Finally the LEH results were online, I submitted my number and one code was successful, it was for the sheep draw, after 12 years of applying for that draw, I finally got it!
So now the planning started for this rare opportunity, as I had never hunted this area before, I knew that a scouting trip would be needed, I made a few calls to friends in the area, to my taxidermist, Regan Underwood, of Country Studios in Vernon, and looking on Google Earth, I had a good idea of where to go. My wife Wendy was going to accompany me on this hunt so we planned a three day scouting trip.
After the shop closed on Saturday I packed a few things and was off very early in the morning. The first stop was the main gravel road off the highway by Vaseux Lake, near Oliver, BC, which went through a ranchers land and then hooked up with 4×4 trails that came down from the main logging road, at least that’s what it looked like on Google Earth. As I went by the ranchers house and building, I was going to stop, but did not see anyone around, thought I would knock on the door on the way back. I hadn’t gone very far and a quad was coming down the road, it turned out to be the owner of the ranch, we had a very good talk, he was very friendly and provided valuable information as to where to find Rams at this time of year. He also told me that this road did not connect with the upper logging road anymore, so after a good chat I turned the truck around on the next corner and headed for the high country above his ranch.
For the rest of the day I took every side road that went towards the canyon, I marked on a map how far it went, and if it ended or carried on needing a quad. At the end of the day I ended up on an overgrowing grass spur road with a landing very close to the canyon. I walked out to the rock bluffs and to the left, the canyon continued but was treed, but the right was open grass slopes which went up almost to height of land and down to the canyon drop off which ended far below to the canyon creek. I knew this was the lookout, a good spot to glass from, especially if it rained.
I slept in the truck that night on the landing. The next morning after some coffee and a granola, I hiked up the canyon, got on a sheep trail and followed it for three hours. I was a little disappointed at the sheep signs I saw, but did find one very big, fresh track in the dirt. I came back to the lookout and sat there another couple of hours glassing, this would be our number one spotting place. If the sheep were at the other end of the sloping grass plateau, it would be too far for a stalk from this end, so I set out to find access to the other end of height of land. By six o’clock that evening, I had found it, but it would definitely need the quad. This would be access to the grassy slopes from the west end. Satisfied with the area I had found in the zone my tag was for, I decided not to stay for the third day and headed home.
I knew I would not be there for opening day, as I had an Elk hunt planned with good friend, Darrell Hamilton, in the Kootenay’s, for the archery Elk season high in the rocky mountains. Leaving time for the hunt and if we got an Elk, hanging and cutting, would only leave Wendy and I the last 10 days in September for the sheep hunt.
After a successful Elk hunt and putting the Elk in the freezer, we started to assemble our gear and load the truck and the quad in the toy-hauler. The only item I was not sure of, was if Wendy had a good set of waterproof ankle-high footwear, but she assured me she did. Well on the second day, they proved not to be waterproof and the third day the soles were coming off, they were just not built for that rocky terrain, but I knew what her Christmas present was going to be!
Finally after the shop closed on September 20th we left, I knew it would be dark when we got there, but I had a couple of camp spots picked out from the scouting trip. My number one spot was not occupied so we set up, unloaded the quad and hit the hay for a few hours of sleep. Then, an hour and a half before light, a truck pulling a trailer with a quad went by us, turned out they were a local couple from town and she had a tag that ended up filling her tag on the last day of the draw.
After a quick breakfast we were off to the lookout, when I turned onto the spur road I realized that this was a popular spot, as the two foot high, overgrown grass road was pounded flat and the trail had a well worn path through the bush, right out on to the lookout. We set up the spotting scope and glassed for about two hours, no sheep, so we packed up and headed up the valley the way I went on the scouting trip. This time though we went a little further than I had gone before we turned around, as there was no more signs since the scouting trip, very disappointing.
On the way back to the trailer we checked out a few other spots, but no signs. After lunch we headed the same way the other truck did in the morning. I knew in about four kilometres that was a far as a truck could go, but did carry on down to the bottom of the canyon. There were fresh tracks crossing the road close to the bottom and a good spot for glassing the rock cliffs below the grassy slopes, we stayed there until almost dark before heading back.
Day two found us back at the lookout, we had decided the night before that if we did not see anything by 10, we would access the grassy slopes from the west end, so we had the packs already loaded with supplies for the day and in case we got a sheep. 10 o’clock came and no sheep, so off we went, it took about 45 minutes to quad to the end of the trail, put the packs on and began the hike in. After 25 minutes we were at the top of the ridge, then down the other side through the rock bluffs to a narrow flat ledge about 20 yards wide, sparsely treed with large boulders but flat, before it dropped off very steep to the canyon creek below. On the flat was a very well used game trail, we followed the trail east until it broke out onto the grassy slopes. Trails and sheep signs were everywhere, there were ridges and gulleys that we did not see from the lookout, lots of places for sheep to be.
