In 2012 I was issued my first draw tag for Dall sheep since moving to Alaska 9 years prior. It was a late season archery tag for the Chugach mountains near Anchorage. Three months after winning the tag, I was sent to Afghanistan for a time frame that included my hunt. Upon returning stateside I applied for re-issue of the tag. This option is generously offered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to combat veterans who were deployed and missed their hunt. Once I was notified officially of the reissued tag, I called my long-time hunting partner who lives in Boise, Idaho. He was so excited by the news, he booked a flight to Alaska the next week to assist in the hunt. He was looking forward to returning the favor I had lent to him a couple of years prior when he had drawn a once in a lifetime mt. goat tag. I jumped at the chance to fly to Idaho and help him with that hunt where he arrowed a large billy. Living vicariously, his lifelong dream is taking one of those golden horned monarchs.
Prone to drastic weather and deep snow that time of year,not to mention the ten mile hike just to get into the hunt area, I knew it was going to be the type of hunt that would keep certain hunters away so, I prepared. I upgraded cold weather and hiking gear, getting the lightest and warmest gear possible. The one thing I never had to worry about was my Z7. We headed in one day before the opener, snow was passable on the top of the ridge we crossed. As we dropped into the valley we would be hunting, the weather picked up in a discouraging way. It was raining at the altitude we were hunting at, but snowing up above. It did this for three days, while we maneuvered the valley in search of the right opportunity. On the morning of the last day of the hunt we were sheep-less and left with some decisions having not even the chance to draw the Z7 on a sheep to this point. It was an all or nothing day. We moved up to the only reasonable spot in an attempt to close ground on a group of five rams. We had to cross a rock slide with no cover from the rams. Just then they were distracted, it was a wolverine. We took the opportunity to close the gap to within 70 yards. I had a shot from 65 yards at the second biggest ram of the group and the one I had the best chance to get. The first arrow buried in his back, just beside the spine. The next two missed as he was running away. He wasn’t able to get very far though. My biggest fear with him moving is that he would climb into the treacherous rocks above. He couldn’t gain any ground though, and ended up cornering himself, where he watched me close the gap for a final 40 yard shot. The sun shone down that afternoon, melting the snows above, and warming my back as I prepared the ram for a 14 mile journey back to the truck.
As I sit and remember this amazing experience, I am also reminded of the fortune of being able to do this kind of thing, the fortune to be free to do this. Just one year prior I was sorting through some other vastly different feelings related to that theme of freedom and opportunity as I watched my hunt window come and go from a dusty, unfamiliar place. One more reason to be grateful. One more reason to defend this land I love.