Dreaming is wonderful.
Dchoreographedoing is better.
When I was a boy living vicariously through stories in Sports Afield, I dreamed about making a wilderness hunt for Stone’s sheep . When I was 50 I realized I hadn’t gotten past the dream stage. So when outfitter Bryan Martin of Canadian Mountain Outfitters offered me a deal on an exploratory hunt in B.C., I threw caution to the winds (and a few dollars to Bryan) to book the hunt. I haven’t regretted it.
Start to finish, this was the kind of adventure Walter Mitty couldn’t have any better. Multiple flights by bush plane. Harrowing landings on isolated mountain lakes. Bushwhacking through virgin timber. Wading rivers and climbing mountains. Always mountains. The gravitational challenge. Up and up, one step after another, pushing not just your own weight, but 50 pounds of support gear. This is hunting at its most basic. You carry what you need to survive or you don’t.
We hunted in two parties and I had help. One of my favorite guides, young Dawson Deveny of B.C., carried a big load. He was assisted by German Hans Haake, a smart young man who knew better than to settle for dreams. He’d hired out as a packer mostly so he could hike, camp and enjoy the the kind of true wilderness long lost in Europe.
Bryan Martin was guiding another hunter, Jeff, and Mark Rousch was packing for that team. We planned to rendezvous when anyone found rams. Six days later, Mark did.
But first it snowed. We huddled against boulders and sheltered within the nylon walls of a green Hilliberg tent. Dawson’s MRS stove hissed in harmony as sleet rattled against the fly under a leaden sky in a world where even on a clear day the mountains towered without end while the last blue blooms of mountain harebell shivered in the wind.We saw ravens and golden eagles, marmots and pikas, gray jays and ptarmigan and caribou carrying antlers the size of small woodlots.
Deep-chested mountain goats grudgingly gave way as we climbed through their vertical pastures. We were probably the first bipedal mammals they’d ever seen.As for sheep, they were most obvious by their absence. It was the penultimate day of the hunt when Mark and Bryan spotted our first rams at dusk. The next morning we began a stalk that would take most of the day.
We gained and lost and gained again a total of 8,500 feet of elevation, according to Bryan’s altimeter.There were just two rams and we crawled within 160 yards of Jeff’s. Mine grazed 400 yards away and didn’t even look up when Jeff shot his. A single 165-grain Swift Scirocco from my 4.5-pound Kifaru Rambling rifle in 300 WSM punched my sheep through both shoulders. The sheep’s gray, white and black coat was elegant. Dawson skinned it life-size.
At dusk we reached the spike camp we’d left at dawn. We gorged on ram chops, our first fresh meat in seven days. A marathon hike took us to our fly-out lake a day later and, against odds, our ride emerged from the clouds the next morning.
Hunts like this don’t come cheap, but as a wealthy man once said, “I spent my youth piling up money. I now can afford any hunt in the world, but I’m too infirm to make it.”
Experiences are our true treasures in this life. Get yours.