[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]L[/su_dropcap]ike all good hunting stories, this one features some interesting characters and a great ending. And although it is mostly about a bighorn sheep hunt, it begins and ends with a couple of Wyoming moose hunts.
A few years back, Tim Thompson was helping to ﬁnd a nice bull for Mike Schmid and the Intrepid Outdoors team. Mike and Tim are friends from Big Piney and LaBarge, Wyo., and both are avid outdoorsmen. On this occasion, Mike killed a great Shiras moose with his bow. But sometime during the trip, Tim mentioned that he was building preference points for sheep, and would be looking me up when he drew.
Fast forward seven years. While viewing the list of successful applicants for Wyoming sheep, I saw Tim Thompson listed as “successful” for Area 5. I knew my phone would be ringing soon, and around the middle of August, it did. Tim was on the other end of the line asking, “You ready to go sheep hunting?”
Unfortunately, my September was slammed with a moose hunt in Alaska and bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunts in Colorado. To complicate matters, we were ﬁlming each hunt for The Best of the West show, so Tim’s once-in-alifetime bighorn hunt was put on hold until early October.
I ACTUALLY PREFER HUNTING at this time of the season. There is less pressure, and the mature rams have darker, fuller capes later in the year. I’d hoped to explore some country that I’d been on the fringe of, but not in its core, but the ridgeline trail accessing this area quickly becomes impassable with a few inches of snow and a good wind.
The weather held, so we drove to the trailhead, and in about an hour had the horses and mules loaded and began the steep ascent into uncharted country. We arrived at an excellent location for glassing a lot of country, and quickly set up camp and began peering into the rocky ridgelines, alpine basins and the timbered pockets that rams seek for protection. Out ﬁrst evening was ﬁlled with several elk sightings, including some mature bulls.
The next morning, we began the same ritual that all sheep hunters know: glass, glass and glass some more. Again, we spotted elk in most drainages and ridges, but shortly after his second cup of coffee, Tim exclaimed, “I think I got rams.”
This band of bighorns consisted of two half-curls, a young three-quarter curl and two old mountain monarchs. The two old boys looked to be about the same age (“ancient”), but had completely different horn conﬁgurations. One looked very massive, with a close tight curl, and the other had great mass throughout his length, with a much more open curl. Both were simply magniﬁcent as they grazed on the south-facing ridge.
I felt we should watch the rams and let them dictate our next move. There was just one small problem; the rams had made it into a steep timbered drainage before our intercept. I found the tracks of both big rams crossing a windblown cornice directly below our ridgeline lookout. We continued glassing into the timbered pocket below and across from us. I didn’t have much faith in our present location.
We headed back to our spike camp, stopping periodically to let our stock eat snow. We got back to camp and continued glassing. Way up high and a four-hour ride by horseback, I spotted two rams feeding on an easterly facing cirque. One of the rams was fully mature, with broomed full curls. We now had a backup plan if our ﬁrst group of rams had left the country. We continued watching the weather and glassing until darkness enveloped the mountain basins.
The next morning brought high expectations as the weather held, and soon we spotted the band of ﬁve rams to the north of camp. We quickly saddled up and were picking our way to their location as the sun began to rise. Our ﬁnal approach was from the north, over a barren slope which dropped directly into their primary bedding area of steep slopes and dense evergreen pockets. We crawled into position and began scanning the slope for rams. I spotted two on the edge of a timber ﬁnger protruding from the volcanic outcrops prevalent in the area. We had the three-quarter curl and the tight full curl feeding broadside at 450 yards!
TIM QUICKLY MANEUVERED into a stable prone position, and I had the video camera positioned and set to capture the moment. We continued glassing the tree line for the big open-curl ram. He was very distinct in that he had recently knocked a chunk of horn out of his left curl at the ﬁrst quarter.
In short order, our ram ﬁltered out of the trees and was feeding, unaware of our presence. The downhill angle was accounted for with a “shoot to” distance of 425 yards. Tim dialed the Huskemaw turret to 425 on his The Best of the West Signature Series riﬂe and prepared to break the shot.
