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2014 Wyoming Mountain Goat Hunt!

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2014 Wyoming Mountain Goat Hunt!

Old 10-10-2014, 05:38 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Lubbock, Texas
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Default 2014 Wyoming Mountain Goat Hunt!

I've read and heard said quite a few times that the hardest part about Mountain Goat hunting is drawing the tag. While in many ways that is in fact true with the dismal odds that there are to draw a tag in the lower 48 states, the process of filling out applications and sending money in isn't exactly a difficult proposition. Once you actually draw the tag and start going after the goats, it can actually get to be difficult though!

This process began for me in 2011 when I decided to get serious about applying for a mountain goat tag. I posted on a few forums and got some good advice on applying in several states and keeping my options open to never drawing a tag and having to end up hiring an outfitter in Alaska or Canada in order to fulfill my goal of hunting mountain goats. I started applying religiously and hoping that eventually it might pay off.

Here is the thread that I posted back in 2011 if you want to read it. http://onyourownadventures.com/huntt...d.php?t=245647

I also got pretty serious about getting in shape for hunting in general. I progressed from running 6 miles in an hour in 2011, to running a half marathon in 2012, then a full marathon in 2013 and attempting a 50K trail race in 2014 that I didn't end up finishing due to the fact that I had broken my collarbone earlier in the year and didn't want to risk that messing up my goat hunt since I had already drawn the tag by then.

I write that all up to somewhat preface the fact that mountain goat hunting isn't something that you can do on your own without hiring an outfitter without some planning and waiting on your part. I actually got very lucky to draw a tag within 4 years of starting to apply even though I was applying in 4 different states. I was prepared to be waiting at least twice that long, maybe even 10+ years before drawing a tag so this for sure isn't anything you can expect to do on a whim just because you decide you want to go mountain goat hunting one year (unless you go to Alaska or Canada and pay for an outfitter).

Okay, so I draw the tag in April and have all summer to prepare. I live in Lubbock, Texas and the unit I drew is in Northern Wyoming, right at 1,100 miles away so scouting the area on a regular basis was not going to be a very likely scenario. I grew up in Montana though and already had 2 weeks of vacation planned in southwest Montana that I was able to go through my unit on the way to and from those vacations by just going slightly out of the way (what's a few hours compared to 1,100+ miles).

I only got to spend a very short amount of time on my first trip through and didn't even get to see any goats, but made plans to spend a couple days scouting on the next trip. That scouting trip was much more successful with a chance to see a few goats and I was able to talk to a few folks that gave me some pretty good information. Here's link to the thread that I posted on that scouting trip if you missed it. http://onyourownadventures.com/huntt...d.php?t=259927

Okay, quite a long write up and we aren't even close to leaving on the hunt yet! One other kink in this hunt was that I drew a good limited entry elk tag in Wyoming earlier in the year as well. The mountain goat season is 2 months long from September 1st to October 31st so that gave me quite a bit of flexibility in choosing when I was going to hunt. My elk tag opened on October 1st so I ended up deciding to make it one long trip where I would hunt for my goat first then switch to elk hunting after I filled that tag. That would save me 2,000+ miles of driving back and forth.

Now we are about ready to go on the hunt. I did a bit of shooting to make sure things were still good with my rifle and everything seemed good to go, didn't adjust a thing on the scope. Got all my stuff packed up for both trips and was pretty much ready to go. Had a meeting I had to go to in New Mexico for work Friday the 19th, came home, threw everything in the pickup and pointed it North and hit the road about 6 that evening. I drove through the night with a short nap on the side of the road somewhere in Colorado and ended up making really good time and arrived in Cody, Wyoming right around 3:00 Saturday afternoon.

I needed to pickup a OHV sticker for my Ranger and after a quick stop for some last minute groceries I headed to the local powersports place to buy one only to find out they close at 3:00 on Saturdays. Oh well, there was another one on the other side of town so I would just buy one there. Nope, they close at 1:00 on Saturdays! I guess I should have bought a sticker online or in Casper or somewhere else along the way! I checked the Wyoming Fish and Game site and found out that Painter Outpost right on the Chief Joseph highway on the way to my mountain goat hunting spot was actually an approved dealer for the OHV stickers and I called them up and they were open until 6:00 so I quickly headed that way. Made it there by 5:30, bought my sticker and headed back to Antelope Butte to actually start my hunt!!!

I offloaded the ranger and drove down to the end of the road, hiked out to the edge of the canyon and actually had my rifle on my shoulder! Here's a picture looking across the canyon.



This wasn't my #1 spot, but it is easy to get to and lots of people say that there are goats here and I'd seen them there on my scouting trip. Who knows, maybe I would get lucky and see a nice billy before the hunt even started. As it turns out I did end up seeing a lone goat on the other side of the canyon probably close to a mile away as it made it's way down the cliff into the timber just before dark. To me it seemed like a good sign, first night out and saw a goat. Tomorrow might be the day!
My friend that was going to be hunting with me that lives in Powell, Wyoming was going to meet me Sunday to join me on the hunt. His wedding anniversary is on September 19th so he was going to spend it with his wife in Yellowstone Park instead of starting hunting with me on that Saturday evening. That meant that I was on my own Sunday morning. We had a #1 target area and right now I'm just going to call it Goat creek. Not like it's a secret spot or anything, but it is a pretty small area, and if all 14 tag holders in the unit started targeting it based on reading about it on the internet, it could get over hunted pretty quickly. There are goats all through the unit, they just seem to be in relatively small groups of 5 - 7 animals at least during the hunting season.

I spent the night in my pickup Saturday evening and rolled the ranger down a terrible 2 track road in the dark Sunday morning to get where I wanted to be at first light. When I had been to this spot during my scouting trip there wasn't a goat around, but I had been assured that come fall they would be here and sure enough, as soon as it started to get light I was seeing goats!! There was 1 goat way off a little over a mile away by itself that seemed a little too active to be a mature billy, but it was by itself so I was thinking it was probably a billy although I assumed probably a young one. It kept going back and forth along the base of a cliff and made me think that if it came down to it and I couldn't find a goat in an approachable spot, that might be a good ambush spot in the future. There were 3 other goats together in a group that were moving in and out of some timber that I figured was a nanny group and then there was another lone goat just over 1/2 mile away that was just hanging out bedded down looking things over. I was pretty sure this was a billy, but I had left my spotting scope with my friend and through my binoculars there was no way to positively ID him from that far away.

After spending several hours watching the goats and the one larger goat still bedded in front of me I talked myself in and out of going after him about a dozen times. My friend was as excited about this hunt as I was and I just thought that it wouldn't be fair to him for me to be tagged out before he even got there. Plus without the spotting scope I wasn't 100% sure that it was even a billy. This was going so easy so far that it wasn't like I would regret this later on. Right?

After a couple hours watching the lone goat bedded on the cliff, a couple elk hunters came driving up in their ranger and we talked a little. I was parking a good 1/2 mile from the base of the cliffs mainly because it gave me a much better vantage point and I could see a lot more area than if I followed the road all the way to the end at the base of the cliffs. The other reason was that it didn't seem to bother the goats for me to be parked there 1/2+ mile away. When the other hunters drove their ranger down to the end of the road, sure enough the lone goat got up out of his bed and made it's way off into the timber above the cliff. Not like it took off on a brisk run or anything, but as soon as the ranger got about 600 yards away, the goat got up and left. It did a little bit of posing when it got up and stretched, and I really think it was a good billy with good hair, but through my binoculars I just couldn't be sure. It was the last goat that was still around so when it went into the timber there really wasn't any reason to stick around anymore so I headed back to the camping spot where I was supposed to meet my friend after lunch.

