Monday, August 24, 2009

Return to Ram Nation - The End

We made it to the road by noon the next day. We were both amused by our reactions upon completing the journey. Scott was totally amped and full of energy. I just dropped my load and muttered "Thank you Lord." First stop was the creek for an icy bath, then a little fishing, then on to Fairbanks.

Scott with a nice grayling caught on the fly rod. They sure are a beautiful fish.
What an awesome adventure, time of spiritual renewal and a great time spent with an awesome friend. I loved my time in the mountains and the goals we accomplished, but I sure couldn't wait to get back to see my wife and rock star Baby Autumn.

Return to Ram Nation #10

Day 3 was a killer. Over 8 hours in the packs but at least the river provided some solid footing after miles of tundra.
Scott taking a "snack break."
Finally arrived at camp. We can hear the truckers on the highway, just two miles away!
Time to break out the sheep meat and enjoy some well earned spoils. My favorite meal of the year!

Return to Ram Nation #9

We wore these packs for approximately 20 hours over 4 days. It was grueling. It was awesome. What a privilege to be able to do this type of hunt and what a gift to have the physical ability to do it.

These hunts are such an awesome time of walking with God. we both consider sheep hunting a passion that God has given us and treat our hunts as an act of worship. We feel God's pleasure with us on these hunts. It's an honor to do them well.

Return to Ram Nation #8

Camp life activities include journaling and reading Louis L'amour. And if you thought those socks were stinky on day 2...

Return to Ram Nation #7

With our two rams down we made camp on a very semi-flat piece of ground and finally crawled into our sleeping bags at 2am after the butchering was done.
Sheep hunting is similar to mountain climbing. Killing a ram is like reaching the summit, but you're really only half-way done. Now we each had 50-70 lbs of meat, a whole sheep hide, head and horns and our camping gear - upwards of 140 lbs each to get to the trucks, approximately 20miles away.
These two pics are day one of hiking out after the second big climb of the day.

Scott was so excited about his ram he wanted to keep it in the tent with him.

Return to Ram Nation #6

We hurriedly moved 10-15 yards to our left. My ram was still standing there wondering what all the noise was about. One shot put him down for good. We'd done it again, doubling up on two outstanding Dall rams.

Return to Ram Nation #5

When we last left our heroes, the big ram was 350 yards away, the ram I had picked out 250 yards. Mine was hidden from sight behind a small spine. We tried to work into a position where we could see both rams at the same time but at our movement the big ram looked right up at us. We decided Scott better shoot before our cover was totally blown. The first priority was the big ram and we'd see about another one after that. Scott got a good rest and from 330 yards put two rounds into the ram's boiler room. One ram down.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Return to Ram Nation #4

If you double click this pic you'll see the group of rams through the rocks we were hiding behind.

The storm put us a half day behind where we had hoped to be so it wasn't until afternoon on the 9th that we got our first look into Ram Nation where we saw...nothing. Disappointment set in as we headed back to camp for some rest. A few hours later we hiked back to a good vantage point to glass for the evening and just caught 3 rams heading over a ridge into another valley. We didn't see the big ram from last year but at least we knew there were rams to hunt and had a direction to go in the morning. The morning of the 10th (opening day) we climbed the same knife ridge as last year, past the Sheep Gate and and over a high peak to see into the valleys beyond. We spotted 6 rams right off the bat. A little later, a distant snow patch turned out to be another 13 rams, then 3 more at the bottom of the valley, they just kept materializing. Then we saw Him. The ram we had come back for was still here. We were pretty amped. Eventually all the rams worked their way into the valley below us, 25 in all with several legal rams and a few real nice ones. We were approximately 650 yards away, with no good approach. So we waited. It was freezing cold. About five hours later the rams began to drift toward a ridge we could ambush them from. Some sketchy climbing and spider-man work landed us directly above the big ram about 400 yards away. The next biggest ram was under 300 yards. We continued to wait. We still had several hours of daylight and the rams were unaware of our presence. A couple hours later the big ram got up and began slowly to feed toward us. When he got to 350, Scott was ready to take him (I got first shot last year so now it's Scott's turn). To be continued...

Return to Ram Nation #3

Still making are way in toward Ram Nation. You find yourself in some pretty neat spots when sheep hunting.
Two full days of hiking, about 15 miles in and the old familiar smells of sheep hunting are starting to return.
We have caribou tags in our pockets just in case since caribou frequent the area, but it's really a formality. Our motto is "sheep first." We're on a mission, so other game is largely safe.
We were both fascinated by this large rock which appears to be just hanging there on a near vertical wall. Again, one of those neat things you have the privilege of seeing in the sheep mountains.

The night of the 8th we camped in a high mountain pass. The weather was good and we were poised in an excellent location to be looking into Ram Nation the next morning. We went to sleep with high expectations for the next day. Sometime after midnight our dreams of giant rams were shattered as a fierce storm erupted out of seemingly nowhere. It became quickly apparent that our shelter was not up to the task and we needed to bail off the mountain. We were in serious trouble. 40-50 knot winds had our tent flattening and tent stakes popping and pouring rain was threatening to soak all of our gear. This is when you see what you are made of. Scott and I were like a well oiled machine as we quickly, efficiently and calmly broke camp. Even though we were sitting next to each other we had to yell to be heard. We took turns using our feet to hold up the tent poles as the other hurriedly stuffed gear haphazardly into the backpack. A neat God moment was how we only lost 1 tent stake in the ordeal. It was like angels laid them out neatly for us to find. So 1am in the morning found us gingerly working our way down a steep, slippery rock slope in the dark, with the wind and rain still pummeling us. By 3am we had descended 2000 feet to the valley floor and safety with an awesome story to tell.

Return to Ram Nation #2

Here's some scenic pics from the hike in. In the second photo you can see the fog/smoke rolling in which obscured our visibility for part of day two. But a compass bearing kept us going in the right direction.

The Return to Ram Nation #1

Scott and I are back from another glorious trip to the Brooks Range and the valley of rams we dubbed Ram Nation. Last year we were fortunate to take two rams, mine being my biggest ever. But there was another giant ram that eluded us and we just had to go back in the hopes that he had survived the winter, wolves and other hunters.
Here we are at the trailhead ready to start the long hike. As you can see, Scott displays his exuberance a little more outwardly than me.
Wildfires in the interior had us very concerned about visibility. It's hard to hunt sheep if you can't see. Yes, that is a photo of the mountains we were heading into.
We had pretty good going the first several miles as this creek provided good walking.
It was hot the first day hiking in which brought out the pirate twins. Aarrrr

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sheep Season 2009

After a prolific day of blogging, the Fullcurl of Life goes on hiatus for 2 1/2 weeks while I look for his brothers. Be watching in about 3 weeks for a full report on the Return to Ram Nation.

Photo Contest Amy's Entries

Yesterday we went for a picnic at a nearby lake with our friends Isaac & Katie. Sometime during a walk Amy and I entered into a photo contest with each other. We each had about 15 minutes with the camera. Here's five of Amy's best shots. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she really has an eye for it. She just needs some practice learning how to operate the different settings on the camera. We'll let you all be the judges.

Photo Contest Steve's Entries

Here's my five best shots.