4 (Not So Easy) Steps to Afford a Sheep Hunt

Jay | @jmp7kHunting

So, with the release of our Season 4 video series on our YouTube channel, we’ve fielded a lot of questions about how we were able to go on a sheep hunt. I mean, they’re not cheap. A fully outfitted fly-in sheep hunt will cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. Neither Chase, nor I are rolling in cash. So this was a big spend for each of us. How on earth did we do it?

Before we get into how, there’s a few additional things to consider. When selecting an outfitter, you’re signing a legal contract and will make a deposit. If you change your mind after the fact, there’s a good chance the money you deposited will be forfeited. You should also know that the contract amount isn’t the full amount you’ll need. It won’t include things like airfare to and from Alaska, or a tip for your guide and possibly a packer. Be sure to be clear about what is and isn’t included, and how much extra money you’ll need.

Here’s the four steps it took for us to pull this off.

Step 1: Decide

The first thing we did was decide we were going to do it. We made that decision 4 years ago when we first met and created The Mountain Project. We were determined to make it happen. Unless you make the decision to do something big, you’ll never, ever do it. So start here. Decide what it is you want to do. It could be a sheep hunt, maybe it’s something completely different. But just do something.

We got an email from a gentleman who watched our sheep series videos, his words of advice are priceless, take a look:

Awesome job guys!  At over 72 it takes a lot to get me excited, but as I watched each video of your sheep hunt my stomach churned and I could feel the excitement of being there years ago come back fresh and new.  You may not even realize some of the little things that make your videography special, like riding the ‘scree elevator’ off a mountain or crawling through alders, but for those of us that have lived it, the taste of the blue berries, the smell of the fresh air, the burning in lungs and legs, tinges of fear, are all very real.  Thanks for the memories and my only advice to each of you is to do it while you can! It will be life well lived.

Those last two lines… DO IT WHILE YOU CAN, IT WILL BE A LIFE WELL LIVED.

This gets into some eastern zen philosophy… maybe –  That each of us, one day (maybe soon) are going to be fucking gone. Just like that, this whole experience will be over. You’re just not going to wake up and have another day to get through. It’s done. Now if you’re a believer, you’ll be gone to better things, but those better things probably won’t include being dropped off in the Alaska sheep mountains. And if you don’t believe, maybe you’re just gone to eternal blackness or nothingness. Or whatever, this isn’t about what comes next. It’s about RIGHT NOW. What comes today? And how when you get to the end of your life, you’re going to look back on this point in time, right here – right now – TODAY. And what will you have wished you did? What will you regret? How will you have wished you lived differently?

Step 2: Start Early

Our journey to Alaska to hunt sheep actually started way back then. Way back in 2013. It took us four years to accumulate that kind of free cash, and it wasn’t easy. But if you start now, and stay disciplined, the trip will have a larger reward. One that comes from having stuck to something over a long course of time. All the sacrifice, all the struggle will be that much sweeter. The first bite into your Dall sheep tenderloin, that much more tender knowing how long it took you to get there.

And think of it this way – Right now, on that mountain, there’s a young ram struggling through the cold, the wind, the weather of a harsh Alaska winter in the mountains. Dall sheep don’t come off the mountain when the weather gets bad. They stick to it. They stay put. It isn’t easy for them. But the strong ones manage to pull it off. That young ram right now, is creating it’s own story, parallel to yours . It’s fighting the elements to stay alive. It’s fighting off other rams for the privilege to breed ewes and pass on its genetics to that long harsh Selector of who does and doesn’t survive. If you stick to your own plan. Write your own story. Then maybe soon, your story and the ram’s story will collide. And all of that ram’s struggle through the harsh, unforgiving environment will literally become a part of you, as you take in the energy that ram has amassed through several years of struggle. And you’ll share that same energy with those you love most. This is what eating is. Think about it.

That to me is a beautiful thing. And something very much worth fighting for. So start early.

Step 3: Think Creatively. Work Hard. Live right.

Neither Chase nor I have ample amounts of cash at our disposal. We had to get creative. So several years back we started a business, hired a really great guy to run it for us, and used it to help fund the sheep and other hunts. This wasn’t easy, and came with its own stresses, but it worked for a while – until it didn’t.

The point is, that sometimes, when you want something, you have to find a way to get it. And that path toward what you want isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. So find creative ways to supplement your income if your income is tight. There’s millions of ways to do this. You just have to give it a shot, and spend some time figuring out what will work for you.

During the four years, in addition to the help from the business. Chase worked a ton of overtime hours. And I took on dozens of side jobs. We each scrimped on other things too. I stopped drinking monster energy drinks, for example. Which contributed about $3,000 to the fund over the course of 4 years. Each morning, instead of putting $3-4 dollars of shit down my throat, I put $3-4 into the sheep account. Over time, that added up. Did I miss the beverages? Probably at the time yeah. But I look back on it now and I certainly don’t.

There’s probably a handful of things in your life that you can give up for something you want more. What are they? And what’s stopping you?

Step 4: Don’t Let Anything Stop You

Life happens. Damn life happens. And things come up. Emergencies will get in the way. There are responsibilities that you just cannot get shifty with (I’ve come dangerously close to this). We have kids. We have families. We have bills and mortgages to pay to keep those kids and families in houses, and clothes, and food.

My kids live in New Zealand with their mom. So I live a very spartan life above and beyond what I pay to support and visit my children. Right before our trip, I second guessed the expenditure… wondering how irresponsible it was of me to outlay that kind of cash on this kind of trip. And no doubt, in some ways I’m sure that it was. I can hear Dave Ramsey calling me a boy, and telling me how foolish and fiscally irresponsible I am. And he would be right.

But as we were flying into Anchorage after the trip’s conclusion, and got back into LTE coverage, I called my daughters on FaceTime from the bush plane, and they stayed on the phone with me in the super cub all the way until we landed… as if they were there with me. The next day they gushed to their friends about how cool what we had done was, and how awesome their dad is. And this, no doubt, inspired both of them to live lives that truly matter to them in their own unique ways.

There’s far more to life than merely being cogs in the grand economic engine that churns us over and over from cradle to grave, further enriching the already very well to do. Sometimes it’s hard to break out of it, and it’s hard to see the value in doing so. But we look back on this trip, and know full well its financial and other costs, and would do it again in a heartbeat. Hell, we’re already planning the next one. And nothing will stop us. And we hope nothing will stop you.