A Word From an Alaska Dall Sheep Guide
There was a good ram on the slope above us, having succumbed to a 400 yards shot from my hunter's rifle, this ram would wait on our arrival. The tricky element came into play when I started looking for a route to approach our deceased quarry. So it is in sheep country, the landscapes deceive, and travel isn't always accomplished with ease. A glacial face hemmed us in on the right and the country to the left was broken with a truckload of fingers and chutes that looked very intimidating from our lower perspective. We opted to start at the edge of the glacial face in an effort to cross at a reasonable angle to the ram's position to our left. It was decent going until we hit a section of hardscrabble that tilted at some 60 degrees or so. I kicked myself over having left my Koflachs in the lower camp, then I proceeded to try kicking footholds into the hard sun-baked surface with my lightweight Vasque hikers. It did not work! Halfway across the bad section the earth gave way and I started on one of those horrendous journeys that you never know where, or how it is going to end. Life scenes flashed by in milliseconds as my rifle slipped from my hands and a truckload of stone rumbled down the mountain along with my rapidly descending body. Quick prayers flew from within, and by the grace of God I managed to keep myself pointed in the right direction, and a tumble was avoided. After some 50 feet or so I slowed to a stop, and managed to crawl back to the side where I had started the crossing. My knees knocked together as I stood back on my feet. I could have easily went another 250-400 ft. down the slope, and it could have been a wildly tumbling body instead of a semi-controlled slide on the feet and rear end. It was very easy to see that it could have been the end of me.
Sheep hunting isn't always this exciting, but as a veteran of the mountains I can assure hunters that it behooves them not to underestimate the physical challenges that are involved in the pursuit of Ovis Dalli, the white ram of the north.
A tremendous 39" Alaska Range ram taken in the Revelation Mountains.
From a guide's perspective, we are always looking for the hardcore hunter that is up to the mental and physical challenges of sheep hunting. Honestly the mental challenges far outweigh the physical, but one still has to be physically ready for this. My evaluation of a man's ability to do a sheep hunt really comes down to his ability to handle a sizable load (60 pounds is my criteria) over the course of 4-5 miles of severe terrain, and if someone isn't up to this task he is likely to find himself in a heap of trouble.
A nice ram at rest in a typical piece of severe sheep terrain