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I Love/Hate Sheep Hunt Report
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I Love/Hate Sheep Hunting


Dates – October 15-19, 2013 (planned for ten days)

Location – Near Elko, British Columbia

Outfitter – Ram Creek Outfitters – guides – Tyler Leuenberger and Kevin Fox

Agent – Jeff Neal, Inc. – Greg Brownlee - 918 299 3580

Game Sought and Taken – Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Game Seen – Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Mule Deer

Gun and Ammo – Winchester Model 70 Super Grade in .300 WM, Swarovski Z5 3.5x18x44 scope, Federal Premium 180gr TSX bullets

Executive Summary
I was offered a cancellation Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep hunt on short notice from Greg Brownlee with Jeff Neal, Inc. I did no research on the outfitter or the area trusting Greg and Jeff as I have done for many years. I was told to expect a brutal climb once sheep were located but that access was relatively good via truck, 4-wheeler and horses. I took an excellent full curl ram on the second day of hunting after a painfully hard stalk and tough shot.



Background

There really is no background to this hunt. I love/hate sheep hunting after having made three previous sheep hunts. One was a gut wrenching and soul searching event in 1979 in Wyoming for big horn sheep. I was totally unprepared mentally and my hunt skills were so lacking that I never really was in the game at all. I gave up hunting after that hunt and did not pick up a rifle again until 1990.

My next effort was at the urging of a good friend to go after Dall Sheep in Alaska in 2008. I was reluctant and really did not want to go. I went to try and prove to myself that I was tough enough to do another sheep hunt. In all, we hunted 2 days out of 9 due to weather and were very lucky that a lazy sheep was near our camp that I could get to. This hunt was a mental challenge as we were confined to a two man pup tent for 7 days due to weather and we ran out of food by day 9. I declared after this sheep hunt/train wreck that I was through with sheep and would spend my cash hunting in Africa or Europe.

However in early 2013, I was reacquainted with some old friends in West Texas and went after aoudad. Thinking that aoudad were just dumb goats, I went for a goat shoot that turned out to be a lot of fun. I gained a lot of respect for aoudad rams and decided to hunt them often.

Next came the call from Greg Brownlee. Seems a customer had to cancel a bighorn hunt in British Columbia, would I be interested? Not just no, but “heck no!” I hate sheep hunting. I hate horses. I hate tall mountains. I hate stinky guides. I hate bad food. I hate sleeping on the ground. I hate wet. I hate cold. Anything else I can hate? Oh yea, the memory of my sheep hunt in 1979 and 2008. I said, “Don’t call back, I ain’t going”.

Then I thought about it and called back. I asked, “Is there water, electricity, showers, a decent bed, good food, a good area, non-stinky guides, two guides to do the spotting and helping, no horses if I do not want to ride, the weather decent?” Unfortunately or fortunately, Jeff and Greg gave me all of the answers I wanted to hear and added that I would be the first sheep hunter in the area this year and that as they had guided other hunters for elk, moose and mule deer; they saw several legal rams. Further, we would scout and glass them before making a gut busting, leg killing, lung crushing climb to make the shot. I was up for one, and only one, of those climbs as I have done this before but not at age 59.

“Hold it for a day while I try to convince myself to do this”, I told Greg. I lied to myself and told myself that I would enjoy this and that I should do this and that I would regret not doing it. All lies, but by now I was committed to trying to do it and undo that bad memory of 1979. I sent the check and promptly started gathering equipment (boots, pack and clothes) for the hunt. I also had three weeks to try and get my legs in some semblance of shape.

I tried a couple of pairs of boots and settled on some Danner’s and an Eberlestock pack. I strapped up and made for the only hill in Midland, Texas – a thirty foot tall by hundred yard long pile of caliche. I climbed up, down and all over that hill to get my feet used to uneven ground and get my antique legs and knees used to torque and downhill forces. It was tough and hot but worth it. If I had not done that, I doubt I would have finished the five hour climb up scree and rock and steep slopes to make the shot.

I got my rifle sorted and ammo checked, practiced out to 300 yards and knew my scope. I was set or so I thought.

The Lodge

The lodge was rustic, clean and very comfortable. I stayed in the main cabin that housed the cook and the kitchen. The guides stayed in cabins close by. We had electricity, hot water and good food. I slept in a bed each night. No complaints on this for sure.

