Planning Your Dall Sheep Hunting Expedition

For many, harvesting a Dall sheep is considered the pinnacle of Alaska hunting achievement.

Pursuit of these regal creatures requires a strong back, legs of steel and most importantly, an iron will.

If you commit yourself to the strenuous physical conditioning and the hours of research necessary you may soon find yourself within striking distance of the ram you desire!

In my opinion, the three biggest questions a hunter should ask himself in the fledgling stages of planning a sheep hunt are:

1. What size ram would make me happy?

2. Realistically, what are my physical limitations?

3. How will I get there?

 

If a legal ram suffices, your choices are broad.

Alaska boasts many general season areas that have healthy sheep populations. When your expectations start to grow, that is when your homework begins. As a general rule the farther south you travel the more mild the climate. This translates into at least the potential for a little extra growth of the Dall Sheep every year which when compiled over 9, 10 or 11 years can make a massive difference in a ram’s headgear. However, this is only one factor to be taken into consideration.

Hunting pressure and predation play key rolls in the overall population dynamics of the white Dall sheep.

It’s obviously difficult for the average individual to ascertain this through personal experience. Luckily, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a Web site containing a plethora of information on the subject. If you have Internet access, years of harvest information are at your fingertips! Excellent unit-by-unit records are available that include success rates, horn size, drainages taken and much more! This resource should be exploited to the fullest in your quest.

When compiling areas of interest, Alaska’s controlled hunt units have to be given careful consideration.

These units are tightly managed, with age structure and overall herd health being the key goal; however, not all special draw units are created equally. Don’t make your decision on the quality of an area solely by the sheer number of hunters who apply.    The famous Tok Management zone is one example of this.   The Tok Management zone is far and away the most popular sheep area to apply for, but its harvest statistics suggest that its trophy potential is no better than some of the other areas that are simpler to draw!    This is where referring to the harvest data is most important!

And don’t be discouraged by areas that are more of a challenge to draw. The fashion in which the draw system operates allows you to apply for three areas every year and, chances are, if you apply for your favorite three choices annually, you will draw one of those coveted tags within a few seasons.

When accessing your physical limitations, be honest with yourself.

If you really are as tough as a pine knot, then all of Alaska’s mountain ranges can remain in play. But if you are not quite the physical specimen you once were because of age or injury, perhaps the glaciers and vertical rock walls of the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains aren’t for you.

The Brooks Range, farther north, is an older mountain range which has been naturally tamed by time and its elements. I am by no means suggesting it is a walk in the park, but for those of us who aren’t quite in peak form, it offers a vast area with plenty of sheep that isn’t quite as arduous as the mountains found farther to the south. There are even some rivers, especially on the eastern side of the Brooks, that offer a unique sheep hunting experience by float!

Lastly, you can be resigned to the fact that an air transport is going to be your mode of transportation into sheep country.

When choosing a charter it is important to keep two things in mind:

(1) Outfits that utilize smaller aircraft such as Super Cubs or Cessna 172s or 180s have the ability to land you in areas that are tougher to access and tougher access equals less hunting pressure.

(2) Also inquire as to whether or not the transport is flexible from year to year on where it drops its hunters depending on where the sheep are. If the answer is, “No we drop our hunters on the same lakes or landing strips that we always have”, then you are running the risk of getting skunked! At this juncture you’ll have put too much time and effort into your adventure and you want to allow yourself the greatest chance of success.

There’s obviously plenty more information and facts you’ll have to consider in planning your dall sheep quest. Premium dates, gear, food, etc. will all be of the utmost importance, but hopefully this bit of information will get you well on your way to the Dall Sheep Bull Ram  of your dreams!