/  Sheep

Does big game management ever necessitate complete population removal? Wild Sheep are amazing and unique critters, but they are also sensitive to disease spread by domestic livestock. Herds can struggle for decades and never rebound after contracting pnemonia and similar illnesses from domestic sheep. Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks initiated a plan to remove 30-40 sheep in the sheep unit

This is the final part of a three part article series (To read part 1 click here, to read part 2 click here) DAY 6 It was about 1:30 am, and it didn’t take long for us to find a less than ideal place we could sit. Each of us nestled into a spot and put every single layer of clothing on that we had carried with us It got cold fast. When we were hiking around, the cold was manageable, but as soon as we stopped, already wet with sweat, it didn’t take long for our core body temperature to drop. I tried to get some sleep. But I could not stop shivering. At about 3:00 in the morning it started to rain. I was getting so disappointed. I was freezing cold, extremely tired from all the treacherous hiking we had done that day, and now the rain was about to wash away the blood trail.

We Met Face to Face; My Archery Dall Ram Part 2 (To read part 1 click here) DAY 4 The next day we awoke to more rain. We waited for it to clear up a little before we headed out after sheep. At this point we weren’t sure what to do. We had one guy in a floatplane camping right in the canyon with the sheep. Plus we had another guy that just shot a sheep out of that canyon. We glassed all morning, in the canyon where we were camped, but never saw a sheep. We knew there were still sheep in the other canyon, so we decided to head back over. When we passed the floatplane camp, we noticed the hunter was gone. We continued up canyon until we found a great vantage point where we could spot. We not only found that the sheep were still there, but there were five enormous rams. The problem was, the rams had wisely moved high into the sheer cliffs where no one could get to them.



by Randy Johnson


“Why do certain groups and individuals in today’s social circles view Mountain Hunters and our efforts to pass on the tradition of hunting that was given to us from our ancestors as nothing but blood thirsty killers”? Why do they seek to deny the Mountain Hunter his/her liberty and freedom to legally pursue wild game, to challenge our spirit and fortitude against nature and the instincts of untamed big game animals? Why do they threaten, attack and harass some of our more successful mountain hunters who are in the public spotlight with vile, filthy emails and messages? What gives them the right to attack hunting and threaten our families with inconceivable, warped, and filthy bodily harm when we are only pursuing a very legal and proven means of wildlife conservation?

Hello everyone! I’ve been guiding desert sheep hunters for more years than any man or woman with all their mental facilities should admit but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade all the sweat, time, sacrifice, blood and tears for anything! I know that many of you “sheep hunting nuts” feel the very same way. In other words, we are obsessed, lifelong “Ovis canadenis” fanatics” who live for that adrenalin rush that surges through our veins when we spot a trophy ram! I know that when I personally receive a phone call from a man or woman who just drew their long awaited sheep tag I can hear the excitement in their voice and feel the raw emotion and anticipation they are trembling with that suddenly I’m bouncing around like a young kid on Christmas morning!

Sweat dripped from my brow, stinging my eyes, as I followed my guide, Randy Johnson, upward through a series of steep sandstone ledges. For the past six days the oppressive desert heat and rugged terrain had kicked our butts and taken a toll on leg muscles that strained to push us onward.  I have been on some tough hunts in my life but this one was shaping up to be one of the roughest I have ever encountered. Stopping briefly for a quick breather, Randy whispered to stay quiet and nodded that the area we were approaching was a prime location for sheep to bed down in, protected from the blistering heat of the blazing afternoon sun.

To this day I’m amazed that our local town sheriff did not get a call about some “weirdo” at our little post office. After opening my mailbox I pulled out a little yellow card that read: “Montana Bighorn Sheep; Paradise Unit……. Successful.” The only words that could escape my slack-jawed, drooling mouth where,” Oh my God! Oh my God!” A complete stranger walked in the door. I looked wild eyed at her and proclaimed, “ I drew a Montana bighorn sheep tag!”  She lowered her chin towards the floor to cut off eye contact and veered around me. Then the other two people that I don’t know in our tiny town walked in, and I gave them the great news as well. I must have looked like a complete idiot! Next, the thought occurred to me that one of my cruel friends was pulling a prank. I scanned the parking lot for someone laughing holding his or her sides. No jokesters there.  And, that was the beginning of my Montana sheep hunt.

How does one defend or even try and explain the need and desire to sheep hunt to someone else who doesn’t possess those same feelings?  It’s almost inexplicable to the non-sheep hunters of the world.  Even my close friends who are the most dedicated and driven mule deer hunters I know, seem to humor me with a polite smile when I talk about going back to Alaska to hunt Dall sheep.  My favorite quote is from one of the hardest core mule deer hunters I know and he asks me, “Why would you want to go all that ways to hunt a spike?”  My wife and daughters are unanimous in feeling that we would all be better off with a new horse trailer and a pick-up with more towing torque.

*The pictures in this story are from back in the day of  35 mm film.  The quality of the pictures are not what it is now with digital. We watched the super cub fade away into the azure sky as we stood in the gravel bar with nothing but our backpacks and pure adrenalin, anticipating the adventure that was about to ensue. We were 50 miles from the nearest civilization.  We were surrounded only by steep shale cliffs and a roaring river that was too deep and swift to cross.  The violent river was blocking our path to where we had last seen a monster ram.  In order to get to our destination we would have to hike several miles up river to the headwaters of the glacier, find our way across the glacier, then hike all the way back down the canyon, just to get to the mountainside to begin our ascent to the monster ram.