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HomeOutdoorA Traditional Dall Sheep Hunt within the Yukon, From the Archives

A Traditional Dall Sheep Hunt within the Yukon, From the Archives

This story first appeared within the January 1959 subject. Charlie Elliott was a legendary author and editor for Outside Life. He retired because the Southern discipline editor in 1972, however continued to freelance for the journal.

THE RIDGE CREST was jagged and rocky, and it pitched down the mountain at a hazardous angle for 3 quarters of a mile earlier than it leveled off. I plastered myself in opposition to its rim and glanced at Louis Brown, who had clawed his solution to a perch beside me. 

“You’ll be able to fall off this place,” I whispered, “in three instructions.” 

“Effectively—simply don’t fall,” he replied, “and don’t transfer a pebble if you need a shot at that ram down there.” 

“We’d save bullets,” I stated, “by dropping a rock on him.” 

“Begin crawling,” Lou instructed. 

I’ve carried out numerous plain and fancy stalking in my time, however no method to a sport animal has ever measured as much as that crawl. We couldn’t stand, and even squat on our haunches with out being noticed by the sheep. And crawling down that precipitous drop on our bellies was unimaginable. There wasn’t any approach however on our backs to barter that first almost-vertical, quarter mile. I inched down, with my rifle balanced between my lap and knees. Then all of the sudden my elbow dislodged a stone the dimensions of an egg, however I fielded it on the primary bounce. 

“Good catch. That would have began a slide large enough to bury the critter,” Lou commented dryly. 

We continued downward on this crawfish style, and half an hour and one dislocated vertebra later, we reached the final rocky outcropping that hid us from the ram. He stood in a slim hole about 250 yards under, majestically surveying his wild area. For the 20th time, I studied his head by my glass. From the unfold and set of his horns, we knew they had been barely lower than 40 inches, however his crown was exquisitely carved—all the best way to its light-brown suggestions. With time operating out, I knew that this was the ram I wished. 

“Assume you’ll be able to hit him from right here?” Lou requested, softly. 

“If I miss after this stalk,” I stated, “I’ll use the second shell on me.”

magazine photo of sheep
5 curious Yukon Dalls get their first have a look at our get together.
pair of magazine photos
From left: Invoice Boone (left) and guides crawl to the rim. Lou Brown tries a telescope; John Harness, binoculars.
magazine photos of sheep hunt
From left: After a ultimate have a look at the 5 sheep (above), Invoice Boone decides to carry off. Brown checks Harness’ Dall ram, a 41-incher.

THIS WAS THE dramatic climax of my most interesting hunt. The time was final August, and I used to be right here expressly for the aim of bringing to the readers of Outside Life a report on the searching prospects on this nearly uncharted wilderness close to the Arctic Circle.

For 3 weeks we’d scoured the huge, unnamed mountain ranges on the grim arctic aspect of the Mackenzie Mountains in Canada’s Yukon Territory. We had been in search of a report Dall sheep head, however hadn’t discovered it. For the higher a part of 21 days, I’d crawled on my stomach alongside the dizzy slopes, peering into canyons so rugged and huge that I needed to push again from the sting to catch my breath. I’d been 200 yards or much less from 18 rams, and had even handed up two or three with horns an inch or so longer than this one I now surveyed from the perch of an eagle. I’d additionally turned down others with badly broomed horns, and lots of sheep smaller than the one under us. Nonetheless I hadn’t seen that large head we’d traveled greater than 4,000 miles to seek out. 

My three searching companions had been enterprise males and ranchers from California. They had been additionally high sportsmen, and I thought of it my privilege to hunt with them. We’d combed an space of a number of hundred sq. miles and had glassed a whole lot of white sheep, together with ewes and lambs, and we’d left behind some rugged days with mountains that stood on finish and majestic valleys I’m positive no sportsman had even seen a lot much less hunted in earlier than.

John Harness, who’s hunted throughout North America and made two journeys to Africa, took the ram with the longest curl—a shapely 41-incher. Invoice Boone, a veteran of hunts in Canada, Alaska, and Africa, in addition to our Western states, nailed one concerning the measurement of the ram standing under us. So did Paul Sloan, whose hunts have taken him to Mexico, Canada, Africa, and lots of occasions to the Southwest. I used to be the one one who hadn’t scored. 

