Mike Prescott, of Missoula, recently drew a ewe tag for the Rock Creek drainage and he had a pretty interesting adventure during his successful ewe hunt!
I drew a ewe tag for the rock creek drainage and started knocking on doors in late August. The sheep in the area travel the rock slides often feeding on the small private acreages in the valley. Landowners from both extremes who really want to protect the sheep and others who want them to be hunted live in the area. After securing permission on four properties, and gaining access points to some forest service land, I began hunting with my longbow first.
You never seem to get level shot opportunities while chasing sheep around the vertical rock slides. They seemed to either be straight above or below you. My practice sessions over the summer hadn’t included these extreme angles and I blew up several wood arrows from my traditional bow. I was very close, but had missed just high or narrowly missed low. A friend had even videotaped several misses to make me feel worse. All this action had occurred on just my first hunt. I realized the animals are certainly aware of your presence on the noisy rock slides, but will let you get to a certain distance before scampering up the mountain.
After regaining myself a few days later, I once again took my long bow and headed for Rock creek for my second hunt. I didn’t locate any sheep right away but soon found a small band bedded high in the middle of a rock slide again. I drove down to a good parking area and started side hilling the steep face to hopefully get in position for a shot. This time, I was able to approach the edge of the rock slide without detection but still out of range. I would have to expose myself and move their way without moving directly at them.
This actually worked, and I found myself about 35 yards from the largest ewe. They were on their feet now, and starting to move away. Quickly, I drew, picked a spot and released what I thought was a perfect arc. I quickly saw a puff of hair blow off the top of the back as the arrow harmlessly sailed high once again. I let the alarmed sheep move up the mountain and out of sight and spent the next 3 hours trying to move in again for another try.
My respect for them was growing as they led me up and over and around treacherous cliffs. I thought the band was further ahead as I moved around a 50 foot granite cliff. As I peeked around the corner, a mature ewe was looking back over her shoulder at 15 yards. I didn’t have enough room to draw my bow and cant it over unless I backed my heels over the edge of the cliff. I tried not to think about or look down behind me as I inched backward. While raising my bow, the ewe wheeled and ran to catch up to the rest of the band. Darn, I had just blown a couple more opportunities and knew I would be making trip number 3 as I slid down the mountain back to my vehicle.
A few days later, once again I made the drive to Rock Creek to hopefully get another chance to fill my tag. I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to use my rifle. I enjoyed getting that close to the sheep herd. I did however, decide to bring my compound bow and range finder to verify the distance of any shots I would be taking . Right away, I located two sheep in the valley that were feeding on private land closed to hunting. After glassing them, I looked across the road and started scanning the rock slides.
I quickly spotted a lone ewe that was also watching the feeding sheep below her. I was able to park my vehicle once again and begin a half mile hike to approach from below her in the rock slide. This time, I had two perfectly placed pine trees blocking her view, allowing me to close the distance to 25 yards. She spotted me as I peeked around the tree and stood up broadside. I had already verified the distance and slowly inched my bow back to anchor. The arrow launched as I squeezed the release, and in an instant, I watched the arrow strike her about 8 inches behind the shoulder.
At the shot, she took off up the mountain around a steep corner and the feeding sheep across the road spooked as well. They also came flying up the mountain to safety in the steep cliffs. I had a good blood trail the whole way but was worried as she turned after a couple hundred yards and headed straight down hill. I was checking my Montana GPS chip, hoping she wouldn’t cross onto private land. Finally, after crawling over a large boulder, I spotted her expired at the base of the rock slide. Thankfully, she had fallen 20 yards from the property boundary on forest service land.
Now, I had a choice: Do I quarter the meat and pack her back over the peaks to my vehicle? Or do I try and find the landowner and ask permission to make a short drag on level ground. The GPS chip saved me again, allowing me to verify the landowner and obtain permission. The landowner, Dan, even helped me drag her back to my vehicle and tried a piece of the tasty meat. Great hunt for a very unique animal! The odd are very low for any of us to draw a ram tag, however, if you’d like to try sheep hunting, don’t disregard the ewe hunting opportunities. Your odds of success are much higher.