Published January 11, 2013, 07:46 AM

A fine hunt and fellowship

The day after I killed the desert bighorn ram in the Monte Cristo Mountains of Nevada, guide Roy Lerg left early in the morning for home, but not before graciously inviting Laurie and me to join him and his wife Debbie at their residence in the Smith Valley.

By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun

EPILOGUE

The day after I killed the desert bighorn ram in the Monte Cristo Mountains of Nevada, guide Roy Lerg left early in the morning for home, but not before graciously inviting Laurie and me to join him and his wife Debbie at their residence in the Smith Valley.

It was a 180-mile drive through Nevada desert country, crossing enormous basins rimmed on either side by mountains, and by Walker Lake at the edge of Hawthorne, where the largest U.S. Army munitions dump is located.

Mid-afternoon we arrived at Lerg’s home, and impressive it was. In addition to being a top-notch sheep guide and taxidermist, Roy was a home-builder until the market crashed a half dozen years ago. His home is something I would wish for myself but could never afford in Montana.

The next delight was to view Roy and Debbie’s sheep, antelope and mule deer heads from past hunts — all mounted by Roy. One sheep head is a magnificent desert bighorn that scores in the mid-170s.

While hunting, Roy told me a number of stories from guiding some 120 sheep hunts since the age of 24. As it is with hunting, some hunts were picture book perfect, others were flawed and some were outright disastrous. He handed me a sheep horn from a 40-inch ram he found dead many years ago. The previous year he had a 50-yard shot at the ram, but was confounded by scope caps. It was a story that would make any sheep hunter sob.

“You ought to write a book about your sheep guiding,” I suggested to Roy. “I’d edit your copy for free in exchange for a copy of the book.”

“It would be a very limited readership,” he replied. “And I hate writing.”

I had to chuckle at that.

I nursed a beer in Roy’s garage and watched as he finished caping my desert sheep head. On the wall above us were three mule deer heads, one that scored something like 202 points and was taken by Roy’s 29-year-old son, Emmett, when he was a teenager.

“I told him to put his rifle away … he’d never take a bigger one than that,” Roy said.

Indeed, I have never seen anything like those mule deer bucks when I was hunting.

“In the 1970s, if three of us were hunting, we could count on a couple bucks in the 170s and one in the 190 range,” Roy said. “Those days are gone.”

The next morning at 6, I hear rustling in the kitchen. It is Debbie moving about. Laurie gets up and they have coffee while the sun rises spectacularly over the Nevada desert, mountains looming on all sides.

So we said our good-byes after a fine hunt and good company, and rolled up the road toward Winnemucca, which seems to have grown appreciably since I hunted chucker partridges out of there in the last ‘90s.

As we did on our way to Tonopah on our drive from Montana, we spent the night in Wells, showing the guys at the Shell station, who we met earlier, the desert sheep head, and left a note for the lady at the convenience store who insisted on getting a hunting report from us.

In the morning we began the long drive north into Idaho, through Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and up to Monida Pass and into Montana. Laurie, who had been fretting for months about icy roads, was relieved to see dry roads all the way to Bozeman.

And so I am grateful for my incredible luck, made possible by the skills of a 58-year-old sheep guide named Roy Lerg. He told me once that when he was young he could outwalk a horse. I believe him. And he encouraged me to continue to apply for a California bighorn permit in northern Nevada, and seemed comfortable with the prospect of guiding this old “has-been” sheep hunter on another adventure. I checked after I returned to our home in Bozeman, and I have 13 bonus points for the California bighorn subspecies in Nevada.

Yeah, I plan to keep applying … bad back and joints aside, I am not ready to give up just yet!

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