Power Hunter Program Testimonial: Len’s Bighorn Sheep Hunt

Len joined us in the Power Hunter Program this year, and he was dedicated and motivated to make the most of the program. It was exciting to hear from Len after his much-anticipated sheep hunt. Thank you, Len, for sharing your experience!

Greg

Dear Greg and Denise,

Firstly, thank you all over again for the time and effort you put into creating the PHP. For the motivation and the personal touch you added to it.

My conditioning and preparation were by far the best it has ever been… and that made this 2021 hunt more enjoyable than ever for me—my goal was to be able to hunt harder by hiking better—and with that box ticked, what more could I ask for.

I want to share my 2021 mountain hunt with you, as you guys were actually with me on the mountain with every yard’s elevation. It’s like I heard your voice (Greg ) in my mind when things got tough… and they did, like you would expect from an average day in the mountains.

The two days ride in on horseback is always a highlight. I used those two days to silence the noise in my head. The noise of screaming sirens and the ER, hospital bells and bleeps and (especially this year) the seemingly endless war against the pandemic. On the way in, especially this year, I had the most profound appreciation for the “sound of silence.” Only horses hooves, wind through pines and poplars, the chirping of squirrels as we rode by and the rumbling sounds of the rivers we crossed paths with. The last 90 minutes of our ride in, we hit a section on the trail we call “the gates of Mordor”—I don’t have to say much more. A few years ago, the first time we survived that section, my best friend Rudi turned around on his horse and said, “one simply does not just ride into Mordor” grinning with his branch-beaten face… it was a good laugh. Last year we nearly lost one of our pack horses (Dudley) who rolled backwards down a part of that trail – we now call that steep section “Dudley Falls,” lol.

Without a doubt in my mind, I will say that my physical conditioning through the PHP made it possible for me to get to that ram and get back to camp safely. Our packs were just shy of 100 lbs each on the last day of hiking back, and I remember saying to myself for hours at a time, “just chip away at this mountain… nothing but a big old rock, just chip away at it.” The PHP focuses on mental and physical strength and endurance, and I believe that’s why I could KEEP ON KEEPING ON. “Do the work” paid off.

Len, Power Hunter participant

On the afternoon of the 22nd, we arrived in the valley where we would set up base camp. To me, that valley is a glimpse of paradise. We make camp in a patch of balsam spruce trees. This year it poured rain, and setting up camp, unpacking horses and trying to get dry wood for a fire was quite the challenge. To welcome us even further into the backcountry, it started snowing at 7 pm that night and stopped only at noon the next day, 4 inches later. We slept cold and very wet, but hey—we were chasing bighorns —what else did we expect.

Early on the 24th, my two best friends Rudi and Jesse and I left base camp in the valley while we had two young guns wrangle the horses for us. We packed for three days of spike camping, and by knowing most of the area by now we already had in mind where to look for sheep and where to turn around to get back to camp in time.

The first day we hiked in an inch of snow, but it soon melted, and for the next three days, we were blessed with the most beautiful late summer days we could ask for. By opening day eve, we hadn’t seen any legal rams, although we saw a bunch of ewes and lambs. We made a spike camp in a saddle in a basin we call the Super Bowl—an enormous basin with streams and creeks, forest and rockfall, cliffs and drainages. A band of nine young rams on a south-facing slope in the Super Bowl put us to bed on the eve of August 24.

On opening day, we hiked hard. We glassed harder. We saw a herd of sheep two mountain ranges away, but no rams. We planned to hike to one last point before turning around, to look into a basin we’ve never seen since we’ve never hiked this far away from spike camp. But Google Earth kept teasing us to go and peek over. At around 5 pm, we settled on that ridge only to find a never-ending long basin with a lake and waterfalls. Stunned by its beauty, it took us 20 minutes of glassing before Rudi whispered the word “rams”. We counted 12. They were easily 2 km away, down the valley to the east slope of the basin. With the spotting scope, we saw that one, maybe two MAY be legal. It was 5:30 pm. We knew that we had to get closer to see if one was legal. We also knew that we were setting up to either tagging out and sleeping on the mountain (no tent/sleeping bags, just a small tarp) or finding none legal and possibly facing a night march back to our spike camp. We would easily be a 10-hour hike away.