This was my view that morning and several more mornings and evenings to come. Not the most classic mountain goat looking country, but there were goats there and out of about all the places that I was seeing them this looked like the place I might least need repelling gear to get one out.



Here's the full sized panoramic picture if you want to click on it - http://padens.com/v-web/gallery/albu...Creek_Pano.jpg
I met up with my friend just after lunch and we got his trailer setup for our base camp for the week and ate lunch and caught up on that mornings sightings. We decided to try to go up around to the top from the back side and see if we could get into that timber area where the goats had disappeared as it started to warm up during the day. We hiked in about 1/2 mile from the road at the top and it became evident that wasn't going to be the way to go. The fingers were deep and a long way around and it was going to end up taking several miles of hiking through the dark timber to get anywhere close to where the goats had been. We decided to just go back down to the bottom and check things out from down there.

A quick trip in the ranger and we were back to the lookout spot about 1/2 mile from the base of the cliffs. No goats in sight so we decided we would go ahead and climb up to the top and at least get a sense of what it was like up there. Who knows, maybe we would see a goat while we were at it.

It's hard to give a good feel for what it was like on alot of this area. For the most part it wasn't ever so steep that it made me afraid that I was going to fall to my death or anything like that, but at the same time you found yourself using your arms to hold and pull yourself up onto the next shelf on a pretty frequent basis. I thought this picture gave a pretty decent feel for what it was like as we were climbing up. This would have been right about the middle of the panoramic picture above. You can see the clearing down below where the road dead ended in the clearing at the base of the cliff.



This was once we got on top looking back down below. Not a great picture as the sun was bad, but you can see the aspens down in the middle of the picture, we spent our time glassing from the sagebrush flat just out past those aspens. It was a little over 800' of climb from the base of the cliff to the top in about 1/3 of a mile according to the GPS.



I was a little disappointed with the quality of the pictures with my camera, I bought a new Olympus Tough TG-3 just for this trip and it did okay, but a lot of the pictures were taken in lower light and it for sure gets grainy pretty quickly as the light goes away.

After messing around for a while up on top and not seeing anything, we decided it was probably a good idea to climb down while it was still light and not get caught up there in the dark. We did get a real good plan of attack lined out if the lone goat ever ended up in that same bed again, I felt like I could easily get within a couple hundred yards without being seen. I was hoping I would get the chance to try at least!

Climbing down was actually pretty fun since it was a nice day and it was light out. There were several times where we would get really close to getting cliffed out, but it always seemed like there would be an option that would keep us going. I really like this picture, in many ways it looks very scary like we were right there on a huge cliff face, but while we were there it didn't seem unsafe at all. The ledge was plenty wide and if you look closely at the actual angle of the crack we were following it wasn't steep at all. Here's the far off view, if you look close you can see my friend right in the middle of the picture.



Here it is zoomed in a little closer.



Sometimes it got a little steep, but there was generally something to hang onto or a crack to wedge a foot into.



We made it safely down just a few minutes after sunset and after we got down we saw 2 nannies and a kid climbing around pretty close to where we had just come down. We also saw the lone goat that was over on another cliff about a mile away. Overall we were still pretty optimistic that this was going to be a pretty short hunt.
Monday's forecast was for rain and my friend had to make a trip back into Powell to deal with some things that couldn't be put on hold. After our short climbing expedition on the cliffs around our #1 spot, we decided it probably wouldn't be a good idea for me to be climbing around on those rocks in the rain by myself so I decided I would try out another spot that I had heard about and hike into Becker Lake higher in the Beartooths. My friend didn't need to get to town for a little while so he was going to go down to our spot and see what was there that morning and maybe we would make plans to go after one there on Tuesday if Becker lake turned out to be a bust for me. We both agreed that if I saw a good billy that I was going to go for it and not hold off like I had on Sunday morning.

After a rainy night, it mostly held off on my hike to Becker lake that morning. It ended up being a beautiful hike, and really not that difficult as it was mostly on a good trail and overall relatively flat, but I was hoping for goats, not scenery.

A pretty gloomy start that morning, but beautiful country.



On the south end of Becker lake looking north. The lake is just over a mile long but not very wide.



Nearing the northern end of the lake. Lots of goaty looking country but no goats that I saw.



There were a few guys camped out by the south side of the lake and they said that they hadn't seen anything although they had talked to a guy who had been up to Albino lake which is about a mile into Montana that said that he had goats in camp with him at night.

I went ahead and hiked up to the Montana border and wouldn't you know it I saw a couple goats about 3/4 of a mile into Montana. Only had my binoculars so I couldn't be positive, but based on where they were bedded and the fact that it was just 2 full size animals I think they were more than likely a couple billies. Of course they were off limits so I just sat down and ate my lunch there before turning around and heading back.

Here's the wilderness designation sign where it switches from National Forest to Wilderness as it crosses the Montana state line. The 2 goats weren't too far up the cliff on the right side of the valley, maybe a 100' or so off the valley floor. Seemed to be fairly accessible, but they would have probably moved up if I had hiked the 3/4 mile or so to where they were at.



Some pretty neat and beautiful country. This is the other side of the lake, not really mountain goat looking country, but it would be fun to climb around on if you were just hanging out and enjoying yourself in the summertime.



There were some spots along the way hiking in and out that looked like they could be home to some goats, but I never could turn any up.



Back out to Island Lake where I had parked for the hike. Becker Lake is just to the left of the tallest mountain on the left in this picture.



Really neat hike, but I was hoping for it to be a hunt, not a hike. Per GPS round trip was 11.08 miles with just under 5 hours of moving time and 1,260' of elevation gain. Highest point on the hike was 9,815' and lowest point was down at the lake at 9,534'.

I was back to the trailhead about 4:00 so that gave me enough time to zip back over to goat creek for an evening hunt. Since I was already this far up on the Beartooths I drove up to Christmas lake and looked around there a little and pulled off on a few of the pull outs just in case somehow I saw a nice billy that I could make a move on, but no luck. Back to goat creek for the evening.
Made it back over to goat creek with time to sit and glass for a while. My spotting scope had been having an issue with the eyepiece not staying attached so my friend Mike had taken it with him back to Powell to see if he could get an o-ring or something to fit it so I was again looking through my binoculars without a way to 100% determine if a far off goat was a billy or nanny unless it was with some other goats.

It didn't turn out to be an issue though as the only goats I saw were a group of 5 nannies that included 2 kids and 1 subadult. I kept looking for others including the lone goat that I had been seeing off by itself about a mile away but couldn't ever turn it up.

After trying to have everything lined out on a digiscoping setup for my spotting scope, I ended up forgetting some of the attachments anyway and my scope wasn't even with me so I made a few attempts at taking pictures through my binoculars. These goats were only about 1/2 mile away so I got a couple decent shots. They actually followed the route that my friend and I had climbed down the night before almost exactly. They ended up down by the base of the cliff in a very accessible spot, but I wasn't planning on going after a nanny especially a nanny with a kid so it really didn't matter though. Here's a picture through the binoculars.



I did meet up with another goat hunter who was packing out a old nanny that they had shot earlier in the day about 1 1/2 miles up the drainage. They had thought it was a billy being a lone goat but when the smoke cleared they had a nanny on the ground. It looked like an old mature nanny and her horns were almost 10" long so there is a chance she may have been beyond kid-raising years. They were going to try to find out how old she was when they checked her in with game and fish. She was dry so she for sure didn't have a kid currently so that was good.

I watched the goats until it got dark and then drove the ranger back to camp. My friend was there and it turns out they had seen 7 different goats that morning before they had left that morning.

