My Brother’s Ram

Posted in by GWild on January 2, 2010 @ 09:41

(As told by Don Peterson)

In 1978, my brother Jim first applied for a Nevada desert bighorn sheep.  He applied every year thereafter.  And every year when the result arrived in the mail, he was more disappointed.  Our dad Gene was lucky enough to draw a tag in 1983 after applying for two years.  We hunted the Las Vegas Range for 28 days.  Dad took a nice ram the day before the season closed.  This was our first sheep hunt and we decided we had no idea how to hunt sheep.

Four years later, I got lucky and drew a tag in the Black Mountains near Lake Mead.  We decided to make it a vacation/hunting trip.  My mom and dad came with my wife and daughter and my brother.  After a week of hunting I connected with a nice ram.

Jim kept applying and continued to be unsuccessful in the drawing for desert sheep.  In February of 2006, at the FNAWS convention in Reno, he booked a dall sheep hunt with Alaskan Trophy Adventures for the fall of 2008.  He figured if he was every going to be able to hunt sheep, he would have to go out of state.  He wasn’t getting any younger.

Well, in June he got the news.  Finally after applying for 28 years he hit the lotto – a Nevada desert bighorn sheep tag in one of the best units in the state  To say he was excited is a gross understatement.  His feet didn’t touch the ground for months.  As we all know, along with the joy comes a great deal of pressure.  All the weight of the world suddenly seems to be on your shoulders.

He knew that to be successful, he had a lot of homework to do.  He talked to hunters who had been successful in harvesting a ram in the unit he had drawn.  He began shooting his rifle at least once a week, sometimes more.  He studied maps of the unit.  He’s always been in good shape, but he knew he had to get in better shape.  Sheep hunts can be very demanding physically.  He started riding his bike a lot, back and forth to work, after work, and on weekends.  He talked to the NDOW biologist for that unit and he had nothing but positive things to say about the unit.  He told Jim he should do some scouting in August to see what sheep were using the spring and water developments.  Although he couldn’t get down there in August, he did go the second week in September.  His friends, Adam Barrenechea and Tony Murillo went with him.  They saw several rams and got some video.  They saw one they nicknamed “Waldo”, an older ram they thought would score in the mid 170s.  Two weeks later he went to the unit with his friend Rusty Koehler and saw several rams.  They also found “Waldo” and got some more footage of him.  What a nice ram.  His body was so much larger than the other rams he was with, probably because he was always eating.

The third week of October, I was able to go with my brother to the unit.  In two days (one afternoon, one full day, and one morning) we saw 15 rams of which three or four were book heads.

The season opened on the November 11.  We drove down on the ninth to set up camp and do some scouting.  The crew assembled for the hunt consisted of friends, Jerry Wild, Adam Barrenechea, my daughter Kari Martin and her boyfriend Darek Huebner, my brother and myself.  Hopefully that would be enough eyes to find Waldo before sunrise on opening morning.  Friday we saw several rams, but Waldo wasn’t among them.

