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Lightning Strikes Twice
Oregon’s Jason Inman Draws Two “Once In A Lifetime” Tags In Same Season and Fills Both
By Pat Hoglund, WHJ Staff
To call it a stroke of good luck would be a gross understatement. Maybe a double or triple dose of good luck is more appropriate, but even then, that doesn’t do justice when you hear that Jason Inman was drawn for not one, but two “once in a lifetime hunts” for the 2015 hunting season in Oregon.
The Mulino, Oregon resident drew a Rocky Mountain goat tag, and a bighorn sheep tag two seasons ago and filled both with two impressive animals.
Inman, who sent in photos for the Bone Yard Photo Contest, graces the cover of this issue with his Rocky Mountain goat. When we reached out to him to ask permission to use his photo on the cover, that’s when we learned he struck lightning in a bottle twice that year.
Inman, 38, drew the Elkhorn No. 3 Rocky Mountain goat tag, and the Aldrich No. 1 bighorn sheep tag, defying odds that are too astronomical to comprehend. It has happened only one time before. In Oregon both bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunts are random draws. Preference points do not apply and once a hunter is drawn for these highly coveted tags they are no longer eligible to apply.
“Honestly, with both tags it didn’t really set in until I went to the sheep orientation meeting,” Inman recalls, referring to the ODFW’s one-day seminar for goat and sheep tag recipients. “That’s when it started to sink in. But I suspect it’s like winning the lottery. It doesn’t really set in until the cash is in your hand.”
Speaking of the lottery, when asked if he bought tickets that day he laughed.
“That was the number one question people asked when I told them. I didn’t, but probably should’ve.”
Following the orientation meeting held in July, Inman set up a game plan that involved weeks of scouting for both hunts. His first order of business was scouting for his sheep hunt, which took place in August.
The Aldrich hunt falls within the Murderer’s Creek Unit, and is concentrated in the Aldrich Mountains, located on the breaks of the John Day River. There are very few roads and the terrain is steep and rugged. It is anything but a walk in the park.
“Aldrich has produced some good rams over the years, but it’s not a Booner unit. I looked at the rams that were killed in that unit and there were a lot of 140s and 150s,” he says. “That is what made me nervous. If I could help it, I didn’t want to shoot a 140 ram.”
Over seven days of scouting, Inman and his hunt party saw several good rams, and one in particular that caught their attention. They figured it to be in the 160- to 170-class. Throwing a wrinkle in their plans, several wild fires in the area threatened to postpone his hunt. “That was a little unnerving,” he recalls.
Inman and his hunt party arrived the Wednesday before the season began and they had to coordinate their scouting trips with fire crews, each time leaving their keys with the fire fighters should their vehicles need to be evacuated quickly.
Fortunately, the state opened the area on Friday allowing Inman and his crew to find the one ram they spotted earlier in the summer. That evening they watched him bed down for the night. After only a couple hours of sleep, they were back the next morning at first light. The ram was still in the same location and Inman was able to get within 625 yards of him. Using a .257 Weatherby, his first shot missed, but fortunately the ram started running toward him. That’s when it stopped on a bald face 475 yards away.
“I held low and hammered him in the shoulders,” he says.
Once they field dressed the ram, the pack out was grueling. They walked 5 ¼ miles through timber, rocky mountains, and steep, unforgiving terrain. It was anything but easy.
“When it came down to it, we went there the Wednesday before the season opened and kept tabs on him the whole time. We never found a bigger ram,” says Inman.
The ram eventually scored 169 2/8. “Still the biggest ram I saw there. Other than the one last year, it was the biggest one taken out of there.”
Despite his goat hunt fast approaching in October, Inman managed to kill a bull elk with his bow during the archery season and once that was complete, he focused on scouting goats in Elkhorn Mountains.
Inman did his research and most of the goats killed in his unit were taken from the Twin Lakes area. He called the district wildlife biologist in Baker City, and was told not to rule out Anthony Lakes area. But because most of their pre-season scouting was focused on the Twin Lakes area, that’s where they hunted.
“There’s goats everywhere,” he says. “But you have to get within 1,000 yards to get a good judge on them. We picked out a couple billies but they weren’t the 50-inch caliber, which was my goal. It was the last hunt of the season so you’re able to be pickier, but like the sheep hunt you feel the pressure to fill your tag so the people helping you can be part of it. That was always in the back of my mind.”
Opening day, they found several good billies, but none were what Inman was looking for. The next day, Sunday, they spotted a shooter.
“We put the stock on him, then weather blew in, clouds and misty rain, you can’t see anything and we were fogged out so we decided to pull out.”
The same thing happened the next day. “It was raining sideways so we went back to camp and regrouped. That’s when we decided to hike in to Anthony Lakes the next day.”
They started at the Anthony Lakes ski area and walked to the top of the ski lift, then made their way down the other side of the mountain. Looking up on the backside of the mountain they were on two days prior, the hillside had several mountain goats in view.
“We got the spotting scopes out and immediately saw a shooter,” says Inman.
Inman moved to within 375 yards of the billy and was getting ready to take the shot when it bedded down.
“We sat there for about four hours waiting for him to get up. When he finally stood, he was on this ledge outcropping. All I could think about is that once I hit him he’ll jump. For some reason if you don’t anchor your shot they like to do the swan dive over the cliff.”
When he touched off the shot from his Browning .300 Short Mag, the goat dropped. “I dump him and he’s doing the moon walk,” says Inman. “I put one more in the boiler room and when we get up to him he fell into a limb that kept him from rolling off the ledge. If it wasn’t there he would’ve gone off the ledge.”
This time the hike back to the truck wasn’t as far (it was 2 ½ miles) but it was every bit as grueling. They arrived back to the pickup at 2 o’clock in the morning.
At camp, they took quick measurements. “He had 11 ¼-inch horns so we were thinking he was in the high 40s. We took him to the ODFW office to have him scored. I had no idea he was 51 4/8.” Inman’s goat is tied for 10th biggest goat in the state.
As you can see from the photo, the billy has a tremendous coat that makes it look bigger than it actually was. Inman says it was in pristine condition, enough to justify a full body mount.
“I hate to say to it, but having those two tags, I felt rushed. You’ve got a group of guys who have committed to hunt with you but not all of them are able to stay the whole time, so you feel this pressure to get it done. But I think we did the right thing on both hunts.”
His one regret was not everyone in his hunt party was able to stay for the goat hunt. Two of them had to leave early. While he looks back on both hunts, he admits the trophies are great, but he is most grateful to those who helped him experience his two once in a lifetime hunts: Jim Pearsall, Steven Dyer, Tim Phillips, Lance Dyer and Carter Verhaeghe.
“I’m grateful to those guys,” he says. “Without them, it wouldn’t have possible.”
Editor’s Note: If you have a story to share about a unique hunt or an incredible animal, please email Pat Hoglund with details and photos. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.