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Mark Buchanan Completes Slam with CA Big Horn

TJ and I just returned from Southern British Columbia where we hunted with Darrel Schneider who owns Ashnola outfitters. I met Darrell several years ago at the Reno SCI convention when I was searching for an outfitter to hunt for Big horn sheep. Darrell would call me every year asking if I was ready to go, and one day he called at a weak moment and the dates were set. Coincidently this hunt fell on my 45th birthday. When Catherine asked what I wanted to do for my birthday I told her I wanted to complete my Grand Slam of sheep, so the pressure was on.

TJ and I spent a few nights prior to the hunt in Vancouver editing some upcoming videos. When we were not working we were sitting in bars building up our liver tolerance preparing ourselves for the Giardia and other waterborne illness that thrive high mountain streams. When we arrived in Pendicton I quickly learned Darrell was a hard working and knowledgeable guide. Darrell has 3500 square miles in his guide area, and he had hunted them all of his life. He has a nice base lodge where he runs his other hunts for Mountain lion, lynx, bear, deer and moose which keeps him hunting most of the year. The country is some of the most scenic I have hunted in, our camp was at 7000 feet. The mountains are not quite as rugged as what you find in northern BC or Alaska and the weather is milder than in the North. The Canadians refer to this area as the Arizona of BC.

I was hunting for the California Big horn which is a sub species of the Rocky mountain big horn. The Californian Big horn is slightly smaller in body and horn size and is hunted in parts of Southern BC, Washington, Oregon, and California. Eventually I would like to hunt for the Rocky Mountain as well, and the sooner the better, sheep hunting does not get easier as you get older.

We stayed the first night at Darrell’s base lodge, and met our cook Beaner. Beaner is not a full time cook for Darrell, but Darrell was short handed and his long time friend cancelled his elk hunt to help out. As it turns out we were very fortunate, because Beaner was more than just the cook, and kept us laughing the entire trip. The next morning we saddled up and loaded the pack horses and set out on a six hour ride into camp. TJ picked the lucky straw and drew the biggest horse, she was a monster and a bit stubborn. I quickly learned TJ was not a cowboy in his past life.

Several years ago Darrel air lifted three sets of cabins into separate areas. Which takes about 14 hours on horseback to make a complete circuit through the area, which later proved to be convenient. The Cabins were very comfortable and made a great camp. I don’t mind the two man tents and pouring rain, but sometimes it’s nice to have a wood floor, stove and hot shower.

The weather was perfect on the first day with blue skies. Unfortunately the weather stayed perfect and the temperature rose each day making the sheep hunting tough. The sheep were only moving for a few hours in the early and late afternoon, the deer were moving even less.

The first morning we rode for about an hour and found some rams bedded on the very top of the mountain in the rocks. It took us about three hours to reach them, and when we did they moved over the mountain. We were not sure if the winded us or moved on to eat. So we picked a good spot to glass and waited until about 4:00pm. With no sign of the rams we figured they winded us and headed out. As we started back to where the horses were parked, we walked about 300 yards and herd some rocks rolling and looked down the hill to see nine rams running for the timber. It turns out the rams were all bedded less than 500 yards below the entire time.

We went back the next day, only to find they traveled to another mountain. Again we put the stalk on them and they gave us the slip. This was pretty much the routine every day, we were fortunate to spot rams every day, we just could not get them to keep still.

I also had a mule deer tag and early one morning we spotted a big buck in the sky line 300 yards away on the sky line. It was too early to film so we tried to stalk in closer and let the sun come up, unfortunately the buck gave us the slip. The luck or wind was not on our side.

On the second to last day of the hunt, we climbed to the highest peak behind the camp, and just after about 30 minutes of glassing I got bored and started glassing far off places and spotted a group of 13 Rams on the side of a huge bowl. Darrell pulled out the spotting scope and could pick out three nice rams and said “let’s go” TJ and I both looked at him like he was crazy, first of all we just hiked all the way up to that peak and secondly the sheep were on the other side of BC. Darrell said it was not a problem, the sheep were just an hour away from his other camp.

So we quickly headed back to camp, packed up all of our gear, loaded the pack horses and we were on the trail in three hours. The ride to the other camp was only a few hours, so we quickly unpacked our gear and we headed up the mountain. Every day I progressively wore less gear and lightened up the pack. Shedding my wool, long johns and warm clothing. It was so hot I wore jeans and a cotton shirt, and packed a fleece shirt and jacket. Surely after a week of hot weather and blue sky’s I would not need any other gear.

By 3:00 we located the rams however they were in a bad spot, so we climbed to a vantage point above a grassy slope where Darrell believed they would feed at the end of the day. Within minute of getting in to position, I heard thunder and looked back to see a wave of thick black clouds move in, and within minutes the rain started. Unbelievable, I packed warms clothes every day, and the one day I did not it rained. Not to mention the minor inconvenience of trying to shoot and film sheep in the rain. Finally the sheep got up to feed and were about 500 yards away and fed toward us. The thunder continued and now Darrell was worried the sheep might retreat back into the timber. After about 30 tense minutes Darrell spotted a ram pass through the timber just below us 200 yards, and told me to get ready. The shooting lane was narrow and he told me to be ready and when the best ram came through he would instruct me to shoot. I was shooting my Ultra light Arms .270, the same rifle I shot my desert bighorn with. I waited intensely with my finger on the safety, and we heard some rocks roll, and now we feared the ram he spotted was the last one of rather than the first, which was not good because of the thick timber and our scent blowing downhill toward them.

I sat there and reflected about how hard we hunted for the past week, and now it appeared our last chance was slipping away with the rain and fog moving in. Minutes later one ram, the one we one we were looking for, walked out at 200 yards and stopped through another opening in the timber. Darrel pulled up his binos and said “shoot that “#$%*!” now!, I was already squeezing the trigger. Darrell thought he was hit well as he lurched up and ran off through the timber. I felt good about the shot, but did not hear the bullet strike and admittedly was worried. It does not matter how durable a rifle is, a sheep hunt is tough on them. I cracked the stock and broke the scope after a fall on a previous sheep hunt. We waited for 15 minutes not wanting to spook the ram incase I missed or wounded it. Nervously we crept down to where I shot and found the ram dead 30 yards below. The 140 grain Barnes X bullet went through the heart and existed the far shoulder completing my Grand slam. I felt good, and I spent a few minutes reflecting about past sheep hunts and the effort it takes, I was happy to be done, for now.

By the time we got back to the cabin, the rain had stopped and the sky cleared and remained so for the rest of the trip. It’s funny because every day I told TJ how it did not seem like we here hunting sheep because the weather was so good, so I guess a little rain changed our luck.

Big Bore Productions
Posts: 1 | Registered: October 08, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Congrats on your Grand Slam mark! Great story as well...sounds like you had a great time.
Posts: 98 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: June 30, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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