By Gregory Fleming, Springfield, Va.
My adventure started at the Great American Outdoor Show. I didn’t plan to book a hunt, but was led to Mike “Buck” Bowden, master guide and owner of Hidden Alaska by my friend Ed Laidlaw and Ed’s dad, Don. Buck had a 2018 Dall sheep hunt opening. I was saving for years to go on a moose hunt, but this was a great opportunity. I spoke to Buck, and he said this specific sheep hunt was also during grizzly season. I was intrigued to say the least, but still felt it was a dream out of reach—I was concerned about the money.
“When I was your age, a moose hunt was $1,500, and now they are $15,000, so don’t wait around thinking you’re going to save up more money and things will be easier because the price just keeps going up on these hunts,” Don said. I ended up booking the sheep hunt. The moose would have to wait.
While prepping for my hunt, some weekends were spent with my dad as his health was failing. He passed away in August, and I left for my sheep hunt nine days later. The hunt, I was hoping, would give me time to think.
On the third day of the hunt, we were up at 5 a.m. to pack, eat breakfast and find rams. Our goal was to get a double—two rams shot by two hunters at the same time. As breakfast was prepared, I scanned the mountain; sure enough, the sheep were about 4 miles away. Everyone dropped what they were eating and we took off after them.
We completed a five-hour stalk to get within 336 yards of the rams. Guns leveled, we both shot, and before I knew it, my ram was down. The other ram was uninjured and managed to get over the mountain—no sheep double.
On day six, while cresting a dam, I spotted a grizzly way off in the distance. After another five-hour stalk, we closed to 310 yards and waited for the perfect shot. I shot … and missed. My guide Matt and I spent the next four days trying to find that bear again.
Matt told me if you miss like I did, the bear will be two mountains away by the time he stops. And that’s exactly where we spotted him, but when we finally arrived the bear was gone. We had to be right on top of it.
Then, out of nowhere, the bear appeared, feeding in front of me at 40 yards. I didn’t have a good shot. As the bear turned its head, I got the gun up and waited until I got a perfect broadside shot. My rifle roared, and so did the bear. I chambered a new round, but the bear ran out of sight down over the mountain before I could get a second shot.
We found the bear an hour later, and after skinning and packing made it back to camp at 1:30 a.m. as our headlamp batteries ran low. We celebrated for an hour and then went to bed.
On the ride home, I reminisced about the great hunt—the thrill, the solitude, the exhaustion from hiking 80 miles for my sheep and bear—and I realized I got a double after all. That was worth every penny.
I looked up at the sky and toasted my dad. Usually he hears the play by play directly from me after each hunt, but this time he was able to see the entire thing for himself.
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