At the report, our ram dropped to the turf and rolled 6 feet and settled against a fallen pine. The other rams were momentarily confused, but soon followed the old tight-curl ram over the spine and down into the jumbled canyon. I ﬁnished the video shots needed for a future episode, and we hiked to where our stock were tied securely on the other side of the ridge, and then slowly picked our way down the rotten volcanic spine directly above the fallen ram.
We bailed off our mules and followed an elk/sheep trail down the ﬁnal distance. Tim was fully enjoying the moment, and ﬂoated around the steep hillside like he was 20-something again! The moment Tim swung the ram’s head around, I stated, “I think you shot a Booner.”
This ram was one of those rare trophies that continued to get bigger the more we looked at him. Many hunters know exactly what I’m talking about, and I hope many others will experience this in their hunting careers.
We had gone into this hunt totally unguided, explored country neither of us had ever been in, and came out with an exceptional animal – 177 4/8 Boone and Crockett points and 14 years old, for those of you who like the stats. Fortunately, Tim was using the complete Best of the West Shooting System, which made taking a difficult shot look easy. But the bottom line was this: We thoroughly enjoyed the hunt on public land, and in addition to using the proper equipment, we were successful in taking the animal because of our combined years of knowledge and hard work.
But the story doesn’t end there.
In 2015, I had the needed preference points to draw a Shiras moose tag near the area Mike had killed his bull. Since Tim’s ranch is located in the same general area, one phone call to my friend was all that was needed to plan an October hunt.
By chance, Jon Bloom, another good friend, called and informed me his daughter had drawn the same moose tag. Brennae Bloom currently serves in the United States Army
as a human resources specialist, and had only a brief window to hunt. One more phone call to Tim and his wife Jody, and Brennae was also teed up for a memorable hunt.
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, Brennae was up ﬁrst, and Tim had a speciﬁc bull moose in mind for her.
I’d explained to Tim that Jon had been in a terrible accident resulting in extensive neck surgery, and Tim and Jody were all in, along with their son RJ and daughter Amanda. On opening morning, the Bloom family trio of Jon, Brennae and her brother Skyler were ready to go. Brennae was long range-capable with her dad’s riﬂe topped with a 5-20X50 Huskemaw. This scope was critical, because their established lookout point provided a great view of a willow bottom, with distances ranging from 200 to more than 1,000 yards, all from an elevated position.
About midmorning, the giant made his appearance. Brennae was ready, having already established a very stable prone position. The bull was ranged at 550 yards, and was in eminent danger. The shot broke the morning stillness, and soon, Brennae was kneeling next to a magniﬁcent Shiras sporting a 57-inch spread. The bull was ﬁeld dressed in short order and hauled to the barn, courtesy of the Thompson Ranch front-end loader.
Later that October, I hunted with Tim and his family, and harvested a very nice 40-inch bull of my own at 680 yards, although I did ﬁre a “warning shot” before settling down and placing a bullet through his heart.
To top it off, my wife Lynn also had a moose tag in another unit, and she made a great one-shot kill on her moose at 350 yards. Our family and friends have enjoyed many meals with moose being served as the main course. And along the way, I was able to enjoy the fall season with good friends in spectacular western Wyoming.
From a moose hunt to a sheep hunt, then back for three more moose hunts, our story had ﬁnally come full circle.
TRUE HUNTERS UNDERSTAND that hunting is much more than just killing an animal. For many of us, it is our escape from the pressures of everyday life, and is an integral part of who we are. But it is far more rewarding, in my eyes at least, to make sure that we are always giving back to the sport we love. Of course, I always advocate for hunters to become more educated and proﬁcient in their choice and use of weapons, but there is more we can do beyond ourselves.
To me, the act of helping other hunters is much more satisfying than simply (and selﬁshly) putting another head on the wall. Find a way to use your knowledge and resources to make another hunter’s dream come true. Become a mentor for a youth, invite a senior for a day in the ﬁeld, or make yourself available to a new acquaintance. The experience will reward you with great memories that last a lifetime.
And if you take the time to mentor another hunter and bask in their success, it will become your success as well. ASJ
For more information about The Best of the West and Huskemaw Optics, visit thebestofthewest.net.