My quest for a Stone Sheep or Fannin Sheep as they’re often called in the Yukon began with a last minute cancellation hunt in August. It was my Birthday the day I got the call from Jim and Adrienne Fink, owners of Blackstone Outfitters, and I couldn’t believe that I was going stone sheep hunting in less than 3 weeks! I lived on the stair climber all day, everyday, trying to get as prepared as possible for what I knew would be a grueling hunt. Unfortunately, my hunt went the full 10 days with more rams spotted than I could keep track of, but unfortunately never resulted in me getting a shot at a legal ram. Jim and Adrienne recognized the hard work and friendship I had made with their middle son Warren Fink and plans were quickly made to get me back up to the Yukon for another shot at getting my ram.
As I arrived in base camp Warren and I were quick to gather our gear and get flown out to spike camp. After a solid full day’s hike we were finally into sheep country and where we wanted to set up base camp. The anticipation of being in the mountains on the evening before sheep opener is nothing short of epic. I had a lot of time and money invested into this hunt and was ready to make this hunt count. Our first morning, we were able to get on a band of 23 rams with several nice shooters in the group. As we cautiously approached the rams they began to feed and allowed warren and I to close in on what we thought would be less than 200 yards. Little did we know we were actually less than 30 feet from the rams. We had no idea that when they were out of sight they changed direction and began feeding toward us. As we both rounded the corner the sheep were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. The rams quickly bailed off some very steeps cliffs and ran clear across the range and out of sight before we could do anything. A first day ram wasn’t to be.
Excited about our encounter and ready to go for more we headed back down to base camp and inhaled some mountain house and went to bed. The second day we walked up another drainage and found a large ram. Unfortunately it was a winter kill. After covering lots of ground that day we decided that we would pack up camp on day 3 and move farther up the drainage into the back basin area. While this meant getting into new country, it also put us further from the airstrip where we would be picked up. After a long hike to the back of the bowl we were getting ready to setup camp when I spotted a large, lone ram far above us in some large rock benches. Warren quickly said, “That’s a shooter. Drop your pack let’s go!!” With emotion running high I somehow mustered up enough energy to make the steep climb towards the ram. The ram was walking away from us and we knew we had to move fast to get up to the third bench so we could be above him. As we worked up to the third bench all of the emotions of last year’s climbs and stalks flooded my mind. Was this going to finally be my shot? As we reached the third bench and began to walk slowly and quietly, we though we were now above the ram. As it turned out we were not only above him, but actually ahead of him. When I stopped for a quick breath something told me to turn around. Turning, I was saw I was 40 yards and eye to eye with a huge 10.5 year old ram! As happened the first day he bolted immediately. Warren and I made a mad dash to a small bench overlooking a large drainage where we were blocked by a cliff and could go no further. With the ram running below us we figured this would end like day one. Despite that, I got behind my rifle and found the running ram in my scope. When the ram stopped for a second on a large rock outcropping and gave us a look back I touched off a 325 yard shot across the drainage and watched my ram drop to the ground. I completely lost my mind and with tears flowing we celebrated the culmination of a Stone Sheep hunt that was two years and thirteen days in the making. I couldn’t believe it was over. Warren and I worked extremely hard for this ram, and it was that much more special to share it with him knowing how hard we worked the first trip.
After taking a great ram on day 3 were able to saddle up some horses on day 6 and ride out from base camp for a day hunt and as luck would have it, we came back after midnight with a great Alaska-Yukon Barren ground caribou and another matching set of winter killed sheep horns. We spotted this caribou bedded up high in a saddle and when we came over the top of the mountain the caribou was still there. He jumped up and an easy 10 yard shot was made and we had our caribou. It was the perfect ending to an amazing two year adventure.
By Brian Smith