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Dall Sheep 2015
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Hunt Dates: August 10th – 16th 2015.
Outfitter: Big Game Back Country Guides
Owner and Operator: Riley Pitts
www.biggamebackcountryguides.com
Guide: Peter Mayall
Assistant Guide: Ethan Johnson
Rifle: Gunwerks LR 1000 in 7mm LRM with Nightforce 5.5-22 x50 G7 Scope.
Area: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Marsh Fork / Canning River located on the Northeast side of the Brooks Range.

I flew into Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) the afternoon of 7th August on Alaskan Airlines. My good friend and hunting partner for over 20 years, Peter Mayall, who would be my Guide on this hunt, was on the same flight. I had booked to do this hunt last year but was forced to change my plans at the last minute. Riley was good enough to allow me to rebook for this year and both Peter and I were excited to be finally hunting Dall Sheep together. I also had Grizzly , Caribou and Wolf tags.

Riley met us at the airport. He was with an old friend of ours from Spring 2014 Brown Bear camp on The Peninsula and pretty soon after collecting gear and guns without incident we were sitting down to a nice meal in one of the mess halls at one of the oilfield construction camps in Deadhorse. The conversation was fast and funny and after a relaxing couple of hours we got back in the truck for the 82 mile drive to Happy Valley: base camp and main staging point for access into Riley’s area. Two other hunters were already in camp aswell as Riley’s other Guides. We had a great dinner and talked until late.

We spent the next day (8th) organizing our gear etc while Riley worked with Mike from 70 degrees North with whom we would charter into the ANWR. We would fly the one hour from Happy Valley to the strip in The Marsh Fork in a Helio under the very able command of Captain Bob. As this was my first Sheep Hunt I took the opportunity to talk to Peter and also the other hunters and guides about what to expect. The morning of the 8th was cold and foggy and we were only able to fly out of Happy Valley about 8pm that night. It’s interesting how quickly I discarded some of my “nice to have” hunting gear when you are scraping to save pounds and the only option is to carry them.

Jimmy Owens and Ethan Johnson, two of Riley’s other guides were already at The Marsh Fork and we all camped that night not far off the air strip. They had scouting for the past few days and had seen a good ram but the weather had been pretty “unreliable”. Ethan would be joining Peter and I as Assistant Guide but he came with other benefits given his capacity as a professional cameraman…and it soon became evident this 23 year old young man from Nebraska was as strong as an ox and an accomplished mountain hunter. There were several resident hunters also camping at the strip.

Peter wanted to walk and hunt from the Marsh Fork strip to the Canning River. This was about 15 mlies of rolling tundra, rocky creek bottoms and steep nasty looking mountains. We got moving after lunch on the 9th and we were only 2 miles in and I was wishing I had shed more weight. My pack and rifle totaled 58lb. Peter was carrying about 70lb and Ethan must have had 110lb…..he was carrying almost all of our Mountain House for 6 days! It was hard going but we took it slowly and stopped regularly to glass and catch our breath. We made it about 3miles to the first saddle and as it had started to rain we decided to get in our tents to stay dry. We never made it out of or tents as the rain continued most of the night. This was probably a good thing as were all beat from the past few days and the hard walk. We were using the very impressive Hilleberg “Soulo” single man tents which are easy to put up, are light and strong.

When we crawled out of our tents the morning of the 10th the sheep season was officially open. The weather was crap. It was cold, foggy with frequent rain showers and pretty well constant drizzle. We loaded up and got moving with the plan to get over the next saddle about 3 miles away. As we climbed the ~1500ft to the top of the saddle about midday the weather started to get worse. To stay warm we needed to keep moving but with this weather….we had had enough of being cold and wet…and got in our tents. It soon started to sleet and then settled into 24 hours of steady snow. We spent all the rest of that day and all of the 11th in our tents. When the snow finally stopped it was 6 inches deep around and over our tents.

The 12th dawned with better weather with scattered cloud but most importantly sun!! Peter wanted to push for the Canning which meant an 8 or 9 mile day was required. About 3pm as we neared the last (and steepest yet) saddle we needed to top before basically descending into the Canning River and the location Peter wanted to camp, we spotted 5 sheep. After looking through the spotting scope Peter confirmed that the ram was a shooter. We were about 900 yards from them ….but had no real way to approach them. We tried to put a sneak on but got busted and they disappeared over the top.

We pushed on to top the saddle and took the opportunity to dry some gear out in the sun when we got there. A couple more miles and we walked into the Canning River and made camp. Altitude was about 4500ft. It was about 11pm and had been a long day. The light was not good but from camp we spotted two different groups of rams way up high on rock faces. The first was about 1000 yards away and looked like a mature ram with a young one. The second was a group of 5 about 1500 yards away with what looked like a mature ram in it. We were all totally spent and after jamming down a Mountain House we put our rams to bed and crawled into our tents.
I awoke to the sound of Peter telling me to get my gun as a Grizzly was coming down the river. No sooner had I got the scope on him in the half light at about 300 yards when we realized he was right below the face on which the closest rams were bedded last night. He was a beautiful bear but I was here for a Dall Ram and so we passed.