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For the next two hours, the climb and hike were brutal to get within range to see if we had a legal ram to pursue. We got to the opposite face of the basin, and at 1000 yards, Jesse said he was 99% sure the one ram was legal. We agreed to make a play. Dropping down was almost an insane move, as we had no idea how we would get up and out again. We made a lot of noise dropping down, but luckily the rams were grazing next to a waterfall, so our noise was muffled by the rumbling stream. It was a slow approach as some of the rams checked us out a few times. Close to the foot of the slope in some shin tangle brush, Jesse looked at me and said, “Len, you shoot first. We kind of agreed that in case I miss two or three times, he must shoot. I was surprised that he gave the first shot because I had not spotted the rams initially. It was first Rudi, and then Jesse spotted the legal one. But I was ready for this.

We settled in an uncomfortable patch of brush and willow, and Rudi ranged 550 yards. I’ve never shot further than 500. I trusted my scope (Vortex Razor HD LHT 3–15×42), and my rifle dialled for 550 yards. For last time Rudi said, “Len, the one on the bottom right – he is legal. When you’re ready.”

It was just after 8:30 pm. The moment was surreal. As if it didn’t sink in… too big, I guess.

I was beyond tired, numb in my gluts and shoulders, but my breathing was perfect. I had my crosshair on his left shoulder as he was grazing broadsided. They grazed high up—shooting maybe 30 degrees upwards. My aim was dead on. Lying stretched out, I rested my bipod on my pack.

I settled, prayed, took a deep breath… and squeezed the trigger. Then time stood still—kind of slow-motion—waiting to hear the thump, and waiting to hear Rudi and Jesse shout out that he’s down… but the echo of the gunshot brought out Rudi’s calm voice saying, “High Len. You just shot over him”. They ran further up. I reloaded. Rudi said 570 yards. I dialled. Aimed and squeezed. “

“Just left Len, just left…………”… that was so painful to hear.

They ran up further.

Instantly I doubted my scope. Maybe it bumped on the ride in? How could I miss? I was so darn sure of both those shots. I feared we were going to lose this herd altogether.

We decided to run closer, across a creek and take a position on the upward slope of the ditch. Against all odds, the sheep settled again, at 530 yards. Then I made the tough decision.

I told Jesse it’s all his now, while I’m biting my lip not to swear and cry at the same time. I just didn’t trust my scope.

530 Rudi said. Jesse aimed. Squeezed. The ram dropped dead on the spot.

The beauty about hunting mountains with friends who are like brothers is how my misery disappeared before the gunshot’s echo did. The “madness-sadness” turned into a chaotic jumping on each other, rolling in the grass and yelling and laughing.

This was Jesse’s first ram.

Our joy was immeasurable.

It took us an hour’s climb to get to him. He was a beast—big, bulky chipped horn, full curl warrior.

Interestingly – we saw no blood and no bullet hole.

We were done field dressing him and deboning him in the moonlight by 1:30 am. We left the meat up there and dropped down to make a fire, eat and try to sleep between a patch of young balsam spruces under a small tarp. It was a long night on mother earth’s belly, to say the least. But a great memory sleeping under the stars with nothing but fire and all the clothes we had, in the company of two hunters who shared my sentiment for the grit and greatness of mountain hunting.

At 8 am the following day, we packed the deboned meat and headed out of this unforgiving valley. 13 hours later, we arrived at spike camp. We ate some freeze-dried meals and passed out in the comfort of our sleeping bags. Up with the sun the next morning, we hiked back up and down and up and down and up and down to get to base camp at 7 pm.

Like starved wanderers, we immediately grilled all the good parts of that ram (tenderloins, back strap and heart) and ate it off the fire (no greens, lol) while the excitement around the campfire was one for the books.

Jesse caped the head, and well well well.

A small round hole one inch below his left horn base above the left eye… yep.. Jesse shot his first ram at 530 yards in the head.

