Western Hunting Journal, Premiere Issue whj001_premiere - Page 55

Leaving the pickup as the sun rose in the cold, clear skies of Central Oregon, the four of us—Kevin, Travis, Doug and I—walked with loaded packs three miles through a har- vested wheat field before we reached sight of the Deschutes River. The intimidating can- yon was off in the distance as the wind howled and blew up from the river bottom. We had scouted the area the day before and saw several good rams in the canyon. Feeling satisfied that there was at least one shooter in the canyon, we left undetected with plans of re- turning in the morning. After deciding to pass on the first ram we saw that morn- ing, a second ram, this one with a group of ewes, crested a steep cliff face. From a distance, he looked promising but when the four of us studied him through binoculars and spotting scopes he wasn’t what I was looking for. He was a little older than the first, but his tips were heav- ily broomed and he lacked the mass I wanted. We quiet- ly slipped away and hiked to where we spotted the rams the day before, atop a rim looking down into a steep, unforgiving canyon. About the time I started sec- ond guessing not shooting one of those rams, Travis waved me to where he was glassing into a canyon. It was one of those waving motions that meant ‘get over here now!’ I crept to where he was and 175 yards below us stood an older ma- ture ram with a group of ewes, lambs and younger rams. The wind was right, and the group of sheep had no idea we were hoglund photo Editor. Doug participated on Kevin’s hunt, as well as mine. As did Travis. Collectively, I had three partners with a total of 11 bighorn sheep hunts to their credit. It truly was a team ef- fort, and therein lies one of the most important components to a sheep hunter’s success: Assemble a group of like-mind- ed hunters who are working toward the common goal of helping the tag holder fill his or her tag. When Kevin was drawn for his tag in 2014, he began contacting landowners who owned property on the east side of the lower Deschutes River. Two years later Doug was drawn for the same tag and Kevin reached out to the same landowners and they gracious- ly granted access to their prop- erty. Kevin did the same when I was drawn. Beginning in July, Kevin and I started scouting the areas known to hold sheep. It helped alleviate some of the stress, but the anxiety doesn’t end until you have a ram on the ground. The country that bighorn sheep live in is rugged, steep and unfor- giving. above them. The four of us were able to get a good look at him through binoculars and spot- ting scopes. Much like the first two rams we found, there was a lot of debating to this ram’s merit. Kevin liked him; Travis liked him; and Doug liked him. “But do you like him? That’s the question,” asked Kevin. I weighed my options. There were three rams in the area and all of them were beautiful sheep. Each one was a little different. As I watched him through the spotting scope it was a matter of de- ciding if this one was the ram I wanted. When he turned his head to look down into the www.westernhuntingjournal.com 53