We had been searching in one of many final nice wilderness areas of North America. From the northernmost freeway within the Yukon Territory, a gravel highway operating east and west between Keno Hill, Mayo Touchdown and Dawson—well-known outdated city of gold-rush days—the earth reaches out in a rugged and desolate sample for 400 miles to the rim of the Arctic Ocean. Among the Yukon River’s headwaters rise right here, then head westward throughout Alaska, however a lot of the watersheds feed their anonymous creeks and rivers northward off the grim ranges and finally into the Mackenzie River and the Arctic Ocean.

Just a few of the mountains, rivers, and creeks have names. Among the nation was mapped just a few years in the past by such sketchy strategies as triangulation and key factors. A few survey groups went by on horse again, however a lot of the contour knowledge was gathered by survey crews in helicopters. 

For 10 days earlier than we flew out of Dawson on a constitution aircraft to satisfy him, our clothes shop, Louis Brown, had made his approach north from Mayo Touchdown with the pack string for 250 winding miles into the center of the hunt ing territory assigned to him by the Yukon Sport Division. Lou has hunted and trapped this nation for 25 years—10 as a business clothes shop—however there have been super chunks of his 12,000 sq. miles of up-ended terrain simply south of the Arctic Circle the place even he had by no means left a boot print.

Two and a half hours of flying over the countless, unpeopled ranges satisfied me that we had been probably the most remoted searching events on the continent. 

We discovered Lou Brown ready at an remoted lake on Wind River, the place he and the aircraft’s pilot had agreed prematurely to satisfy. From the second I laid eyes on Lou, I used to be impressed. He’s a good-looking, powerfully constructed Canadian in his center 40s. Initially from Alberta, he got here into the nation as a younger man, lured by the spell of the far northland. At Nice Slave Lake, in Northwest Territories, he failed to seek out work, however met one other adventurer constructing a ship to drift the Mackenzie River 1,000 miles to its mouth. Lou helped him full his boat, and collectively they made the 2 month journey to the Arctic Ocean. Lou left his companion at Ft. McPherson, got here up the Peel River to the Bonnet Plume, and crossed the rugged mountain vary afoot to Mayo Touchdown. He’s lived there ever since, besides for 2 years he spent trapping within the Bonnet Plume nation. 

Many occasions you’ll be able to decide a person by his horses. Many of the string of pack and saddle horses we had had been bred and raised by our clothes shop. There have been no squealers, biters, or kickers within the bunch. They had been mountain-wise and sure-footed in a rustic the place one misstep on the trailless slopes may spell catastrophe. Lou was as light together with his guides as he was together with his horses, and I by no means heard him elevate his voice, even within the tight locations. 

To do the cooking for our get together, he’d introduced alongside Vic (Frenchy) Poirier. Initially from Quebec, Frenchy spent a while in Alberta, and landed lastly at Mayo the place he did a stretch within the Keno mines earlier than opening slightly restaurant. He’d closed down his consuming institution to return on this searching journey. Rugged and good-looking, Frenchy knew weapons, and will deal with a rifle or a horse. And with the straightforward iron range within the cook dinner tent, he baked bread and turned out a model of meals you’d anticipate at residence. 

4 males from the Loucheux tribe accomplished our get together. They had been Bob Martin, Paul Sloan’s information; Doc Johnny, chief information and Invoice Boone’s shadow; Jimmy Davis, horse wrangler, woodcutter, and helpful man round camp; and Paul Germain, assigned to me.

It took me just one afternoon to find that he had the sharpest eyes of any man I’ve ever recognized. We had been on a mountainside above our first Wind River camp, and he referred to as my consideration to a white dot excessive on a distant slope. 

“Sheep,” he stated. 

I discovered the dot by my 8X binoculars. 

“Simply one other white rock,” I replied. 

The information nodded, however saved trying. I used to be glassing one other slope when he touched my arm and pointed to the dot once more.


I swung the glasses, and positive sufficient, my “rock” had moved and was standing broadside so I might make out neck, legs, and physique. 

“Ram,” he stated. 

I believed him, and we climbed to get a greater have a look at the horns. From the valley, the place we tied our horses, the ram didn’t look too distant. However 5 hours afoot on the almost-vertical moss patches and rockslides, gave me my first appreciation of the world’s super distances. I fell, winded, on my stomach, and we crawled to a rim over trying a ragged canyon. 