So listen to this…

Jesse aimed at the centre mass of the ram, standing broadsided with his head to the left. He hit that ram in the head: from where he aimed… high and left.

My first shot was high. My second shot was left.

We both failed to account for two of the most crucial components of long-distance altitude shooting: wind drift and shooting at an angle. The wind was drifting down the valley from right to left, and we aimed about 30 degrees up. We were always going to shoot high and left under those conditions. I’ll never make that mistake again. In the end, my scope was working perfectly, but I failed to consider critical elements of long-distance shooting.

The ride out with a full curl bighorn ram on the packhorse was a moment I will treasure my whole life. The sense of accomplishment for us was so great: this was OUR ram. And I believe only those fortunate enough to hunt the mountains will genuinely understand what it means to say that “a ram in camp is a ram for all.” The three of us hunted that ram together, and we packed him out leaning on one another. The abrasions on our hips from the two days of packing out will leave scars that will be reminders of this epic hunt in the Canadian Wilderness, done with men with whom I can trust my life.

Without a doubt in my mind, I will say that my physical conditioning through the PHP made it possible for me to get to that ram and get back to camp safely. Our packs were just shy of 100 lbs each on the last day of hiking back, and I remember saying to myself for hours at a time, “just chip away at this mountain… nothing but a big old rock, just chip away at it.” The PHP focuses on mental and physical strength and endurance, and I believe that’s why I could KEEP ON KEEPING ON. “Do the work” paid off.

So, to conclude—so bitter, no ram for me, yet so sweet—I was next to my mountain brother when he shot his first ram—and I had the rare privilege of packing out a rocky mountain bighorn full-curl ram.

I am looking forward to the next chapter!

Len

I asked Jesse permission to share this photo of his ram with you… he smiled and said, “please do.”

I believe this picture says it all.

EPIC TOP 10 Kill Shot Countdown Compilation

The kill shot is always one of the most exciting moments of any hunt. This compilation won’t disappoint if you love adventure, awesome northern mountain animals, and deadly kill shots that put the animals down. Strap in and hold on as we take you on a wild ride in pursuit of Wood Bison, Dall’s Sheep, Mountain Goats, Alaska-Yukon Moose and Black Bear.

Off the Beaten Path: Dall’s Sheep

A Yukon Sheep Hunt

It had been my dream for years to walk out my front door, using my own power to move into the mountains to harvest a sheep. At the time, I lived in Carcross, a small community outside of Yukon’s largest city of Whitehorse. Carcross is nestled among good sheep mountains and offers lake-access to other sheep areas. While it was possible to pull this off, it was not going to be easy.


Machines are powerful tools that can bring us deep into the hunting lands. The human body, with a bit of assistance, is a machine we could all make more frequent use of. Give it the right fuel and some maintenance, and it will take you further than you’d expect.

The first part of the adventure was a 30-mile journey on foot and paddling starting a few days before opening day. The plan was to walk, paddle, and trek deep into great sheep country, concluding with packraft float out.

I started by towing my fast racing kayak on a small trailer before putting it into the waters of one of our local lakes. Yukon lakes are the real deal: ice-cold year-round, often “blowing up” with severe winds and waves, and deserted from any other traffic or hope of accidental rescue. Our lakes kill people every year, which is something remarkable when you consider how few people venture onto them.

A major crossing of a large lake is often best completed in the morning before the wind–and the waves–whip up. Or you can take it as it comes and get across as quickly as possible.

I have some experience kayaking and knew it wouldn’t be a no-brainer to I have years of racing experience kayaking and knew it wouldn’t be a no-brainer to make it to the end of the lake without incident. Fortunately, I pulled it off without an icy swim.

A Hike to the Sky

Once landing, I began the trek up the drainage. The going was tough, with thick bush and light rain coming down, making the many boulder field crossings treacherous under our heavily laden packs and on top of slick lichen and moss. These are some of the easiest conditions to get injured, so the trekking poles I was using were extremely helpful. Taking a slip under 70+ pounds (32 kg) cost one member of my team a good laugh and a bruised hand. It can get a lot worse, and the remoteness and difficult access make the stakes very serious.