Looking up the rock face our two rams were bedded right at the top. The mature ram looked good through the spotting scope so we decided to try to get a shot on him. The weather was not great and by the time we had started to climb it was drizzle and mist. We climbed about 2000ft and Peter did a great job at getting me into a position where I could see the bedded ram. My G7 Rangefinder said 427 yards but “shoot to” 400. I had a very difficult shooting position …..shooting straight up in the constant rain while lying in loose shale on the side of a mountain! I confirmed to Peter that I had the ram in my scope but had no shot so Peter decided to bleat to try to get him to stand up. Peter bleated and then yelled and that ram did not move an inch! After about 10 minutes, I could not hold the shooting position much longer as my back and neck were beginning to cramp up. Then for no apparent reason, the young ram moved and the other stood. I squeezed the trigger and heard the bullet hit. The ram staggered but did not drop. I reloaded and shot him again. He took two steps down the mountain and fell over!! I fired another shot but missed. He was down. We were elated and celebrated.
The climb to the ram was almost vertical and I had a few “what am I doing here moments” but the adrenalin and sight of the downed ram kept me going. Peter and I got there together and put our hands on our magnificent trophy. I was very emotional. I am honored to be able to take such a great trophy but to share the experience with Peter was icing on the cake. Coupled with my elation was a huge sense of relief that we had our ram down. This was hard hunting both physically and mentally.

After caping and taking all the meat off the frame we made the trip down the mountain very slowly! We ate sheep tenderloin for dinner which was good beyond description. The sound of the Super Cub coming into the Canning strip to collect me to begin my long journey out brought mixed emotions. Only through incredible teamwork did I manage to fulfill a lifelong dream and take this fine ram. I could not have done it without Peter and Ethan and I thank both of them from the bottom of my heart. We made a fine team and we got it done.
Apologies for the long story….pictures are better!!



Camp night of 9th.


Drying out at top of pass.


Peter and I.


Camp at Canning River




Peter and I with our ram.




Ethan and I.







 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Well done, beautiful pictures. Looks like you had some nice weather.


Dave
 
Posts: 837 | Location: AKexpat | Registered: 27 October 2008Reply With Quote
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Congratulations!
 
Posts: 779 | Location: Minnesota | Registered: 26 July 2004Reply With Quote
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Great report Steve.
Looks like a wonderful adventure.
Congratulations.
 
Posts: 401 | Location: New Zealand, Australia, Zambia | Registered: 25 May 2009Reply With Quote
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This could just be what it is all about for me.. the pinnacle.

What a great story, your elation is read through the lines, and the photos just do the story justice. a fantastic trophy, memories for ever.


cheers for sharing!!!

WL
 
Posts: 63 | Location: N.E Vic- Awwstraya | Registered: 24 October 2014Reply With Quote
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Steve416: Great report in 1978 my cousin and myself both Alaskan residents hunted in the same area you hunted. Landing at the Marsh Fork of the Canning River and hiking down River 2 miles and camping on the off the river. We hunted for 10 days and I got a ram. Is your second picture (camp the night of 9th) looking west? If it is looking west, that is where I shot my ram; I think that I can see the exact spot.

We hiked on the 10th to the saddle where you camped and only saw ewes and lambs. What memories 37 years later.

If you have some additional pictures could you post them. I would like pictures of the landing strip, the Marsh Fork of the Canning and any other pictures of the Marsh Fork of the Canning drainage. Thanks
 
Posts: 48 | Registered: 01 February 2006Reply With Quote
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That's a great Ram. Thanks for the report

What an adventure!
 
Posts: 1656 | Location: Winston,Georgia | Registered: 07 July 2007Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by Pard Cummings:
Steve416: Great report in 1978 my cousin and myself both Alaskan residents hunted in the same area you hunted. Landing at the Marsh Fork of the Canning River and hiking down River 2 miles and camping on the off the river. We hunted for 10 days and I got a ram. Is your second picture (camp the night of 9th) looking west? If it is looking west, that is where I shot my ram; I think that I can see the exact spot.

We hiked on the 10th to the saddle where you camped and only saw ewes and lambs. What memories 37 years later.

If you have some additional pictures could you post them. I would like pictures of the landing strip, the Marsh Fork of the Canning and any other pictures of the Marsh Fork of the Canning drainage. Thanks


Pard,
Yes, the photo of camp the first night is taken looking pretty well due West on the Marsh Fork strip.
We also only saw ewes and lambs up to this point. Fantastic that this is where you shot your ram 37 years ago!
I will dig up some more photo's and post them.
Cheers
Steve
 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Thanks for sharing that great story and pictures with us,

I have too much grey beard and way too many beatings on my legs for that tough of mountains anymore. I admire your work and effort.

