By Mike Torres
This past August saw me on my fourth hunt with Dueling Stone Outfitters in the Yukon. I have been fortunate to have taken a couple of Stone Rams and a huge moose with Jarrett Dueling and was looking forward to another adventure. I was booked on the second hunt and met the hunters from the first hunt at the float plane dock in Whitehorse. The four hunters on the 1st hunt had very bad weather and were stuck in their tents for 7 days of rain, only taking 1 ram.
The weather seemed to be improving and we flew 1 hour into a remote mountain lake base camp. Jarrett informed me that I would be guided by Terry Ollie with wrangler Joel. I was pleased to hear that Terry would be guiding me. I hunted with Terry 7 years ago on an unsuccessful hunt due to rain and knew that he was the real deal. Terry is of the Kaska First Nation and possesses traditional woodsmanship skills, and can spot game with his eyes that most people can barely see with binoculars.
Terry, Joel, and I left base camp with 8 horses for a remote camp in Crystal Valley. I hunted this same area 7 years before, I was unsuccessful but my friend Frank Borges Jr. took a dark ram in this area that year. We set up our spike camp and woke the next morning to pouring rain. It reminded me of my prior hunt here. We were tented up that day, but the weather improved some and we headed out to glass for sheep. We had pretty poor weather for the next 2 days seeing a few sheep, but nothing to get excited over.
On the fourth day, the weather broke and we rode our horses up a drainage on Sheep Ridge and tied the ponies up in some willows. We started up a very steep boulder field and I believe that this mountain got steeper in the 7 years since I was last on it. We made it to the top and in every direction, you could see endless mountains with very good sheep habitat that are just about inaccessible and not hunted much, if at all.
We weren’t seeing much sign on top and were working our way down a steep ridge on the edge of a canyon that looked like the Grand Canyon when Terry saw a set of two ram tracks and he went into hunt mode. Terry looked like a bird dog on a hot pheasant scent and was patiently checking out every nook and cranny that could hold sheep. I believe that Terry has the ability to read a sheep’s mind. Terry dropped to the ground and I crawled up to him to find a bedded dark ram at 140 yards. Although legal, the ram was only about 8 years old and did not meet Jarrett’s goal of only taking 10-year-old rams. While watching the 8-year-old ram we spotted 4 other rams about 1 mile away down the ridge we were on. The 8-year-old got up and walked away and we started down for the four rams, one of which looked pretty heavy. We lost sight of them about a half mile down and were creeping forward when a loan ram popped out of the timber and dwarf arctic willow about 600 yards below us. I set up on him at 500 yards but held off shooting as he was walking up the ridge to our location. I had him at 400, 300, and 200 yards when he walked into a little ravine below us. We were not sure where he would come out and were pleasantly surprised when he popped out at about 100 yards. We were out of his sight and I had a dead rest when Terry told me to take him. I made the shot at 73 yards after the half-mile stalk.
The ram was down and he turned out to be a dark 11-year-old Stone Ram. I was very happy with my eighth ram and after the photo session we caped him out and boned out all the meat. We started down the mountain with 3 very heavy packs. When we got near the bottom we cut cross country through the bottom of several creek drainages, headed to the creek where our horses were tied. When we got to our drainage off of Sheep Ridge, Joel the wrangler headed up for our 3 horses. Two of the horses had pulled loose from the willows and had returned to camp, leaving us with only 1 horse. It was now 12:00 pm and I was just about physically done in after 16 hours of hiking and packing in some of the toughest terrain I’ve seen. The guys let me ride the only remaining horse and we got back to our spike camp after 1:00 am.
We slept in the next day, working on the cape and meat, and decided to move to one of Terry’s moose camps and hunt for moose, caribou, wolves, and grizzly. We spent several days in moose camp but didn’t find any good caribou or bull moose. When we ran out of sheep back strap and coffee we decided to return to the lake base camp. On return to base, we found that the 2 other sheep hunters had been successful too.
I have been fortunate to have hunted in many wilderness locations in the last 50 years and have a passion for the Yukon. The Yukon is extremely remote and offers some of the last true wilderness experiences. While saying my goodbyes to Jarrett Deuling and his crew, I made arrangements to return again in 2020 with my wife Lee. Mountain Sheep live in some of the most spectacular country on earth, and I am going to hunt them as long as my legs and lungs let me.