From the creek backside we’d noticed just one; now we noticed three rams grazing on the sparse grass. Two had been small. The third had a good curl on one aspect, however his different horn resulted in a jagged break. Lou informed me later that he’s seen many sheep break off their horns by jabbing the ends into rock cracks and twisting till the factors snap off. Then they additional broom the ragged edge by rubbing it in opposition to tough boulders. This occurs, Lou figures, when the horns develop too lengthy, the curl extending previous the ram’s eye and obstructing his imaginative and prescient at sure angles. 

The sheep had been grazing away from us now, and I assumed I made my information perceive that we must always get shut sufficient for footage. We crawled over the canyon rim, pulled ourselves up the opposite aspect of the slot by handholds, and snaked alongside on our bellies throughout the rocky hillside. We paused to observe one of many rams lie down. 

Since we’d run out of boulders and brush to cover behind, we stood up and walked immediately towards the rams. The most important, which was mendacity down, scrambled to his ft, and Paul grabbed my arm. 

“Shoot! He’s operating!” 

I continued to saunter alongside and the rams walked slowly in entrance of us till they stood on the skyline. 

“Shoot!” he pleaded. 

I took an image and continued my sluggish advance, pausing at times till I used to be about 100 ft away. The ram highest on the mountain bought slightly jittery and turned as if to depart.

“Baaa-a-a,” I stated. 

That snapped him to consideration, we strolled one other 10 ft nearer, and I took one final image as all three stepped past the crest of the mountain. 

On our approach again, with my knees about to interrupt in two, I might hear my information behind me, muttering to himself: “We noticed sheep on the mountain. Climbed to the highest. Solely took an image. Holy smoke!” 

magazine photos climbing mountain, dall sheep
From left: Information Paul Germain tops a tough mountain like those they climbed for weeks; up above camp, Paul Sloan collects a Dall sheep.

That wasn’t the final climb we made for sheep with out burning powder. I realized the exhausting approach that 8X glasses merely aren’t robust sufficient for this type of stalking. We might see sheep on the mountain and inform they had been rams, but we had no concept whether or not we had been a world-record head. So we needed to climb till we had been shut sufficient to review a head, after which both go after it or flip it down. Lou saved a 20X telescope in his saddlebag and used it day-after-day, and Paul Sloan had introduced his personal 20X recognizing scope, which saved him and his information loads of footwork. However Paul Germain and I climbed and climbed, usually for six or seven hours, till we had been shut sufficient to examine a head with my binoculars. 

Then we hunted two days with Invoice Boone and Doc Johnny. The primary day, the 4 of us stalked three sheep by a tough canyon, and climbed a slanting break within the canyon wall, coming inside 100 yards of some honest rams. 

The second day, we carried the recognizing scope, set it up in a rocky creek mattress, and picked out a ram shut below the rim of an amazing ridge flanking the valley. We tied our horses in a willow clump, packed weapons, glasses, scope, lunch, and cameras, and began the climb. The route we selected ran alongside the crest of a steep ridge, and after 5 hours we had been shut sufficient to peep by a crack within the mountain wall. Now we might see two good heads as a substitute of simply the one we’d first seen. One ram was mendacity down, his rump towards the chilly wind blowing up the mountain. The opposite, 200 yards to the left, was standing, staring suspiciously in our path. 

“You need him?” Invoice requested. 

I informed him we nonetheless had loads of time and I’d moderately do extra in search of a bigger trophy. Whereas we stood whispering, the ram turned and walked uphill from the craggy level, giving us a rear view of his full curl. That determined my searching accomplice. He moved to get a greater taking pictures place over the rock. The ram, evidently seeing the motion, broke right into a trot, climbing to the correct. 

BY NOW HE was virtually 500 yards away. Invoice, utilizing a .300 Weatherby Magnum, touched off a fabulous shot for the gap, however the 150-grain handloaded Nosler bullet struck a bit low. The sheep stumbled, then went up the slope on three legs. Invoice spilled two extra photographs at him earlier than the ram dodged behind a rock. 

“Want I’d missed altogether,” Invoice stated. “Can’t depart a winged sheep in these hills.” 

We’d been with out water all day, so we dropped into the intestine of a canyon, the place a trickle of icy liquid ran from below a rock. From that time we made a dizzy climb throughout the slope, over acres of shale the place the footing was unsure and a misstep would have despatched us crashing into the valley. We skirted towering stone pillars which regarded so shaky {that a} exhausting wind may topple them. 