The trail we were on was about 250 yards from the drop-off, when all of a sudden there was a good Ram, he must have come up from the canyon, as soon as I saw him, he started to run, not over the edge, but parallel to it. I whistled and he stopped but with two foot high grass he was hard to see. Wendy did not see him but I dropped my bow, dropped to one knee and tried to get a steady aim, but the crosshairs would not lock on. I looked around for a rest and 10 yards in front of me was a good size rock, with that I could hold steady. As soon as I found him in the scope he disappeared over the edge and out of sight, my heart sank, I referenced a landmark as to where he went over, gathered our gear and went to find him.
Eventually we found his tracks on the trail he was on, followed him for about 100 yards before he bailed over the edge and down a rocky, very steep gorge. Wendy stayed on top and I went down a ways, as his droppings were still hot. I had to look over the next ledge, by that time I was out of sight of Wendy and the sheep was no where to be seen. I knew Wendy would be worried, as it was dangerously steep, so back up the gorge I went.
Back out onto the grassy slopes we went and carried on for a couple more hours, stopping, glassing, good signs everywhere, but we did not see any more sheep. By the time we got back to the quad, it was late and we were very tired, so we decided the next day we would check out some other areas by quad. Turned out days three and four were quad days, we saw a few deer and a couple of bears, and lots of good sheep signs and that’s what kept us going back to those easier accessible areas.
In the very early hours of day five it started to rain, I lay there thinking of the information I received, that if it rains the sheep will be out on the grassy slopes, so we were on the lookout just before daylight, had the spotting scope set up and waited. It did not take long before I spotted them, I could see 16 Rams, 6 young ones and 10 heavy horned adults. They were a long ways away, even with 15 power binoculars, they were just dark dots in the grass, but in the scope it truly was a sight I would not forget!
Now to plan a stalk, we decided to quad back up the spur road until it turned away from the canyon, from that corner we would start our hike down through the bush, out onto the grassy slopes, staying high above and out of sight of the Rams. As soon as we broke out of the timber, there was a very deep canyon that went high above us and to height of land and down to the canyon drop off, with a rock wall on the other side we could not see from the lookout. We would have to go all the way down and back up the other side. The Rams were too far away, we needed to come in from the west end. With Wendy’s feet already wet and the soles of here hiking shoes starting to come off, she would drop me off and take the quad back to the trailer to change her socks and shoes and wait for my phone call.
I was worried about her quading down to the canyon bottom, but pretty sure she would be coming back to where she dropped me off. On the way to the west end there was a very deep cross ditch, I instructed Wendy to keep her thumb off the throttle and both hands on the brakes when she went down into the ditch. She dropped me off, we checked our phones and away we went in opposite directions. I wasn’t even to the top of the ridge when my phone rang—I thought, did she see a ram? But no, the quad was on its side in that ditch with oil and gas dripping out and she could not pick it up. After determining that she was okay and not hurt, I asked her if the quad was still running, she said no, as she had turned the key off. By the time I got half way back to the quad, Wendy had met me, she was very upset, but not hurt. When we got back to the quad, it was still leaking gas and oil, we put it on all four wheels, waited for five minutes, pulled the rope starter and all was good, so I hit the electric start and away we went back to the trailer to top up the oil and gas. That afternoon we quaded to the bottom of the canyon and spent the rest of the day glassing up the canyon’s rock outcroppings.
For day six, I wanted to go in from the west end first thing, as it had rained again during the night and I was sure the Rams would be out, but Wendy convinced me that we should go to the lookout first to see if the Rams were out and where they were. We were there before daylight and all set up, an hour and a half after light and still no Rams, so we packed up the spotting scope and got ready to go, but just before we left, I took one more look with my binos and there they were, all filing up from the canyon edge out onto the grass slopes exactly the same spot as yesterday. What a sight!
Off we went to the west end access, as we called it, got there about 6:30am and put the packs on. This time I only took the rifle, as I did not like the idea of arrowing one and have it go over the canyon edge, after all it was day six and we were getting tired—no, we WERE tired!
I remember telling my hunting friends after I got the draw, that this was going to be a easy sheep hunt. Boy was I wrong! Away we went, up and over the ridge to the narrow flat at the canyon edge. Wendy was only half way down the ridge so I decided to go have a look over the edge. I only got half way there, looked to my left, and there stood a ram, when our eyes met, he was off. I didn’t even have time to get the rifle up. As he was darting through the timber I noticed there was another one, all of a sudden I could hear them running in the rocks above, so I ran along the trail until I had an opening through the trees to see the rock slide, but they were gone.
Wendy caught up and we continued on the trail, it was about 9:30 when we broke out onto the grass slopes, from the lookout we had referenced some yellow leafed Aspen trees that looked like the Rams were close to. Finally we spotted the Aspen trees, but they were still a long way off. From the top of a ridge I determined that once we got to that rock outcropping with the flat rock on top, we would be close enough for a shot, if the Rams were still there. As we got on the flat rock, we unloaded the packs and I crawled over to the edge and sure enough, there they were but I could only see the six young Rams, which all had there heads buried in the grass feeding.
