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The Orocopia Hammer

by Michael Silliman
The Huntin' Fool - May 2012

Michael Silliman 2012 Huntin' Fool ArticleEverybody knows that if your application isn't in by a given date, you don't get a preference point for that, year, so I send my application in early. A couple of years ago, I got my application back from the post office the day after the deadline- no point that year. Without max points for sheep in California you might as well have none, so I began applying for units with only one tag. I figured that the max point guys would apply for multi -tag units to get a preference draw plus a chance at a random draw. That strategy worked!

I knew nothing about the Orocopias, which was the zone I applied for and had finally drew my tag in, but hey, I could do this! I began making phone calls for information about my unit. Every question I asked seemed to go unanswered. Spot kill maps, none. Guzzler locations, nothing. I couldn't believe it. I certainly wasn't going to ask the outfitters that were phoning me, offering guide service, for free information. Their knowledge is their livelihood.

In September I decided to make a short scouting trip to my zone in Southern California. The area looked very rugged but didn't seem that large. Also, access was confusing because of multiple agency jurisdictions. I made a call to Dry Creek Outfitters and had a great conversation with Tim Mercier. My issue with access was resolved. I thought, I can do this.

My hunt was 2 months long. Work is slow in the winter so I figured I could go for a week, work a week, go again, and I could do that for 2 months. My brother could also help, but not for my first trip. Oh by the way, did I mention that it's a wilderness area? No vehicle travel allowed.

Opening day I was up before daylight and hiked into the center of the zone. Two hours later, I couldn't believe it- rams! There were three in total, two small and one marginally legal. I told myself that I could do better than that. I could always come back. So I continued through the zone and out the other side. During the next week of hunting, I didn't see another sheep! I was disappointed.

After returning home I began thinking that I could sure use more help and information in making this a successful hunt. I really liked Tim and Cliff of Dry Creek Outfitters so I thought I would ask them for help. They had a reasonably priced "consult hunt" opportunity which included two days in the field with a guide introducing a hunter to their unit and valuable information about their hunt zone including maps, guzzler locations, etc.

I'd been talking to Cliff St. Martin (aka Partner) on the phone for months, so when I called again to ask for help it wasn't hard for him to talk me into raising the ante for a really good sheep and the fullĀ·on camp-the whole "shebang."

"Ok, sign me up, let's do it," I said. Dry Creek Outfitters is a great group of guys-Tim Mercier, Cliff St. Martin, Grover Dobyns, and subs, Troy Scott and Jason Lyman. Also friends, Jim Mcisaac, and Corbin Glazier were along for the fun.

I've got to admit, I got choked up when I saw camp with the American Flag flying in the wind. It was really hard to believe this was all for one hunter.

Everybody was in camp when I arrived. They soon showed me photos of a ram they had seen and nicknamed "Desert Hammer." He looked amazing! The winds were upward of 40 mph during that evening's hunt and we didn't see any 1 sheep, but we were confident they were there, somewhere.

I've got to admit, at 60 years old (just turned) and 240 pounds, this little fat boy was twice as slow as those guys. I could go all week at my speed, but I'd only last about 1 1/2 days at their speed. Now I was wondering if I could do this.

We sat around camp that evening and discussed the plans for the next morning's hunt. We filled up on Grover's delicious pot roast dinner, and then I hit the sleeping bag for an early morning wake-up. The next morning we headed up the ridge and out the top with Cliff and Troy ahead and Tim and me playing catch-up. The other guys were over on other parts of the mountain. An exhausting 2 1 /2 miles later we saw three rams up and over the top, out of the wind, feeding and lying in the sun. It was the same group the guys had located before I arrived. One ram was bigger than the rest but had a broken horn, maybe 160+, and .... oh my! I haven't seen many rams but that had to be the prettiest sheep I'd ever see and he was about 400 yards from us!

Cliff and I went off the backside of the mountain and around to a point we figured would get us within 200 yards. When we got there, only two rams were visible. The one we wanted was in the ditch, out of sight. After what seemed like forever but might have only been 10 minutes, the ram came into view only to lie down. We got set and waited for him to stand. After waiting about 30 minutes, he finally stood up but his head and horns were in the way of a clear shot. We waited until he finally lifted his head, and I squeezed the trigger. I hit him hard, but he didn't fall. Then the ram turned 180 degrees and Cliff said, "Hit him again." I did and he went down! Cliff told me to stay on him and if he got up, to hit him again.

We watched the other two rams gather up and stand around for a moment before leaving over the ridge. It was quite a sight with the Salton Sea in the background. Cliff stood up and smiled ear to ear, "You did it!" I could hear cheers of joy in the distance but I couldn't tell who it was or where it was coming from. Whatever or wherever, it was loud!

We walked up to the ram from behind and I was amazed at the thickness of his horns at the bases. Around to the front and...oh my...the way he fell! I thought he was on a shelf, yeah, a 45 degree shelf! One more step and he would have been 300 yeards down into the abyss.

We sat and admired the ram until the rest of the crew arrived. We took a lot of pictures prior to "my guys" capping and quartering the magnificent ram.

I'm only sorry that I didn't get a picture of "my guys" carring my sheep out the ridge ahead of me. It was an incredible sight that I will never forget. When I got back to the truck, they had a cold drink waiting for me. Smiling, I said, "I did my part.....there's nobody left on the mountain."

My sheep was later measured at 177 3/8" with 16 2/8" bases by the Fish and Game Department and was the largest ram to be taken during the season in California. My thanks again go out to all the guys with Dry Creek Outfitters for their effort on this hunt.

Hey, I can do this....but together, we can do it better!

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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.

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