Dry Creek Outfitters Logo

A Beginner's Tale

by Bob Totah and Cliff St. Martin
California Wild Sheep - Summer 2012

2012-california-wild-sheep-article-photo-totah

It was like a dream come true and lucky for me. My name is Bob Totah and I am a Police Officer in San Francisco. For the past seven years I have been applying for desert sheep, elk and antelope hunts here in California. I got drawn for desert bighorn sheep in 2011. I couldn't believe it, and I thought it must have been a mistake. I went online, which was tough for me, and I called Regina Abella from DFG and confirmed that I had been drawn. My girlfriend said that the smile on my face was the biggest she had ever seen. I immediately set out to find out about the area I would be hunting and trying to hire an outfitter since I did not know the area.

I called a friend, Wally Johnson, who is a fishing guide in the Marble Mountains in Northern California, which is where I thought the Marble/Clipper Mountains were. Wally told me that he did not know of any Clipper Mountains up north and then looked in the DFG manual for the location. He told me they were in San Bernardino County. I said, “San Bernardino!!!” I hung up and thought to myself, Who do I know down there? I remember looking at the DFG magazine that they put out every year and seeing an ad for Dry Creek Outfitters and a guy with a huge handlebar moustache. Just looking at their ad and photos in the magazine was enough for me. I called them and talked with Tim Mercier. I liked what I heard about their operation, and he told me that I was the first to call and would have the first choice of dates. I asked him what he thought were the best dates and I booked January 4, 2012 to January 18, 2012. I figured I would do the 14-day hunt in case we had a hard time finding sheep. This turned out to be untrue, as we saw rams everyday. I liked what Tim had to say and how he said it. I also talked to his partner Cliff St. Martin, who also was a really nice guy. I booked my hunt with Dry Creek Outfitters and then I waited.

I got to camp after the New Year and found everyone upbeat and jovial. I was very impressed by their well maintained camp. I met the crew and I will list them with their nicknames as follows: Tim Mercier (Cowboy), Cliff St. Martin (Partner), Grover Dobyns (Watchdog), Brooks Stiltz (Dixie), Sean Lindey (Alabama), Clay Gibert (Mojave), and Jason Lyman (Jay Bird). Tom Binder, who is one of my good friends from Idaho, accompanied me on the hunt as well. We set up our gear and settled in for the evening meal and prayer, because as I believe and I found out, we are not going to kill a ram without the grace of God with us. We said grace every night, and I thank God we did because as you will see, it worked out in the end. As most of us outdoorsmen know, I would rather be lucky than good and anyone that I can call onto my team that can help me, I'll do it.

Finally our first day of hunting arrived. We got up early and had breakfast, packed our lunch and still left camp well before daylight. Grover greeted us each morning with a warm mess tent, good food and a big smile on his face to send us off for the day. I felt more confident with my Tikka T3 300 Win. Mag. than my Browning 7mm, so I carried the 300 Win Mag with Federals 180 gr. Barnes Triple Shock bullets, which proved devastating in the end. We hunted the Marble Mountains the first day and saw two nice rams — one chocolate and one gray. We felt we deserved a better look, so Cliff, Tom and I et out on a four-hour stalk. We got to within 300 yards of the rams and I was ready to shoot. They were both magnificent animals. Cliff told me he thought they would score in the low 160s to the mid-160s and would not get me into the record book. I told him that I could shoot either of these animals and be very happy. It didn't matter that it was the first day. Cliff again advised me that we could do better. He convinced me to hold off on the shot and that we would "bank" these rams. Apparently they do not move too much during this time of the season. I grudgingly agreed to do it and we set off back to the trucks, but boy was I excited.

The following day we glassed a different area of the Marbles and "Alabama" found another huge ram. This was a big-bodied gray ram that Cliff again thought would score in the mid-160s and that we should "bank" as well.
We saw more rams and ewes at this location than any other. It was another good day and we did a lot of glassing. What I liked about these guys is that they were patient and didn't just go hiking looking for the rams, but rather "spot and stalked” them. This is a good technique for someone who is not in that great of shape, like me, because you can preserve your energy and save yourself for the full 14 days and the eventual shot.

