[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 1 of 9]
After months of training and preparing, we have finally headed up river towards our sheep unit. The sun was shining, spirits high and packs loaded. Our goal was to travel a little over 10-miles to the edge of the unit and prepare for the climb into sheep-country the next day. The trip-of-a-lifetime had officially begun!
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 2 of 9]
Day-two started with the team traveling further up the river to glass the back end of the unit. While fighting the lakeside alders, our trusty guide, Joe Faulkner (@wileybrew27), found a sheep horn sheath, a rare and treasured find! After glassing countless mountain goats, half a dozen black bears and zero sheep, we headed back to camp, making it to the tents literally moments before the rain began. The rest of the day was spent telling bad jokes and reading in the tent.
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 3 of 9]
After the morning rain cleared, we packed up camp and began the near vertical climb through the alders into our first basin. We were welcomed to sheep country by endless blueberry patches, breathtaking views and diverse wildlife sightings including moose, bears, mountain goats, and Dall sheep. Still no rams. We pitched camp on a steep bench where a sow and her two cubs paid us a close visit just before dark. The alders were behind us and the hunt for a big ram had now begun. Game on.
[Sheep Hunt - Day 4 of 9]
The steepness of the Chugach was nothing short of impressive. Traveling in such terrain was technical and at times dangerous. As we explored the country, we found mountain goats and bears almost everywhere we looked. By the end of the day, we had climbed thousands of vertical feet, side-hilled for miles and located over 40 Dall sheep. Still not a single ram. Our feet were sore going to bed that night as we began to ponder where else to search for a legal ram. A quiet concern had crept into camp.
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 5 of 9]
The plan for day five was simple, climb to the highest point and glass until we found sheep. A few hours after leaving camp, we settled in at the summit and began picking apart the country. Around one o'clock, Joe noticed two sheep over three miles away on the furthest mountain before the glaciers. After a short evaluation, it was clear these two sheep were not only rams but possibly big ones! Our adrenaline and optimism instantly spiked. The plan was made to return to camp and head back down to the river for a more direct approach to the rams the following day. The approach would be long and grueling, but this is exactly what we came to Alaska to do.
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 6 of 9]
A near vertical wall of alders separated us from the rams. Carving our way through this barrier proved to be the most difficult and frustrating part of our entire trip. After hours of navigating through that horrible jungle, we broke back into the alpine where we all agreed that our route home would not include the wall we had just climbed, even if it meant climbing over an extra mountain. Once within a mile of where we expected the sheep to be, we sat down for an afternoon of glassing, hoping the mountain trolls would show themselves. At 4:30 pm, two tremendous rams appeared on the horizon. We were finally within striking distance of legal rams. A conservative attack plan was set for the next morning as we played cards around the campfire. Sleeping that night would prove to be next to impossible.
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 7 of 9]
By first light, the rams had already moved from their beds, out of sight, to the backside of the mountain. After hiking closer to their haunt, we decided to follow the sheep over to the dark side. Once on top, we slowly pieced apart the slope beneath us until a magnificent ram appeared 210-yards directly below us. Two quick shots anchored the ram on a stunning grassy bench above the glacier. We had done it. A week of absolute gut-busting mountain climbing had paid off. As we celebrated our success, the rain began to fall. The hike back to camp was a wet one and the next day wasn't looking any better. One thing was for sure, we were headed home with our ram, rain or shine.
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 8 of 9]
After a night of constant rain, we started our final day in the mountains by packing up our soaking wet camp and heading for a high mountain pass to avoid the wall of alders below. It took half the day to get over the mountain and back down to the river where we found parts of the trail completely washed out by the recent showers. Nothing was stopping us from getting us to that trailhead. We crossed multiple thigh-deep creeks and continued on. The last few miles found us deliriously hiking at an extremely slow pace. At 7 pm, we unclipped from our packs for the final time. We had made it. Eight brutal days in the mountains had officially come to an end. We had our eyes set on a big pizza dinner and our first showers in over a week. Sleeping indoors never felt so good.
[AK Sheep Hunt - Day 9 of 9]
It was a pleasure to finally meet Tom Lohuis, the Chugach Dall sheep biologist responsible for the unit we hunted. In the words of Tom's co-worker, Wade, "That there is evidence of SUPERIOR Dall sheep management!". We certainly agree, Wade. The ram was aged at 11.5 years old. For over a decade, this amazing animal endured some of Alaska's harshest mountains and weather. The sights and storms this ram has seen and survived are thrilling to think about. We are grateful for his life as well as the opportunity to hunt him in such a special place.
We would like to deeply thank everyone who helped make this hunt possible, namely, our friend and outfitter, Jeremy Ruesink of Rogue Expeditions. Our hunt wouldn't have been possible without him. Thank you for following our Alaskan adventure. We hope you have enjoyed some of the photos and daily updates. Happy Hunting!
SG Gear Used on This Hunt