The Main Lodge







Guest Cabin



The Hunt

I made the flight from Midland to Cranbrook, British Columbia easily. The gun permit for Canada is easy and the Canadians like American hunters and have no issues with guns. Follow the rules and you get there without a problem. I travelled through Denver and Calgary. You can drive to this area as it is only 50 miles from the US border and fairly close to Kalispell, Montana. You can fly to Kalispell and then drive in also.



I met Lee, a veterinarian from Kansas, who had just killed a Shiras Moose when I got there. He was a great guy and had been here for a sheep and two goat hunts. He spoke highly of the area and the outfit. I stowed my gear and had dinner prepared by Judy Atwood, the cook. Judy reminded me of my grandmother and cooked very well. If you like home cooking from scratch, you will like this food.

Judy and the Kitchen



The walls of the lodge were covered with pictures of successful hunts and hunters. It was fun looking at all of them. This area is loaded with cougars as well as I saw many pictures of dead cats and smiling hunters. I am 0 for 2 on cougars and will do that here someday in the future.



We got snow the first day and it was cold but not bitter cold. Kevin, the other guide, went out early to scout in an area he knew well. Tyler and I went another direction. We trucked, 4-wheeled, then hiked a couple of miles to a vantage point where we could see several drainages that hold sheep. After several hours, we had not seen anything but Kevin radioed that he could see several rams in one drainage. We moved to a different place to look them over. From two miles away, we used a 60x Swarovski spotting scope and felt a couple of them were legal. We went to the lodge and made a plan.

Transportation




Where We Spotted the Ram




Sheep Day

I absolutely dread a long climb. I hate the lung burn, the leg cramps and the feeling that a sheep is that much tougher than me. Also, having a young guide is tough as he is/was part mountain goat and seemed to be waiting on me all the time. I asked ahead of time what to expect on this climb. The answer was “5 hours and a grunt” to get to the sheep. They had done this before with an old guy in tow. The answer I expected was what Clubber Lang said to a reporter in Rocky III, “What is your prediction for the fight, Clubber?”. Mr. T responded, “Pain”. And, “I pity the fool.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJnKm6ftPu0) In either case, it was accurate for this climb.

We were a bit fog constrained starting out but got above the fog and clouds about half way up. We started at 3500’ heading toward 7300’ elevation. I thought the actual distance was ten miles but was more likely two miles or less. Still, it was five hours I won’t forget.



With Kevin’s help, we made it to within 140 yards of the sheep and got a peek at them as they grazed in the high mountain meadow. It took awhile to confirm the ram of choice was a full curl. In British Columbia, a legal ram must be full curl or it gets confiscated. Age of the ram is not the issue even though many old rams are broomed off and hence, not full curl. This ram was right at full curl, big bodied and very evidently the leader of this band of rams.

Before They Scented Us



We watched them for a half hour just confirming the full curl on the leader when the fun started. The wind changed and the rams caught a whiff of us. All heads came up and they went to full alert. At which point, Tyler told me to get ready to shoot. They bolted up the far hillside mixing as they went. While glassing, I took the time to range every marker I could see out to 400 yards to be sure I knew the distance if the sheep ran. That came in handy as they started to run for the far hill. Good for us, they stopped to look around to give us a chance to sort them again and pick out the full curl leader. He was obviously bigger than the rest but it took precious seconds to find him, get him in the scope and shoot.

Well, I missed. I wish I could blame something but I shot high at 250 yards. He flinched and they all took off for the hills again. At this, I thought we wasted a 5 hour climb as did Tyler. However, they slowed and looked back again giving me a second chance. We picked out the leader, which was easy as he drifted back in the pack and stopped to shake his head giving me a clear view of which one he was. I lined up and fired again hitting him in the middle of the body somewhere. He flinched and walked very slowly as the others took off again. I chambered another round and fired a third shot taking him perfectly in the shoulder. He took a few steps and dropped, sliding a short ways down the hill. Wohoo! Talk about an excited pair of hunters! Tyler was as or more excited than I was at seeing the ram on the ground. We both kept our eyes and rifle trained on him just in case he moved. He did not.

Where the Ram Was Finally Taken



We were both shaking as we realized that we managed to blow a simple 140 yard standing shot and turn it into a 351 yard- walking in the trees- shot with a bunch a panicked sheep running around. Easily, this was my best shot ever under the circumstances. A one-time shot at a one-time animal after a one-time climb and stalk. On top of this, it was the first Rocky Mountain Big Horn that Tyler had guided a hunter to as the lead guide. He did a super job and learned a lot in the process.



For me, this was redemption of sorts from my 1979 debacle. It also proved to me that I could get this done. I have no need to prove anything to anyone but I had to prove this to me, that I could do it. I cannot explain why, but it is/was important to me to prove myself to myself. If you ever attempt things in life, you know what I mean.