I was not expecting to find rams in the lower reaches of the drainage, but it’s impossible to move through these mountains without pulling the bI was not expecting to find rams in the lower reaches of the drainage. Still, it’s impossible to move through these mountains without pulling the binoculars out now and again. I didn’t find any rams, but we did spot a small group of caribou.

I had studied Google Earth and the topographical map of the area extensively. Neither of these had prepared me for the beauty of the country.

I had expected that one of the many glaciers in the area would represent a serious obstacle to our progress. I could see that there was some kind of cliff through a narrow pass, but without getting there and seeing with my own eyes, I couldn’t say just how much of an obstacle the cliff would be. As it turned out, it was more significant than anticipated.



From what I could tell, the best approach was for us to jump off the cliff I had expected that one of the many glaciers in the area would represent a serious obstacle to our progress. I could see that there was some kind of cliff through a narrow pass, but without getting there and seeing with my own eyes, I couldn’t say just how much of an obstacle the cliff would be. As it turned out, it was more significant than anticipated.

The jump was the only way onto the glacier and through the pass towards where I wanted to go. If we determined that the jump was not possible, we had a solid 12 or more hours of hard hiking to detour the glacier. As it turned out, the jump was doable, and nobody died. After lowering our packs onto the glacier, we continued our trek across the glacier.

The feeling of walking across a lake of ancient ice is something special. Part respect, part terror, the glacier offers a host of potentially deadly hazards. The chief among these is the threat of falling into the seen or unseen crevasses. At the best of times, you may escape with a scrape and require a helping hand to extricate yourself. In the worst case, you could end up in a crumpled, bloody and broken heap a few hundred feet down in the frozen, dark belly of the glacier. Best practices for glacier travel include tethering the team up using proper climbing harnesses, ropes, and careful testing of the glacier to ensure that one is not walking over a hidden crevasse.

The glacier offered a single passage through a saddle into the next valley due to the very steep walls that contained it. The map and our view of the saddle made us believe that it would be a simple effort to make the top of the saddle. We failed to realize that the slope of the valley was covered in a mixture of ice, snow, sand and small boulders. This mixture, while it provided good enough traction, was not stable and threatened to slide. Further, the slope gradually steepened, making our use of ice axes mandatory and making the climb much more difficult, especially given our heavy packs. We reached the top with relief after carefully spacing ourselves to ensure that no rocks or slides we let loose would endanger our teammates.

A River Runs Through It

The mountains offered a new challenge as the miles accumulated under our feet. The river was a landmark we were gunning to make before nightfall. The good news was that it was not too deep. The bad news is that it was as cold as you would expect and was moving fairly swiftly. Karl tried a few times to find a suitable crossing point, but reaching his waist in the current, he was forced back. We finally realized that he had chosen a route that was much deeper than almost any other way across the river, we made the other side. By this point, it was already 11:00 pm. Our pants still stowed in our packs, we made a final push for the day to make it to flat ground before wolfing down our freeze-dry under the bombardment of a hungry swarm of mosquitos.

I’ve been asked if I would consider using hip waders in this situation. The answer is a hard no on that one. Not only would hip waders be potentially very dangerous in waters this deep and fast, acting as an anchor that would keep you down if you were to fall, but they are really only good for one thing. They would be outrageously heavy and bulky the remainder of the hunt.

The Road is A High One

The next day was about as hot a day as we ever get in the Yukon. The bush was tinder dry, and the sun was beating down. We began a substantial climb of about 4500’ (1400 m) from the valley to the ridge above. This is more than the usual 3200’ of most sheep ridges in the Yukon, with our camp and filming equipment and with the heat, proved to be a real grind. While Yukon forests are quite open compared to those further south—we don’t have the precipitation to support super-thick bush—this particular hill offered us steep, slabby rockfaces to shake things up.

In situations like this, when we’re all tired, dehydrated, sun-baked, and loaded down, one’s mental toughness, grit, comes into play. These are the moments when all the hard things you’ve done in the off-season months come to fruition, or when all the easy things you did in the off-season months will hold you back. These grinding minutes and hours will test your mind. These are the times when I bring out the humour, the ’80’s hits, to keep the team moving.