The same group of 5 that included a subadult and 2 kids that I had seen that evening and 2 other lone goats that could have been billies. We were both playing around trying to get pictures through the spotter and a few of his turned out pretty good considering they were free handed. This is an adult nanny, a subadult and a kid from about 1/2 mile away through the spotting scope.



Here's a couple pictures that turned out okay that might help with the type of terrain we are dealing with. This first picture is the middle of the area where the goats seemed to like to hang out. The lone goat that was bedded on Sunday morning was just above the brightest aspens about 1/3rd of the way from the left of the picture. The cliffy looking spot that my buddy and I had climbed down Sunday evening is about 50 yards to the left of that.



The big steep cliff face on the right is where I expected to see all the goats, and although we did see some goats there they tended to be on the less extreme stuff most of the time. The nannies and kids hung around on the area in the center of this picture quite a bit.



Overall we were pretty happy that we were seeing goats, but hoping that we would be seeing more lone goats instead of the nannies and kids. Eating dinner that night we made plans to be back over at goat creek the next morning hoping to see a lone goat that we could put a stalk on. Overall we were still fairly optimistic by this point, we still hadn't had a full day of hunting together and we were at least seeing goats.
Tuesday dawned with high expectations. This was going to be our first full day that we were going to be hunting together and the previous morning my friend had seen 2 lone goats that were probably billies in the spot where we wanted to be. We were really thinking that this was going to be the day.

The alarm went off at 5:45 which kind of felt like we were getting to sleep in compared to a lot of the hunting I do where you have to hike in a few miles to a spot before shooting light. All we needed to do is drive the ranger about 3 miles to our glassing spot by shooting light and that only took about 15 minutes.

We got there and setup and started glassing and saw goats right away. The same group of 5 nannies that included the 2 kids that I had seen the previous evening.




Here's what it looks like without the spotter. I circled where the goats are with the red circle. You can see the 2 white spots that are the 2 adult nannies.



This isn't a very good picture but it was neat when this adult nanny just perched herself right on top of this little rock outcropping.




At some point something down in the valley below them got them pretty stirred up. They all got up and started to move up the cliff and one of the nannies even got to stomping her foot like a whitetail deer would. The only thing we could guess was that a bear was moving through the bottom or something. Again, not a great picture as the sun was wrong, but you can see the nanny at the bottom pretty riled up. She was the one that was stomping.




One interesting thing occurred when they were leaving and that was that we got to witness a kid lose it's footing. It did a complete roll off its feet, but regained its feet about 20' vertical down the cliff. It climbed back up to its mom and she nudged it a bit, but it didn't seem any worse for wear and they climbed on up into the timber and out of sight.

We hung around a little while and never did see any lone goats that morning. It was really neat to watch the nannies, but we were pretty disappointed at not seeing any lone goats. We decided maybe we needed a change of scenery and hopefully we might turn up some billies if we did.

We made plans to head over to Sunlight canyon and try to turn something up there that afternoon or evening.

One little side story in here.

It's always interesting to me to talk to other hunters that you encounter when you are out there. When you have a once in a lifetime tag other hunters are even more willing to talk to you and share information. On our way into goat creek and back each time, there was a group of archery elk hunters camped along the way that we talked to a few times.

On Monday they knocked down a nice bull and we talked to them that evening. Turns out after they had the bull down and were working on getting it quartered up they had a very scary encounter with a sow grizzly and her 2 large cubs. They were just finishing up getting one side quartered when the sow just comes walking/trotting right up to them working on the elk. No warnings, woofs, growls or anything, they just look up and she is maybe 10 yards away moving right in without even breaking stride.

Needless to say they bailed off the elk and backed out about 50 yards away. They didn't have sidearms, only pepper spray and after they bailed off the elk the bear didn't pursue them so they didn't use the spray. They stood and watched for 10 minutes or so while the bear and her cubs proceeded to eat the elk they had just killed. They yelled at the bear and threw rocks, but it didn't seem to faze her. They had another member of their party coming in to help out and when he started to get close, they were yelling back and forth to him to let him know the danger ahead. He had his bear spray out and the bear bluff charged him once and he let off a tiny bit of spray, but not a full blast as she turned back to the kill. After a few minutes with guys on both sides of her yelling back and forth, she finally got tired of it and left with her cubs.

I can't imagine how scary this would have been for these guys and they came pretty close to getting in pretty big trouble here. They said normally they would have had a couple guys working on the elk and one guy standing watch, but they were just not thinking about bears and weren't worried at the time.

It's pretty concerning that a sow grizzly is teaching her cubs that they don't even need to wait for the hunters to clear out before coming in on a kill like that. This could potentially get someone killed if this behavior continues. This is also in a place where there are lots of hikers and campers in the summertime, these bears obviously have no real fear of humans and that doesn't bode well for them either.

A hunting season for Grizzly bears can't come soon enough, although I think it will take a long time to get the fear of humans back for many of these bears.

End of side story.
Okay, back to the story. We go back to camp and reshuffle things, load up the ranger on the trailer and head toward Sunlight canyon. We spent a bit of time glassing from a turnout on Dead Indian Pass but it was pretty warm and sunny out and things weren't moving at all. That's one other interesting thing about this hunt to me, we were in some elk country and saw sign, but didn't see or hear an elk the entire time. We did see a few mule deer does, but for how neat and healthy the habitat looked, and as much time as we spent looking over it and hiking through it, I would have expected to see more animals.

I think I spent more time behind the spotter the week of mountain goat hunting than I had spent behind the spotter in all my previous hunts combined. I think that says more that I haven't spent enough time behind a spotter on my previous hunts, but for sure it was a different type of experience for me.



After glassing for an hour or so, we got antsy and decided to walk into the canyon. This is a pretty touristy spot and lots of folks stop at the bridge and look around, we were just going to take it a step further and hike down to the cliffs overlooking the Clarks Fork instead of just looking around up by the bridge.

I thought this was a neat plaque dedicated to the district ranger from the area.



It was a really neat hike, but it was hot and things just weren't going to be moving out in the open. We looked around a bit and got a feel for the area, but what we were seeing didn't seem like very promising stuff if we did see a nice billy and shot him and needed to get him out.



We looked around a bit and headed back. I stuck to the edge of the canyon where it was a little rougher going and my friend stuck toward the middle where it was a bit easier going. I thought this was a neat picture of him walking along the ridge.



Again, when you are in goat country you end up altering your normal sense of what is steep and what isn't. Over and over again on this hike I found myself saying "Hey, there's a spot that we could get down to the river" in areas that I would have never ever considered an option in any other circumstances.

Here's an example, looking at the other side, that looked very doable to me at the time. Thankfully I didn't end up needing to attempt it.



Looking back to the bridge where we had started our hike.



We got back to the bridge with a smidge over 3.5 miles under our belts and some pretty scenery but not much else to show for it. We decided to move over to Antelope Butte for the evening, we had seen goats there previously, maybe we could get lucky and see one in a spot that we could get to it that night.
A very short drive over to Antelope Butte and we off loaded the ranger and drove to the lower lookout area. I had a hard time deciding whether I would need the ranger or not, but some of these "roads" would be pretty tough on a pickup. I'm sure on most of them I could have gotten my truck in and out of them, but the ranger made pretty short work of it and was much easier getting in and out. The roads by Antelope Butte really weren't that bad, but the one in and out of Goat creek was pretty terrible. I didn't ever take any pictures of it, but needless to say, when it was all said and done I was happy to have the ranger available instead of putting a pounding on my pickup. The Morrison Jeep trail is completely different though, I'm not sure I could have gotten my pickup in and out of it if my life depended on it, but that's a story for a different day, Thursday to be exact.

