Jabe scanned the Mars-Red landscape of the Vermillion Cliffs for other rams while I kept Boomer under constant surveillance. At about 1 p.m., Boomer was on the move. We watched in awe as he effortlessly negotiated the unforgiving terrain. Boomer re-joined his band of seven ewes and two small rams up top. When we set up our scopes, I found him first, again! I'm getting pretty good at this.
We watched him until he bedded down for the night, and we headed to town to get food, clothes and sleeping bags before making the four-hour drive to the other side of the canyon. We would go after Boomer at first light. We fell asleep in Jabe's truck at 3:30 a.m. At 5:30 a.m., we woke up. No coffee this morning. We set forth toward the ram that we had each spent 50 hours watching or looking for. Collin said Boomer had moved about a mile away from where he bedded down.
We made our way down to Boomer, who was lazily basking 452 yards away. I slowly got into the prone position and started to get a comfortable, steady hold on the resting ram. I had the 450-yard hash mark behind Boomer’s shoulder. I inhaled, exhaled and pulled the trigger ... BANG! I missed! I had a great rest but lost focus on the trigger and pulled the shot up and right! Sheep fever, I guess.
Boomer ducked down with his band on the rim, and we followed. Jabe is 23 years younger and 150 pounds lighter than me. I churned the sand trying to catch up, running up a sand dune. I got another shot at Boomer, but I was breathing so hard I didn’t think I could hit anything. BANG! I didn't see where the shot hit. I was busy trying to keep from blacking out from a lack of oxygen. I went from the summit of Everest to the Mariana Trench in about five minutes. I'm pretty good in accepting failure ... in other people.
I went to sleep that night counting sheep ... One sheep ... Boomer.
Dec. 5: Today was a planned day off. I needed a break. I got a pep talk from my friend, Rudy Pariga, and some encouraging words from Bonnie.
At about 6 p.m., Jabe called me. He went to one of his glassing spots and shot some new video of five rams. One is a definite shooter. He watched the herd until they bedded for the night. Jabe said, “Pack light. Leave your spotting scope and tripod. Just pack food and water for the day and your rifle. I'll see you at 4 a.m.”
Dec. 6: We parked the truck, donned our packs, and I grabbed my rifle. It’s go time. We start walking through the darkness, making our way by headlamps. About a mile into our trek, we made the first of eight river-crossings.
It was light when we got to the dead tree landmark Jabe spotted, and we changed our socks and liners, which froze in the cold of December. From the banks of the Paria River, we ascended the steep, sand hills. It was like walking up a down escalator – you can get there, but you'll have to work twice as hard.
Jabe spotted some rams. We got down behind a finned sandstone boulder, and he looked them over with his binos. Jabe said, “There are 12 rams. Three are shooters, and one is an absolute monster.”
We moved to get a shot from about 200-250 yards, hoping to avoid another costly miss. This was tough slogging, almost straight up in some stretches. Just before we reached our destination, we felt a nice, refreshing breeze ... at our backs!
By the time we peeked over the top, the 12 Rams were 700-800 yards up ahead of us. We pursued, but to no avail. We headed back to the truck. I was simply too exhausted from the day's earlier hike up the side of the canyon to go up again. We had hiked 13.26 miles that day.
Dec. 12: After a few days of hiking and spotting, we headed to a spot that we hadn't even scouted yet but Jabe knows holds sheep.
We came to a beautiful overlook on the canyon rim and set up our optics. There were sheep emerging from below the canyon rim. We eventually spotted seven ewes and five small rams in the band. After a couple of hours, Jabe took his scope over to a point that juts out into a canyon about half-mile away. About 30 minutes later, I trained my spotting scope on Jabe, who was excitedly signaling me to join him. He saw a good ram, and we followed.
About an hour before sunset, Jabe said the ram was about to emerge from the canyon rim below. As if on cue, the ram popped up on top of a big sandstone knob! He looked like a shooter to me. We named him “Slacker” because he tended to lag behind the other sheep. We headed back to the truck. At first light, I’m going to kill this ram.
Dec. 13: We parked the truck and hiked 1.75 miles to our vantage point. After 30 minutes Jabe found Slacker! We crouched low and crept forward to look over the rim of the mesa. Jabe said, “He's 442 yards away. You’d better shoot him.”
After blowing the shot on Boomer nine days earlier, I was determined to get a good trigger squeeze off. BOOM! I missed ... again ... but the ram didn't know where the danger was coming from. I jacked another cartridge in the chamber, lowered my aiming point a bit and got off another good squeeze. I saw the ram hunch up just before hearing that satisfying “thump” of bullet slamming into flesh. Slacker fell over without taking a step.