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PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF FOR BIGHORN SHEEP HUNTER

After 24 trips:Former La Granderesident Corrie Hopper bagged this record book-caliber California bighorn sheep on Sept. 4 near Juntura, about 50 miles south of Vale. The ram, which has a green score of 152 3/8, should automatically qualify for the Record Book for Oregon's Big Game Animals. ().
After 24 trips:Former La Granderesident Corrie Hopper bagged this record book-caliber California bighorn sheep on Sept. 4 near Juntura, about 50 miles south of Vale. The ram, which has a green score of 152 3/8, should automatically qualify for the Record Book for Oregon's Big Game Animals. ().

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

alheur is a French word used to describe misfortune.

Never tell this to Corrie Hopper of John Day, however.

The former La Grande resident recently experienced the kind of good fortune in Malheur County that most hunters only dream of.

Hopper took a record book-caliber California bighorn sheep on Sept. 4 near Juntura, about 50 miles south of Vale. The ram, which has a green score of 152 3/8, should automatically qualify for the Record Book for Oregon's Big Game Animals.

Hopper took the ram with the help of her husband, Dan, her father, Jim Cronin of Burns, and her brother, Ty Cronin of Burns.

Adrenaline ran high in the party the moment the ram was hit.

"It is almost indescribable, all the emotions which ran through my body at the time — excitement, relief and sadness that the adventure was over,'' Corrie Hopper said.

Her husband had similar feelings.

"We were hugging each other and were ready to do cartwheels,'' Dan Hopper said.

The Hoppers' successful hunt is a credit to perseverance. The couple made 24 trips to the Juntura area this summer after Corrie won her tag.

"We went every single weekend,'' said Corrie, a 1998 graduate of Eastern Oregon University who lived in La Grande for seven years before she and her husband moved to John Day about three months ago.

The Hoppers saw 32 rams, 60 ewes and lambs and seven rattlesnakes during their scouting trips. They had an excellent idea of which rams were in the Riverside Unit.

"We knew that it was the biggest ram,'' Dan Hopper said.

Corrie won her tag for the hunt in a June drawing. She was one of 319 applicants for two tags in the unit. Hunters can obtain a bighorn sheep tag in an Oregon drawing just once a lifetime.

All told there were 16,384 applicants for 60 California and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep tags in Oregon units this year.

The California bighorn sheep the Hoppers hunted are generally smaller than Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. All California bighorns with scores of at least 150 qualify for the Record Book of Oregon's Big Game Animals by David Morris.

Corrie shot the ram on the second day of her hunt. The ram was with a band of six other sheep and was 320 yards away. Corrie had waited an hour hoping that the bighorn would move closer but decided to fire from this distance after it appeared the band might move away.

Once the animal was taken, Corrie and her party began preparing to pack the animal out. They cut it up and placed it on pack boards.

Then the real work started.

The party needed at least eight hours to carry the animal out. The trek was made difficult by hot weather and rocky terrain. The Hoppers and Cronins had four gallons of water with them, all of which they drank before returning.

The euphoria of the moment also made the hike back more bearable. Corrie noted that her legs had been sore during the first day of the hunt.

"They hurt a lot less the next day,'' she said.

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