GUIDE INTERVIEW WITH JAKE FRANKLIN
WHAT TYPE OF HUNTS DO YOU GUIDE?
I specialize in Desert Sheep and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. I also guide Tule Elk, American Elk, and Mule Deer.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO, OR HOW DID YOU GET INTO GUIDING?
I was in high school working as a fishing guide in Big Bear Lake and the boat captain, Kurt Dills, recommended I consider being a hunting guide. A brief time later, I decided to head to Montana and go to a wilderness guide school. Still unsure, I went back home to California. I volunteered to help on some Desert Sheep hunts down south, and after the first sheep I saw hit the ground, I was fully and entirely hooked--for life.
DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR? WHY SUCH AN OBSESSION WITH SHEEP?
I had many mentors in my influential years, but three stand out. My dad helped me fully understand being a man and chasing a passion. Earl Graham, who taught me horsemanship and business. Terry Anderson, who is to blame for my obsession with bighorn sheep.
There is a journey that you go through when hunting sheep. It soon takes on a roll bigger than hunting when it tries and challenges you in every aspect. I haven’t been on a sheep hunt that is just another hunt. Every hunt changes something about you, and you end up learning new things about yourself.
WHAT MAKES FOR GOOD HUNTING GEAR IN DESERT TERRAIN, AND DOES IT HAVE TO BE ULTRALIGHT?
The desert kills. It cooks you alive in the day and freezes your bones at night. Equipped with the wrong gear and you will find yourself in a great deal of trouble, fast. Breathable, quick-drying fabrics are a must in the day, and down insulation goes on the second the sun sets. Unlike most areas, when the down layer goes on, you must put a protective shell on the outside to protect everything sharp and prickly in the desert. The importance of breathability is HUGE. You need to always cover and protect yourself from the sun. Often, I’m in long sleeves, long pants, and a hood on. That’s why the Gila hoodie is my new absolute go-to. I almost forgot; does it have to be ultralight? Packing around a five-pound parka all day in the heat doesn’t sound appealing to me. Ultralight is imperative.
HOW WOULD YOU BEST EXPLAIN YOUR FIELD JUDGING TECHNIQUES FOR SHEEP?
The first would be my instinct. Remember your first thoughts when you spotted the ram. After that, I look at the drop. Below the jaw is best. Then I look at length. Does he come all the way around? Holding the mass is relatively easy. Then I see if he dinks out towards the 3rd quarter or carries it out to the end. The next is starting mass, and that is hard. What are his bases? For this, you must have a side profile and a back view. I looked for width at the base and blocked out from the back. A big-based ram will have trouble with the skull side of his curl due to the difficulty in tightly curling the mass in the horns. I’ve found tight curl rams often have smaller bases.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LONGEST DESERT SHEEP HUNTS THAT YOU CAN REMEMBER, AND CAN YOU TELL US HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN AFTER A SINGLE ANIMAL?
In 2015, I was in one range in the desert for 58 days. At the time, my wife was cooking for us, and she was six months pregnant. She wasn’t happy with my decision to keep after it. We knew there was a giant there, but he was a ghost. We didn’t end up getting the target ram, but again, that is the appeal of sheep hunting. Sometimes the hardest and smartest work you do isn’t rewarded with a ram. That’s humbling.
YOU GUIDED JASON HAIRSTON ON HIS CA DESERT SHEEP HUNT IN 2017, THE LEGENDARY GOLIATH HUNT. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THAT HUNT? IT WAS JASON’S GRAND SLAM HUNT, RIGHT?
Yes, Goliath was Jason’s Grand Slam ram in his home state! I could write a book about the pursuit of that ram. I saw a lot of life come and go in the years chasing that ram.
WHAT’S WITH NAMING ALL THE SHEEP? TELL US SOME OF THE FUNNIER ONES OVER THE YEARS.
