By Jim Shockey
Deer are one thing. Moose, caribou, bear, antelope, bison, elk and muskox are the same thing. Wild sheep are another thing.
As a born and raised deer hunter (and I thought expert) my first British Columbia (BC) deer “hunt” at the invincible age of 21, opened my eyes to one undeniable reality of the place… it was big! Really big! The miles and miles of forest, cut by deep canyons, made the flat Saskatchewan fields and poplar bluffs of my youth look like child’s play. I was lost, literally and figuratively. Deer I didn’t find that first “hunt,” but I did find, as so many who have ventured into the wildlands of BC do, both love and wonder. Love of the fresh air. Love of the effort. Love of feeling free and unfettered in a raw land of untamed beauty. And wonder. Wonder at how in the heck the best of the best, the whispered about legends of the BC hunting world, the sheep hunters, ever managed to get to, let alone hunt on, the rugged peaks poking skyward in the impossible distance, taunting and haunting and tempting me from the valley bottom deer forest.
And so, at the age of 21, deerless and bursting with unearned self-respect, I returned to civilization, re-outfitted myself in the latest greatest backpacking gear from the Army Surplus store and returned to the wild lands, rifle in hand, determined to test my mettle, determined to be a sheep hunter.
Not once did I try. Not twice. But seven times over the ensuing years did I attempt to reach and climb those craggy peaks, to prove to myself that I was equal to the challenge, that I too could walk the high hanging basins, shoulder to shoulder, with the giants of the hunting world, the sheep hunters.
Thank you, God. In retrospect, the lesson in humility was probably warranted, but really? Not doubting Your wisdom, but did You really need to flay the layers of undaunted confidence away with the blunt edge of brutal failure SEVEN TIMES?
Enter Bill Pastorek.
He was what I wanted to be. He was a sheep hunter, a real sheep hunter. He lived and breathed sheep hunting, was a student of sheep behaviour and was obviously in need of a “good will” project! My lucky day! Grasshopper I became, and my sheep hunting Sensi he became. Wax on. Wax off. He taught me that sheep hunting isn’t about killing a sheep, no, to be a sheep hunter, a true sheep hunter, one had to BE a sheep hunter.
Huh? Frankly I didn’t understand what the heck he was talking about either, but over many a freeze-dried meal, hunkered down beside our tiny backpack tents somewhere beyond Arthur’s Seat (I was still figuratively and literally lost), I listened to Bill wax eloquent about every nuance of sheep character, of sheep diet, of sheep biology and of the history of sheep hunting in North America. That he knew his stuff, there was no doubt, but that his student (who by the way was older than Bill) was capable of understanding wild sheep as deeply as he did, was thankfully for me, his mistake!
I learned as much as a journeyman can from a master. We didn’t take a sheep on that hunt, (my eighth attempt but who’s counting) I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Bill’s intent. What I did take, was as many of Bill’s words of wisdom as I was capable of assimilating and headed back into the sheep mountains the next time, armed with a new respect for these wondrous wild sheep and the magnificent mountain haunts they live upon.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was wrong when he wrote, “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself.” Since that hunt with Bill, I’ve been fortunate to climb most of the sheep and goat mountains of the world, but with all due respect to Sir Arthur, I know I will never, ever BE the sheep hunter Bill Pastorek is, it’s impossible. To be that, one has to walk the sheep hunter’s walk, climb the climb, live the life, day after day, season after season, for a lifetime. One would have to dedicate his heart and mind to sheep Conservation as Bill has, and would have to give and give and continue to give to the wild sheep of North America.
And now Bill has given the sheep hunting world this book.
As I page through, I am again filled with wonder, but this time not wonder at how the best of the best, the whispered about legends of the BC hunting world, the sheep hunters, ever managed to hunt the rugged peaks poking skyward in the impossible distance, because the legends aren’t whispered about any longer! They have come alive on these pages! Their stories told by the only one qualified to tell their tales of challenge and endeavour… one of their own.
A man who knows what it really means to BE a sheep hunter!