Author’s note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones’ TV show, Driven with Pat and Nicole, airs on the Outdoor Channel Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST. For the last three years in a row this husband and wife duo has won a Golden Moose Award for excellence in TV production from the Outdoor Channel.
One of my dream bucket list hunts used to be a Dall sheep hunt. When I finally got the chance to go I decided to take Nicole, who I was still just dating at the time, with me to Alaska to run the video camera. The hunt took place in the Wrangell Mountains, with Terry Overly of Pioneer Outfitters as our guide. The hunt had been set up through George Winslow of Bullseye Outdoor Adventures, who had called us and said, “I have a client who won’t be able to go on his Dall sheep hunt in two weeks. Would you and Nicole like to take this hunt?” Of course, I replied, “Absolutely,” without a second thought. After the hunt was confirmed Nicole and I immediately started trying to get in shape for the hunt. To be honest though, you can’t get in shape for a Dall sheep hunt in two weeks so neither one of us was in the best shape possible.
The day came, and when we finally arrived in Alaska we stayed in base camp for a few days before packing up to go to a spike camp. Before heading out one of the guides asked me to get on my horse so he could measure the stirrups on the saddle to fit me, and I was all ready to go–wearing Mossy Oak camouflage and my Nikon binoculars on an elastic binocular harness. These binoculars were a prototype of the Nikon Edge binoculars. The president of Nikon had said, “There only are three pairs of these binoculars in existence, so don’t lose them. I need them back as soon as your sheep hunt is over.”
The harness held the binoculars close to my chest but still allowed me to reach down and pull them up to my eyes. As I leaned forward to climb down however, my binoculars got hooked to the saddle horn and just as my right foot hit the ground I looked back toward the saddle and felt like Mike Tyson had hit me square in the mouth. The binoculars had come loose from the saddle horn about five feet above me and the force of the elastic in the binocular harness had propelled them right into my face.
When the binoculars hit me I thought it had knocked all my front teeth out, and I started staggering and seeing stars. I didn’t go all the way to the ground after I was hit but I came close to being knocked out. I grabbed my mouth quickly and blood started pouring through my fingers. I found out that I still had all my teeth but my lip was cut wide open below my nose. We were days away from any hospital or doctor that could suture my lip, but luckily we had some super glue and were able to glue my lip back together.
Even though I felt terrible after the crushing blow to my face, I got on the horse and we started making the eight-hour trip to the spike camp. I quickly discovered that I was terribly allergic to horses as my eyes swelled shut and I started itching. My lip had not stopped hurting either. I thought to myself, “This scenario will look hideous on camera.” To make the horseback riding even worse, we were riding though some of the most beautiful country in the world and I could hardly see it through my swollen eyes.
After the arduous journey we finally reached the spike camp and set up our tent. We all were exhausted, especially myself, and went to sleep shortly after. When we woke up the next morning the temperature was somewhere between 30 and 40 degrees and we didn’t have a heater in our tent, so we had to dress inside our sleeping bags.
After we finally managed to get dressed we had a quick bite to eat and got back on our horses. We rode up a big drainage and at the end of the mountain system we saw quite a few lambs and ewes but no legal rams. A legal ram has to have a full curl on his horns and must be nine years old or older. You determine the age of a lamb by counting the rings on his horns. I told my guide I couldn’t shoot a ram unless he definitely was legal, so we started to climb.
In the next article Reeve’s Dall hunt experience gets worse as a mountain climb leaves him terrified.
Image courtesy John E. Phillips