We see a lot of sheep! Some with just the slightest differences. We name them so we can better communicate what we are seeing amongst the crew and hunters. We have had some interesting ones over the years! Some probably wouldn’t be very politically correct, but we are hunting guides; what do you expect. Here are some examples of past rams: Black Bart- A dark-colored ram that was a complete giant. Black Bert- A total dink that will never be a decent ram but was dark and hung out with Black Bart. One horn Willy- He had one horn. Knight- A big ram that would always make big moves at night. Horseback, backpack, truck, GPS, paper maps, etc.
After I get the mapping done, I go to the field. Usually alone or with a skeleton crew. I see if my original ideas line up with what is there. Then I systematically break down the zone attempting to clear sections off, starting with the highest probability area. Usually, locating the target rams before we must start back at the first section we looked. As far as horses and backpacking, there is so much prep that goes into it. We work year-round, training our stock and perfecting our gear. Usually, on hunts if I can get a horse there, we are riding them. It saves our legs for when we need them.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE CLIENTS MENTALLY FOR HUNTING IN THE DESERTS? HOW PHYSICAL IS IT, OR HOW PHYSICAL IT CAN BE?
I stress shooting because you don’t get a re-do with big rams. I usually over mentally prepare the hunters, so it’s slightly easier than expected if it goes as planned. If things go sour, though, they hopefully are physically and mentally prepared. A hunt this year is fresh on my mind; Doug brought his two boys out for the first few days of his hunt, we were both expecting a 4–6-day hunt, and his boys could be there before they had to return to work. One thing led to another, their travel plans got canceled, and ten long hard days later, we got a great ram, with his boys there. Things are constantly changing, and the more mentally prepared I can have the clients before they get there, the fewer surprises they will have.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE KUIU?
I come from a mountaineering and Search & Rescue background. Before I even knew what mountain hunting was, I knew gear could make the difference between life and death. When I first started guiding, I found myself in some of the same sketchy places I was during rescues, but now I’m in crumby gear cause its camo? It seemed silly, doesn’t it? KUIU holds its gear to extreme mountain standards and puts a fantastic camo pattern on it. For me, it’s not about a brand or a look, and it’s about safety and performance under very demanding conditions.
- ULTRA Merino 145 Zip-off Bottom - Charcoal
- Kutana Stretch Woven Pant - Valo
- Super Down PRO Pant - Valo
- Retro Mesh Snap Back Hat - Blaze Orange
- Garmin inReach: staying in touch with the world and always having 911, no matter where I am. Cell Phone: I use my phone as my GPS. I use a USGS Topo mapping app and google maps, and goHunt’s new mapping app.
- Civilware IBK knife: Skinning and pocketknife
- Tripod: Outdoorsmans
- Tripod binocular mount: Outdoorsmans
- Spotting scope: Leica Binoculars: Leica 10x
- Sunscreen: Usually keep it at SPF15. Still get sun, but I’m not blistering.
- Cordage: About 30 feet. I have used it to tie up just about anything, as well as lower packs down waterfalls.
- KUIU Glassing pad: Comfort and warmth
- KUIU Super Down Pro Down Gear: Jacket and pants. I store it in a game bag, doubles as a pillow.
- Paper map, compass, and interpolator: The art of map and compass is largely gone. I still throw them in and use them on a reasonably regular basis.
- Military signal mirror: Another odd tool that I utilize often. I use my mirror to signal other guides of my location and to aid on a stock. A true signal mirror has a sight in the center of it, and just like shooting a gun, you can align the sight with the reflection and move it to your target.
- Barrel cactus quills: These I usually throw on my hat but are the best toothpicks and work great for stitching up the lips of a ram for trophy pictures.
- Two Lighters: One to use and the other to use if the first one doesn’t work.
- 64oz of water: I never leave my truck, even for a short walk, without 64oz of water. You never know what or how long you will be, and there are no refills in the desert.
- Allen key: For tripod adjustments.
- Food: Again, I’m a bit old-fashioned and value fatty foods in the mountains. You will usually find canned fish or canned meat in my pack.
- Pack rain cover: 90% of the time, I use it to pack the meat and not get blood in my pack. It doesn’t rain much in the desert.