Sheep Stalking in Alaska Tony Russ
From the hunter, guide, and writer who gave you Sheep Hunting in Alaska, here is the guide many of you have been waiting for – the step-by-step guide for getting close to sheep. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to get within range. Whether you are a long-range sharpshooter, a shorter-range firearms hunter, a bowhunter, or a photographer, this guide is for you. The techniques of fooling their eyes, ears, and noses are covered in detail. Go with Tony on over fifty stalks as he closes the gap between him and his quarry on actual hunts. His failures, as well as his successes, are described in words and with diagrams, giving you a complete understanding of what it takes to get close–really close. Experience the thrill of dozens of actual hunts while you learn the facts so often lacking in "hunting stories" so often published. From the writer so well known for his how-to guides, this one should sit on every sheep aficionado's shelf! -256 pages, 90 photos and diagrams, 49 stalks covered,
1 Stalking Basics 11
2 Stalking from Above 19
KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
BIGGER . . . AND WISER
THE CRACK SHEEP
TAKE YOUR PICK
BEDDED ON TOP
3 When You Don’t Get Above Sheep 59
THE SHEEP ROLL
WATCH THEIR EYES
MEET THEM HALFWAY
4 Stalking from Below 83
THEY ARE NOT DEE
HE ALWAYS MISSES
5 Nontypical Stalks 109
MORE VISIBLE FROM BELOW
HER FIRST RAM
WHEN IN DOUBT . . . LEAVE
TWO SHINY SHEEP
BARELY FULL CURL AT 40
6 Bowhunting Stalks 141
SHOOT FOR THE HORIZONTAL DISTANCE
ON THE FAR SIDE – A CLASSIC
A COMMON BOWHUNTERS’ MISTAKE
WAIT, WAIT, WAIT . . . RUN
A SECOND CHANCE
JUST BEING THERE GIVES YOU A CHANCE
BLEND WITH THE HERD
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
WHITESUITS – THE GOOD AND THE BAD
SAFE FROM (MOST) PREDATORS
“GUIDE” MEANS LEADER
CONVINCE THEM ALL
ONE CARELESS MISTAKE
7 Conclusions 233
Book Order Form
The standard practice for stalking Dall sheep is – don’t be seen, get above them, then hunt down. Since Dall sheep rely mainly on their eyes to locate danger, experienced sheep hunters learn to stay completely out of sight. If we could always get above rams we are stalking without alerting them, our success rate would be very high – over 90% for experienced rifle hunters, and maybe as high as 50% for experienced bowhunters. However, that is not always possible for two reasons: the ruggedness of the mountains physically prevents us from climbing above sheep, and we sometimes spook our quarry because we lack sufficient stalking skill. We cannot change the physical barriers of the mountains, but we can change our skill at stalking.
One of the first skills to learn for stalking sheep is how to plan a successful stalk. Learning sheep behavior, knowing what mountain terrain you can safely navigate, judging distances accurately, the ability to analyze a mountainside and identify cover that will keep you hidden, and understanding thermals and wind patterns are the fundamentals of planning. These skills can be learned somewhat by reading and listening to other hunters, but they cannot be perfected without personal experience. In this book, I have illustrated and analyzed 49 of my personal stalks to provide the written aspect of learning to stalk. The personal experience aspect is up to you.
One of the first conclusions sheep hunters come to is that every single stalking situation is unique. There is no way to write a manual that will explain precisely how to stalk your next ram. You will have to analyze the situation and the ram, then determine the best plan to hunt that animal, on that day, in that situation.
When I plan a stalk, I begin by asking myself several questions. Some of these questions are not relevant to every situation, and you may create a different sequence of questions than I do. These are the seven most important questions and the standard sequence I use:
1) DESIRABLE SHEEP?
Is the animal one that you will shoot, given the opportunity? There is no need to walk around needlessly and possibly spook other animals. It is better to spend your time looking for a ram you do want to shoot. Sometimes you will need to get closer to take a better look, and you should do that so you don’t pass up good opportunities.
2) LOCATED ALL ANIMALS?
Have you spotted all the animals in the area of the stalk? There might be a larger ram or other sheep (even other species) that could ruin the stalk if you spook them. Sheep are often hidden just over a ridge or around a spine. In most situations, it is worth your
Bob & Cynthia Cassell with her B&C ram. Taking this huge ram required careful planning to get into position for the stalk, as well as to devise and execute a successful stalk.
time to look meticulously before planning a stalk.
