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Sweet Sixteen in the Sheep Holes

by Jack Dunn, III and Jacob Dunn
Califonia Wild Sheep - Spring 2013


CWS-Dunn-150

Having been raised by an avid hunter, I have taken much pleasure in passing on my passion (obsession) and
love for the outdoors to my two sons. Since they both are a few years behind in the maximum point categories
for each California big game animal, we carefully selected zones and units with the best random draw odds.

I carefully followed the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) website over the next few weeks,
anxiously awaiting the posting of the draw results.

Finally, the moment of truth had arrived. I anxiously checked my results and learned that I had drawn a Premium X Zone Deer Tag. A quick fist pump in celebration, and I proceeded to check each of my son's draw results. My older son had been dealt a four-of-a-kind "No" across the board. No worries. Nothing an over-the-counter A Zone tag wouldn't cure. Expecting my I6-year-old, Jacob, to have the same poker hand, I noticed a "Yes" in one category. I sat there in complete silence while starring at the computer screen in disbelief. Jacob - in his first year eligible to put in for a bighorn sheep - had just drawn one of the two Sheep Holes tags. I jumped up and ran to his room to share the great news. He must have thought I was crazy as I jumped up and down with excitement. He calmly said "Wow," with an ear-to-ear grin. I don't think he truly realized the magnitude of drawing one of the most coveted tags in North America, but then again, he's only I6.

Over the next few days, I continued to log onto the CDFG website, believing that it may have been a typo. A few days later, Jacob received the successful drawing notice in the mail and the reality finally set in.

Knowing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both of us, I began to research outfitters specializing in California desert bighorn sheep. After many conversations with Tim Mercier and Cliff St. Martin of Dry Creek Outfitters, we booked our hunt with them to guide us in the Sheep Holes. I learned that the Sheep Holes was a tough unit and that it didn't hold the numbers of sheep that other units held. Nevertheless, Tim and Cliff have established a proven record of harvesting great rams from within the unit on a consistent basis.

In preparation for the hunt, Jacob practiced with his Remington Model 700 .270 Winchester, anticipating a 200 plus yard shot and kept in shape while playing high
school football.

As the hunt neared, we attended the mandatory Sheep Hunter Clinic hosted by The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep sponsored by the California Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation held at the CDFG office in Ontario, California. We listened to various guest speakers and gained a great respect for these organizations and for all the hard work they have done to preserve California sheep and provide the opportunity for hunters to harvest such magnificent animals.

Just after Thanksgiving, Tim called to advise us that he and the crew were off to the Sheep Holes to set up camp and begin scouting for our hunt.

A day or so later, Cliff sent a text message, revealing that they had located two good rams. I immediately told Jacob, and we were both overcome with excitement.

On November 30 we headed out on our seven-hour journey to the Sheep Holes for the December I opener. We arrived in camp late afternoon and were amazed at the Holiday Inn-like setting. Tim and Cliff introduced us to the rest of the crew: Grover, Shawn, Brooks, Jason and Doyle. That evening we all sat down to a delicious pot roast dinner prepared by Grover and discussed the morning game plan. Cliff told us that the two rams they had been watching for the past few days had moved off to the backside of the mountain range and that we would be going after them in the morning. Cliff believed one ram was a shooter, possibly a ISO class ram. A great ram for the unit.

After tossing and turning most of the night in anticipation for the morning, we awakened and set out after the ram. At first light, Shawn and Brooks picked up
the two rams on the mountain range, and we set off to close the distance. Not an easy task as the trek consisted of a four-mile walk to the base of the mountains with very little cover, not to mention patches of unstable desert floor, which gave way as we walked over it much like unstable snow burying your ankles. I looked over at jacob, who had an ear-to-ear grin as he whispered, "I'm pumped." About two miles into the stalk, Tim said the rams appeared to be looking in our direction and may have spotted us. We hunkered down in a wash and decided to let jacob and Cliff make the rest of the stalk alone to minimize the chance of being detected. I reminded jacob to use good hunter safety and gave him a few words of encouragement. He downed a fig newton, took a couple swigs of Gatorade, and he and Cliff were off.

Tim and I remained, glassing the rams, which had bedded down on the boulders halfway up the mountain range. I have to admit I was a little nervous, hoping that
they would get the opportunity at the larger ram. Tim and I glassed for what felt like an eternity at the bedded rams, while Jacob and Cliff closed the distance. Tim told me that once in position, they would wait for the ram to stand up and present a shot opportunity. He did, however, tell me that they have watched rams bed down for uP to several hours. I sat there and admired the beauty of the desert as a tarantula crawled past us just out of arms reach. We quietly conversed about our families and previous hunting experiences as we looked on. Once Jacob and Cliff reached the base of the mountain range, they skirted in and out rock coves, systematically making their way toward the rams. I watched them disappear as they blended into the backdrop of the mountains. My eyes began to water as I tried to make them out and my arms began to tremble while holding my binoculars up to my face. I looked up to clear my vision and stretch out my sore arms. Tim then said, "The ram is up, something's about to happen." I immediately looked through my binoculars, frantically trying to pick up the rams where I had last seen them. I picked up movement and saw a ram run downward a few steps and immediately fall over followed by the echo of a gunshot. Then I heard over the radio the words that I will never forget, "Ram down!" I laid back and looked up at the sky as chills ran though my body. I stood up and hugged Tim. We highfived and began our walk toward the mountain range. We covered the remaining two miles quickly and met up with the rest of the crew at jacob's ram.

Upon reaching the base of the mountain, we could see the smaller. ram on the ridge top against the skyline looking down at us. What a beautiful sight and majestic
looking animal. I could see jacob halfway up the mountain kneeling at his ram. I climbed up boulders and shale to get to him and gained a quick respect for the
unforgiving terrain. The look on his face and the sight of his ram will be etched into my memory for a lifetime.

jacob said once in position he could only see the smaller ram. He climbed onto a rock and tried to get a rest with his rifle in preparation for the shot, to no avail. Then all of a sudden the larger ram came into view as it jumped up and ran toward him, presenting only a frontal shot. Cliff believed the wind must have swirled and the ram picked up their scent. jacob felt the ram, which stood only 93 yards from him, was about to bust out of there and steadied his offhand aim touching off 130 grains of lead striking the ram's chest. The ram folded... and Jacob had just harvested a great desert bighorn sheep at the sweet age of 16.

After a lengthy photo session filled with smiles, the crew boned out the ram and we packed it out back across the desert floor to the truck. We reached the truck and learned the hunt had lasted 10 1/2 hours with a stalk of 6 hours and 45 minutes. Jacob had covered over 8 1/2 miles on foot. Back at camp over some of Grover's tasty grilled chicken, we reminisced on the hunt-of-a-lifetime with a lot of laughs and smiles.

I want to thank Tim, Cliff and all of the crew of Dry Creek Outfitters for making this truly an amazing oncein-a-lifetime experience that I was able to share with my son, jacob.

Who We Are

Dry Creek Outfitters is a professional hunting guide and outfitting service. We specialize in Trophy Desert Bighorn Sheep hunts in Arizona, California, and Utah. We also offer hunts for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Javelina. We are fully licensed, bonded, insured, and permitted.

We have a full time team of professional, knowledgeable guides. Please take a few minutes to look over the information we have provided for you. We think it will substantiate the professional and dependable guide service we have to offer. We sincerely hope that you will consider using Dry Creek Outfitters to assist you in making your hunt truly a HUNT OF A LIFETIME.

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