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It was about 9:00 o’clock and we had just arrived at the trailer in our little piece of paradise in the mountains. Our sheep hunting buddies were already there. Over a game of cards, we made a plan for the morning.

It was 4:30 a.m. when the alarms went off. Not wanting to get up, we slowly gathered our gear and hit the trail. They went one way and my dad and I went another. Walking the first part in the dark, we had just reached the end of our trail. Daylight broke over the mountains as we glassed the basin. Seeing nothing but ewes, we carried on.

Fourteen-year-old Ethan McCullough with his first bighorn sheep.
Breaking through the trees, it had started to snow and just as we reached the pass, the fog rolled in. You could hardly see ahead of you. After waiting hours, we walked back down the mountain. Just getting back out through the trees, we heard faint voices. Turns out we weren’t the only one’s sheep hunting. We caught up to the two hunters and talked for a while. The one hunter had a twisted ankle. Going slow and steady, all four of us worked our way back towards our trucks.

Halfway back, the skies cleared and the fog lifted. We thought we better look back to make sure we didn’t miss anything. The two hunters carried on their way back to their truck. As my dad was glassing he said, “Rams! Big rams! Huge rams!”

Four big rams were bedded down just above the trees a mile up the valley. It was just my dad and me and it was getting late. We weren’t sure if we should make a move or wait. My heart started to race. We stayed there for about three hours and then the snow and fog settled back into this basin so we packed up and headed back to the trailer.

Ethan’s bighorn sheep stretched the tape to 190-inches.
Arriving at the trailer, we met up with our other friends. They hiked up a different mountain and saw nothing but grizzly bears and ewes. They asked us what we saw and we shared the good news. Excitingly, we made a plan for the morning.

That night I had a dream that I missed the rams and messed it up for everybody. It was more like a nightmare. It was four in the morning and we started to pack. By 5 a.m., we were hiking with tons of enthusiasm.

Going to where we glassed the sheep the night before, we waited until the fog lifted. The fog rose and we could only see one ram. Our hopes and the temperature dropped. Taking a shot in the dark, we hiked two hours through the trees to get closer. Getting into their valley, we couldn’t see them. Our friend went up a pass above us in case they decided to run north. We walked along the creek bottom. Every couple of minutes we would check for the rams. My dad suddenly shouted, “Get down, RAM!”

I don’t think we could have been lower to the ground if we tried. About five minutes later, the other rams came out of the trees. We sat there for about 20 minutes and made a plan. My dad and me went up a drainage and found a good spot to sit. Our other buddy moved towards the sheep to spook them towards us or get a shot himself at one.

One hour later, he walked to us and the rams didn’t come to us. They must be in the trees. Our enthusiasm faded. My dad crossed the valley and said he would go look for them and that whatever way his gun was pointed was the way the sheep were traveling.

Sitting there, my dad’s uncle and I looked down at my dad to see his gun pointing up the valley. So we walked up about 500 yards, sat down, and waited. My dad started running towards the sheep because we were pushing them away. He came up to a ledge and there they were, 400 yards away. My uncle and me were whispering, looking for the sheep when we were interrupted by the sound of a gunshot and then another. Three out of the four sheep ran towards us. My dad just got his first ram ever after 20 years of hunting sheep.

I shot several shots at my ram and was wondering if the nightmare I had earlier was going to happen. Finally, I hit him. We were shooting 400 yards. My dad’s uncle sat there watching me shoot. There were only two rams left. I told him to shoot and he said he wanted to make sure they were big enough for him. About a minute later he shot, then shot again and dropped what  was the biggest ram of his life (7 rams) scoring 183.

Ethan's dad and his uncle with their bighorn sheep.
The remaining ram ran over the top of the mountain. As we were walking up to his ram my dad yelled, “Big ram!” I said, “I know.” He was trying to tell me my ram was still alive and standing in a drainage. Once I got the message I ran down to finish him. As I went to grab the next shell, I looked and he was gone. I stood up to see him rolling down the mountain. I said, “Dad! I got him!” He jumped to his toes and gave me a hug of proudness. He was just as happy as me.

We packed them up on our backpacks and headed down the mountain. We made camp at the bottom, taking turns to sleep in the two sleeping bags we had. Our other buddy was so happy for us.

The next morning we packed up and left. We didn’t stop smiling the whole way down. We got back to the trailer and scored the sheep. My dad, who is 43, got a ram that scored 189. My dad’s uncle, who is 71, got a ram that scored 183. And me, I’m 14 and I got a 190 ram. All three... BOOK RAMS! We were super happy.

The next morning, we went back up there to get the rest of the meat. We were all so tired. When we got about 700 yards from the sheep, there were five wolves on top of my sheep. We snuck closer and shot several times but missed. As they were running, my dad’s uncle howled at the wolves. All five of them stopped, looked around, and then howled back for a minute or two. It was incredible. It was good timing too because they had barely touched our sheep. So we packed them out.

I’ll tell you that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I think it was about a week later before I realized what we had done.

I would like to thank my grandpa (3 rams), my dad’s uncle (now 8 rams), my dad (1 ram… finally) and our other sheep hunting buddy (1 ram), for all the help and knowledge they gave me. Also my uncle and cousin for giving me my 7mm. We decided to call the valley “The Library” because that’s where you go to get books. ■

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