Stone Sheep Hunting – Following in the footsteps of Jack O’Connor
Stone Sheep Hunting in British Columbia and the Yukon…Are you ready to follow in Jack’s Footsteps!
Stone Sheep hunting is a spiritual experience. Seeing the amazing places that God has made and the even more amazing animals that call those places home. Not everyone will be able to experience one of these hunts. But, you can get a glimpse of how it speaks to people if you go back and read some of Jack O’Connor’s writings, as no one captures the essence of Stone Sheep Hunting better.
Jack O’Connor is a legend, especially when it comes to Stone Sheep hunting and being able to capture the true experience of a Stone Sheep hunt in words. He lived the last 30+ years of his life near me, in Lewiston Idaho, so in a way he is kind of my home town hero. Even though he died when I was young, I loved reading his books and old articles (especially on sheep hunting), as he was a gifted writer who had a way with his words to make you feel just like you were right there with him.
Jack was first and foremost an outdoorsman, but he was also an English professor. This led to him combing his two passions and a history of prolific writings on everything from firearms to wildlife history and hunting. One of his greatest passions was Stone Sheep hunting. He loved pursuing Stone Sheep not because of the trophy he might come home with, but for the sheer experience of it. He was passionate about the country wild sheep call home and the adventures you experience simply by being there.
Having had the opportunity to hunt Stone Sheep and Dall Sheep as well as guide on a number of sheep hunts, I couldn’t agree more. I have been blessed to experience the far north of the Yukon, the heat and beautiful harshness of the Mojave Desert and the vast expanses of Kyrgyzstan chasing these amazing animals.
But, to this day Ovis dalli stonei, remains my absolute favorite sheep to pursue and British Columbia and the Southern Yukon are two of my favorite places to pursue them. Ovis dalli stonei, otherwsie known as Stone Sheep are challenging and expensive to pursue as they are only found in Northern British Columbia and parts of the Yukon. They live in vast, rugged and wild places, so getting to them is no easy task, let alone finding a mature ram. In fact I have heard it said a few times, that when you look at the country they live in you have to have the courage to laugh, otherwise you will cry. I would say that is a pretty fitting way to put it.
A mature Stone Sheep Ram will weigh between 180-250 pounds. Most Stone Sheep rams will have horns in the 36-38″ range, but Trophy rams can have an awesome full curl headset over 40 inches. Stone Sheep are truly one of the most majestic and beautiful animals on the planet both for how they look, but also for the country they call home.
Stone Sheep Hunting is not for the faint of heart. Yet, it is the very challenge of hunting them makes Stone Sheep one of the most desired trophies in North America. Their greyish blue bodies and white heads create a striking appearance that you are not soon to forget. My favorite thing about hunting Stone Sheep, is the areas I get to spend time in while pursuing them. British Columbia and the Yukon are places you have to experience, they have some of the most epic scenery you will ever experience. I still find myself daydreaming about the time I have been blessed to spend in those areas. To date I have been able to spend over 30 days in the mountains of the Yukon and British Columbia and would not trade those memories for anything. The land is prehistoric, immense and totally un-populated by people. When you are hunting these mountains, you will get a real feel for what it must have been like for the early frontier settlers and mountain men. Those hardy souls who punched trails in, explored the unexplored and survived with nothing more than their wits, their determination and a trusty gun, bow and trapline.
Stone Sheep hunting is extremely physical, but I am excited to be working with several great outfitters out of Dease Lake, Smithers and Whitehorse. These guys have the ability to cater to a variety of hunters. Two of them utilize horses, while the other one relies on planes and argos. So that means I have hunt options for almost any sheep hunter. If you are older, have bad knees, or maybe aren’t in hardcore backpack sheep hunting shape, I have an outfitter who can still get you on a great ram. Or, if you are in tip top shape and want to go on a hardcore pack hunt for a big ram, I have an Outfitter where we can set that up as well.
The Outfitters I work with have “been running 95%+ on shot opportunity for hunters for the last 5 years. So, if you are going to invest some substantial cash on a Stone Sheep hunt, make sure to go with someone who is going to put you on the sheep. The trophy quality in these areas is excellent with typical rams averaging 37” x 14”. Not to mention depending on who and when we schedule your adventure, you have the opportunity to add in Mountain Goat, Moose, Grizzly or Mountain Caribou on trophy fees.
If you elect to do one of the horseback hunts I have two words for you “saddle up”. The more time you can spend in the saddle prior to your hunt the better. Even though going on horseback saves your legs for the moment of truth, it can still wear your butt, hips and knees out. If you elect to do one of the back pack hunts, wear your pack as much as you can with about 45-50lbs in it. Wear it while you mow the yard, go for walks, climb stairs, etc., the more time you put in walking and climbing with your pack the more enjoyable and successful your Stone Sheep hunt will be.
You will also want to make sure you get lots of practice shooting up and down hill on steep angles. This applies to both rifle and archery hunters. You owe it to the animal and yourself to put the time in so you are prepared for the terrain and the opportunity for that shot of a lifetime.
This amazing photo by Tony Bynum, speaks to my soul as it represents all that makes sheep hunting so special. (check out more of his amazing work at www.tonybynum.com
So let me ask you this, does this quote from Jack O’Connor describe you? “Sheep Hunters are Romantics, who love high places and solitude. To them the wild ram embodies the mystery and magic of the mountains, the rocky canyons, the snowy peaks, the fragrant alpine meadows, the gray slide rock, the icy dancing rills fed by snowbank and glacier, the sweet clean air of the high places, and the sense of being alone on the top of the world with the eagles, the marmots, and the wild sheep themselves. The sheep hunter is willing to climb until his lungs are bursting, to walk until his legs are dead and weary, to grow hungry and thirsty for great rewards. There is no half way.” (Jack O’Connor)
This quote speaks to me every time I read it. It connects with something primal in me, if it does the same for you, you just might be a sheep hunter. If you grew up reading Jack’s stories and have always dreamed of following in his footsteps; Stone Sheep hunting in the high and wild places may be just the hunt your soul needs.
Hunt hard and shoot straight