Worth The Wait
By Harold Alexander
BC, Stone Sheep
A Stone sheep hunt was something I’d wanted to do since my Alaska Dall sheep hunt in 2014. At 76 years of age, I decided it was now or never, so I booked a sheep hunt with Craig Kiselbach of Terminus Mountain Outfitters in British Columbia, Canada.
Age had never been an obstacle that would keep me from the hunt, but I knew I needed to get in the best shape possible for this trip. There’s a 1,250-foot high mountain close to my home, so I climbed it with a 35 lb. pack on my back five days a week for five months to prepare. I’d had shoulder surgery just eight months prior, but that wasn’t going to stop me either. Smoke from extensive forest fires in British Columbia did cause a slight delay, but the trip was rescheduled for two weeks later, beginning on August 25th.
This hunt would be a perfect way to use my Cessna 185 tail-dragger airplane and add a little adventure to my trip by flying directly to the airstrip. On August 25, 2018, I flew from Washington State to Prince George, Canada. The smoke from wild fires was so thick that I had to fly by instrumentation only for four hours of the four and a half-hour flight. I cleared customs in Prince George and flew on to base camp the next day to meet up with Craig at his lodge. He was anxious to get me out in the field because of the smoke delayed arrival, so he had a small plane waiting. After a short gear transfer, we flew into the mountains. My guide, Jared Christon, was waiting there with two saddle horses and a packhorse to take us to camp.
The following day, we rode and glassed along a high ridge. Late in the afternoon, we located some sheep with spotting scopes across a deep canyon. However, the area would be impossible for the horses to cross, so we just watched them for the rest of the day. One ram looked exceptional. Although a small portion on the tip of his right horn was broomed off, we decided he was definitely a keeper. We packed up our gear and made a plan to try for him.
The next morning, we returned to the spot where we had last seen the ram and found him in the same vicinity. We would have to tackle the long and difficult descent and the 3,000-foot climb up the other side. The plan was to go to the bottom of the canyon and then proceed from the main canyon to a sub-canyon. That way, we could come over the top and try to locate him from the backside. As we watched, the sheep kept moving up and eventually disappeared.
We left the horses at 7:30 a.m. and started our trek into the canyon. It took three long hours to reach the bottom. The sheep were no longer in sight. Had they moved to another ridgetop or left completely and gone over the top? We decided to go further up the canyon to gain a vantage point instead of up the side canyon below the last place we had seen the group. We would need to locate the sheep and get within shooting range without being seen.
It took nearly seven hours to cover all that ground on foot, but it was well worth it. When we found the sheep, they were lying down and only 310 yards away. We waited about 15 minutes until the ram stood up. Only about eight inches of the top of his back were visible above the ridge. Quietly, the guide said, “Take him!” I squeezed the trigger, and the big ram immediately flipped upside down.
After celebrating, taking pictures, and skinning and caping the ram, it was 3:30 in the afternoon. We field scored him at 168" with the longest horn measuring 42". The next challenge was crossing the canyon, but this time we were loaded down with the cape, horns, and meat on our backs.
We hiked for six and a half hours on the return. The terrain made the trip treacherous as we traversed boulder fields covered with rocks one foot to five feet in diameter. Exhausted and dehydrated, we arrived back at the horses. I was glad I’d been hiking at home to get in shape for this hunt, but I was still so exhausted that I didn’t think I could take another step. We left the ram and other heavy items there to retrieve with a packhorse the next day. We mounted up and started back to camp, arriving two hours later at midnight. We spent the next day retrieving the meat, fleshing the hide, and finishing the caping process.
On the fourth day, we decided to try for a goat. We selected a different canyon and rode as high as the horses could take us. Searching with spotting scopes, we located goats feeding beside a high glacier.
The guide said, “What do you think?”
I said, “I’m ready!”
We climbed and managed to stay out of the goat’s sight until we were within 400 yards. With the use of both backpacks, I was able to build a good rifle rest. I waited until the bigger billy separated from the others and then squeezed the trigger. The billy just stood there.
Jared hollered, “Good shot! I see blood on his ribcage. No need to shoot again.”
I waited. The goat lay down. After several seconds, he stood back up.
Jared said, “Shoot again. We don’t want him rolling down that big rockslide!”
I shot again, and the goat went down immediately. After caping and boning, the trip back to the horses was quite easy, all downhill this time. We walked on the glacier for quite a distance. Part of the time, we were on the edge of the glacier where it was grinding against the mountain, and other places, we could hear running water below our feet. It was a little bit of an adventure, to say the least!
On day five, we packed back to the lake and flew to another location to hunt for a moose. We looked for three days but did not see any moose the size I desired. When I decided to leave, it was a hurried departure because the weather was starting to move in. I beat the weather and enjoyed a beautiful flight home.
From hunting squirrels as a child on our Tennessee cotton farm to annual elk hunting trips that include my own sons, I’ve enjoyed hunting my entire life. Going on a Stone sheep hunt was something I’d always wanted to do. After raising a family, learning to fly, shoulder surgery, and 76 years of living, I gave it a try. It was worth the wait!