Photo by: Mitch Kezar
Anyone who has taken to the high country in pursuit of sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, or elk knows how difficult it can be to close the distance for a shot in an open alpine setting. Where the animals have encountered much hunting pressure, they are typically spooky and quite adept at evading both four- and two-legged predators.
From my years of hunting Dall sheep and mountain goats in Alaska, as well as from advice I’ve gleaned from much more experienced hunters than myself, I’ve adopted a basic strategy for getting close to these mountain monarchs. The strategy is based on what is sometimes the only chink in these animals’ armor: They look down for danger.
Smart or pressured high-country animals will position themselves well above the timberline or in sparsely wooded areas, so they can easily spot anything approaching from below and escape. Many a Dall sheep hunter has gone home empty-handed because he tried stalking a ram from below. In some instances it works, but the majority of the time the hunter is spotted before getting into position.
The strategy is simple: Before making a move, put in a lot of time behind the glass watching the animal you want to go after. This takes patience and discipline, as oftentimes the animal is not in good position for a stalk right away.
Generally, the best time to put the sneak on is once it has bedded down. If the animal is in an approachable spot, stay out of sight and work your way around, above, and behind it, then use the terrain to approach from above.
This isn’t to say that stalking from above is a sure thing. There is a lot that can go wrong if you aren’t careful. It is important to be patient and sneaky because although this is the best route for remaining unseen, high-country animals get very nervous when they see something above them blocking their escape route. Keep a low profile, remain quiet, and get as close as you can. After the shot, it’s all downhill.
Essential Gear: Gaiters
For the experienced mountain hunter—whether the quarry is sheep, goat, elk, or mule deer—clothing and equipment are a top priority. The stuff that isn’t important stays at home, and every item taken has to prove its value. High-country hunting usually involves mud, shale, rock slides, and brush—often all in the same day. One piece of gear that I won’t hunt without is a good pair of gaiters, which will not only keep loose debris out of your boots and pant legs, they will also protect your boots from the elements. The new Montane Tourbillon eVent Stretch Gaiter is lightweight, easy to use, rugged, and durable—everything you want from a gaiter. ($100; montane.co.uk)