Observations
1. Canada guides are not unlike their African counter parts – they want to know if you can shoot, if you are in shape and that you can put up with inconvenience to get to the shot. The first day, my guide took me on a world tour of the 340 square mile area to get to a place to scout and glass. We roaded several miles, then 4-wheeled several, then hiked a couple more to get high enough to see sheep on the next mountain over. The hike was to see if I could keep up. I passed.

2. Sheep hunting is hard. This hunt was short but the difficulty would have been the same had we shot the ram on day 5 or day 7 or day 9. Hopefully you make one killer climb and get your sheep. That was my hope and my prayer as I doubt I would have been able to make two or three of those climbs on a 10 day hunt. Get in shape. Forget the gym. Put on your gear and hike up and down on uneven ground. No matter how tough you are, you are going to be tested by the terrain. Once you are up the mountain and tired out, you still have to shoot. Get in shape.

3. Wear boots that are suited for the area and for you specific feet. I used Danner’s and had no issues. There is no magic boot. Get one that fits, break it in and wear it hard.

4. Shoot a lot at various distances. Most likely you will shoot off a rest or back pack kneeling or prone. Practice a lot. It paid off for me.


5. You do not need to tell your guide how tough you are or how in shape in you are. They will test you the first day and make their own conclusion. Your physical shape will dictate your success.

6. Go where the sheep are. This is assumed, but many areas in the US and Canada are open to local hunters. The area I hunted was open to locals but had little pressure. Confirm this with your agent or outfitter or better yet, with references. In this area, we saw no other hunters in our area, but we did see a couple of groups in the next area over from us.

7. Understand the permit situation. The outfit I hunted with had two tags. They only sell two hunts a year. In some areas a permit is issued to the hunter and lives/dies with that hunter. In other areas, the permits are area specific and can be used repeatedly. In some cases, the permit can carry over to the next year. Be wary and run away from the outfit that gets a couple of permits and sells 6 or 10 hunts. Find out success rates and the permitting scenario before you send money. Africa has this issue with lion permits. In most areas, lion success is 25% or so. The outfitter will sell 8 lion hunts knowing that only two will get a lion. If those two are killed early in the season, the unscrupulous outfitter takes the next guys everywhere there are no lions. The same thing can happen with sheep hunting. You have been warned!

8. Sitka Gear is excellent stuff.

9. Take two pair of boots. One will get wet or fail. Have a second, broken in pair with you. I took an insulated pair and an un-insulated pair. Both were Danner’s and both worked out well.

10. Sheep are bigger than I thought. Seemed the ram I took weighed about 350 pounds or so. He was thick.

11. Optics are extremely important. I use Swarovski binos and scopes. They are the best.

12. Be sure your guide knows how to judge sheep. In my area, the ram has to have a full curl on at least one side. Age is not an issue. Shoot a smaller sheep and there is fine and it gets confiscated.

13. Do not waste your money on an extremely light weight “sheep” rifle. Realistically, the weight is not a big deal. An eight or nine pound rifle is easier to hold steady than a six pound rifle. If you cannot carry a rifle on a sling or a scabbard that weighs nine pounds, you should not be sheep hunting.

14. I used a .300 Win Mag but a .270 and up is fine. Sheep go down quickly if hit properly. I had the .300 WM due to bears in the area and I like this gun.


15. I would use a stainless and plastic rifle next time. My Model 70 Super Grade took a beating and it ain’t as pretty anymore. Also, rust is an issue.

16. Regardless of weather forecasts, be prepared for snow or wet or cold. Mountains due funny things to the weather forecast.

17. Be sure your outer layer of clothes is windproof and water resistant.

18. Use a good agent that knows sheep hunting and the politics of “game”. I had been contacted by a different agent, a well known sheep agent, on a similar hunt earlier this year. The sheep hunt was fine, but in talking to the outfitter, the price kept moving. I got lots of “about this much”. When I asked for a firm number, it was 20% higher than anything previously mentioned. When I balked, the outfitter tried to blame the agent. He then he tried to re-trade the deal with me to negotiate a price. I dropped him quick. Get your deal in writing and know who you are working with.

Speaking Philosophically

I still hate/love sheep hunting. They are tough. They live in a place I could not survive in. I feel a tad bit guilty when I shoot one as I know they are tougher than me. I can only kill one by using a guide or two, a rifle, extra eyes (optics) and special clothes. I doubt I would survive two nights on a mountain in the fall or winter without freezing to death. They do it all their lives.