Saturday, opening day, we were up at four and making plans. Jerry, Adam and Martin would go up the main road.  Kari and Darek in his truck, and Jim and I in my truck would go up a road on the other side of the mountain.  We had planned to meet for lunch to discuss what we had seen.  It didn’t take long before Kari and Darek spotted a nice ram.  We watched him feed over the ridge.  We drove up the road to the base of the hill he went over, parked and put our daypacks on.  We spotted two rams off to our right, but neither was the ram we had seen.  After hiking and glassing quite awhile, Jim spotted the ram down in a canyon at least a 1,000 yards away.  He was staring right at us.  We watched him for a while.  We were trying to figure out how to get closer when the ram turned around and ran.  He didn’t stop.  We last saw him going up a cut in the mountain over a mile away.  It was obvious he didn’t want to play the game with us.  We had planned for everyone to meet at the radio tower for lunch.  The four of us were eating at the tower when Martin and Adam arrived and told us they had left Jerry on the side of the road with a spotting scope watching four nice rams.  We loaded up and Jim and I followed them to the other side of the mountain.  Kari and Darek went to check out another area.  When we found Jerry, he said the rams had fed into a little draw and he hadn’t seen them for a while.  We started glassing and soon found some rams up on a ridge to the left of the draw they had disappeared into.  We checked them out in the scopes and decided they were the same rams Jerry had been watching.  They had fed out of his sight and down and up the ridge.  About then Martin came for Jerry and said he had left Adam on the side of the road watching some rams.  He said they thought that maybe one was Waldo.  Jim and I decided to drive up the road that went up the canyon below the ridge the rams were on.  We wanted a closer look.  We told Martin we’d catch up to them in a little while.  We drove up the road, parked and got the scopes out.  Now there were five rams and a couple ewes.  One of the rams was a dandy.  We noticed a white vehicle down on the main road.  It turned up the road we were on.  We assumed it was another hunter.  He drove up to where we were parked and got out and walked up to us.  Turns out he wasn’t a hunter after all.  He was a game warden for NDOW.  We talked and looked at the rams for a while.  He told us this was a great unit this year.  He said he had seen a nice ram just off a road on the other side of the mountain.  He had taken a picture of it on his digital camera.  We looked at it and it sure was a nice ram.  His horns were broomed back and very heavy.  After talking for awhile longer he left and then Jerry called us on the cell phone and asked us where we were.  The rams they were watching had fed over the hill.  We said we were on our way and headed out.  When we got to them, Jim and Jerry headed up the mountain to get a look.  They finally got up and over and out of my sight.  It was late Saturday afternoon now.  I waited for over an hour and now the sun was going down.  Just before dark I spotted Jim and Jerry on top the mountain coming down.  When they got to the truck, Jim said they found the rams, got close and said it wasn’t Waldo.  He said the biggest ram was probably a mid 160 class ram.  A nice ram but knowing that bigger rams were there, he didn’t want to shoot this on the first day.  The next morning Jim said he’d like to look at the ram the game warden told us about.  We drove up into the canyon and started glassing.  We saw about 13 sheep of which three were rams.  These rams were not what we were looking for.  We decided to leave the canyon and drive back around the mountain where we were hunting the day before.  About halfway down the road we decided to stop and glass back up the mountain.  We were glassing for awhile and then Kari said, “There’s a ram,” kind of casual like.  She was looking to our left, not at the mountain, down where the mountain meets the flat, in the alluvial fans.  The ram was on a little rise looking our way.  We watched him for awhile and then another ram walked up behind him.  This ram was a better ram.  This was the ram the warden had told us about.  We were watching the two rams when another ram came up and joined them.  We all let out a gasp.  This ram was a dandy.  His horns were long and flared out.  A beautiful ram.  As the three rams fed along, we watched for awhile and then the rams laid down.  The three rams laid down all facing different directions.  The wind was blowing hard out of the west.  It was very cold.  We were watching the rams in the scopes.  Jim wasn’t sure if the wanted to go after this ram or not.  We couldn’t believe it.  This was a great ram.  He said that it wasn’t Waldo and he knew Waldo was bigger.  I told Jim we’d hate to leave this ram on the mountain and come back in two days looking for him.  Jim just wasn’t sure.  We decided to leave Jim alone and let him think about.  We watched these rams for at least two hours.  While we watched, the game warden drove up.  He looked through the spotting scope.  He said Jim had a tough decision to make.  He said some guys hunting sheep this season in other areas wouldn’t see any rams as nice as these three.  After he left, we just waited for Jim to decide what he wanted to do.  He knew Waldo was a bigger ram, but we didn’t know where he was.  We were all king of standing on the side of the truck, staying out of the wind, trying to stay warm.  I went around the end of the truck to look at the sheep through my glasses and they were gone.  Panic.  I looked to the right and picked them up.  I told Jim that they were up and headed toward the mountain.  We had to decide what to do now.  Jim said he’d like to try for him so we had to get in front of them.  Since we were headed down the road when we saw the rams, we had to turn around.  There were so many rocks on both sides of the road we couldn’t turn around.  We had to back up the road, a long way, probably a mile.  We stopped in the road where we thought they might come up.  We walked about a hundred yards from the truck to a little ridge and laid down and waited.  We were looking at the mountain to our right and thought that if they came up there it would be about 125 yards.  The next ridge looked about 250 yards.  We waited and watched.  Suddenly, right in front of us a ram appeared.  He froze staring at us.  He was so close.  This was the smaller of the three rams.  Probably a 160 ram.  Jim and I couldn’t move at all.  We were laying side by side staring at the ram in front of us.  I had a camcorder in my coat packet, but I didn’t dare move.  We stared at each other for at least ten minutes.  It seemed like an hour.  Finally, behind the bush to the right of the ram, we saw the horns of another ram moving up behind the ram that was staring at us.  It stopped and seemed to be waiting.  Then the third ram moved up behind the second and seemed to bump it in the rear.  This got things moving.  The second ram moved forward and the first ram finally moved.  He moved to our left and out of my sight.  The second ram moved forward.  I whispered to Jim, “Do you know which ram is which?”  He whispered “Yeah.”  I said “Okay.”  The second ram cleared the bush, then the third ram just cleared the bush.  BOOM!  The ram spun around to his right and ran about 50 yards and stopped broadside.  I told Jim he better put another one in him.  He was having a little difficulty chambering another round.  The ram started to wobble and fell over.  “Never mind,” I said.

After handshaking, hugs, and high fives, I walked over the where the ram was when Jim shot.  I ranged back to my brother.  “Twenty eight yards,” I said.  “Bow range” he said.  I waited for him to come over and be the first one to arrive at the ram.  He stood over the ram for a minute or two, just kind of taking it all in.  Then he knelt down and took the horn in his hands.  He was smiling ear to ear.  Kari and Darek arrived and ran up and hugs and handshakes started all over again.  It was a special time.  A call on the cell phone to Jerry and about an hour later the rest of the crew was there.  More pictures and then the work began.  We gutted and caped out the ram and headed for the truck.  We had lots of help.  What a great crew.  Back at the truck we got water and cleaned up the cape.

On our way home, we stopped at the NDOW office in Tonopah to have Jim’s ram sealed.  The NDOW biologist took pictures, green scored it, and put a plug in the horn.  After the 60-day drying period, Jim set up an appointment with Victor Clark, an official B&C scorer, to score the ram.  As soon as Victor saw the horns, he said, “You got Woody.”  He had seen the same ram while scouting with Victor Trujillo before the season and they had nicknamed him “Woody”.  When Victor was done adding and subtracting, Jim and I were very pleased at the final score, 172 2/8″.  Many thanks to everyone who made this such a great experience, Kari and Darek Huebner, Jerry Wild, Adam and Martin Barrenechea, Tony Murillo, Rusty Koehler, the NDOW biologists and game warden, Victor Clark, Victor Trujillo, and our parents, Gene and Mildred for always spending quality time with us in the great Nevada outdoors.

This story is reproduced with permission from Jim Dandy Productions Inc © 2008. You may link to this article, but any reproduction must be with permission from the copyright holder.

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