Anyway, we got to the overlook spot after a short hike from where we parked and things looked really good. I had spotted a lone goat from this spot Saturday evening so we were at least hoping to see something even if we had to hold off on going after it until the next day if it was inaccessible that evening.

Here's a picture of me looking around on an overlook area.



Here's what I was looking at.



A little closer look. The spot I had seen the goat previously was on the more vertical cliff on the right side of the river. I think they call that area "The Box". At least that's what it was marked on the map I had.



We sat and glassed for a while and didn't see anything and decided to move up the canyon a bit, closer to where I had seen the goat on the previous evening. A short trip in the ranger and we were checking out our new glassing spot.

We hadn't been there for very long when Mike spots a lone goat on the other side of the canyon! We were pretty pumped.

Looking at the goat in the spotting scope everything looked good. Base of the horns looked big, it was off by itself, pretty crazy spot for it to be bedded on the cliff, we were almost positive we had a good billy to go after. Of course it was on the wrong side of the river as far as getting to it that evening, but we were just happy to be watching a good goat and making plans on how to get to it.



Here's a farther off view of where the goat was. To the left of the drainage on the other side of the river.



We sat and watched it for quite a while, getting more and more confident that we were looking at a good billy and talking ourselves into the route we would need to take to get to it. Just to get to the bench was a 50+ mile trip from where we were at, but we thought we could do it, if not first thing in the morning, then we could be setup on it the next evening on the other side.

It got up out of it's bed and it's hair wasn't as good as the goats we had been seeing higher, but it looked blocky and everything was still saying good billy.



Then it started walking around a bit and it sure didn't have a horse face. Maybe it was a younger billy, but still, with it off by itself and all the other signs pointing that direction it had to be a billy.



With it moving around a bit we still were pretty convinced it was a goat worth going after. We didn't ever see it pee so didn't see it squat or stretch to pee, but with it being off by itself it was either an older dry nanny or a billy. We took lots of pictures and were looking at the map and GPS to figure out a plan of attack.



Again, most of the pictures of the goats were taken free handed through the spotting scope. This goat was a little over 1/2 mile away and although you could see it pretty good in the scope, about all you could see with the naked eye was a white spot on the other side of the canyon.



Right about here is when our bubble burst. A 2 nannies and a kid came off the top of the canyon and started headed toward the lone goat. That part wasn't that concerning, but the fact that both nannies were significantly larger than the lone goat that we had been looking at was. After about 10 or 15 minutes they all caught up with each other and it was pretty evident that we had been looking at a 2 1/2 year old billy at best and a younger subadult at worst. It was smaller than both of the nannies for sure. So much for making plans on getting to that goat tomorrow. I think that really shows how hard these guys are to judge from very far off especially when they are by themselves. Also I think part of it was that we were wanting to see a lone billy so much that we spent most of the time convincing ourselves that's what it was.

We heard a crash down the canyon side on the same side as us about that time and I hightailed it down there thinking that it could have been a goat dislodging a rock or something but after about 30 minutes of hiking around I never did see or hear anything else.

With darkness upon us, we climbed into the ranger, drove back and trailered it and headed back to camp for the night. Our first full day hunting together, but my 3rd full day hunting and this was not quite looking like the easy hunt that I was expecting.
We got back to camp and talked through our options for the next day. We had been seeing the same group of nannies everyday at Goat creek, but not any 100% confirmed billies since the first day and that one wasn't really even a 100% confirmed deal since I didn't have my spotting scope when I saw it.

I had heard several folks mention Line creek so we decided we would try to check it out. It was quite a way off the beaten path and up pretty high so maybe all the billies were hanging out there. We drove up the Beartooth highway and parked at a pullout by Christmas lake and figured we might get lucky with something there as well. The sun was rising on a new day and we were full of optimism that this was going to be the day.



Christmas Lake is a really pretty spot that you can't quite see from the highway. If you are ever driving the Beartooth highway I highly recommend pulling out and hiking the couple hundred yards down to look over the lake. Unfortunately we never did see any goats there although that was a spot I had been told to check out.



My GPS showed a trail that we could follow for about a mile before we needed to break off toward Line creek, and it also showed the infamous "Unpaved Road" that didn't show up on the paper map anywhere. We never really found any evidence of the long abandoned unpaved road other than this long abandoned car out in the middle of the tundra. Would be really interesting to figure out the story behind it. Pretty crazy to see it out there.



I've been to Alaska, but never hunted there, but this area of the Beartooths really seems to have some of the same features on a much smaller scale. Lots of wide open space for sure.

After a little over 3 miles of hiking across the relatively flat open tundra, we could start to see what we had come for. Some break in the terrain and the head of Line creek.



We hiked up to the edge and got out the spotting scope and started glassing. So far this wasn't looking as promising as we had been expecting, but we had spent the time and effort to get there so we felt that we needed to give it a good look.



After about 20 or 30 minutes we saw a group of 5 nannies including 1 kid near the mouth of the canyon, almost to the Montana state line. We watched them for a while and Mike ended up spotting a lone goat about 1/2 mile from the others on the side of a cliff. Again, the excitement level jumped up a notch and we were about positive that we were looking at a billy. Everything seemed right and we were watching him closely through the scope. It was a LONG way off (about 1 1/2 miles) so we didn't get any good pictures through the scope and really couldn't tell that much about it, but we decided we would at least attempt a stalk on it.

A long hike over and some discussion about exactly where he had been bedded and I was bailing off the ridge toward where I was pretty positive there was a lone billy bedded down.

Here's a picture of where I was headed. Right smack in the middle of the picture you can see a big rock outcropping. The billy was bedded below that.



Here's a zoomed in shot. By this time I had already had the bubble burst and found out that the goat was no longer in the same spot that it was when we had started that way.



Here's the view that I had from the edge of the outcropping where I was. The goat had been bedded next to the light colored rock between the V of the rock ledge I was standing on.



I ranged it at 125 yards away which would be a pretty close shot, but converting that to feet it would be a straight down fall of almost 400' if I messed up on the ledge. Mike made fun of me because I ended up taking my pack off and crawling out on the ledge to look over, but the wind was blowing about 30 mph and I really didn't feel like falling to my death that day.

This picture is looking back toward where we saw the goat initially. We were looking from the left side of the head of the drainage.



We couldn't figure out what had caused the goat to move, whether it had smelled us, saw us, or just decided to move somewhere else. I spent a few minutes pitching rocks off the ledge trying to see if it was just bedded somewhere that I couldn't see from that angle, but I never did see anything.

Here's a couple pictures from another angle of me climbing back up to the top. If you look real close you can see my orange hat.



Cropped in a little closer.



I ended up hiking down to the end of the canyon and tried to find the group of 5 nannies that we had seen earlier as well, but that didn't turn out either. It's just really hard to see anything that is on the same side of the canyon that you are on. They were all probably there in plain sight if I had been on the other side looking across, but as it was they were ghosts to me on this side anyway. I did actually hear some elk bugling down at the end of the canyon probably over on the Montana side of the line, so that was neat although it didn't help me any on my goat hunt! Some pretty neat country with a big burn that had gone through there sometime in the last few years.



The wind was whistling through the old burned trees and it was pretty neat in its own way.

I hiked back to the original spot that we had seen the lone goat from just to 100% double check we had been looking in the right spot. This picture shows the light colored rock where it had been bedded (circled in red) and the route that I had taken to get down and overlook the bed (in green).



It was steep, but I never felt unsafe and the scariest part was climbing out on that last ledge. The rocks were dry and I had good footing and plenty of things to hang onto.