Congrats on a great hunt and sheep too.
 
Posts: 1434 | Location: Houston, Texas USA | Registered: 16 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Very well written and good job on a fine ram and a great hunt! Congratulations and thanks for sharing!


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Posts: 500 | Location: Hermosillo, Sonora | Registered: 06 May 2013Reply With Quote
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Congrat's on your Ram. Riley is a great guy, I shared a camp with him when he worked for Dave.
 
Posts: 131 | Location: East Coast,USA | Registered: 04 January 2011Reply With Quote
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Your smile says it all. One well earned trophy. Congrats


"You only gotta do one thing well to make it in this world" - J Joplin
 
Posts: 1129 | Registered: 10 September 2008Reply With Quote
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I just got back last night from a horseback hunt for sheep. Little jealous!

Can't even imagine a backpack hunt like this. My hats off to you............congratulations on a great ram!


Hear how anyone else did with Riley on their sheep?


Brett Mattson
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Posts: 248 | Location: Minnesota | Registered: 13 January 2006Reply With Quote
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Congratulations on a fine trophy!
 
Posts: 4214 | Location: Southern Colorado | Registered: 09 October 2011Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by Northman56751:
I just got back last night from a horseback hunt for sheep. Little jealous!

Can't even imagine a backpack hunt like this. My hats off to you............congratulations on a great ram!


Hear how anyone else did with Riley on their sheep?


Just heard from Riley . 7 hunters and seven sheep. Grear result for a very difficult season weather wise.
 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Fantastic looking country. Dunno much about sheep but that looks a good one. Well done mate.


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Posts: 7910 | Location: Zambia | Registered: 10 April 2009Reply With Quote
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I like the camo. What clothing brand is that?


fat chicks inc.
 
Posts: 475 | Location: Belgien | Registered: 01 August 2009Reply With Quote
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Nice Ram!!!
Big Grin



IT IS ALL GOOD!!!
 
Posts: 1833 | Location: KENAI, ALASKA | Registered: 10 November 2001Reply With Quote
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Nice rams,,I sure like the looks of the hunt area.


I tend to use more than enough gun
 
Posts: 1246 | Location: lake iliamna alaska | Registered: 10 February 2005Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by Goldeneye:
I like the camo. What clothing brand is that?

Kuiu. Great gear.
 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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I am going with Riley next year. I hope my hunt goes as well as yours.
 
Posts: 9898 | Location: Orlando, FL | Registered: 26 January 2006Reply With Quote
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Great hunt congratulations. It's the tough hunts that will remain in your mind forever.
 
Posts: 1886 | Location: New York, USA | Registered: 13 March 2005Reply With Quote
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Awesome. Looked up the guide service very impressed
 
Posts: 2037 | Registered: 31 December 2005Reply With Quote
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Steve,

I missed this when you first posted it. I too hunted the Marsh Fork of the Canning but in '89. If you landed right on the river where I think you must have and looked directly across the river you'd see a little hill before you get to the real mountains. A friend and I shot two 10+ year old broomed off rams there out of a group of 5 rams in '89. It takes a little time to tell the story but I shot my ram at 35 yards. They had no idea we were there. In those days there literally were hundreds of sheep in the surrounding mountains.

Big congrats on a great hunt for one of Alaska's very special trophies.

Mark


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Posts: 11335 | Location: LAS VEGAS, NV USA | Registered: 04 August 2002Reply With Quote
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Mark,
Know exactly where you shot your rams. Special place.
Cheers
Steve
 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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I am making the same trip with the same guides in August.
 
Posts: 9898 | Location: Orlando, FL | Registered: 26 January 2006Reply With Quote
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I know mate. Have been following your posts.The very best of luck to you my friend.
Will talk to you closer to the time.
 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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That one photo there makes it look like you took a lot of stuff with you on the hunt. could you tell us some of the "stuff" you took/
 
Posts: 1830 | Location: Mpls., MN | Registered: 28 June 2014Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by lindy2:
That one photo there makes it look like you took a lot of stuff with you on the hunt. could you tell us some of the "stuff" you took/

Clothing (Other than what I was wearing): 10 Day hunt:
Wool Base layer : 3 sets tops and bottoms
Wool Socks : 4 pairs
Sock Liners : 4 pairs
Down Vest
Down Jacket
Rain Gear ( Jacket & Pants)
Spare Mid Layer ( Jacket and Pants)
Camp shoes
Gaiters
Sleeping Bag
Cap
Warm cap / hat
Gloves : Lightweight and Heavyweight
Sat Phone
Camera
Head Lamp
Batteries
Hunting Knife
Leatherman
Sunglasses
Bino's
Rifle
Ammo : 40 Rounds
Trekking Poles
Water Bottle
Dry Bags(2 Red Facene large , one small)
Toiletries
Bottle of Single Malt Whisky
 
Posts: 675 | Location: Australia / Singapore | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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