For me, the question is – “Are you up for the test, can you do it?” Not, “should you do it”. I still wrestle mightily with the ethics of sheep and elephant hunting. For some reason, I just cannot pull the trigger on an elephant. Sheep, to me, are in the same league as elephants. They are tough, they are smart, they live a hard life. I respect them immensely. I do not take shooting one lightly or without prayer and thought. I am not a collector of inches or heads, but of experiences and memories. The shot I made on this sheep was the best shot I have ever made under the circumstances. In my mind, I passed this self-imposed test or standard on my own. I got up the mountain, we made the stalk, we got busted but kept our heads and made the shot. It was tough. It would have been tougher had the sheep won this battle as the sheep won the battle in 1979. I really did not want to give up hunting, again.

What next? Stone, Fannin, Desert, California Big Horn, Altai, Snow Sheep , what? I hope to go after Stone’s Sheep soon. I even read the history of the Stone’s Sheep and about Andrew Jackson Stone’s exploits in the early 1900’s to “discover” this sheep. Read the book, it is a good. It is called “Andrew Jackson Stone’s Diaries and Papers” published by Safari Press.



Equipment Used

1. Sitka Pants, Shirts, Vest and Jacket – (www.sitkagear.com) For a shirt, the Core Zip-T. For the vest, Jetstream Vest. For the jacket, the Jetstream hooded jacket. For the pants, the Mountain Pant with the knee pad inserts. I did not use the inserts on this trip. This stuff is form fitting, so I ordered the next size up to be comfortable.

2. Mammut Champ Mountain Pants- (www.mammut.ch) These are spandex, windproof and warm. The move with you as you climb. I have used them on many hunts. I got mine from REI.

3. Danner Grouse Boots – (www.danner.com) These are not insulated. I have a long narrow foot and this “last” fits me well. I have used them for many years. When you buy Danner’s check out where they are made. Some are made in China, some in the US. I prefer the US made version.

4. Eberlestock European Pack – (www.eberlestock.com) It fit perfectly, has a scabbard and is an excellent day pack. If you are backpack hunting, you will need a bigger one but I was not planning to stay out more than a day, so it was perfect. The rifle scabbard is a must-have as your hands will be busy as you climb. I could not have carried a rifle and fought my way up the mountain. If you take this pack, you may not have to carry out much of the sheep as it is a bit smaller than a freighter type pack the guides have!

5. Smart Wool socks- (www.smartwool.com) these are the best socks out there. I have use cotton and other types, but Smart Wool is smart.

6. Light weight merino wool long johns – I used Polartec but there are several types and weights. I used the light weight version.

7. Advil – the pain reliever, you will need this for sure

8. Helly Hansen Impertech II Rain Gear – (www.hellyhansen.com) It is rubber and you will stay dry as you walk through snow or rain covered brush. I have used this before and I like it better than Gore-Tex.

9. Stoney Point Walking Stick Monopod – Do not buy this. Lost the tip and it bent easily. You will need walking stick or staff to help up and down the mountain. I need to find a good one. This is not it.

10. Buy the DVD “Black Shale White Sheep” – (www.safaripress.com) This is one of the best hunting DVD’s out there and is excellent on sheep hunting. Safari Press and others sell it.

Birds Seen (not many this time of year)

Golden Eagle
Mallards
Canada Geese (would you expect something else?)
Steller’s Jay
Northern Junco
Crow

A Local Beer to Celebrate



A Crazy Balancing Rock you see from the Lodge



 
Posts: 8686 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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You always do a great writeup Ross. Congrats on getting it done. Steve and his crew are good guys foresure.



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Posts: 1177 | Location:  | Registered: 21 April 2008Reply With Quote
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Congrats dogcat! Great ram and great report. I know that country and Steven well. You made a smart move taking that cancellation. Smiler
 
Posts: 7111 | Location: Canadian Southern Rockies | Registered: 27 February 2001Reply With Quote
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Great write up and thank you for the product suggestions. Nice sheep and looks like you are plenty tough on the mountain!
 
Posts: 5089 | Location: Ohio | Registered: 02 April 2003Reply With Quote
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Congratulations on you Ram...Great report.. thanks.
 
Posts: 1659 | Location: Winston,Georgia | Registered: 07 July 2007Reply With Quote
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Congratulations on taking such a great trophy. A great report and photos. Thank you.
 
Posts: 235 | Location: Carson City | Registered: 17 May 2009Reply With Quote
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Outstanding!

