A Local Alaskan Woman goes BIG on her First Dall Sheep Hunt
Story from Hannah Kahahawai
My 2013 Alaskan Dall Sheep hunt started in late 2012 when my husband, Chuck, told me he was going to be putting me in for the Alaska lottery draw permits, specifically sheep permits! I said to him ‘What am I getting myself into? I don’t have the gear to go on a sheep hunt?’ along with many other ‘what-ifs’ that popped into my brain. I knew he had a passion for these hunts because he likes to be in the mountains, and figured a husband/wife trip would be fun!
Chuck told me not to worry because he only puts me and the kids in for the lowest percentage draw hunts and that we would most likely never get drawn anyways. Well, long story short, I still recall the morning of the 15th of February at 5:00 a.m. when he excitedly ran into the bedroom, woke me up, and told me that ‘We drew some tags!’ He said we had drawn a couple caribou tags and one sheep tag. I asked him who drew the sheep tag? He said that I drew the sheep tag! I was immediately met with a bit of anxiety as I thought ‘I don’t know the first thing about sheep hunting!!!’
Preparations for our upcoming hunt began almost immediately. We started with outfitting myself with gear…lots of gear! Everything from trekking poles, to appropriate hiking boots, to a new backcountry backpack, and all the other necessities that must accompany a sheep hunter as they venture into the Alaskan wilderness. Gear prep was followed with physical conditioning. There’s almost no better way to prep for a mountain hunt than to spend time in the mountains. Chuck and I began hiking on average at least twice a week, getting our minds and bodies both used to what we would encounter while chasing sheep at elevation. Shooting the rifle was also a very important aspect of our sheep hunt preparations. What good is it if you do all the work and don’t ensure you make an ethical harvest on your animal? You could find us at the range almost every weekend until I was dialed in at 200 and 300 yards with a tight group to Chuck’s satisfaction.
During the summer, we ventured into the area that my tag allowed me to hunt and we did see some rams. Chuck was always taking notes of sheep movement and doing some patterning. I wasn’t really quite sure what he was doing at the time. Anyways, on the day the State Fair opened, Chuck was supposed to go with us, but instead went on another scouting mission into the hunt area and spotted two rams. He knew they were good rams and made note of where they were. Two days later, we set out on the trail with our packs loaded and spirits soaring! Chuck had planned to hike in 11.2 miles as the crow flies, so I knew it was going to be a hard one, especially when he said we had to “bust through” some brush. The previous week of torrential rains didn’t help any,as the trail was very wet and muddy. We made it to the base of the backside of the mountain by nightfall, and set up camp. I took one look at the mountain we had to climb up and over and thought to myself, ‘there’s no way!!!’ It was steep and very high. I lamented, it will take all day to climb it even if we tried! Being determined, Chuck had us gaining elevation at first light the next day.
About 3/4 of the way up the mountain Chuck told me to hold tight, he dropped his pack while I sat on side of the mountain. Grabbing the spotting scope, along with his binoculars he headed up and seemed to be gone for over an hour. Unable to see him, I got a bit worried. He had no way to defend himself, since he left the rifle with me. I finally saw him coming over the ridge from the opposite side he had started. We made eye contact and he gave me the thumbs up, just then I knew the hunt was on!
At that moment I began to get really excited. It became clear to me the adrenaline hunters speak of, when it comes to this stage of the hunt. In a quiet voice he relayed the information to me as to where the rams were spotted, and that we would have to side-hill before coming up on top of them. At this point we chambered a cartridge into the rifle and put the safety on, mainly to keep the noise down to a minimum before we got any closer to the rams. After we side-hilled for what seemed like forever, we dropped our packs. Chuck grabbed his sleeping bag for me to use as a rest, we belly crawled to the ridge and peeked over to get a look at the rams. I could not believe my eyes! I had never been that close to Dall Sheep rams before! Chuck ranged them and said “68 yards”. When he read the yardage, I gained my confidence knowing that all I had to do was put the crosshairs behind the front shoulder, relax, and squeeze the trigger. The time that I had spent behind the rifle shooting at over four times this distance meant that this was in my range of confidence.
Quickly and quietly we moved into a position where I could rest the rifle on the sleeping bag. At only 68 yards, I steadied my aim, let out one last breath, and pressed off the shot. I couldn’t believe it, I had my first Dall sheep! The ram laid in his final bed and I was so thankful for the experience and,to have my husband alongside me helping me accomplish such a feat! We got it! I had my doubts at first about almost every aspect of this hunt, but I had a great guide to walk me through it, I could not have done it without him and I really believe he might have been more excited than I was!
We took pictures, Chuck caped him out for a life-size mount. About 4 hours later we had all the meat boned out and our packs were heavily laden. We stayed out another night on the backside where we camped the day before, this was near a creek so Chuck was able to clean and continue to flesh out the cape. The next day met us with a brutal hike out, we had the entire animal along with all of our gear on our backs. We set out first thing in the morning and didn’t make it to the rendezvous until 7:00PM. We were sore , and tired but after a full day of rest, I was thinking back on the hunt, and thought to myself, “I could do this again!”