On day three we planned on hiking the backside of the Marbles, a place called the Blue Mountains. We had already glassed this area from the front side. This would be a 10-mile hike. It was long but not too steep, and I could do it. We did not see many sheep there, but it was some beautiful country. This is another aspect of these guys — they teach you about the country, hazards, fauna and flora, and God's great creations along the way. Not only are they nice guys, but good conversationalists. They are interested in what you have to say, even if you don't know what you’re talking about. They understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt and the old saying applies, "The only dumb question is the one you don't ask." I learned a lot. We found an old Sheep Guides campsite called Suds Camp. It was an area with a fire pit and some groomed sand where tents could have been set up. It was really cool because it was a taste of the past, and I like history. I kept thinking to myself about how the miners and travelers survived out here. I could see that they could hunt for food, but there wasn't much water. It was a great day and I saw a lot of stuff. During these hunts "Cowboy" would send the others out to search for rams, so "Alabama" and "Dixie" were our legs and they hiked miles to find me my ram. I can't thank them enough, and in the end you'll see that this was a good strategy.

The next day I was tired from the 10-mile hike the day before, so "Partner" set me and my buddy Tom up in an area to glass. It was an area that you could view a lot of country. I was so glad I hired an outfitter because just to find these rams was an effort. I had borrowed my friends Swarovski 20 x 60 spotting scope and I was glad I did. I needed all the help I could get. While we glassed from below, “Partner” and “Alabama” penetrated the mountain from different angles above. They located two old rams running together. Both rams were each missing a horn on one side. If not for a missing horn, each would have been a ram for the books. On the way out "Partner" saw tracks of a large ram walking east off the mountain range, so we planned on following that up the next day.

The following morning greeted us with a cold north wind. Well before daylight we drove to a spot on the protected side of the mountain. Immediately “Dixie” spotted rams from the truck. These rams were a few miles out and we needed a closer look. After working our way closer we could see 10 rams in all. Three of the rams were significant enough to pursue and we began our stalk. “Mojave," “Dixie,” “Alabama,” and “Jaybird” separated to strategic points on the mountain while Tom and I followed “Cowboy” and “Partner” up the mountain toward the rams. It was kind of eerie because all of these guys looked at me and said, “See ya at the ram, Bob,” like they knew something significant was going to happen. By the time we got within 350 yards, the wind had picked up considerably. We needed to get closer. At this point, we could only see two rams. The rest were below in the wash. We began our final stalk just below a ridgeline. At that point the two rams began to move uphill in our direction. Cliff and I froze as I set up for a shot where we figured the rams would cross. Just seconds later Cliff said, "It's the first one. Shoot him!" So here it comes down to a fast and furious ending. I had already chambered a round into the barrel but still had the safety on when I decided to pull the trigger. Same old mistake! Thank God the ram was still there when I got the shot off and dropped him with one shot at 100 yards!! I couldn't have been happier.

I must tell you that prior to the final stalk when Cliff and Tim were deciding which ram for me to shoot, I sat there on the mountain with the wind howling, praying to God for a clean kill and a successful outcome. I'm glad I did and I will never be ashamed to pray to God anywhere in this world.

After a round of high-fives and a lot of photos, we rough scored my ram at 170+ inches. A record book ram if it would hold up to the 60-day drying period required by Boone and Crockett. The hardest hike of the trip was the hike down the mountain and back to the truck, but it was also the most rewarding because I knew the hunt was over and success was on my back. We made all the appropriate calls to line up the meeting with Andy Pauli fromDFG for the official paperwork the next day, and we completed the tag I had in hand. That night the evening prayer was the most powerful I had ever experienced, and I thanked everyone on the team for their efforts in helping me.

After breakfast the next morning we broke camp. My friend Tom set out for Idaho, and I set out to meet Andy Pauli near Victorville for the official documentation. Andy scored the ram at 172 5/8! I couldn't believe it! I immediately called "Partner" and told him, and I could here everyone yelling back at camp. I then drove the head and cape to the taxidermist in Visalia and then home for the end of the day.

I can't help but to recommend Dry Creek Outfitters for anyone's hunt. They will give you all they can, and they won't stop until they have given it their all. They told me that if we didn't see anything I wanted to shoot after the 14th day, that they would stay longer to help me get my ram. How many outfitters would do that? Thanks again and thank you Lord.

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.

Copyright © 2017 Dry Creek Outifitters. All Rights Reserved.