As we neared the top of the low ridge that covered our approach, Darrel Leavitt removed his pack and began crawling toward a small clearing between two rocky ledges, pushing the pack ahead of him as he did.
I followed suit but without my pack. I chose to leave it behind so it wouldn’t be in my way if the time came.
Somehow, we managed to move unnoticed and just far enough to get a good look at the ram. He lay at the bottom of a rocky outcropping on the far side of a shallow pocket between us – the same place he was when we first began our stalk.
Darrel ranged the distance, then whispered, “He’s at 323 yards. Can you make the shot?” I answered that I could, then he said, “What do you want to do?”
The look on his face let me know the choice was mine, especially after seeing the large ram on this same ridge less than 24 hours earlier. But he wanted me to be sure before I pulled the trigger.
I thought about that big ram. He was truly something out of the ordinary and the reason we had come back to give the ridge another look. Darrel nicknamed him “The Tank.”
‘Big Ram Ridge’
It all started when my friend Jed Topham and my son Hyrum joined us at first light. I think Jed was as excited as I was about drawing a tag, and Hyrum had come all the way from Idaho to join us for the hunt. Don’t tell his mother though, she still thinks he came for Thanksgiving.
We split up into teams to maximize our spotting capability. Jed and Hyrum hunkered down with their binoculars and a spotting scope on the west side of “Big Ram Ridge” while Darrel and I went to the east. Slowly we picked apart the ridge from north to south and top to bottom. We peeked into every nook and cranny and scanned the ridge tops as far as we could see, then we changed spots and started over, but The Tank was nowhere to be found.
Sure that The Tank would suddenly show up, I kept looking back to the spot where we first saw him, but he never showed. Then just as I began to feel kind of bummed, my cell phone vibrated. It was Jed.
“Doug, there’s three rams on that knob about 100 yards from where you saw the big ram. They’re bumping heads and rubbing horns. There are two good rams and a young one!” he exclaimed.
“No way!” I thought, but Jed was right. In the minutes since I last checked, another dandy and a couple of pals showed up on Big Ram Ridge. He wasn’t as big as The Tank, but he was a good ram, a pretty ram. About 15 minutes later Darrel and I reached the ridge.
Jed called him King Kong because he bedded down high on top of a knob where he could see everything in all directions. For the next half hour or so, we examined every possible avenue but couldn’t figure out how to close the distance without the ram seeing us. Then, to our surprise, the ram suddenly jumped up and went for a walk, but that walk was straight down the ridge in our direction.
We were amazed as the ram kept coming and within minutes had cut the distance by more than half. He could have easily crossed the knife-edge ridge to the far side, but he didn’t. The ram just kept coming. Then just as suddenly he stopped walking and bedded down again. This time below the rocky outcropping across the shallow pocket where Darrel and I managed to stalk within range of my old and well-used .270.
After thinking about his question, I turned to Darrel and said, “He’s a good ram, a pretty ram, and my son is here to share my hunt.”
A short while later, with my son and friends at my side, we took a few minutes to admire our Thanksgiving ram, take a few photos and then prepare the meat and cape for the pack out. Knowledge and experience can often mean the difference between filling your tag and going home empty, but it never hurts to have a little luck on your side.
The Arizona Game Fish Department is accepting applications for leftover javelina tags. They are available for general as well as archery, handgun and muzzleloader seasons. For more information visit www.azgfd.com .
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .