Editor’s note: The following blog was written and submitted by Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks.
by Jason Brooks
For some 13 is considered an unlucky number, but for Cody Dobbins 13 isn’t so bad after all. He drew a coveted Manson Unit bighorn sheep tag this past June and set out to find a nice ram on Thanksgiving week.
No, Cody didn’t have 13 points or even 13 hunting seasons under his belt, but instead had 13 birthdays before his sheep hunt. Yes, he is only 13 years old and already had a once-in-a-lifetime tag in his pocket.
And that might also have been why he and his stepfather Jeremy were nervously looking for sheep in their unit and not finding any two days before Thanksgiving. You only get one chance at this tag and at 13 years old, it’s hard to comprehend that once in a lifetime is a long time to stew over tag soup if you don’t get your ram. Luckily, a local resident pointed Cody and his father to Al Brooks, who happens to be my father, and has over 20 years experience as the Lake Chelan Sportsman’s Association president.
Al likes to keep tabs on the wildlife in the valley, especially the sheep, and has helped past hunters in finding the bands along the lake. He also has helped a few of the late Manson quality mule deer tag holders, including Craig Maki just a week before Cody and Jeremy called. After Al made a few phone calls to WDFW wildlife biologist Dave Volson and local fishing guide Jeff Witkowski they confirmed that the sheep had already moved down to the lake and were grazing on the grasses in the cliffs above Mitchell Creek. The next afternoon Al and Jeff Witkowski took Cody and Jeremy for a boat ride.
Jeff is employed by Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad’s Guide Service. Jeff and Anton are known for catching big Mackinaw, but Anton also has a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service to transport people to the national forest along the shores of Lake Chelan. Jeff is not a hunting guide but often sees the sheep on his uplake journeys and was pretty excited to be able to offer a ride to the young hunter.
As they cruised along the lakeshore my father spotted some sheep up high on the slopes. It was late in the afternoon and not enough time for a stalk, but seeing sheep at least confirmed the reports from Volson.
The next day was Thanksgiving and my father couldn’t join them on the hunt, but Jeff was happy to meet Cody and Jeremy at the launch. The day was overcast with low-hanging clouds making it hard to find the sheep, but later in the afternoon the sun poked through and they found a band just above Mitchell Creek. Cody and Jeremy put on a stalk closing the distance to around 100 yards. Unfortunately it was in a steep area and when they reached the ram Cody only had a head and neck shot. He tried to aim for the neck, but missed.
Luckily, the ram stopped again, this time broadside, and Cody made a shot through the front shoulder, anchoring his ram on the steep rocky cliffs.
After the animal was down Jeff climbed up to help with the animal, bringing his camera as well. After a few pictures later they were able to get the ram down to the boat. On their way back they gave Al a call, and he met them at the boat launch. Once again Cody had a bit of luck on his side as my father and I used to dabble in taxidermy years ago and my father was excited to help cape the ram out. He also called Dan Yedinak of Four Point Taxidermy in Wenatchee who agreed to mount the ram.
Since the hunt has ended Cody has gained a bit of fame. A local TV station in the Tri-Cities, KNDU, ran a story on Cody and his trophy ram. Unfortunately, Cody learned a few other life lessons and has been getting hate mail and degrading replies by anti-hunters. His mother Darci was excited when I contacted her and gave her some encouraging words that Cody and his family should be proud of his accomplishments, and reminded her that thanks to Cody and Jeremy buying hunting licenses, they have done more to help wildlife conservation than any of the anti-hunters who torment him ever have.
Jeff Witkowski summed it up best in his reply to Darci on her Facebook post: “Cody is our future, Soccer Moms and Dads are not.”