John "Timmer" Reeves of Butte has one thing in common with most authors: Holding a book with his name on the cover is the culmination of a long-held dream.
But when that sweet moment came for Reeves this month, with the publication of "Giant Rams of Montana, Volume I," published by Stoneydale Press out of Stevensville, it marked the end of an even tougher journey than that of most writers.
Reeves’ accomplishment was particularly striking because he is deaf and has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, and also suffered through multiple myeloma, a debilitating cancer of the bone marrow, while developing the concept of the book and pulling it all together.
His cancer is now in remission and his book is in his hands, so he's feeling pretty darned good, thank you.
"This is just great," a smiling Reeves said last week as he held the book during an interview.
Shane Clouse, president of the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, said that during the more than a year Reeves has been working on the book, his original concept of a 192-page book grew into a volume that has 272 pages.
Both Clouse and editor Dale Burk, Stoneydale's driving force, are enthusiastic about the timing of the book as well as its contents, because they say it reflects the resurgence of Montana's bighorn sheep population in the wake of conservation efforts over the past three decades, enabling a regeneration of the sheep to record-setting levels.
The book features more than three dozen stories by hunters who have pursued the trophy rams, as well as text detailing the conservation-oriented management strategies. The book also includes a 2018 story about an incredible new world record bighorn from Wildhorse Island in Flathead Lake.
The volume includes the experiences of more than 40 hunters whose pursuit of bighorns are detailed in their own words.
The right to pursue bighorn sheep in Montana is rigidly controlled by the state Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks — permits to hunt bighorn sheep are, by far, the most difficult permits in the state to acquire. Such permits can only be obtained when an individual draws a special tag in competition, normally, with hundreds of other hunters. In some districts the odds are more than a thousand to one against drawing a permit.
Reeves, by the way, is no different from many Montana sheep-hunting enthusiasts who try year after year for the elusive tags. Reeves has applied — unsuccessfully — for 37 years.
Burk is also among the many hunters who have never drawn a bighorn sheep tag despite trying each year.
He has long been involved in sheep conservation and he's particularly pleased to publish Reeves' book.
"Well done, Timmer!" Burk wrote in the book's foreword.
The publication contains more than 50 chapters, including the story of the world record ram from Wild Horse Island whose photograph by John Lewton graces the cover. In all, more than 100 color photos are included.
An amazing 16 of the hunters in the book took rams that scored more than 200 Boone & Crockett points, 14 that were over 190 B&C points, and eight that were over 180 points — the minimum to make the record book. Until recently, it was considered nearly impossible to take a bighorn ram scoring more than 200 points.
Also included are 16 more general stories of sheep hunts.
Reeves dedicated his book to the late Duncan Gilchrist of Hamilton, who some three decades ago authored several books that helped draw attention to the need to protect the species from diseases contracted through exposure to domestic sheep.
While that concern still exists in some districts, the conservation work of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, along with groups including the national Wild Sheep Foundation, headquartered in Bozeman, and the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, based in Missoula, have clearly been successful.
The closing section of the book details the districts in Montana where bighorns can be hunted, a listing from the Boone & Crockett Club on the top 100 bighorns listed in the record book, and information on the history of and membership processes for the two major wild sheep organizations whose efforts contributed to wild bighorn sheep.
The tome was issued in two editions: A collectors' hardcover edition of just 200 copies, signed and numbered, are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis direct from Stoneydale. The general edition of the book will be carried in many bookstores, gift shops and sporting goods stores.
Reeves is hoping to have several signings around the state, after an initial appearance at the annual Wild Sheep Foundation convention in Reno in early February.
To purchase a copy, write Stoneydale Press: 523 Main Street, Stevensville, Montana 59870, or phone 406-777-2729, or log on to www.stoneydale.com.