Regardless of age, sheep hunting in any state isn’t a walk in the park. Some men and women prepare their whole lives for the mountainous endeavor while others have youth on their side.The lure of hunting sheep has an intoxication all its own…really unlike anything I hunt. Hunters will travel great distances to pursue sheep; some from all corners of the world. As the late, great Jack O’Connor said, “Sheep sickness. There is no half way. After his first exposure, a man is either a sheep hunter or he isn't. He either falls under the spell of sheep hunting and sheep country or he won't be caught dead on another sheep mountain.”
My father-in-law Vince had caught “sheep fever,” but never the cure until our hunt together. Though attempting to take a full curl ram in our home state of Alaska for many years, Vice found himself “sheepless,’ but not about to give up on his dream of tagging one of these most handsome of trophies.
1959 is a special year to him. He was born in 1959, and 1959 was the year Alaska became the 49th state of the union. 59 years after Alaska became a state and in Vince’s 59th year of life, he set out to accomplished one his lifetime achievements: taking home with beautiful Dall’s Ram.
He hunted consistently for 12 years in pursuit of the “white ghosts with golden horns,” only to have every adventure come up short of hide, horn, and backstraps cooked over the fire. He had been in the ball game, saw few legal sheep, but never had the opportunity to find his mark. The sheep were either in inaccessible terrain or he ran out of time.
I suggested that we go on adventure together in pursuit of his first ram, and he fully agreed. We found ourselves airborne in a Piper PA-18 Super Cub being shuttled deep into an unknown Alaskan drainage. Feet on the ground and camp in place, we were in sheep country. Vince marched up to high-elevation without hesitation…the hunt was on.
We found his ram and he sealed the deal with Winchester 300WSM XPR - Expedition Big Game Long Range 190 grain combo. He made a fantastic shot and the ram when right down. The old bull and the young bull (me…ha) packed the ram back to camp. I asked Vince if this was his last sheep hunt. Without hesitation he countered with, “Son, this is only the beginning for my desire to do this again has become even stronger now – more intoxication.”
Jack O’Connor once wrote that sheep are for young men, so I naturally had to go hunting for a ram at 69. If I had to lay money on it, I’d say Vince will still be at this game years from now.
I’m often asked what is the single most important aspect that a good sheep hunter should carry with him at all times. That one is easy for me – mental toughness. Yes, physical toughness is critical, but being able to keep the mind in the game is paramount.