I started this year like every other since my accident in January 1994. That year changed not only my life forever, but also my family’s and not for the better. From that time on, all decisions made when putting in for our tags were based on the amount of drivable roads and private landowner accessibility.
Being a disabled veteran, my ability to hunt is extremely limited. About 95 percent of the time I need a vehicle or an ATV. Before my injury, hunting was in my blood. I grew up hunting, and learned everything I could about it. I taught myself to bow hunt, and later became a Bow Hunter Instructor for the State of Montana because I wanted to make sure that others who were new to bow hunting had the correct understanding, and didn’t have to learn from mistakes as I did.
My wife never hunted a day in her life until she married me. I taught her, along with our son, the ins and outs and we enjoyed hunting together as a family should until the day I got hurt. Hunting was no longer fun when limited on where and how to hunt. There were many times I just wanted to quit and not deal with hunting anymore, but in the past 17 years of our 27 years of marriage, my wife would push me on and encourage me to continue to hunt and put in for my tags. In those years, I have missed putting in for moose, sheep and goat tags two or three times, and did not hunt a few years. Were it not for the support and nagging of my wife, Pamela, I might never have drawn a sheep tag for 482-00.
I had forgotten the drawing results were in mid-June 2011. My wife called to tell me the great news that I not only drew a sheep tag, but also my first choice–the premier spot in Montana (But in my opinion the best place to hunt sheep in North America). All I could say was, “Are you sure? You better check again.” Pam told me she checked and yes, I got the draw. After I calmed down and got my composure back, I started making plans.
I got back in town from visiting my grandson and in-laws and headed to Waylon’s taxidermy shop where I have been getting my animals done since the day he started in the taxidermy business. Word about my draw was already out, and I explained to the guys there that my wife could not get off work to hunt sheep because she has already put in to get time off during deer and elk season. Pam is an avid hunter and fisherman and can field dress an animal as good as any man. But as a disabled hunter, I have to have someone with me at all times and they, too, must be a licensed hunter. In the event an animal gets away from a bad hit, as a licensed hunter they can pursue and finish the job for me. At that point both Waylon and his employee, Crockett, volunteered to take me out, which is something I would never ask someone because it is a big responsibility for that individual to take on.
Not knowing how to judge a ram, I watched videos, read books and studied mounted rams anyplace I could find them. Even after all my research, it was impossible for me to say for sure what size a ram was at 250 yards. My goal was to harvest a legal ram, but as a disabled hunter, just getting one is a great accomplishment. It was good that Waylon and Crockett had both taken big rams in the past few years because at 250-plus yards, it is my opinion that it’s impossible for a person to say that a ram is within three or four inches of the total score. So to say, “I am only going to harvest a 195 or bigger,” is something someone says to make him, or herself, feel more important, or to make themselves feel superior to other hunters in the field. Hunters should enjoy the hunt for the hunt more than the total inches of the animal harvested.
With two volunteers, I could start making plans for the hunt. It was the end of August when I headed out on a four-day scouting trip in the “breaks.” It was hot and dry. I saw about 27 rams, three bands of ewes, got lots of video and a few pictures that I took down to the shop to show the guys. Waylon told me about a rancher and his wife who live out in the breaks only a mile or three across the coulee who knows his sheep. The rancher and his wife were Matt and Jamie Wickens of Winifred, Montana, who own Dog Creek Outfitters. I talked to Matt and explained my situation. When he said he would point me in the right direction, I was floored. His family is as good a people as you will find anywhere.
I let Waylon know about the phone call and we started making plans for the first of two trips. On the morning of October 3 we were loaded and headed out at daylight. We stopped for fuel and ice in
Lewistown and called Matt. Jamie answered and told us that he was in the field getting hay and to stop by the house. After about an hour, we pulled up in the front yard, got out, and talked to Jamie until Matt showed up with his load of hay. We introduced ourselves and talked for some time before Matt pointed us in the direction we needed to go.
The anticipation of my first sheep hunt was growing as we drove out into the breaks. We got to the area and found a place to park, then wasted no time in getting our gear loaded onto the ATV. I grabbed my Remington Model 700 BDL in .25-06, along with cartridges loaded with 100-grain TSX Barnes bullets, a spotting scope, rangefinder, binoculars, packs and essentials, and got on the 800 Can Am to start the hunt. We really did not expect to shoot a ram on this first trip. This was supposed to be homework for us to see what rams were around for the next trip, which was planned to be during the rut.
We started out by skipping a big area to the east and headed to the main coulee where we started glassing each finger. Waylon saw two ewes and a lamb several miles across to the northeast, and as the day got later we ended up back where we had driven in and decided to hit the first big area that we had skipped.
It was about 4:45pm when we hit the first part of that area. Rhythmically, we’d glass and see nothing, then move up about 100 yards or so where Waylon would park the ATV and we’d get off. Dozens of times that afternoon we’d stand at the edge of the drop off and after a few minutes, move to our right about 25 to 30 feet and start glassing again. I was getting sore and tired, but as I took another step or two to the right, I looked almost straight down and in front of us and saw a sheep moving out of the timber. I motioned to Waylon about the sheep and he moved over to where I was. At that time, another sheep moved out of the timber and I started filming. Waylon saw that it was a good ram and, as they started to move behind the timber again, said to get our things.
We got to the ATV and grabbed our gear. Waylon got back to the edge of the drop off first and waited for me. He motioned to get low, so I scooted on my rear to the edge. As the two rams came back out of the timber, Waylon said, “I think you need to get your gun.” I looked at him and asked, “Are you sure?” “Yep,” was his one-word reply.
Waylon ranged the ram at 250 yards. The shot was almost straight down and the edge had such a drop off that a pack would not work as a rest so Waylon said to use the spotting scope with tripod as a rest instead. I couldn’t seem to focus or stop shaking as I chambered the round and rested my rifle on the spotting scope. I felt like a kid again and, after about three different times taking my finger off the trigger and closing my eyes, I calmed down enough to take the shot.
I took the safety off and started to squeeze the trigger, but before I finished squeezing I saw two more rams come out of the timber. I asked Waylon about them, so he put down the movie camera and looked at them through his binocular. “Shoot the first one,” Waylon said. I didn’t question his judgment and squeezed off the round. In the split second it took me to put the scope back on the ram I saw him take one step backward and then down he went. Waylon said, “Good shot!” I looked at him and started shaking again. He said, “Congratulations!” and we shook hands. I had to take a minute or two to collect myself and stop shaking. I was so excited that I almost could not think. I had beaten the odds and harvested a ram, now we just had to find a way for me to get to it.
We drove the ATV along the top and after a while found a way for me to get to the ram. As we walked, Waylon asked, “Would you be satisfied with a 170 to 180 ram?” I said that would be great, but size never mattered–I just wanted a nice legal-size ram and I was going to have a full mount if I got one. Waylon took off up the coulee and got to the ram long before I did. I heard him hooting and hollering and, at that moment, thought he had hurt himself or was very disappointed in the ram.
As I got closer, I could see Waylon’s head coming over the little rise. He looked at me and said, “We’re two inches short.” “Two inches short of 180 is great!” I replied. “No,” Waylon said, “two inches short of 200!” I thought he was playing with me, but the closer I got the bigger the magnificent bighorn.
The ram green scored 199 2/8. At first I wasn’t quite sure what that meant as far as big rams go, but after a few days of everybody telling me the same thing about how exceptional it was, it started to take hold. Were it not for the selfless acts of a few exceptional people, this hunt would have turned out very differently or not at all. So, if you know a disabled hunter, please volunteer to take him or her hunting. Like me, most will not ask.– Glenn Martin Jr.