You sure do some neat hunts guy.


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Posts: 34468 | Location: Crosby and Barksdale, Texas | Registered: 18 September 2006Reply With Quote
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Awesome job! Great report, and pictures, all wild sheep are truly something special,especially at our age!!! Big Conrgrats, on an beautiful ram.

Butch
 
Posts: 385 | Location: texas | Registered: 29 March 2008Reply With Quote
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Thanks for sharing... awesome hunt!


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Posts: 561 | Location: North Alabama, USA | Registered: 14 February 2009Reply With Quote
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Great writeup. I always enjoy your reports. I've booked a Montana sheep hunt for next September for all of the reasons you espouse, only I'll be 65. Can't shoot'em from the couch. Unfortunately, I fell in love with mountain hunting much too late in life.
 
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Great report as always Ross and thanks for trusting us again! Love the detail on the gear, your journal pages must be incredibly detailed!

Greg


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Posts: 1129 | Location: Tulsa, OK | Registered: 08 February 2010Reply With Quote
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Really nice write-up.

Congrats on your effort and success!


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Posts: 777 | Location: Whitecourt, Alberta | Registered: 10 July 2006Reply With Quote
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Great report and pictures!! I totally agree with the love/hate relationship with sheep hunting.

Doug
 
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quote:
Originally posted by DPS:
Great report and pictures!! I totally agree with the love/hate relationship with sheep hunting.

Doug


This says it all,,good job,,thanks, Jim


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Posts: 1247 | Location: lake iliamna alaska | Registered: 10 February 2005Reply With Quote
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Congratulations on taking a beautiful bighorn ram.
Great story, report and photos.
I agree that the way to prepare for a mountain hunt
is to wear your boots while walking on uneven surfaces and up and down hill.
I also take two pair of boots and leave a pair at base camp.


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Posts: 427 | Location: WA. State | Registered: 06 November 2009Reply With Quote
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Great report.
You showed true grit by accepting the challenge of another sheep hunt after having such bad experiences the first 2 times.
I've been a sheep hunter for 30 years, with dozens of hunts behind me and I do enjoy it, but it really does come down to the challenge of these hunts, especially as you get older.
 
Posts: 418 | Location: Alaska | Registered: 11 February 2008Reply With Quote
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Well done and congrats.


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Posts: 2702 | Location: NH | Registered: 03 February 2009Reply With Quote
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Thanks for taking us on an incredible sheep hunt.


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Posts: 200 | Location: CA,U.S.A. | Registered: 14 March 2002Reply With Quote
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Congrats on a great ram !!!! and thanks for the write up and pics.....good stuff !!!
 
Posts: 552 | Location: Brooks Range , Alaska | Registered: 14 March 2008Reply With Quote
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Great report from one of the best report writers on AR. keep them coming.
JCHB
 
Posts: 346 | Location: KZN province South Africa | Registered: 24 July 2009Reply With Quote
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You Piss and Moan about Sheep Hunting but You Understand the Reward..That's your best Trophy of all.. Congrat's Mountain Man...
 
Posts: 16798 | Location: Michigan | Registered: 21 February 2006Reply With Quote
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One of the very best hunt reports I've ever read.

I completely understand your attitude and very much enjoyed reading about your hunt.


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Posts: 4735 | Location: Story, WY / San Carlos, Sonora, MX | Registered: 29 May 2002Reply With Quote
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Posts: 8686 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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Really REALLY nice!
 
Posts: 2464 | Registered: 06 July 2008Reply With Quote
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Dog, I never saw this report - very cool! Congrats on a wonderful trophy my friend.


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Posts: 4663 | Location: Littleton, Colorado | Registered: 05 March 2009Reply With Quote
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I would like to see a list of your guides gear. Almost anything will work for 2 days. I see he had a SWAZI shirt. I am going to start keeping notes on guides gear for my hunts because I think this May be helpful for us clients.
 
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Posts: 8686 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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A great hunt report. As one of the mentioned "locals", I can tell you, I would prefer to hunt in areas not covered by the outfitters. Unfortunately, the outfitters seem to operate where the sheep are so it's difficult to avoid some overlap.
Anyway, that sounds like a great hunt. My hunts are similar except the camp sux, the food sux, and I never shoot a sheep! Nice work. Regards, Bill.
 
Posts: 2626 | Location: Elko, B.C. Canada | Registered: 19 June 2000Reply With Quote
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Posts: 8686 | Location: Denver - Go Rockies!! | Registered: 12 February 2004Reply With Quote
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Great report; thanks!


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