The clouds were starting to lift out of the canyon and it was getting a little foggy, but then I spotted in the fog a mature, heavy horned Ram and he was broadside. I tried to range find some landmarks around the Ram and came up with 265 yards. Laying on the rock I could not get him in the scope, Wendy slid my pack to me so I could get the rifle higher and have a good rest. I had him in the scope and settled the crosshairs, but the clouds swallowed up the Rams and us as well. There we sat for a good 30 minutes waiting for the clouds to lift, that gave us time to calm down, have a drink and a granola bar.
Finally the clouds lifted and when I looked over all I saw were the six young rams, where did the big ones go? After what seemed like an eternity, I crawled off the rock and down about 10 yards to a huge pine tree with good lower limbs which would provide a steady aim. All was good, the young rams did not see me make the move and as I got into position on the limb, out from behind a large tree beside the younger Rams came a shooter. He was moving and quartering to me and he did not know I was there so I would wait until he stopped on his own and hopefully he would be a little more broadside, but he never did turn. With a few more steps he was out of sight into what looked like a ravine that tapered out onto the flat below me, if he continued he should pop up the other side providing me a closer shot. Then two more large Rams came out from behind the same large tree and did the same thing. I waited but they did not come up.
Where were the other seven large Rams? They must be in the ravine, I had to get to the next ridge so I crawled along the slope only moving when the young rams were all feeding. It was about 50 yards to the ridge, but no Rams. Another 50 yard crawl to the next vantage spot and when I looked over, there they were. All 10 of them feeding on a very steep hillside, all side by side and facing directly away from me. In their position I could not determine which was the biggest one, what a dilemma! Best I could make out, they were all full curl rams. Then the last one on the right took a few steps sideways and turned back to come along side the others. I can remember thinking—that’s big enough for me.
I steadied the crosshairs, squeezed the trigger and all hell broke loose. The Ram dropped and rolled into the ravine out of sight, all the rest of the rams turned and ran with him, it looked as if they ran right over him out of sight. Out of the ravine they came, ran about 50 yards, stopped, turned around in a huddle and were looking back the way they came, about 80 yards directly below me. What a sight, right in the middle was the largest of them all, still just a full curl plus, but his bases were again half as big as any other one.
I sat up and took my head net off, they all looked up at me for a few seconds and then turned and single file trotted across the flat and one by one disappeared over the canyon edge. Where Wendy was sitting she could not see the rams until they were filing across the flat and over the edge. I looked back at her and gave here the thumbs up sign, she picked up the packs and started down to me. As she was coming down I took a range of the shot, it was 110 yards, as I looked around at the stalk, I knew I could have gotten to within bow range, but that really did not matter now.
We continued down toward the ravine, at about 20 yards from where the ram should be but we could not see him. Thoughts started to race through my mind, did he get up and was he with the herd? No, they would have not stopped, two more steps and I could see the rump of a sheep, but still no horns. As it turned out, he was a magnificent ram, full curl plus, his front end had fallen over a rock and was hidden in the brush until we were on top of him, that’s how steep it was there.
We pulled him up onto the rock and admired him for awhile and took some photos before starting the skinning and deboning the meat. We decided right there, that we were going to have this magnificent ram, of a special hunt, fully life sized mounted. Wendy dug right in skinning and deboning, while I capped out the head. She packed the meat into the game bags and into the packs.
Out of that ravine we had a 400 yard climb straight up before we could side-hill it out to the sheep trail. From there it would be a gradual climb to the rock ridge and up and over to the quad. As we were getting close to the rock ridge climb, I was trying to angle up, so it would not be so steep of a climb to the top of the ridge, that meant we were not on the sheep trail, we were just a few feet apart. Wendy was behind me when I heard her moan. I looked back to see her upside down on her back with both legs tangled in the brambles, it looked like they were broken. She asured me they were not. Her feet had gotten tangled and she started to fall forward, her pack shifted and flipped her right over onto her back pack which cushioned the landing. We were very thankful again for no injury.
When we got to the final climb, we took the packs off and had a couple minutes rest before we continued on. The climb seemed easy as I knew the quad was just over the ridge. On the quad ride out we caught up to the small truck that had gone by the trailer on the first morning. Turned out it was the mother of Rodney Zeeman, Vice President of the Wild Sheep Society of BC, she also had a sheep draw and Rodney was at the lookout scouting for her. After congrats and good lucks we continued on back to the trailer.
By the time we got back to the trailer it was almost dark, I unpacked the meat and separated it on the tailgate of the truck to cool and spread the hide on a tarp to salt. Wendy was making something to eat and helped with the salting job before we went in for dinner and a well deserved nights rest.
This was truly amazing hunt with a very special hunting partner. I did not realize at the beginning how tough this hunt was going to be, not once did Wendy complain about getting up at 3:30 in the morning and going all day, quading, hiking, even when it rained. As this is not her passion but always having an encouraging spirit, I thank you my darling wife.
I would also like to acknowledge the man that gave me my passion for hunting and fishing, at the early age of three years old. He took me moose hunting, and when we walked up to it, I asked him, what is that thing, he said, well that’s what we are after, it’s a moose. I will always remember what he told me about that first hunt. Thanks Dad. Albert Joseph Meyers, June 27 1927, passed away on Jan. 23 2015, I love you.
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