B&C World's Record – Dall's Sheep

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Having gained the experience he needed on earlier hunts for Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli dalli), Harry Swank, Jr., a resident of Anchorage, decided to try for a really outstanding ram in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains. He knew there were some wonderful heads to be found there, even though the world’s record, at that time, had come from the Chugach Mountains. Swank’s story occurred in September 1961, and offers an excellent example of trophy hunting at its very best.

“A man must want a trophy pretty badly to put in all that time, and that man was me,” Swank said. “So last season I went into the wild Wrangell Mountains of Alaska with my hunting partner, Perley Jones, and guide Jack Wilson. From Jack’s base camp at Gulkana we made a number of reconnaissance flights deep into the mountains and finally picked an area that was so shockingly rough and remote it is seldom, if ever, visited by hunters. Then in September, I was put down on a big, tilted glacier—an operation that called for infinite skill. The country was as hostile as any a man is likely to meet; forbidding glaciers bounded by treacherous crevasses; cliffs whose sheer faces seemed insurmountable; and miserable weather.

“After a good night’s sleep, Perley and I made a blood-curdling descent down the side of the main glacier into a valley. Moving slowly up a canyon we carefully glassed the surrounding ridges. There were sheep, but nothing that looked like a world’s record. By now it was well into the afternoon, but I decided to have a look at what lay beyond the next hill. The hill proved to be farther away than I’d estimated and the sun was getting dangerously low when I finally glassed the valley beyond it. Seeing nothing, I was about to return to camp when two rams suddenly appeared on a ridge a quarter-mile away. One was a youngster but the other was huge—bigger than any sheep I’d ever seen.

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“Caught out in the open, there was nothing I could do but try to get closer to the ram,” Swank said. “Strangely enough, I managed to get within a few hundred yards of it before the young sheep noticed me and started to act nervous. Groaning inwardly, I dropped to the ground and brought my .264 against my shoulder. The great white sheep moved closer to the edge of the ridge and peered down curiously. Instantly I brought the crosshairs to bear, but as my finger tightened on the trigger, doubts began to assail me. Should I shoot or wait? I was not sure this ram was of world’s-record stature, and if I shot him my hunt would be over for the year.

“‘Maybe,’ I was saying when the rifle went off, almost by itself, with a wham, before I’d truly made up my mind,” Swank recalled. “The big ram leaped convulsively, then slumped to the ground. By now it was almost dark.

“The next morning I carefully measured the curl and learned that my seven year quest was over—the head was a world’s record,” Swank said. “Later, the Boone and Crockett Club officially scored it at 189-6/8 points.”

This trophy won the coveted Sagamore Hill Award in the 1961, signifying both trophy excellence and a hunt exhibiting the finest standards of fair chase.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>