Can you get to the sheep without being spotted by it or any other animal that could ruin the stalk? This is where a careful analysis of the stalking area/route is vital to success. Most hunters do not realize how much variation in surface texture there is on a hillside that can be used as cover. Even little undulations or shallow grooves on a seemingly flat pasture can hide a hunter. Learning to identify these travel routes (and use them) is something that only comes with field experience – and is a skill that is poorly developed in many of the sheep hunters I have hunted with.
4) TIME OF DAY?
-Sheep Activity? What will the sheep be doing for the time it takes to complete the stalk? A bedded sheep is much easier to stalk than a walking or feeding one. Time your stalk to allow for these activities.
-Time for a Stalk? Can you complete your stalk before darkness? Can you get back to camp safely, or at least bivouac safely if nightfall comes before you can get back? Maybe waiting until the next morning is a smart option.
-Thermals? What are the thermals and wind patterns going to be doing during the entire stalk? Will they ruin the stalk? Time your stalks to allow for these.
5) ODDS OF SUCCESS?
What are your chances of success? Should you wait for a better opportunity? This is a major reason for failure. Hunters often bust ahead instead of first thinking about the likely outcomes. Waiting 30 minutes to two days can sometimes dramatically improve your chances of getting that ram. Conversely, knowing when the time is perfect is a highly developed skill of good sheep hunters. Using your patience at the appropriate times when sheep hunting will improve your success.
6) PLAN - WITH BACKUPS?
Have you included backup possibilities? Sheep move, the weather changes, physical barriers are encountered, and mistakes in cover analysis occur. Making a complete plan to allow for likely possibilities should become second nature whenever you plan a stalk.
A single, bedded ram can be an ideal situation for a successful stalk.
Are you prepared for the hours it will take to complete the stalk, and return safely? As you plan a stalk, you should be drinking and eating to hydrate and fuel your body. Stalking is often a grueling ordeal, and time is usually of the essence to be successful. Get yourself and your gear ready for this physical challenge as you analyze the situation.
Along with written explanations of my stalks, I have included a diagram of each situation. These depict the sheep, the waterways, the topography, and my (or our) position. I have used consistent images in all these diagrams. The next two pages contain the legend that goes with the diagrams.
When I use “left” or “right,” that refers to those directions as if I am standing where “us” or “me” is positioned. These directions will be correct as you are reading the page in the normal manner. Take a minute to imagine the three-dimensional topography before reading the explanation. I also explain the situation to help you visualize the topography.
DIAGRAM LEGEND (continued)
- CAMP (CAMP 1, CAMP 2)
- SPRUCE TREES
- BIRCH OR ASPEN TREES
R = RAM E = EWE G = GOAT
(RR) = WHERE RAMS WERE PRIOR TO MOVING
US = US-1, US-2, US-3
The next five chapters contain the 49 stalking diagrams and explanations. I have organized them into sections according to what type of stalk it was: from above, from the side, from below, miscellaneous, and bowhunting. The majority of the stalks were successful, but I included many that weren’t. I learned the most from those that weren’t successful, but I like to think I learn something from every stalk I go on.
Your books are a must read for anyone even tinkering with the idea of sheep hunting in Alaska.
Rick French, Wasilla AK January 2006
The following is an editorial review from the Amazon website:
Editorial Reviews (Copied From Amazon 5-25-06)
From the back cover: "Contains diagrams and detailed explanations of 49 stalks in the 49th state by Tony Russ on actual hunts for Dall sheep. Learn to blink stalk from above, stalk from below, maneuver to get above sheep, approach horizontally, PLUS get within bow range of Dall sheep." The book teaches you to analyze topography, sheep activity, therma activity and the odds of success.
Howard Delo - January 1, 2006 - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman - Outdoors in Alaska
..... asked if I could recommend some good books about hunting in Alaska and about living here. Several of the books which came to mind have a little about both, so I started mentioning some authors and titles...... a couple of these books I have reviewed in previous columns and Casey Ressler, the Frontiersman Valley Life editor, has reviewed a couple others.
I started out by mentioning Tony Russ, his books, and his publishing company located in Wasilla. The first Tony Russ book I read, The Manual for Successful Hunters, is the best pure Alaska hunting how-to book I have ever seen. He provides tips and suggestions based on his own hunting experiences and writes in a very easy-to-read style. I mentioned his Sheep Hunting in Alaska (get the second edition), and his Bear Hunting in Alaska books also. I have read the sheep hunting books (both editions) and have the bear hunting book as the next one on my books-to-be-read pile. I also mentioned Rich Hackenberg's book Moose Hunting in Alaska, also published by Russ.