Thursday, March 8, 2012

A New Adventure: San Gabriel Bighorn Sheep Survey
When I shared with people that I was participating in the San Gabriel Bighorn Sheep Survey most people had distorted faces and asked, We have sheep in California? Others said there are no sheep in California and from the result this past Sunday, you may believe that.

Honestly, I cannot remember how I found out about the sheep survey. I believe I was doing some research on hunting sheep when I found the survey website. After reading through the information I was hooked! I sent in my request and I was contacted by Jeff Villepique at the CA DFG. He sent me the volunteer packet full of information and I signed up. I contacted my buddy Cody Scott and he immediately said he wanted in, as did his friend Josh Adams. Right on!

An orientation was held the evening before the actual survey on March 3rd. DFG actually had around 350 people signed up for the event, but I would guess that less than half that actually showed.  The biologists covered what to look for, how to age the sheep and they described the different spots we could choose to go to. Cody, Josh and I discussed the different areas before choosing a spot. We took into consideration the drive (me from Long Beach and they from Yucaipa), the time of day we'd have to be there, how far and steep the hike was and when we'd finish up. When all was said and done, we had chosen the group hiking the South Fork at Lytle Creek. I also got to meet one of my blog readers who was at the orientation with his son. Tom, it was great meeting you! Did you guys see any sheep?

The weather was not what we had anticipated during the weeks prior to the survey. We figured there would be a foot of snow, it would be cold and the hike would be rough. It was exactly the opposite. We started hiking in at 9 AM and the temps were around 65 degrees. No snow, very warm and instead of bundling up, I was wearing shorts. That's what I'm talking about! Now, the glare off of my white legs probably blinded a few folks, but it was only temporary. The hike wasn't rough, but it was challenging. Between the optics, my camera equipment and water I had 45 lbs in my Badlands on our hike in. Insane? Maybe.

Our hike in over boulders, crossing the stream and traversing logs. (Excuse the crappy cell phone pic).

The hike in was over rocks, boulders, through the stream and moderately steep in a few places, but all-in-all an awesome, fun hike. We were led in by our volunteer guides, Neil and Tom. Neil is an ex-Marine with a love for the outdoors. Tom I didn't get to know much. Not only was Neil knowledgeable, but he was super cool to everyone. Not pushing anyone beyond their limits, resting when needed and he was great to talk with. Neil, thanks to you and Tom for everything you guys did on Sunday.

Here are a few photos of us glassing the mountain sides. We saw absolutely NO sheep all day long. The highlight of the day was when I was able to spot a ground squirrel at the very leak of the mountain we were glassing. I was using the spotting scope and when I spotted him, others scanned the peak to find him. Cody was able to spot him quickly. Many in our group said that I must be using some high-quality optics to view something so small, so clear being that far away. Indeed I was!

Cody Scott utilizing a pair of the new SV 10x50 KOWA binoculars.

This was me using a TSN-773 spotting scope from KOWA.

Josh Adams lining up his spotter trying to locate some sheep.

Our view down the canyon.

I did spot a beauty of a spider at my feet followed up by a scorpion scurrying across the rocks.

This spider had no fear of me and held his ground.

At least I was able to spot this scorpion as he sauntered across the hot rocks.

Just some beautiful plants growing in the river bottom.

The optics we were using were using to glass were made by the fine folks at KOWA Sporting Optics. (Product reviews forthcoming). I want to say thank you to Jim Danzenbaker and Bob Kotula for getting some spectacular glass in our hands. It made the day fly for us because everything was super sharp and clear. Just wait until you guys read the review on the spotting scope and the binoculars. All I can say is... WOW!

We glassed and chatted and had a great time. The DFG helicopter flew through the canyon to try and locate the sheep, too. It was truly remarkable to watch as the pilot had nerves of steel. He kept maneuvering in and out of the narrow canyons with absolute ease. My hat is off to you! Here are some photos of the mountain sides and the helicopter by them.

The DFG helicopter starting off at the top of the mountain.

Just before slipping into one of the narrow canyons.

We all had a great time getting to know one another in the hope of spotting a sheep, or a deer, or bear, or even a mountain lion. We saw none of the above, but it was definitely an experience I will partake in next year.Super stoked to have made two new hunting friends in Cody and Josh and I look forward to spending some more time afield with these two gentlemen.


  1. Great pictures (even the cell phone shot), and a great tale. It sounds like it was a wonderful day, and though you didn't see any sheep, the day was full of fun.

  2. Too bad there were no sightings, still looked like a good hike and time out in the wilderness.

  3. Thanks guys. It was a great day. The hike was fun, different and most of all I got to chat with some new friends.