Rams in the Liards-Part II
Posted on November 26, 2013
Part II, the conclusion to Rams in the Liards-Part I, click here to read Part I!
Rams in the Liards
This bowhunter tells about his wild sheep adventure with two good buddies in the remote Northwest Territories backcountry.
By Denny Sturgis, Jr.
Day One: After breakfast, Brodie and I scaled the ridge behind camp. Just before we crested Brodie spotted five rams up on a pinnacle. Two of them were shooters at 10 and 8 years old. We couldn’t move without being spotted and spent the next eight hours pinned waiting for them to make the next move. At 6:00 they bailed off and we scrambled around the back side to beat them to a saddle crossing into the next basin to the south. They were long gone when we made it around so we backed off and hiked back to camp. Brodie got water and fixed supper. We just crawled into the tent to eat away from the bugs when a storm came in pounding the tent with rain and hail.
Day Two: From base camp we spotted five rams below a huge boulder called sheep rock which rested on the edge of a saddle to the basin south of us. The rams crested and crossed over the saddle into the next basin. After waiting a half hour to make sure they didn’t pop back up we took off in pursuit. We reached the saddle two hours later but could only see ewes and lambs. Late in the day Brodie spotted two rams in the scope but they were three basins away so we headed back to camp.
Day Three: We were half way up the ridge behind camp when two rams surprised us. They went running by about a hundred yards headed north. One was a real “twister” as Brodie called them with his horn tips flaring out dramatically. They went for miles and dropped into the basin north of us.
Brodie decided to continue with the original plan and maybe try to locate the twister tomorrow. We crossed over to the steep side of the range to cut some distance. I needed both hands to hang on so I took down my bow and walking stick and lashed them to my pack. We had to cross two small waterfalls and I definitely experienced the fear factor while Brodie looked like he was walking in a park. I let out a long breath when we reached the other side and suggested to Brodie that we never do that again. He just smiled and said, “Oh it wasn’t that bad.”
Glassing into the next basin, we could see seven rams about a quarter mile away and three of them were dandies. They bedded with twelve ewes and lambs. A couple hours later they got up and disappeared over a ridge to the south. We dropped down to block the ewes and beat it over to where the rams had disappeared. When we broke over the rim we could see a group of seven rams and another group of five. They were miles away and walking steadily south away from us. There was no way to catch up to them.
We took the long, less treacherous walk back to camp. I was exhausted when I climbed in my sleeping bag.
Day Four: We headed to the basin north of us to see if we could locate the twister ram. We spent the day hiking and glassing in and out of our rain gear as storms rolled through. We never located twister. Brodie talked about packing up camp and moving south. Most of the rams we were seeing were down there and it would save hours of hiking if we started out closer.
Day Five: Brodie announced he was going to climb the ridge behind camp. If he didn’t spot any rams close we would pack camp south. He told me to wait in camp and rest up. I drank coffee, shot some practice arrows and felt guilty about not going with Brodie. I ended up scaling a hill on the other side of camp where I could see Brodie return and glass the other side of the range. My breath caught in my chest when I saw three rams standing by sheep rock. Two of them were full curl. I watched as they slowly fed over the grassy saddle and dropped into the next basin. Brodie sauntered into camp a few minutes later. He hadn’t seen any rams. When I announced my findings his eyes lit up and he said we had to go around the steep side again. My stomach rolled but I nodded in agreement. An hour and a half later we made it across the steep back stretch. I was sweating profusely; half from exertion and half from fear. Brodie crawled out on a little finger ridge and spotted the three rams bedded in a boulder patch.
This takes us back to the beginning of the story. After my arrow smashed into the rocks Brodie blatted loudly and hissed, “57 yards.” I had another arrow on the string and drew as the ram stopped broadside looking our direction. I aimed a little higher and once again the orange arrow streaked across the boulder field. It looked like it might be too high but dropped perfectly into the chest and took out the far front shoulder. The ram simply fell over and slid into a boulder.
“You @!;@X#& smoked him!” Brodie exclaimed.
I nocked another arrow, but it was done. Brodie and did the classic handshake hug thing and he went to retrieve our packs. I skipped across the boulders, sat next to the ram and gave quiet thanks.
When Brodie returned we pulled the ram on top of a boulder for a photo session. Then we skinned and boned out the meat. After bagging the meat we loaded our packs. Shouldering my pack I commented to Brodie that there was no way I could make it back across the steep side with a load. Brodie smiled pointing to a flat spot a couple hundred yards away and said we just need to get over there. He called base camp and said the chopper is on the way. Greg landed an hour later and we jumped in and flew back to our spike camp. We packed up camp quickly and took off for the main base camp.
Randy and his guide, Clint, hiked and glassed for a couple days without seeing a mature ram. Greg flew in and moved them to a new area. They spotted shooters, but they were in bad places to approach. Later in the hunt they spent 36 straight hours in the tent because of bad weather. To make matters worse Randy had forgotten to pack his book.
While Randy was toughing it out in a tent, Tom and I were back at base camp whooping it up with the guides and stuffing ourselves with real food. Tom called one of the young, trash talking guides out on a sheep eye ball eating contest. They both stuck one in their mouths. The goal was to pop and swallow the eye ball. The crowd laughed and cheered them on. The mouthy guide managed to pop his, but started gagging and retched the whole thing into a trash can. Tom kept it together, only convulsing a few times after the explosion in his mouth. He took a deep breath and swallowed with shouts of encouragement cheering him on. The guide lowered his head as Tom raised his arms in victory.
On the last day, the weather cleared for Randy. They were in position 80 yards from a group of 9 rams planning their next move. Suddenly, a marmot started screaming and the rams spooked. Clint was cussing the marmot when a grizzly ran into view between them and the sheep. Randy ran out of time never even drawing his bow.
Tom and I were waiting at the landing pad when Randy flew back into base camp. He climbed out and walked over to us with a smile spitting his wind and sun browned face. He was excited for our success and we wished he could have taken a sheep to make the hunt perfect. Two weeks after we arrived home, Randy called and said, “Hey, do you guys want to go sheep hunting again?”