A long hike back to the truck was ahead of us, but we decided to go ahead and get going because we didn't think we should stick around until dark there and then make the hike back in the dark. It had turned into a beautiful day other than the wind which I think is always blowing up on the Beartooths so about as nice a day as one could expect.

The tundra type terrain is pretty in its own way to me.



Looking back to where we had come from.



We got back to the truck about 4:00 with plenty of time to still work out an evening hunt. Round trip mileage for the day ended up being 12.12 miles per the GPS with just under 5 1/2 hours of moving time. Total elevation gain was 2,565' with all but a mile or so at 10,000'+ elevation. My friend has diabetes and had had some trouble with his blood sugar on the hike and was getting a pretty good headache. I was hoping that I wasn't pushing him too hard and we decided that we probably needed to plan on an easier day tomorrow for sure.

We checked out all the usual spots along the Beartooth highway on our way back to camp but didn't see anything. We decided to go ahead and head back to Goat creek to see if at least our normal group of nannies were there, but after sitting and glassing until dark we didn't turn up a single goat that evening. Not exactly the way that we wanted to end the day, kind of ended the day on a downer. Still plenty of time left, but the clock was really starting to tick away on us.

Thursday morning we decided maybe goat creek was a morning spot and checked it again. This turned out to be another bust with not a single goat seen. We decided that the goats must be up in the timber because of the warmer temperatures so we decided to go up above and try to hike the dark timber.

We got the truck parked on a turnout and headed off. We started out near a really pretty open area that actually was more of a swamp than a meadow.



That was a bust as well, once we got back in the timber we realized it was just too thick to really have any hope of seeing anything before it saw us. After a little over a mile of hiking around we decided to pack it in.

We were running short on options so we decided to run the Morrison Jeep trail with the ranger. As we were getting ready to offload the ranger a tourist noticed our orange caps and asked us what we were hunting. We said mountain goats and he mentioned that they had just seen a lone goat up on top by the highway. After the depressing evening the night before and so far this morning not seeing any goats we decided that we weren't above road hunting and shooting a goat right off the highway if we had too. We got the details and headed that way, but there was no goat to be found. The guy had described the spot perfectly, but it was hard to imagine that a goat would have hung out there at all. There were people parking and getting out and hiking over the rocks all around the location where he had said he saw the goat. I don't think he was yanking our chain as he gave me a business card and asked me to let him know how my hunt turned out, so I guess there actually was a goat there at some point, there just wasn’t a goat there any longer.

We went ahead and hit the other spots along the highway where we had either seen goats in the past or been told that there were goats in those spots occasionally. It was another very warm day and I mentioned to my friend that I've heard that sometimes the goats will actually lay on the snow to cool off and just a few minutes later we spotted 7 nannies including 1 kid hanging out on a patch of snow.



We kept poking around a while trying to locate where in the world the lone goat that the tourist had seen could have gone to but never could locate it. Another head scratcher though as we found this old pickup truck. Based on where it ended up at we couldn't really figure out how it had gotten there, but evidently it had come down quite a way before it got where it ended up.



Closer view.



After striking out road hunting based on tourist provided information, we decided to go ahead and run the jeep trail in the ranger. Having already been down the jeep trail once on an ATV, I wasn't expecting it to be a cake walk and it wasn't. I also wasn't expecting to really see anything as there wasn't a lot of goaty looking country on the top of the jeep trail, but several folks had mentioned seeing goats along the way so we decided it was worth a try. It took about 2 hours to get to the end of the bench where we had to decide if we wanted to drop on down to the Switchback ranch or to just poke around on top a while and head back. We decided to drop on down to the ranch and spend a little time glassing from that side of the canyon.

The last 3 miles drops from 8,500' to 6,200' so pretty steep. My ranger has a steel and glass cab on it which originally was one of the reasons we decided to use it on this trip because we were expecting it to be cold and thought the cab would be nice. The drawback to the cab is that it adds quite a bit of weight. This usually isn't a big deal, but when you are dropping 2,300' in 3 miles, it means that you are on the brakes the entire time. The compression of the engine just isn't enough to really slow it down even with it in 4wd Low.

On the way down we even discussed what happens when you are on the brakes for too long. I joked that the brakes are probably glowing. Of course we get to about the steepest spot on the trail, with a drop off on one side and some big rocks in the trail and as we go around a sharp turn my foot sends the brake pedal to the floor with no resistance whatsoever! First I thought I must have missed the pedal, but I move my foot and get it on the pedal and it still goes right to the floor. The ranger is starting to pickup some speed and I'm starting to freak out and I start pumping the brake pedal and start to get a little bit of resistance. I keep at it 5 or 6 times and they start to work and I nose the ranger into the uphill side of the trail trying to get it stopped. It all probably only took 15 or 20 seconds before it was over, but my heart was pounding and I was full of adrenaline!

The brake fluid must have reached boiling point because the brakes would just go all the way to the floor unless you pumped them 3 or 4 times. We waited about 20 minutes and the fluid had cooled down enough that the brakes were responsive again so we went down the last bit of switchbacks to the bench to glass.

With the drive down the jeep trail taking longer than expected and then having to wait for the brakes to cool down, we only had about 45 minutes or so to glass because we weren't too keen on running the jeep trail back in the dark. We did see a nanny and kid in the other side of the canyon, but even if it would have been a billy it would have been pretty inaccessible. Right on a knife ridge before it dropped straight off into the canyon. We might have seen another goat that might have been a billy, but it was a long way off and we couldn't even tell for sure it was a goat and it wasn't moving, so not 100% sure. After a bit, it was time to start heading back, if nothing else we had had our share of excitement for the day, very happy that the ranger hadn't ended up like the pickup truck in those earlier pictures!



It was a very warm sunny day and the ranger worked hard getting back up on top. We ran it in 4wd Low for a the first 3 miles or so and then had to put it into 4wd low several more times as it had to climb over rocks and other obstacles in the trail. We ended up back to the truck right at dark and made the drive back to camp in the dark.

It was a long hard day even though we only logged about 2 miles on the boots. Round trip in the ranger down to the bench and back was 32.3 miles. Ranger sure worked hard, for sure would have been better using the ATVs instead of the ranger since it was so warm. I had my phone in the pocket of my jacket sitting on the seat of the ranger and when I went to get it and put it in the truck my phone was in thermal protection mode it had gotten so hot on the seat of the ranger. I had debated on using the ranger or the ATVs the entire trip, and had them both available, but settled on the ranger thinking that it might turn out cold. Instead it was so warm the air blowing on you on the ATVs would have been a welcome relief. For sure the ATVs would have handled the jeep trail better than the ranger did, but it got us there and back, even with a little excitement.

On the drive back to camp and over dinner we were getting pretty close to be at a loss for where to go next. We had hit all the spots we had scouted and all the spots I had heard about and we were seeing goats for the most part, but just not any billies. By this time we were both getting pretty discouraged and I had checked my work schedule while I had cell service up on the top of the bench and was already starting to plan another trip back later in October. I was still hoping not to have to use that week, but I wanted to start preparing for it if I had to.

Two full days of hunting left on this trip for both of us, and maybe another morning hunt by myself if it came down to it and then we would be switching to my backcountry elk hunt that had been in the works for even longer than the goat hunt.

Crunch time was officially arriving on my once in a lifetime hunt.

Friday morning arrived and desperation had officially set in. It's hard to describe the added pressure involved in a once in a lifetime tag like this. Especially when the Wyoming Game and Fish issues a hunting forecast like this:

Mountain goats in Hunt Area 1 are currently doing well and hunter success is generally 90-100 percent and drawing a license is the hardest part of hunting mountain goats in Wyoming. The creation of Hunt Area 3 increased opportunity for hunters in hard to access backcountry with low densities of goats and the past three years hunters have had relatively good success there. The 2014 season should again see high success rates in the Beartooth goat herd.
(emphasis added by me).

