My Bighorn Sheep Goal
By Wes Hineman II
WY, Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep
Hunting and the outdoors have always been two of the most important aspects of my life. When I was old enough to fit into a pannier, my father took me hunting with him. Dad took me on endless hunts and shared many experiences with me, but my most memorable one was his sheep hunt. What captivated my mind was the country – the rugged, raw, and intense terrain where these majestic bighorn sheep lived. I knew after being in that environment and sharing the experience with my father that I was going to set forth to achieve my goal – a bighorn sheep.
My dream was no secret to my family or friends. Kevin Taylor, a great family friend, shared many hunting experiences with me. Every time we went on a hunt, our conversations always seemed to revolve around one goal, my bighorn sheep.
It started mid-August, early Monday morning, as my friend and I headed to the unfamiliar trailhead to meet Blake Chamley of Chamley Outfitting. After arriving at the trailhead, we started our adventure up the mountain. We put in a full day of riding. After eating a fresh meal prepared by the outfitter, we went to bed.
The next morning, we were up early, doing it all over again. We loaded a string of mules and prepared for another full day of riding. We finally reached the spot where we wanted to set up camp. Sore and tired from the ride, we unloaded and sorted through all of the gear and were excited to do some evening glassing for sheep. We glassed for what seemed like two or three hours before Blake spotted some rams. There were 12 total – one full curl, one 7/8 curl, and the rest were young rams. As we watched them walk over the ridge, I wondered if we were going to have a chance to see them again tomorrow on opening day.
Waking up on opening day was an easy task with Kevin already awake and preparing for the hunt. Blake and his son had already made a warm meal for us before we headed out. Blake’s son tended to the pack string, and after making sure camp was secure, we all headed out on foot to the same rock pile we were at the night before, hoping to see the two big rams we had spotted only a few hours prior. After glassing for an hour or two, there was no sign of the rams, so we split up. Kevin and Kaden stayed at the rock pile to continue glassing while Blake and I made our way to where we had seen the rams disappear over the ridge.
Every time we approached a large rock pile, we slowly crept up, hoping the sheep would be on the other side. We repeated this at least three times, continually seeing tracks, which lead us to believe that they had left the area entirely. As a result, we decided to head to a different location. Over a ridge southwest of where we had lost the rams, there was a deep drainage. Blake told me that he had been successful in that vicinity, so we decided to glass there.
We started making our way up and around the top of the drainage and decided to separate. I stayed in the same drainage and continued to glass while Blake headed into the next drainage. After glassing for at least another two hours, I noticed Blake headed my way but low to the ground. That was a sign he had seen something. I started walking towards him, and when I reached him, there were three rams below us. We sat down and studied them. One ram looked big, but we weren’t certain of how big unless we were at ground zero with him. We decided to pursue this ram. We hiked back to the top of the drainage and established a game plan of how we were going to get down to him. We knew we needed to go back and get Kevin and Kaden. There was a great spot for them to be able to witness the hunt, so we hiked back to where they were and brought them back to the edge of the basin. Blake and I set off to make our way down to the rams.
As we went down into the basin, the wind dissipated, which was advantageous to our shooting. We were approaching the vertical face of the drainage, and knowing the rams were in there, we decided to set up in a position with the understanding that it was a waiting game. I set out my pack frame for a shooting rest for the 7STW while ranging every possible escape route for the rams. Sitting there for 35-40 minutes, Blake left momentarily to get some water. As I was glassing in the direction of the sheep, one stood up, giving away their specific location and allowing me to range him at about 279 yards. Shortly after ranging the first ram, two others stood up. It was then that I found the one I was looking for. He had broken the bridge of his nose on both sides with his horns, and he carried the mass and the length of the ram that I was hoping to find. As I positioned myself to shoot, I placed a bullet in the chamber. Blake and I had the same thought process as I heard him say in a soft voice, “Shoot!” The ram slowly moved out of the rocks and into the open, and I took my first shot. He spun around 360 degrees and took off to follow the other two rams as if he hadn’t been hit. Blake then ran up to me, grabbed the rangefinder, and as soon as the first two rams cleared the rocks, the big ram followed. Blake told me, “310.” I took my second shot. I saw the vapor trail in the air, and the ram started to buckle. I took one last shot, but it was over the top of him. Luckily, I didn’t need the follow-up because the ram went down.
After we knew the ram was down, Blake congratulated me and we grabbed our gear and made our way down to see the ram. When we approached him, there didn’t appear to be any ground shrinkage. He was everything I had hoped for and more. After taking pictures, it was time to start caping and quartering the ram. He had died on snowpack, which allowed us to leave his body in the snow crevasses overnight until we came back to get him the following morning.
We all made our way back to camp, everyone tired and worn out from the day. The remainder of the night was spent reminiscing on what had just occurred hours prior. We enjoyed a warm meal prepared by Kaden, eager to go to sleep so that the morning would quickly arrive and we could go get my ram. Kevin, Kaden, and I left with pack frames the next morning with Blake following behind with two mules to try and get as close to the ram as possible. As I watched my good friend, Kevin, hold the horns in his hands, grinning ear to ear, I felt more excitement than I had when I had shot him. This was the hunt that he and I had talked about for years.
Thanks to Chamley Outfitting for the great hunt. I believe I not only gained a bighorn sheep, but I gained a friendship as well.