“Ever have earthquakes right here?” I requested Doc Johnny. 

“Loads of earthquakes,” he stated. For my very own peace of thoughts, I didn’t pursue the topic additional. One other hour or two of this type of climbing put us on a sawtooth, windy spine between two immense valleys. Work ing our approach alongside the crest, we noticed three rams earlier than we noticed Invoice’s wounded animal standing on a rim together with his entrance foot up.

It was a roof-top descent over shale, however Doc Johnny and Invoice went after him, down one of many vertical slots. 

We overpassed the hunters, however noticed the ram work slowly downhill at an angle. Simply as he turned throughout a slope, we noticed him stumble. A second later the echo of a rifle shot drifted to us. The ram fell, however even with a leg out of fee, managed to cross a steep canyon and lie down on its far rim. Via the glasses, we might inform he was watching the boys, although we nonetheless hadn’t seen them. After half an hour, the ram bought to its ft once more, virtually crawled throughout a slanted bench, and went out of sight over a rocky wall. 

magazine photos of sheep hunt
From left: Doc Johnny (high), Paul Germain, and Invoice Boone climb a cliff face; again in camp together with his trophy, Boone airs his drained, chilly ft.

Invoice and Doc Johnny stayed with him. They had been not less than one other three quarters of an hour choosing their approach over a steep rockslide, lastly crawling to the place we’d final seen the ram. There, Invoice lay on his stomach, attempting to get as comfy as attainable, and after an extended wait, squeezed off a shot. Via the glasses, I watched him push again to his knees, and shove his searching cap again. His information stood up, and we knew it was throughout. My searching accomplice had made a profitable all-out effort and retrieved his cripple. He and Doc Johnny had been previous midnight attending to camp. 

Throughout the subsequent two weeks, I steadily realized to establish sheep with my bare eye. I merely picked out a sample of white dots on a mountain, and if the sample remained the identical, I knew it was rock. If it shifted, we glassed the slope for rams. If the bunch contained some sheep about half the dimensions of others, we knew we had been ewes and lambs. 

I additionally realized that even in high sheep nation, good heads come exhausting. To make certain you don’t cross up any information, you must get shut sufficient to look them throughout. The super distances typically made this an actual chore. One indication of a great head is the dimensions of the sheep. However many occasions, after we’d climbed to have a look at an particularly massive animal, we’d discover one good curl and the opposite horn broomed to a stub. 

magazine photos of hunt
From left: Invoice Boone takes a deep breath earlier than following the guides up the canyon; John Harness grips the horns of his 41-incher, the most effective ram of the journey.

MY GUIDE and I had a few days once we noticed no sheep. At our third camp on Bourbon Creek (Invoice Boone and Frenchy gave the stream its title), we noticed two huge rams on the mountain. We left camp early and climbed all day to a excessive peak overlooking Bonnet Plume River. We adopted the crest for miles, seeking out the hidden nooks on either side. The mountain was marked with sheep tracks, and dozens of beds. A lot of the signal was recent, and although our expectations ran excessive all day, we didn’t see a single sheep. 

That very same day, John Harness and Paul Sloan, searching a dozen miles away, stumbled onto a mineral lick with greater than 30 Dalls. Paul bought a fleeting shot at a ram that Lou was positive would go 43 to 45 inches, however the animal was too distant and Paul solely knocked just a few grains of mud into its conceal. John and I rode again to the lick subsequent day. We discovered 16 sheep there, with just one small ram. The massive bunch had moved on. 

IT SEEMED to me that with solely 10 or a dozen hunters going into the 12,000 sq. miles every fall, each mountain could be coated with sheep. Lou stated that wolves take a horrible toll when the sheep lavatory down in deep snow and the packs can race throughout the highest. Different sheep are killed by temperatures of 60 and 70 under, and by snowslides. Lou has discovered skeletons on the base of many a slope. 

