BIGHORN SUCCESS

October 31, 2003 12:00 am
Success Before The Storm: Bob Coulter of La Grande took this Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Wallowas right before a snow storm hit. (Mark Moncrief photo).
Success Before The Storm: Bob Coulter of La Grande took this Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Wallowas right before a snow storm hit. (Mark Moncrief photo).

Stories by Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Time was running short for La Grande's Bob Coulter, even shorter than he realized.

Coulter was on a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunt in the Wallowas. His window of opportunity was closing as rapidly as a wind-blown stone tumbles down the barren landscape of the high Wallowas. Just two days remained in his hunt.

Magnifying the pressure exponentially was another factor — Coulter was hunting with a tag a person can be awarded just once a lifetime. Unless he took a bighorn in the next two days he would never get one in Oregon.

"We knew that time was running out,'' Coulter said.

Coulter's guide, Mark Moncrief of Enterprise, was not to be deterred. He took Coulter's party near where he had spotted a herd about 10 days earlier. The herd was located and Coulter's party began tracking it.

At 11 a.m. near Hurricane Creek and the Lostine River, Coulter took aim at a ram from 175 yards and hit it. A second shot from 375 yards killed it.

Less than an hour later a snow storm hit the area, reducing visibility to about 100 yards.

"If we had waited much longer we may not gotten a ram,'' Coulter said.

Coulter and his party had been hunting for 13 days. The party members were tired from hiking at high elevation over steep terrain. Nobody complained because of the rare opportunity they had.

"It was grueling but all joy,'' Coulter said.

The ram's horns were scored a solid 165 points. One of its features are its intact flared tips. The tips had not been rubbed or "broomed'' off. Bighorns will broom off their horn tips when they block their peripheral vision, Coulter said.

One of the most challenging parts of the experience came after the bighorn was taken. Coulter's party cut up the animal and then packed it out 1 1/2 miles to their camp.

"The first 100 yards were scary because there was six inches of snow on the rock pile,'' Coulter said.

Coulter gives an enormous amount of credit for his successful hunt to Moncrief. He was impressed with things such as his ability to read sheep tracks.

"For him looking at tracks is like reading a newspaper,'' said Coulter, the owner of Red Cross United Drug Store.

Others who accompanied Coulter on his hunt were his son, Robb, his daughter, Leah, Larry Snook of Joseph and Eric Valentine of La Grande.

Coulter's ram weighed about 250 pounds. His family and friends are enjoying the meat, which Coulter describes as tender and delicious.

"It's too bad that you can have it only once a lifetime. Maybe that's why it tastes so good,'' Coulter said with a smile.