt I would get periodic phone calls from Henry and updates as to what was going on. I would be hunting the first hunt of the season. Before I left home in August I knew who my guide would be, what camp I would be hunting and all about the specific area. I flew to Fairbanks, Ak on August 8, arriving a day early. Being it was a weekend I thought I might do a little sightseeing. When I checked into the hotel hunters started appearing. It is funny how that works. Somehow we all seem to identify with each other and suddenly the day or two you thought you had to yourself is suddenly spent exchanging stories and comparing past hunts. There were 5 of us hunting in various camps with Henry. We would all be going to different camps. Art, the other hunter who would be in my camp was from Illinois and had never hunted sheep before and was ready to go. Monday morning we caught a small charter flight to Bettles AK. This flight was over the Dalton highway and the Alaska pipeline. When we landed in Bettles there were hunters standing all around. The mountains were fogged in and no planes were flying. After a few hours wondering if we would get out or not we were told to get ready, we would be flying out. Some of the others were not too happy as they had been waiting longer. Apparently our guide had called in on a satellite phone and given a weather report so they felt we were good to go. Flying into the mountains in the DeHaviland Beaver took a little over a hour. When the lake came into view we could see camp set up and the hunt was on! After landing Art and I met our guides and got unloaded. Jeff (my guide) explained that one of us would stay at that camp and the other would spike out for a week or so. Art mentioned that he had never done the spike camp deal so he would like to try it if that was ok with me. NO PROBLEM I told him. Jeff and I would still each be in 1 man tents but would also have a wall tent were you could stand upright. The next morning we said our goodbyes as Art and Mike left for spike camp. That was when the rain started. It would continue on and off everyday but 2 for the next 13 days. Jeff and I started seeing rams from the first day. The first group had an awesome looking ram with them. We watched him for several hours. He had an extremely deep curl and did not come up high enough to be a full curl which would make him legal. We could not count his annuli to be sure he was eight years old which also would have made him legal. In the end it was great just to watch him, knowing what potential he had. The next day we spotted some rams coming off the mountain across from camp. One looked good so we went to take a look. Those 3 rams passed within 150 yards of us. The lead ram was legal but as I had already taken a Dall sheep that was bigger in the past I elected to pass. I think Jeff thought I was nuts, passing a ram that close to camp. The third day of the hunt we spotted four other rams on a mountain we had not looked at yet. They were too far to tell what they were so we went after them on day four. Unfortunately they had moved to the next mountain and all we could do was watch them. We did get a good look at them though. One was a good looking full curl and another was heavy horned and broomed on both sides making him legal. Jeff asked which I liked better to which I replied I would shoot whichever one was closer but I really liked the heavy broomed ram. The next day we left camp about 8:30 and headed towards where we thought the rams would be. Unfortunately when we popped over the ridge 5 hours later, the two rams that were 15 yards in front of us were the wrong rams. It was great being within bow shot distance but they were just short of legal. After looking we found our two rams high up the next mountain. Being as this was one of the days it was not raining and foggy we decided to go for it. They were near the top of the mountain and if they went over we would lose them. After climbing for hours we were going over the top of the saddle so we could get above them and hopefully get a shot. After getting to where we needed to be we peeked over the top and there they were, bedded down. The broomed ram was 225 yards and the full curl was about 25 yards beyond him. The decision was made. After trying to get setup I could not get in a good shooting position. I had to get on top of a rock which could let them see me. I finally was set up and waiting for them to stand. After a while I decided I had a good enough rest and shot the ram in his bed. His head dropped and he never moved. The other ram jumped up and looked at his buddy. He must have thought everything was Ok because eventually he lay down again. My ram was 10 years old and broomed on both side with good mass. After pictures, skinning and butchering we headed back to camp arriving at 1:00am. The next few days we worked on the cape and meat. When it would rain we would wonder how Art was enjoying the spike camp experience. They made it back to camp on the 9th day. They had seen rams but had not been able to connect. We told them about the legal ram we had seen the second day. The next morning they left heading towards where we had last seen the sheep. They returned after1:00am the next morning with Art’s ram. Trying to get out of camp proved to be a real challenge. The day we were suppose to fly was socked in with clouds and it never cleared. Jeff told us the record was eight days waiting for the plane. The next day started off the same way but after noon it started to break up. The plane showed up at 3:00pm and we were on our way. Being it was Sunday we thought we would have to spend the night in Bettles. When we arrived, there was a plane waiting for us and15 minutes later we were heading to Fairbanks. When we arrived at our hotel we met up with the Henry’s other hunters. All of us had gotten nice rams. After exchanging phone numbers and email addresses we had dinner and compared stories. Everyone had had a great hunt in spite of the weather. The next day we all headed home. This same hunt is on the auction this year at the 2011 convention. It may be hard to keep my hands in my pockets.