We left Bourbon Creek, rode by an extended, timbered flat to Bonnet Plume River, then upstream eight miles earlier than we discovered a spot the place the water was unfold over gravel bars and was shallow sufficient to cross with our pack string. Twenty miles from Bourbon Creek, we made our fourth camp on a excessive bluff. Paul Sloan arrange his recognizing scope, and when John Harness and I returned from a three-day fly camp 20 miles away on Pops Creek, Paul not solely had collected a great trophy, however had noticed a band of rams in one of many excessive valleys throughout the river. Lou and John made an 18-hour expedition and, close to sunset, John took the most effective ram of our safari, the 41-incher with a large curl. 

They noticed different good rams within the neighborhood, and subsequent morning Lou, Doc Johnny, and I packed a horse with grub, a tarpaulin, and our sleeping luggage and crossed the Bonnet Plume once more searching for a giant head. 

We arrived on the head of the valley in late afternoon, searched out a few canyons, discovered just one barely better-than-average head, a number of small rams, and a flock of ewes and lambs. It was virtually darkish once we bought again to our horses in a downpour. We climbed into soggy saddles and rode down the creek till darkness caught us in a clump of willows and aspen. 

“This,” I acknowledged, “is stark, uncooked wilderness.”

“She’s positive uncooked and stark tonight,” Lou answered good-naturedly by the sodden darkness. 

I’ve seldom confronted the prospect of a drearier evening, however what I didn’t rely on was the ability and ingenuity of these two males. We tied the horses, then Lou swung his ax whereas I dragged brush to make a clearing within the stream aspect willows. Doc Johnny quickly situated a few sound, dry aspen poles, chopped them into splinters, and constructed a roaring hearth that turned raindrops to steam and warmed the air below the tarp we’d pitched. 

Doc Johnny hung a slab of sheep ribs over the fireplace to broil and we unloaded the horses, leaving on their saddles and pack saddles to maintain them heat. By the point we’d unfold our sleeping luggage and brewed a pot of tea, the ribs had been golden brown and dripping with wealthy juices. I’ve by no means had extra of a way of well-being on any hunt than I had that evening. 

It rained all evening, and slowed to a drizzle once we bought up at daybreak. Whereas we cooked breakfast, the clouds lifted; on the head of the valley we might see the tall peaks coated with snow. 

“It’s a query,” Lou stated, “of whether or not we must always hold in search of the rams on this valley, or strive the subsequent one over.”

Outdoor Life magazine cover
The quilt of the January 1959 subject, with {a photograph} by the creator of this story. Charles Elliott

I thought of my three searching companions ready in camp for me to complete searching sheep so we might transfer into grizzly and caribou nation up river. I assumed how the snowline would transfer farther down the mountain every day till the entire upended world was smothered in white. Most of all I assumed how, after three weeks of grueling searching, I nonetheless didn’t have the outsize trophy I wished. I made my choice. 

“If we don’t discover the rams on this valley this morning, let’s go after that largest head we noticed on the mountain yesterday afternoon.” 

We rode upvalley once more till the rocks started to punch up by the sphagnum moss; we hobbled our horses and left them to graze on the luxurious grass. Our glasses confirmed two rams trying down on us, and never one other sheep. We started the lengthy climb up the canyon which might lead us to the top of the valley, and put us on high to stalk alongside the spine of the ridge above the rams. 

THAT’S WHEN I went down that quarter of a mile of rocky crest on my again, leaving bits of blouse wool and patches of pores and skin. And now Lou and I sprawled solely 250 yards above the most important sheep. For the final time I coated his crown inch by inch with my variable Bausch & Lomb sighting scope set on 8X. He was the ram I wished. I bought settled down to the touch one off from my .300 Magnum, customized constructed for me by T. C. Kennon of Atlanta, Ga. 

“He’s straight downhill,” Lou whis pered. “Higher maintain slightly low.”

I held low and that was the place my bullet hit within the chest cavity. The ram staggered and half turned, as if questioning the place the usual .300 Magnum Silvertip had come from. My subsequent shot was slightly wild, hitting the ram within the rib cage and going utterly by his physique, solely staggering him. A shoulder shot tumbled him off the sharp ridge, and he rolled virtually half a mile down the treacherous slope earlier than jamming in opposition to a rocky projection. 

“Effectively, that’s that.” My phrases sounded moderately abrupt, even in my very own ears. Lou checked out me together with his quiet, looking out gaze. 

“What I imply is,” I stated, “that’s the top of the roughest, hardest, wildest, and most interesting sheep hunt I ever had.”

This textual content has been minimally edited to satisfy modern requirements.

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