I don't know how many times my friend and I said that quote during the 7 days we were hunting, but it was quite a few. We also recounted what one of the guys who had told us about Goat creek said that an 82 year old man had shot a goat while still sitting on his ATV there a few years earlier. We had been hunting hard, maybe too hard and were not seeing results. We had seen quite a few goats, just no billies in accessible spots.

I had posted a few updates on a hunting forum and a few folks posted encouraging words that helped a little. Maybe today would be the day...

With that said, the desperation was still there as we decided our best option was to probably road hunt along the Beartooth highway where the tourist had mentioned seeing the lone goat the day before. We were up and going and near the spot that the tourist had mentioned right around shooting light and of course there wasn't a goat to be seen. There were plenty of tourists around though!

We stopped at a few different overlooks and spotted a group of 3 goats which looked to be a nanny, a subadult and a kid about a mile off. After glassing them awhile, we moved spots and found a couple more goats and then saw another lone goat off by itself. The wind was blowing so hard that we ended up just sitting in the pickup on a pullout and glassed them for probably close to an hour. The lone goat went off and bedded and we were really starting to think billy, but then the 2 other goats started to follow the general direction that the first goat had gone so we started to second guess ourselves.

Here's a picture of the lone goat bedded on the edge of a cliff.



Here's a picture of the area. The goat was bedded in the cliffs to the right of the big snow banks. The 2 other goats were feeding toward it.



We watched at least an hour, but after a couple mistakes early on when we were sure we were looking at a mature billy when we weren't we kept watching. The goat got up and started feeding again and then proceeded to squat down and pee. Nanny. I wasn't 100% opposed to taking a lone nanny without a kid, but I really wanted to take a billy based on reading the book "A Beast the Color of Winter" by Chadwick and his statistics on how long it takes a goat to reach sexual maturity and how hard it is for a kid to get there with such high mortality in their first 2 years. The fewer nannies that are shot should mean more tags for other hunters in the future so I wanted to do everything in my power to take a billy instead.

We started up the truck and moved over to another spot, close to where the tourist had mentioned seeing the lone goat. The same nanny, subadult and kid were there that had been there earlier that morning but we couldn't turn up a lone goat.

Beautiful country to look at though! The goats were right at the base of the cliff in the middle of this picture.



We saw another group of 5 nannies including 1 kid about 2 miles off, maybe across the state line into Montana. That put us to 11 goats that morning, but no billies.

Road hunting is not my thing and it was almost a relief that we didn't see any billies right next to the road. I could have justified things if I spotted one from the road and still had to hike a few miles to get to it, but I really didn't want to be in a situation where after hunting for 7 days I take 2 or 3 steps off the road and shoot a billy right there.

We decided that we would give up road hunting for the day and go back to our old hangout at Goat creek. Maybe we were hunting too hard and we decided to just load up the camp chairs, grab our lunch and just plan on hanging out there for the rest of the day and see what happens. The weather was starting to turn a little bit and it wasn't quite as hot as it had been. There was a nice breeze and some clouds so maybe we might have a chance at something coming out of the timber before dark.

That was the plan anyway. Now the real work began! Sitting around glassing for hours.





Of course that is said very tongue in cheek as the physical effort required is almost zero, but it has always been tough for me to sit behind the glass for hours on end. We kind of rotated back and forth glassing and had some good conversations, ate lunch and just tried to relax while at the same time being on the lookout for any goats.

It really wasn't too bad, I think we were both pretty wound up after the last several days of hard hunting and in some ways it was almost a relief to be sitting around relaxing a bit while still knowing that this may be our best potential spot to see a billy. There was almost for sure a billy bedded here Sunday morning and with the cool down we hoped he might show himself again that evening.

Surprisingly the time flew by pretty quickly and we were both a bit shocked when at around 3:30 I pipe up with a "I see a goat". Sure enough a lone goat was working its way out of the trees near the top of the cliff. I'm already thinking billy and looking through the scope I'm already talking myself into it. Good bases, long beard, decent body size, I think we may have a winner!



Things were looking really good and I was getting my stuff packed up to head up after him when some more goats started coming out of the trees. For sure a nanny and a kid and a subadult about 100 yards or so from where the one we were thinking was a billy had just come out. Crap, billies aren't supposed to be hanging out with nannies and kids this time of year! What's the deal?

We looked back and forth and the one we were thinking was a billy was clearly bigger than the largest of the nanny group. He just looked different as well with a bigger chest and neck. After watching a bit the one we were thinking was a billy got down and started pawing the ground and kicking dirt up over himself and then rolling in the dirt. Then he bedded down.



Okay, one of the signs of a billy vs. a nanny is that they are dirty and this guy appeared to have that covered. The nanny group also had proceeded to continue around the ridge and now were moving on away from the single lone goat that we were thinking was a billy. I made an executive decision that this was a billy and decided that we might not have time to sit around and wait for him to pee to get 100% confirmation, it was time to go after him if we were going to have a chance to get him.

After our last stalk on the lone goat at Line creek we decided that I would go after this one by myself. I should be able to move faster as I am almost a decade younger than my friend and I'm also in a bit better shape with all the running that I do. The plan was to skirt around trying to keep as much timber between him and me and then pretty much go straight after him from the bottom. Hopefully I would be able to line up a clear shot on him before he got too nervous and took off.

I got packed up and was headed that way pretty quickly. We had kind of worked out some hand signals for Mike to use if the goat left or moved and I felt pretty good about my chances. I worked quickly to get to the base of the cliffs and as I was moving through the timber I look up and a nanny has me pegged. I backed up and moved around through some thicker stuff and start heading up again and I see the nanny and her kid moving off to the right. I'm not even all the way to the base of the cliff yet and things are already going wrong!

I decide to move right a bit thinking that the billy may end up following the nanny group and I might be able to intercept him before he comes through. This puts me going pretty much straight up the cliff instead of around to the side where we had seen the billy and where there is a fairly established game trail that would have been much easier going. I'm climbing pretty much straight up picking my way through chutes and occasionally having to backtrack. Before too long I'm drenched in sweat and breathing hard. This takes a lot of effort! I get about half way up and look back to where Mike is sitting watching things and find out right away that our prearranged hand signals are going to turn out worthless. I can barely even see him through my binoculars where he is sitting in the shade of the trees let alone make out any possible signals he might be trying to give me.

I keep heading up and never do see the billy come around following the nanny group. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I make it to the top and look around and can't see anything. Not the nanny group, not the lone goat, nothing. I'm still excited that we at least saw a billy, but it's not looking like we are going to connect on this trip up the mountain. I did enjoy the beautiful view from the top though.



The sun was almost down and it was going to be getting dark soon so I figured I would just quietly move toward where we had seen the billy last on my way down. That was the easier way down anyway and unless I was quick I probably wasn't going to make it down until after dark anyway.

I skirted around through the bottom of a little ravine and it really made it clear why the goats are hanging around in there. It was much cooler than out on the cliffs and there was water and plenty of feed available. The cliffs were nearby for security, they just didn't feel that they needed to actually be ON the cliffs at all times. I got back up on the top of the ridge that we had last seen the billy on and started working my way down. It was probably about 10 or 15 minutes after sunset by this time and I was just moving slow and trying to be looking around for anything white.

