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Golden Hammer

by Kurt Lanning
The Huntin' Fool - September 2013


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Prior to talking to Tim Mercier in late May of 2012 I had been applying for different units for 11 years. Then, after his recommendation, I put in for one particular zone instead. When the draws were posted online I was ecstatic when I saw that I had drawn the tag. I called Tim immediately to book a 14-day hunt with him.

For a long 6 months I waited for the hunt date with numerous calls back and forth to Tim and his partner, Cliff St. Martin, of Dry Creek Outfitters. I had also drawn a unit 221/222 early elk hunt in Nevada, which was to take place in November. With these two hunts booked my fall hunting was going to make for a very exciting hunting season for my wife, Mary Margaret, and myself, with high expectations for both hunts.

During my elk hunt in Nevada I injured my calf muscle. Even though I exercised daily, while trying to exercise my calf back to normal I was not able to get any air upon exertion. I could not walk 10' without gasping for air. Thinking I had an upper respiratory infection, I went to the doctor for antibiotics so I would be able to hike on my sheep hunt in a few weeks. After my wife told the doctor of the calf injury he ordered an ultrasound of my leg and discovered a clot in that calf, or a deep vein thrombosis, which in turn led to a life threatening pulmonary embolus (a blood clot in my lungs). I was immediately admitted into the hospital for 4 days, not knowing if I was going to be able to go on my once-in-a-lifetime sheep hunt, which was scheduled to take place in 3 weeks.

Once again I was on the phone with Tim, explaining the situation. Not knowing how I would be in 3 weeks, they were willing to delay my hunt dates, if need be. But, after returning to my exercise regimen immediately after discharge with my personal trainer (my wife), I felt recovered enough to stick to my original hunt dates.

Upon our arrival into sheep camp we were greeted by our fabulous camp cook, Grover "Watchdog." The first evening in sheep camp we met the other guide and spotters who would be assisting us in our adventure. Dixie, Sawyer, J-bird, and McDairy all helped make this a very memorable experience.

On the first morning out Cliff, Mary Margaret, and I hunted all day and turned up only two rams, with the largest being in the high 160's. When we returned to camp and compared notes with the others Dixie and Sawyer had found a ram that they felt warranted a closer look.

The next day, after locating the group of three rams, we moved within 500 yards to get a closer look. Cliff thought he would score between 168-170" and make the book. After I looked him over I felt he did not have the "wow" factor I was looking for and decided to pass. We hunted the rest of that day and 2 more days, only seeing some ewes and small rams.

After discussing day five's strategy we journeyed into the high peaks. When we topped out Cliff spotted four ewes across from us, about 1,000 yards away. Upon glassing for the ewes, about 150 yards below them, I spotted two rams. One ram looked exceptional on his left side, but not being able to see his right side he required a closer look. After sneaking up within 400 yards of the rams I felt that the big ram definitely had the "wow" factor we were looking for, even though I had not seen the right side yet.

Then Cliff informed me that the ram had a large chunk out of the right horn. Upon closer observation I saw that it was also broomed about 4" shorter than the left side. My gut instinct was to pass on this ram. Cliff questioned me about what I thought of this ram and whether or not the missing chunks were a "deal breaker." In the meantime the rams got out of their beds and started walking toward us. The larger ram stopped to pose every 25 yards on every large rock he came to. As they came closer we watched and I contemplated whether or not I wanted to harvest a ram with chunks missing. Cliff told me that this ram should score in the mid 170's, even with the missing chunks. Making sure not to persuade me one way or the other, both my wife and Cliff waited to see if I would harvest this magnificent ram.

Still undecided, we watched him majestically walk down the hill, posing in the sunlight on every large rock in his path, soaking up the last sunrays of the day. It was then that my mind was made up and I chambered a round. I looked up to see the smile on Cliff's face as I closed the bolt on my 308 Norma mag. With my wife and Cliff next to me, watching the ram through their binoculars, as well as Tim and the crew watching from 3 miles away, we all saw this massive brute go down with my 364 yard shot.

After moments of excitement and congratulations we gathered our gear and started toward him. We knew I had harvested a large ram, but when we approached him I could see that he was much bigger than we had thought. It had ground growth instead of ground shrinkage. We were in awe of this extraordinary animal. It was unbelievable! Being that it was getting close to dark, the decision was made to come back in the morning with the rest of the crew and take group photos, as well as pack the ram off the hill. Taking just a few quick photos and a few measurements, we field dressed the ram and started walking off the mountain, leaving the covered ram behind.

Unfortunately, on the trek out, I sprained my ankle, not once but twice. It was severe enough that Cliff had to pack out my backpack for me and I had to use both trekking poles to balance myself. It ended up being a 2-hour trip back to the truck in the dark as I hobbled off the rocky and rough terrain in severe pain. On the way out I was devastated as my wife and I realized that I would not be able to make it back up the mountain the next day to help with the pack out or to take group photos with my ram.

Tim accompanied us to have my ram scored by the Fish & Game. It scored at 180 4/8" with 16 6/8" bases and 40 3/8" on the long horn. This ram had the largest bases and the longest horn length ever scored in California. It was one of only two rams with a horn length over 40" in the state. It was aged at over 13 1 /2 years, which was the oldest ram harvested that season. If it had matching horn lengths and no chunks of sinusitis he would have gross scored right at 190" and would have been the new state record. He is truly the Clipper Mt. "Golden Hammer" of my dreams. Later he was officially green scored at 181 1 /8" gross by a Boone & Crockett scorer.

I still can't believe I was able to harvest such a special and magnificent animal. I want to thank my beautiful wife, Mary Margaret, for being at my side for the entire hunt and sharing in the memories. And thank you to the Dry Creek Outfitter crew. Their professionalism and compassion for sheep hunting, as well as the attention to every detail of the hunt, is a true statement of the kind of elite outfitters that they are. I will highly recommend their services to anyone on this type of a hunt-of-a-lifetime.

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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