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.
After hunting Dall sheep in terrible conditions for eight days, on the ninth day we finally spotted the Dall sheep ram that was big enough for me, wearing Mossy Oak camouflage, to take. Nicole, Terry Overly (another guide), and I spent three hours climbing to reach the ram. The weather was beautiful, but as we got higher on the mountain the weather deteriorated quickly. It went from rain, to sleet, and then to snow which got so heavy that we could not see where the ram had been. We were left guessing where this band of eight rams might be. I was the fourth person in a parade of hunters going up the mountain so the three in front of me had loosened all the rocks on the trail, and the rocks were breaking loose under my feet. The only thought going through my mind was, “I’m about to die.” I kept telling myself, “Keep going. Keep going. There’s a ram at the end of this torture. Once you get to the top of the mountain, you’ll be all right.” After that arduous hike we finally got to the top of a ridge, where we thought the rams should be right below us.
After reaching the top of the mountain we peeked over the edge and I saw all eight rams standing in the snow. They were hard to see because they looked just like the snow that surrounded them. After a long look over the eight rams we finally located the big one, but he had a smaller ram standing right in front of him which prevented me from taking the shot. I laid my pack on the ground and rested my rifle on the pack, then looked through my scope and found it had fogged up. I was shooting a Knight KP1 single-shot rifle with a .300 Win Magnum barrel and a Nikon scope. After I got the snow out of the scope I easily could see the sheep at about 175 yards. As I looked at the Dall ram through the scope I also was trying to decide how I would get him mounted when I got him home–I knew all I had to do was squeeze the trigger and the ram was dead.
The little ram walked away from the big ram at last and all eight of them were looking right at us. Terry said, “Pat, have you got a good rest?” I said, “Yes.” Terry said, “All right, take him any time you want.” I squeezed the trigger, and Terry said, “Good shot. You got him.” I quickly tried to reload for a follow-up shot but the gun was jammed–maybe because of the weather or being jostled around so much on the rocks. This was a break-open rifle, and when I released the barrel the spent casing was still stuck in the chamber.
I looked up and the rams were running, and I was left desperately trying to get that shell out of the barrel. Terry was screaming, “Shoot him again. Shoot him again.” I started pounding the stock of the gun on the rocks to try and loosen the shell in the barrel, and then the extractor (the device that pulls the shell out of the barrel) fell out of the gun. I reached in my pocket and found another shell. I was able to pry the spent shell out of the barrel and put in another shell, and I finally got the gun locked back together. We ranged the rams at about 470 yards and I shot again. Through the scope I was able to see my bullet hit the ground at least 12 feet above the ram. Terry said, “You shot way too high. Shoot again.” As I reached in my pocket for another shell, I watched that ram–my Dall sheep of a lifetime–go over the rim of the mountain and out of my life. Just as I took a third Hail Mary shot, the guide said, “I don’t think that first bullet hit him after all.”
This was the last few hours of our hunt and I had just screwed it up. I have never felt so bad in all my life, but the hunt still got worse. When I reached down to get my binoculars that were in the binocular harness on my chest, they were gone. Remember, these binoculars were one of three prototypes that the president of Nikon said I had to return as soon as the hunt was over.
Later as I thought about all three shots I knew I had aimed accurately. The only thing that could have happened was that because I had my gun in a saddle holster for nine days it could have gotten knocked out of alignment. It had been dead-on when we arrived in Alaska. That walk and ride back to camp was probably the most miserable time of my life, and we got back to camp well after dark. When I finally climbed in my sleeping bag I wished I could snap my fingers, be back home in my own bed, and wake up knowing this had all been a horrible nightmare.
Not every hunt goes the way it’s supposed to happen–we don’t always take the game and we don’t always have the fun time it seems like we do on our Driven TV show. Once again I learned that hunts are not always successful but they can be memorable because of the adventure you’ve survived. The good news is that Nicole and I got married on June 23, 2012, and you won’t believe what she gave me for a wedding present–she bought me a big-horn sheep hunt in Alberta, Canada.
In our final article Pat and Nicole take down their first-ever red stags in New Zealand.
Image courtesy John E. Phillips