Right about the time I was going to start really dropping off the top, I glanced a flash of white off the the right maybe 75 - 100 yards away in the brush! It was a goat!!! I pull my rifle off my shoulder strap and start backing up and moving around to intercept it. It was so thick that I didn't spot him again until I was only about 50 yards away. Of course at this time I did several stupid things. First I had been wearing a GoPro knockoff on my backpack shoulder strap the entire time but for some reason I didn't turn the thing on when I saw the goat and started after him. Second, I was carrying a set of shooting sticks strapped to my pack all week, but I didn't pull them out. Lastly I was just somewhat freaking out because I was only 50 yards from a goat that I was 99% sure was a billy!!!

I almost decided to try to sneak a round through a tiny hole in some thick branches but thankfully talked myself out of that. Then I just sat and tried to keep from hyperventilating while I waited for him to feed out so I would have a clear shot. He was pointed in the right direction, he just didn't seem to be in any hurry and shooting light was fading fairly fast. I should have gotten a better setup for the shot, but it was so close I just knelt down and waited. He fed out and I was 99.9% sure he was a billy and I squeezed the trigger! I hit him!!! He started to struggle to his feet and started dragging himself away so I pulled up offhand and shot him again. He instantly went rigid and rolled over backward off the ledge he was on. I heard a few crashes through some brush and then silence. I had just filled my tag on a mountain goat!!!!!

I worked my way up to where he had been and could see him motionless below me about 25 or 30 feet on another shelf hung up in a small tree. I worked my way around and down to him and was still trying to get myself under control. I walked up to him and he wasn't super massive or anything, but did seem like a good sized goat. I did 100% verify that he was a billy and that made me happy. The light was fading fast and there was rain in the forecast and clouds coming in so I tried to get some pictures taken as quickly as I could.

After having all these plans with a GoPro knockoff camera on my backpack, a new point and shoot camera that I was carrying with me, and a nice HD camcorder that my friend Mike was carrying, here I was up on the mountain by myself to take my hero shots. I pulled out my little tripod and set up my point and shoot camera and put the timer on and took a whopping 3 pictures. Of course I didn't end up with quite the quality of pictures that I had envisioned. I wanted to get the big valley in the background of my picture, but the sun was wrong and I should have turned around and had the picture taken with the mountain behind me instead but I wasn't thinking too clearly when everything was going down. At least the pictures are reasonably focused and I think they will work.

Here's the hero shots.





It turned out to be every bit of the hunt I had hoped for and then some! At the time I shot him, I was just so happy to have shot a decent looking billy with good hair. It turned out that he was actually a decent sized goat as the folks at Fish and Game were all very complimentary at how big he was especially for a 3 1/2 year old goat. After caping him and getting an accurate measurement, both horns were 8 6/8" long and his bases were both 5 4/8". When you add it all up I ended up with 45 6/8" before drying which isn't too far off of the minimum 47" for Boone & Crockett.

Okay so I'm back on the mountain and got some pictures taken and it's officially dark now and the rain is coming in with lightning in the distance. Time to get busy!

I mentioned that my friend had stayed back at the bottom on this stalk and although we had come up with some hand signals to help direct me to the goat, that had pretty much been a failure, although in the end I ended up actually stumbling upon him out of luck. When we split up I did grab a radio just in case I got into trouble while up on the mountain. I radioed him that the goat was down and that I was starting to work on it. He had heard the shots although he had also lost track of the goat and wanted to come up and help me get him out. I said great and expected to see him in a little bit.

After the other hunters story of the grizzly coming in on them while they were working on the elk, I moved my gun and my backpack with my pepper spray right next to where I was working on the goat. I had watched a few videos on how to cape an animal for a life sized mount and got right to work with my havalon knife. He had really long hair, but overall it went pretty smoothly getting him caped and quartered out.

As I was about finished up on one side my friend radioed me and asked me where I was at. I yelled as loud as I could and ended up giving him my GPS coordinates, but he never could find me in the dark and ended up getting cliffed out and in the end decided to just go back down and wait for me at the bottom.

Skinning him out, it turned out that my first shot was high and had hit him in the spine and then my second shot was rushed and I hit him right at the base of the neck. It was a very quick kill shot, but the result was a baseball sized hole in his fur at the base of his neck where the exit was because all the bone fragments that blew out. Thankfully, the current plan is for that side to be against the wall and my taxidermist said that the hair is so long he thinks he can fix it although he might have to shrink the neck down a little bit. Hopefully it will all work out, other than the damage from my bullets the cape and face were in great shape which isn't always the case on mountain goats after they come to rest.

Okay, back to skinning and quartering him. I got him all skinned and set that aside and just about had him quartered as it really started to rain pretty good. My buddy had made it back down to the bottom and radioed up a real positive confidence boosting report that went something like "That lightning is really starting to get close and it's starting to rain pretty good. You need to really start working your way down and just leave the goat, this is the kind of stuff where people end up dying on the mountain." Up where I was at the lightning still seemed a safe distance to me and the rain was more of a sprinkle so I told him I was going to finish getting him quartered and bagged and come down the mountain with the head and cape. About 30 minutes later and everything was done. I had all the meat in my game bag, although I didn't debone any of the quarters and packed the cape into the load shelf on my backpack. I kicked the carcass off the shelf and heard it roll a few times so I figured that would attract any bears and keep them off the meat in my game bag and with the hurry I was in I didn't bother to hang anything.

I really like my Stone Glacier backpack and the ability to load things between my bag and the frame of the backpack in the load sling. It worked great although I didn't get any pictures of it in the dark.

I started down the mountain in the dark and in about 2 steps realized that this was going to be harder than I thought. The mountain was full of boulders and climbing up and down in the past we had actually spent most of our time using them to climb up and down. When they are dry they give you good footing and there are usually cracks to hang onto and I had felt really confident going up and down. In the rain, the moss turned these same boulders into an ice skating rink. SUPER slippery! Even on a relatively flat spot I nearly ended up on my butt within a step or two.

So my strategy for getting down changed completely. First and foremost I looked for any type of vegetation like grass or shrubs that would allow me to get some kind of a foothold to keep me upright. Loose ground was also good as I could dig my heels in as I stepped down and that worked to keep me upright as well. There were still a few areas where I couldn't avoid going across the rocks, but I just went really slow and always was hanging onto something. My hands ended up getting pretty scratched up because of constantly grabbing onto brush and tree branches to keep my balance. Creek bottoms and avalanche chutes are normally places I avoid, but they ended up being about the best way to get down the mountain while avoiding the more slippery rocks with the moss on them. About 1/2 way down, I'm climbing over deadfall and stumbling over rocks and lost my balance and grabbed onto a tree branch to keep from falling and wouldn't you know it, the tree branch breaks off in my hand. I fell right over onto my back pretty hard. Thankfully the way I had packed the cape and head, the horns weren't pointed toward my back and it actually ended up cushioning my fall. I was surprised that I didn't end up hurting myself at all in the fall.

I got back up and kept heading down. It seemed to take forever and it was actually less than 1/2 mile to the bottom and only 800' of elevation loss. Again, deadfall is something that you would normally avoid, but it seemed the safest route so I kept climbing over deadfall and sticking to the heaviest brush and timber. I was able to finally see and hear the ranger with a couple hundred yards to go and I was VERY thankful to break out into the last clearing. It hadn't ever ended up being a full blown rainstorm, so God was for sure looking out for me and I had done a LOT of praying on the way down.

A quick trip back to camp and we decided to go ahead and try to wash the blood out of the cape in the creek. We head down there and I'm just strolling along, completely forgetting that the rocks might be slippery when I end up with my feet rocketing out from under me and landing HARD on my tailbone. It still hurts a little while I'm typing this almost 2 full weeks later! All that work getting down the mountain without hurting myself and then I bust it just walking down to the creek to wash out the cape.

