Saturday, September 18, 2021



I wish those pesky telemarketers who are so concerned about the extended warranty on my truck would offer me an extended warranty on my aging body. Every time I started trying to get into shape this summer one part or another gave out me. First, I got Planter fasciitis in both feet, then an old knee injury acted up, and finally one of four vertebrae in my neck damaged from a head-on collision at highway speeds slipped out of whack. But with a lot of PT and traction and a $100 knee brace I still managed to hobble slowly up into sheep country one more time and lost 14 pounds in the process.

 It ain't the top of the world, but you can see it from there.

Geetar and I had a great hunt in absolutely stunning wilderness country. The Absaroka-Bearooth Wilderness can’t be adequately described or photographed…you have to experience it for yourself. The weather was beautiful for the most part, the summer-long drift smoke had dispersed, no grizz were encountered, and we did see plenty of sheep almost very day.

Here’s a few lessons and observations I jotted down, for whatever they’re worth.


1.   Especially after a summer of drought and record heat waves, I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Beartooths pretty well blessed when it came to high altitude water sources. We had no trouble finding good water close to our camps and even came across a nice little spring way up on a ridge saddle at about 9,800 feet. The Crazy Mountains or even the south Gallatins in September aren’t near as generous with water up high.

2.   Old lessons for traveling cross-country stay the same. Avoid the timber…also known as blowdown…whenever there’s meadows or clearings to use. Avoid walking on rocks when there’s dirt slopes. Sidehill and switchback when it’s to steep to go straight up. Never give up altitude gained unless you absolutely must. Try to avoid stepping on your tongue while climbing that last real steep pitch to the top.

3.   Optics can make you or break you and ought to include binos and a spotter in sheep country. My spotter is an older Swarovski 20-60x AT 80 HD from the late 90’s and it’s kind of a pig at 18 inches and just shy of five pounds. But it’s so good and I can’t afford anything better so I always find a way to schlep it on every sheep and goat hunt. Most times 20-30x would probably be sufficient. Even with quality glass when you get up much beyond 40x, let alone 60x, the shimmer of heat mirage, even in the winter over snow, pretty much negates the additional magnification. But the jump from binos to spotter is the different between finding a ram and telling if he’s legal from a distance before you put in the mileage to go after him.

4.   Sheep are modest. No matter how long and hard you stare at a ram that’s just shy of being legal, he ain’t going to grow an extra quarter or 3/8-inch of horn while you’re watching him.

5.   The old Ranger joke still applies: Pack light, freeze at night.

6.   Even a summer-long Montana tan will still sun burn at 10,000 feet.

7.   Trekking pole, hiking staff, walking stick…give it whatever fancy name you want, I’ve come to refer to mine as simply the “crutch”.

8.   Patrick F. McManus’ definition of a rendezvous and how well it works in the Rocky Mountains remains as apt today as when he first wrote about it in A Fine and Pleasant Misery back in the 70’s. “Every hunter knows what a rendezvous is. That’s where one hunter says to another, ‘Al, you take that side of the draw and I’ll take this one and we’ll meet in twenty minutes at the top of the hill.’ The next time they see each other is at a PTA meeting five years later in Pocatello. That’s a rendezvous.”

9.   The Boulder River Road still sucks and has even gotten worse in the past year.

10.               I quit drinking in 2003, but if anyone could truly perfect a dehydrated beer I reckon I might be tempted off the wagon long about day six and somewhere around ten thousand feet.

11.                Speaking of great inventions, I must note that the US Army has yet to act upon my 1988 official request for the development and issue of “Self-Propelled Rucksacks”. Let’s get with it you R&D slackers!!! It’s been better than 30 years now!!!

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