We made the ridge that evening and had time to look around a bit and get the lay of the land. We located a decent “campsite” with access to water right up high.

A Bruiser of a Ram

Waking up the next morning, we set eyes on a bruiser of a ram. The heatwaves, caused by the sun warming the ground, causing the air to rise and swirl, were heavy that morning. I couldn’t get a great look at the ram in terms of ageing him or being 100% certain that this was the ram I was looking for. However, I could see he carried awesome mass and looked to be broomed. The hard day of hiking and the hard miles of the previous days were all but forgotten!

The main issue facing me was that the opening day of hunting wasn’t until tomorrow! We got to a good position to watch him from afar and ensure he didn’t wander off or down into a nearby gully and out of sight for good. This was a great plan, but a large herd of ewes and lambs were also feeding on the plateau, meaning we had to be cautious of what winds and a curious sheep could do to alert the ram and his companions of our presence. We remained out of sight for the day and “put the ram to bed” before heading back to camp.

There is a powerful urge in the human mind to stay in bed until (at least) the first rays of sunlight break through closed eyelids. For me, there is a much more powerful urge to harvest a great ram. Thus, well before sunrise, my watch began beeping, raising us all quickly out of the comfort of our sleeping bags. Before long, the stove was fired up, and we had broken the thin sheet of ice that formed over our water source. It might be the height of summer in the Yukon, but down clothing, a warm hat and long underwear were as necessary as on the darkest winter day.

The Plan

My plan was to head up to the top of the plateau and sweep my way down to where we had last seen the rams. We came across the ewes and lambs and had to stay out of their way. They were moving over the top of the plateau into an opposing basin, and my initial worry was that the rams had preceded them or were somehow mixed in with them. Despite our early start, the sheep were not lazing about. They were up and moving before first light: a good lesson for your next hunt. Don’t expect your game to be staying in their beds for long.

Still up high, I was glassing every square foot of the plateau in search of the ram. Finally, I found him feeding far below. Now it was Go Time! It’s my style to move as quickly as possible once I know where I need to be. As I began to drop towards the ram, I made double-time. The goal here is to reduce the time spent out of sight as much as possible, reducing the possibility that the ram will feed off in an unanticipated direction. The risk is that I will come over a rise and be spotted by the ram before I see him. Thus, it’s a balance between moving quickly and being very cognisant of sightlines that appear as one moves across the country.

The Stalk is On

As it turned out, the ram did not spot me before I saw him. Belly crawling to a slight rise, I stayed prone and set the rifle up on my bipod. I was about 200 yards from him and was set to wait for him to stand up. As it turned out, the commotion of three men in close proximity drew his attention. While he did not know who or what was close by, he did know that something was going on. He stood up in a relaxed fashion to gain a better view, presenting me with a great shot opportunity. That was all I needed, and I took the shot.



As I held the ram, the months of anticipation and the incredible adventure of this hunt, as well as the realization of my dream to move under human power to harvest a mountain animal, all hit me. As hunters know the feeling of time standing still, of all the worries of life falling away, and the power of these moments. While it wouldn’t be long before my pack was heavy and the steep descent off the mountain would be calling for more grit, I always take my time to soak in the moments after the harvest.

Adventure is the Goal

The final stage of the adventure was to call in our airdrop of rafts. The packraft is an incredible tool that provides astonishing access in a tiny package. Packrafts are also fun—we’ve always got big smiles when transitioning off our tired feet to these boats. A friend flew my Piper PA-18 SuperCub to our location. We found a good opening where he could easily see us and where we could easily retrieve the packages. With the Super Cub flying low and slow, the packages were released, and we were on our way.

Adventures like this are why mountain hunting is part of who I am. I begin planning these trips each winter, finding good locations, figuring out not only how to find a good ram, but how to build a good adventure. While I am in search of a trophy, I think this hunt clarifies that I am not looking for the easy path. The hard road is where I find satisfaction and meaning.

Gear Used