Flurries of snow and rain. Tortuous landscapes. Views extending for miles in the clear, or restricted to only several feet in the fog, which can roll in at a moment’s notice. A creature who blends in with its environment like it was never even there. Hunting Dall sheep in Alaska’s rugged, snow covered wilderness is a hunter’s dream—a dream that could easily turn into a nightmare.
In the wild sheep’s natural habitat, both the terrain and weather are inhospitable to man. A hunter can feel like he has stepped foot onto an alien planet. In an area that seems like the top of the world, far up and away from civilization, extensive preparation of both the hunter’s physical and mental condition is essential. When pursuing this most elusive game species, a single misstep can end the hunt. Wild Dall sheep hunters need to be in top physical condition and well equipped with high quality gear in order to be successful in their pursuit.
Often described as the most formidable terrain in the United States, the Dall’s natural alpine habitat is just that: an opponent. Steep, treacherous crags covered with loose shale will cause a less than confident hunter to second-guess his every step. Relentless rain will pelt and challenge the sturdiest of spirits. You must be prepared to face this foe. You must be prepared to challenge yourself, leaving any weakness behind, drowning in the drone of the super cub that will take you to your drop point.
Because when the plane leaves, you’ll watch your last connection to the civilized world shrink away into the space of a dot, then disappear. You’ll be left alone with only your hunting party and your gear, cradled in the jagged jawline of the fierce Alaska Range. When the plane leaves you behind, your survival will be up to you. You are the predator here, but you could easily fall prey. You’ll have to work intelligently and diligently, fighting to keep the maw of these great mountains from clamping down on your neck.
The only comforts a hunter has when entering the Alaskan wilderness are those he brings with him. To stay nimble—an absolute necessity to pursue this elusive prey—he can’t bring much. The Alaskan wild will do its best to force you back, daring you to abandon your goal. Equipped with the right gear, you will persevere. You will learn its habits and fall in sync with its chaotic rhythm. With the right high-performance hunting clothing, you will defy wind, rain and cold, and you will accomplish what you came here to do.
But don’t kid yourself. This will not be easy. The wind can rise and blow for days on end, and the rain can and will be torrential. Rocky cliffs, talus deposits and scree will cause you to redouble your efforts, backsliding your progress. Lashing weather will trap you in your tent, forcing you to forfeit valuable hunting hours and even days. Instead of sighting your prey, you’ll likely be left to stare at the trembling walls of your tent. Be ready to use this time to hone your focus, like you’ve done in the months leading up to your trip. Go ahead and stare at those paper thin walls standing between you and the elements—and stare through them. See your goal, envision the proud Dall, and devise your plan to take him down.
Before you can pay your respects to your kill, you need to prepare yourself for failure. You will fail. You will fail for days on end. You will spend days climbing into the high country, glassing the slopes and saddles for sight of your quarry, all to no avail. Imagine spotting little specks of white among the snow covered slopes. You will certainly fail. But with the right mindset and preparation, you will hurl each day’s failure into the furnace of your resolve, burning stronger, steaming toward your goal against the relentless weather and terrain.
No, it will not be easy. But you didn’t come here to skip through the tall grass and flowers. You came here to push yourself to the limits, to test your strength and your resolve. You came here to hunt Dall sheep, and you will set a ram to rest.
To lay your hands on and firmly grasp the trophy of a lifetime—the beautiful, spiraled horns of the Dall ram—you must be ready to go through hell. Hunting Dall sheep in the Alaskan wilderness can certainly be a rewarding experience, but in order to reap those rewards, you need to prepare yourself both physically and mentally for many months prior to your hunt. Make sure you’re well equipped with top quality gear, and be ready to shift your sights on enjoying the scenery rather than the expectation of harvesting a trophy.
With the right preparation, however, you will get your reward. You’ll arrive at first camp—likely a primitive spike camp, deep within hostile high country—ready and eager to take the perilous task to hand.
Browse the NOMAD Alaska Dall Sheep Hunting Gear List to ensure you're prepared for your next hunting trip.
Now that you’re prepared, you’re ready for the pursuit: Hunting Alaskan Dall Sheep: Part 2 - Unparalleled Terrain