By Kinnen Shaw // @noshedleftfordead
Heart racing, blood pumping, and body shaking in excitement! This was the shed trip of a lifetime – from start to finish.
One of my buddies invited me to join him on a shed opener. Based on the photos of their finds from the year prior, I was ecstatic.
I pulled up the night before, made a game plan, and got some sleep. Gates were scheduled to open at 8am. The morning was cold and crisp. Fresh air hit my lungs as I got out of the truck at 6:30am to start a pot of coffee. Although, the coffee was only needed to warm us up as the anticipation already had us energized.
There was an older gentleman already at the gate as we rolled in. We exchanged stories till the warden arrived to unlock the gate and let the hunt begin. We shared some jerky with the warden and got some intel on where the bulls had been over winter.
The gate was opened. My buddy roared up the road in his blazer. We were flying up a two-track going 30 mph, but we never felt a bump thanks to the adrenaline pumping through our veins.
The wind hit me in the face – I was right.
We reached the top where we planned to get out on foot, and before the vehicle was in park, I bailed out and started running! I reached a bench that looked prime for elk. The wind hit me in the face – I was right. That musk of elk filled my nostrils and validated my senses.
I picked up a funky little 5-point with a droopy brow tine. We made a plan to make a loop back up close to the truck where my buddy was picking up sheds. Along the way, we noticed a couple of guys skirting a tree line. We decided to cut behind them to explore what might be hiding in the trees.
Crows, ravens, and magpies were flying and squawking everywhere! Something was dead.
My buddy and I looked at each other and had the same thought without speaking, "grizzly bear." We both grabbed for our guns and bear spray. As we inched closer, the stench of rotting flesh hit me like a cement truck.
I turned around and BOOM!!
I started following my nose into the wind uphill. As I climbed, I came around a small pine tree that smelled amazing, mixed with fresh rain and sage. It was then I realized that I had passed whatever was dead. My buddy said he'd make a loop to try and relocate it. I was gonna double back and keep using my nose. As we split up, I turned around and BOOM!!
I yelled, "DEADHEAD!"
My buddy, with elk on the mind, asked how big. I didn't know what to say – this was no elk. It was a bighorn sheep ram.
I wasn't sure if I could take it. I excitedly made a few calls to get the okay. With this beast on my back, it was time to make for the truck. I used the antler I found as a brace as we scaled a 45° hill for two miles bearing the warm 80-degree day and 40 pounds or more on my back. Once I made it to the truck, the warden happened to be parked 200 yards away, keeping an eye out for illegal activity. I grabbed something to drink and caught my breath, then went to alert the warden of my notable find and get clarification on the proper claiming procedure.
He noted that the ram was one of the largest he's seen come out of the area, with the most mass he's seen on any ram. He directed me to the headquarters, conveniently in the same direction as home. Plugged, euro mounted, and forever treasured – the best find of my life.