By Dave Maxwell
Calling it two lifetime hunts in one season, former Pahranagat Valley resident Dennis Perkins bagged a California bighorn sheep and a prize bull elk within three weeks.
Unlikely as it is for a hunter to have two such tags in the same year, Perkins’ son Tony, of Las Vegas, applied last spring for hunting licenses and tags for himself and his dad.
Dennis, 78, felt sure that drawing both tags in the same year would probably never again occur in his lifetime, so there was not any question of him and Tony going out.
However, Perkins had major ankle and foot problems. He was nearly unable to walk without a corrective boot prescribed by his podiatrist and was scheduled for surgery in the fall.
Dennis said, “I had been experiencing bad pains in my right ankle and after an examination, in July, my doctor told me the pad between my leg and bone was worn away and I would need surgery as soon as it could be arranged and he put me in that corrective boot.”
But the hunting tags were already given and Perkins thought he could postpone the surgery until early 2019 and take a crack at the two major hunting trophies.
Perkins notes that he had applied for a bighorn sheep tag a few years before, but no luck. “After I learned what I had drawn, talking with another hunter one day, telling of my good future, he was so unhappy. He said he had been applying for 18 years and hadn’t got one.”
It can be seven to 10 years before a person can reapply after being awarded one of those tags, and he was determined he was going out, boot or no boot. “Got to give it a try.”
By September, he and Tony, an experienced and very knowledgeable hunter himself, had made plans on how they would approach this hunt since Dennis was not able to walk too well over hill and dale and rock- strewn areas with the boot.
On Sept. 8, Dennis, Tony, and Dennis’ 17-year-old grandson Ammon Rasmussen went out into the mountains a bit north between Tonopah and Eureka.
Dennis didn’t see what he was looking for, but Tony and Ammon did fill the antelope and deer tags they had. He said walking with the boot was better, “but my ankle was hurting so bad I was glad when the others called the hunt off.”
About a month later, before sunrise, Oct. 10, 2018, the men went out again, traveling along the back roads to bighorn sheep areas. “Tony had hired a guide,” Dennis said, “but this man was a fill-in for the first one, who had to cancel at the last minute.”
From a road about 5,000 elevation, the group spotted a herd at about the 7,500 foot level a little over a mile away. The guide said they needed to go up higher and get around behind the animals, but Dennis said, “I knew I just didn’t have a drop of climb left in that ankle; not even sure I can make it back to our vehicle. So we called it a day about lunchtime and went back to camp.”
The next morning, they all went out again and, quickly, after sunrise, spotted a few animals high in the rocky crags, but decided to pass this group and go farther. Hours passed and they saw nothing. The guide wanted to go back to an earlier area where nothing had been seen before, but Tony insisted on continuing on.
Eventually, they came across some tracks and noted the direction of their travel. Following the tracks, they soon came upon two rams and five ewes, about 900 yards in front of them.
Leaving the guide in the roadway to deter any deer hunters who might come along, Dennis and Tony got as close as they could without being detected. “The sheep went uphill,” said Dennis, “but not yet running. I set up my tripod, saw when the ram came clear, and took the shot. A six-year-old about 400 feet off the road. Being a young ram, he scored about 129.” Bighorn sheep tag filled.
Then on Oct. 28, the Perkins and Rasmussen went bull elk hunting in the Wells area.
“We found nothing after two days, no signs or anything,” Dennis said.
On the third day, they went down to the foothills to hunt. Tony scouted the area for quite a while and reported he spotted a herd, one bull and 20-30 cows, about two miles away.
Now began what turned into a six-hour stalking session, involving about three-and-a-half hours of crawling on their bellies to find the right spot and avoid being detected.
Perkins’ ankle was in tremendous pain. “We approach the herd twice, but can’t get close enough for a shot.” Sometime later, Dennis was unable to crawl anymore. He and Tony decided a desperation shot was in order. At 700 yards, with a 15 mph crosswind, it wasn’t an easy shot even for the best hunters.
They waited and watched for the bull to come clear. When he did, Dennis took the shot. Missed. Two inches too high, the bullet hit the hillside. But the bull didn’t flinch. Another shot. Miss, this time a bit behind the rump. Now the elk were alerted. A third shot also missed.
Understandably, Dennis, a veteran hunter and an excellent shot, was frustrated.
The elk went over a ridge and the men followed, crawling flat on the ground.
“Pretty soon,” Dennis said, “I see the bull and cows about a half a mile out and a bit to my left. I go downhill to get out of their sight and move toward them.”
This hide-and-seek game went on for a long time until it was nearly 3 p.m. and would be getting dark soon.
Tony and Dennis crawled up to the top of a small ridge and could see the bull and cows in a bowl-like area across from them about 200 yards out.
Time to act. Dennis set up the tripod.
When the bull came clear, Tony said, “Go ahead and shoot.” Crack! But the bull didn’t go down.
“You got him good in the shoulder, Dad. He can’t go far but is still very mobile. Better give him another,” Tony said. Dennis did, virtually dead center of the first shot.
The bull was dressed out and hauled back to their vehicle about three miles away. It was around 11 p.m. before the final pieces were loaded and they could return to camp.
In the final analysis, Perkins said, “it really is two lifetime hunts in the same season, walking boot and all.”