We spent a good 15 minutes or so trying to get the blood washed out and realized that we had just increased the weight of the cape by about 40 pounds by getting it wet. It took both of us to carry it back to camp and I was much more cautious this time around. We hung it up to let it drip although with the rain coming off and on I'm not sure it did a whole lot of good.

Some prayers of thanksgiving for a successful hunt and safety, some dinner and I was in the sack, exhausted.

Shockingly though I think I only got about an hour or two of sleep that night. I'm usually a sound sleeper and don't have problems going to sleep but the events of the week kept racing through my mind. All the what ifs and the relief of getting a billy and I just couldn't get my mind to stop and get to sleep. I woke up the next morning ready to go so I guess just laying there did me some good, but I guess I was about as full of adrenaline as I had ever been so sleeping was a difficult proposition that night.
Kind of a recap of the final stalk.

The green line is the route I ended up taking to get to him. The red circle is where he was when I shot him. We saw him very close to this spot earlier in the day, but he just moved back into the timber about 100 yards or so where you couldn't see him from the bottom any longer. Thankfully I caught a glimpse of him on my way down.

The yellow circle is where the lone goat was that I saw on Sunday morning when I first got there. I think it may have been the same billy when it was all said and done.



Not the best picture but thought this was a neat shot through the spotting scope of me up at the top of the mountain.



The rain stayed away most of the night and the next morning was overcast, but the rocks were dry and we had a relatively easy time of it going back up to retrieve the meat. I was surprised by how little meat there was when it was all said and done. The hindquarters were much smaller than on a deer and although the front shoulders seemed big there really wasn't a ton of meat on them. Even the backstraps seemed small for the size of animal that it was.

I went ahead and deboned the quarters while we were up there before packing the meat out. Thankfully nothing had messed with the meat in the game bag although the ravens were on the carcass.

Too bad I wasn't able to get my trophy pictures taken in light like this instead of at dusk with the sun in the wrong place.



This kind of gives you an idea of the area he was hanging out in, kind of surprising that it wasn't more cliffy to me, but this was the north facing slope and I think with the warmer weather the cooler temperatures and shade meant more to him than the security of a steep cliff.



Finally a shot of packing him out.



Of course I had the trekking poles for the packout in good conditions, but they had been back at camp when I was trying to make it down the mountain in the dark the previous night.

My elk hunt turned out to be just as much of an adventure when it was all said and done, it's going to take me a few days before I can get it posted. This was my first time with 2 hunts during back to back weeks away from home and it was more difficult than I expected. Both hunts turned out to be more difficult than I had expected as well so the end result was one tired dude when I got home 18 days after leaving.

I think that pretty much sums it up. Thanks for following along. I have a couple videos that actually turned out decent, but I still haven't figured out how to get them converted and uploaded to play on a computer. Nothing too exciting but hopefully I'll be able to figure it out and add them later.
Oh yeah, a couple more little tidbits to add for the summary.

7 days of hunting. That's a first for me, not sure I've ever hunted 7 days straight for anything before.

37 miles on the boots. There were the 2 big days with 11 miles and 12 miles that adds up pretty quickly, the rest were just short hikes here and there, but generally with a lot of elevation gain and most of those miles at 9,000'+ elevation.

105 miles on the ranger over those 7 days. Probably about 1/2 of that just driving the crappy road back and forth between our camp and goat creek. I think when it was all said and done we made 8 or 9 round trips in and out of there.

200+ miles on pickups driving from one location to another after we were setup at base camp. The unit really isn't that big, but driving from one spot to another often involved a long way around. I would look at my GPS and it would say that we were 13 miles from one of my waypoints that might have taken us 50 miles of driving to get from there.

My wife has added up the cost of this trip a few times with the expensive nonresident tag, the fuel to get there and back pulling a trailer with the ranger and ATVs, and the eventual cost of the lifesize taxidermy mount and when it is all said and done it seems like a pretty big number even to me, but this truly is a once in a lifetime tag and when it was all said and done was a great experience and was worth every penny.

We ate mountain goat spaghetti last night and it was pretty good actually. Not sure if it was worth the near $100 per pound price that it ended up being if you add in all the costs, but it was way better than I was expecting. The friend that processed it for me while I was elk hunting said that she would have expected it to take 20 - 30 minutes to grind that much meat, but it ended up taking her 5 hours instead. Pretty much had to force every ounce through the grinder. But hey, that saves us having to try to chew it and the flavor is actually good. It's super expensive hamburger, but at least it is edible.

I'm sure I'll think of little things to add here and there. Hope to get the videos figured out, have one of the billy pawing dirt on him and one of a couple kids playing that I thought was good. All my GoPro footage ended up being fairly worthless, and we didn't get near as much video of me actually hunting with the other camera as I was expecting but I think we did okay on the pictures.

Thanks for following along.

Nathan
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Old 10-10-2014, 09:27 PM
  #2  
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Congratulations Nathan! Great story and photos. That brought back memories of taking pack trips with my grandfather from Island Lake when I was a kid. Beautiful country, and you can catch brook trout by the hundreds without even trying. I remember seeing a lot of goats by Albino Lake on the Montana side. I've been on two goat hunts on Kodiak where we took three goats, and the pucker factor on those hunts was off the charts. They're definitely well earned trophies. Congrats again!

Jeff
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Old 10-11-2014, 03:14 PM
  #3  
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Excellent story! Much better than a lot of the "hero" stories you read in the magazines (or see on TV). This was a regular Joe doing it all by himself, and he does a great job explaining the ups and downs.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:07 PM
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Great narrative and pics! I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing the hunt with us.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:21 PM
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Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.
-Jake
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Old 10-12-2014, 07:54 PM
  #6  
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You sir are MUCH more determined & might I add, in BETTER shape than I! I've never cared to goat hunt but HAVE seriously considered chasing sheep somewhere but I know my cardio is nowhere near where it needs to be for such & I seriously doubt I'll properly change that now in my mid 40s.

Congrats!
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Old 10-12-2014, 08:24 PM
  #7  
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Great read! Glad you guys got your nice Billy! So it sounds like Mt Goat Billy meat is good tasting just tough, heard lots of varied stories on that meat lol.
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Old 10-14-2014, 08:52 AM
  #8  
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Thanks for the comments everyone.

I've been playing around with the videos some and have uploaded a couple that I took through the spotting scope. Of course I didn't get my digiscoping setup rigged up until after this hunt was over and then didn't use it during my elk hunt so the videos were taken free hand through the scope and are pretty jumpy, but you can get a general idea.

I couldn't figure out how to embed the video with a thumbnail that you can just click to have it play so I'll just describe the video segments and provide a link.

This is a 1 minute video of the group of 5 nannies and kids that I watched several different days on goat creek. The smallest kid was a handful and was the one that actually fell the day that the bear or whatever was down in the creek bottom when they got upset and moved off.

https://vimeo.com/108913123

This is a clip of the billy that I ended up shooting. He paws some dirt on himself from his bed and scratches his head.

https://vimeo.com/108913808

This last clip is just a couple short clips of my buddy Mike as he was climbing around on the mountain. Also a short clip at the end looking down into Sunlight Canyon. Nothing too exciting, but kind of gives you a feel for it.

http://vimeo.com/108917733

Again, nothing professional about any of these videos, just some shaky footage with basically zero editing. I may try to get some of this put together with music and some still photos or something but not sure if I'll get that done or not.

Also have a few other videos that my friend Mike took that I need to go back through to see if there is anything worth posting and I'll double check my GoPro knockoff camera to see if there is anything worth posting from it.
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