The temperature in Houston was well over 100 degrees, after all it was mid-July. The heat alone made practice shooting outdoors less enjoyable and almost a chore. But each day I practiced my bow shooting from ranges of 20 to 60 yards. I was focused and felt prepared for my Dall sheep hunt in the beautiful but daunting Northwest Territories of Canada on the first of August.
My bow was several years old, and I was nervous about not having a backup for such an important hunt. I had purchased a new bow only two years prior but wasn't satisfied with the performance. I wanted a specific type of bow with certain characteristics, which had made my search for a new bow even more difficult. On an elk hunt the year before I had hunted with a friend who used a bow made by Elite Archery. He was very happy with how the bow shot, and after speaking with fellow bow hunters, I made up my mind to purchase the Elite Answer 70 pound hunting bow. My problem though was the date. It was July 15th, and I would be leaving for my Dall sheep hunt in only two weeks. A concern because not only did I still need to purchase the bow but there was not much time to get properly set up and familiar with the new bow.
I called Elite Archery and spoke with a lady at their office who provided me with the name of a dealer in my area. However, when I contacted the dealer, I found they didn't have the Elite Answer 70. This prompted a call back to Elite Archery where I explained my situation and my time constraints. The lady at Elite heard my plea and had her team assemble the bow I needed and then overnight ship it to my local dealer. With the weekend thrown in I would have my new Elite Answer within a few days. If it arrived on time, this would give me less than a week to sight the bow in and get used to shooting it.
Luckily, Elite delivered, and my new bow arrived on time! After picking up my new bow at the archery shop, I went home to practice shooting and setting my sights. I was happy that this turned out to be a very quick and easy process since I have been shooting a bow for over 45 years. After several practice shots and tuning with field tips, it was now time to shoot broadheads. Much to my amazement the arrows with broadheads hit the target in exactly the same place as the field points from 20 yards all the way out to 60 yards. This saved me an enormous amount of time and work, and I was extremely happy with my new Elite bow. The three days I had before leaving for Canada, I continued to practice and didn't pack my new bow until the last possible minute.
Finally, I was off to Northwest Territories, Canada. When I arrived at the airport at 6:30 AM in Houston I walked up to the ticket counter and promptly handed the check-in clerk my ticket and passport. She looked at me and asked, "Where is your passport?" I replied, "I just handed it to you." She said, "No you didn't; this passport isn't yours." I immediately took it from her hand and realized I had grabbed my girlfriend’s passport by mistake. I quickly scrambled for my cell phone and began making calls to locate my passport and retrieve it. The airline clerk, seeing my distress informed me that they had an open seat for later that day. I was able to locate my passport and make that later flight.
Travel and more travel
This trip involved two days of air travel, followed by a four-hour road trip, and then a 30-minute boat ride up the river to base camp. (This was my second time hunting with Nahanni Butte Outfitters. The year prior I had taken a mountain caribou with them.)
Setting up camp
After the 45 minute flight, we landed near the top on a saddle located between two valleys. The time was 10 PM. We set up camp and prepared to begin hunting in the morning. The temperature was in the 50's with overcast skies. Early the next morning we awoke to a heavy thunderstorm with lightning striking the mountain peaks around our camp. We stayed in our tents until the rain finally stopped about noon. We climbed out of the tent, made some coffee and oatmeal while glassing the mountains for sheep. We spotted a few ewes and lambs from camp but no legal rams. So we put on our backpacks, I grabbed my bow, and we took off to find the sheep.
The hunt is on
After about an hour climbing the rocks and mountain peaks we spotted a band of rams about 800 yards away and headed right for us. We quickly decided on an ambush spot and waited for their arrival. After waiting for what seemed to be ample time we discovered the sheep had taken the lower route around the bowl then bedded down in a grassy area. The terrain was mostly flat with a few rocks and sloped down to the sheep. This did not offer much in the way of cover for a stalk, but it was all we had. We decided to go for it. Just after we began our stalk, it started raining again. Since we needed to be as quiet as possible, we decided to skip the rain gear. But little did we know that halfway through the stalk that rainfall would turn into a downpour. To make matters worse a small ram laying up on the hill away from the others spotted us.
Gary and I were on our stomachs crawling through the wet grass and rock, but we immediately froze as the small ram got up from his bed to watch us. We laid motionless in the pouring rain for about an hour, until the single sheep finally decided to lay back down. Gary then turned to me and asked if I wanted to try and sneak out of there and return the next day, or continue the stalk. I told him the sheep would see us either way so let's continue the stalk and take our chances.
As we edged closer and closer to the band of rams, the lone sheep kept watching us but didn't seem alarmed. As I crawled through the last few rocks, Gary let me know they were about 35 yards away. I knocked an arrow in my new Elite bow and carefully moved into position. All of a sudden something spooked the sheep, and they jumped up and took off running. As they all stopped a short distance later, I got up on my knees and drew my bow while asking Gary how far they were. He said the third one back is 50 yards. I quickly aimed and shot as the sheep was quartering away and looking back at me.
On the mark
The arrow found its mark and penetrated all the way up to the fletching. As the sheep was running up the hill, he slowed down until he finally turned around and fell into a large pile of rocks. We were both extremely excited as we took a moment to stop and reflect on what we had just accomplished. Then we walked over to where the sheep had fallen and took the time to get some pictures and admire him.
Only 3 hours, 40 minutes
Now it was time to skin and quarter the sheep so the helicopter could fly it back to base camp. When Gary called to give our coordinates, our pilot couldn’t believe we had already finished the hunt. The time was 3:50 pm when I shot the Dall's sheep. It had taken only 3 hours and 40 minutes.
The helicopter arrived later that afternoon to fly me and my sheep back to base camp. I made it back just in time for a home cooked dinner and didn't have to eat Gary's freeze dried food on the mountain that night. Everyone at camp was impressed that I got my sheep in such a short amount of time. But what also impressed them was the fact that I had only purchased my Elite bow one week before my Dall's sheep hunt in the Northwest Territories. When it comes to your gear -- quality is a necessity. Gear failure is not an option!
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