Written by: Rick Carlson
Have you ever had a dream of high rocky peaks, windswept ridges, and lands that time has seemed to have forgotten? I dream of areas with no cell service places and where no one has ever stepped foot. It is this country that the mountain goats call home.
Dreaming of the chance to pursue these animals with my bow haunted me on a yearly basis. I applied each year with hopes like a child at Christmas waiting for Santa to arrive with those mysterious packages. Each year my hopes were crushed with nothing to do but prepare for other hunts. Each year after other archery seasons were over, my mind would again start wandering to those high unforgiving places and I kept dreaming of.
I remember each year I tried to do something different when I applied for my Goat tag, and I finally decided to put in on the very first day I was eligible to apply. The research had already been done for the unit I wanted to hunt, and the only thing left was to submit my application, write the check, and wait.
For the past seven years the results had been the same. I would hear the results were out via the internet so I hurried to get online and check. It was like Christmas each and every year I did this, wondering whether I would receive coal or that coveted tag. Last year as I entered my information and pushed the magical button to get the results I could not believe my eyes; I drew! Before I could let myself celebrate I reentered my information, wanting double conformation. Yes, I had drawn! Wahoo! Now the work began.
I had been shooting just about every day with my Mathews Drenalin and felt good about my preparation. Even though I was in decent shape I knew this hunt would require me to be in excellent shape so I could take whatever goat country had to throw at me. This was especially true since I planned to do this hunt SOLO. Just me, my bow, and my pack. I scheduled 9 days to complete this task at the end of September because I wanted the goat’s hair to be long, but did not want to push my luck in such rugged country by waiting until late October or November when it’s covered in deep snow.
I kept pushing myself all summer to prepare physically, including 15 mile day hikes into high mountain lakes on a regular basis. Also I rode my road bike 20 to 60 miles at a time several times a week, and went to the gym 3 or 4 times a week for strength training. I wanted to be ready and did not want my physical ability to be a negative factor.
I had been in parts of the unit that I drew, but did not initially have the overall knowledge I needed. So, I studied google earth, maps, and anything else I could get my hands on. I stayed away from areas that I knew would be hard to hunt because of rock faces and 1000 foot cliffs. Narrowing my hunting area down to two different spots; I planned a 4 day hunt in the north end of the unit and if that didn’t work out, I would leave that area, check in with a friend and pack into the southern end of the unit where I would spend the last four days of my hunt. During the summer I planned two scouting trips; one into the northern end of the unit and one to the southern end. I felt confident I could find the goats once I started, and I wanted to familiarize myself with both areas.
Finally the day arrived to depart for my hunt. I had put in numerous hours researching the area, countless hours working out and shooting my bow. I was ready. One last check of the weather revealed some bad storms were heading my way, so instead of packing several different pieces of hunting clothes I chose to carry only my heavier layers. Unfortunately, the colder wet weather wasn’t the concern. On the hike in it was quit warm, and I even had to stop and shed a few pieces of clothing.
I finally arrived at the basin I had chosen to pitch my tent for the first night. I quickly set up my one man tent and pumped fresh water for my dinner. Once camp was set, I hiked over the ridge from camp to glass a nearby canyon. The hike in was straight up on a goat trail, and fresh tracks told me they had been there. After glassing for about an hour I decided to go back to the basin which my tent was in, to glass as the sun was going down.
As I was just about to a small knob where I thought I could gain a nice vantage point, I saw something out of place and very white. Using my 10×42 Swarovskis I verified it was indeed a Mountain Goat, and everything told me this was a Billy but I wanted to be 100 percent sure. Advice from my good friend, who was a retired wildlife biologist, told me to wait until he turned around showing his backside. If it’s a Billy you will know it with 100 percent certainty. Boom, the Goat turned around and I immediately knew it was a Billy! He matched my criteria and was a mature Billy!
I had been hiking all day, but the opportunity was in front of me and I was there to kill a Mountain Goat with my bow. I figured I had roughly two hours before dark to get this done. So, I hurried up the other side of the canyon on the downwind side of the Billy. Once I got above him and decided I was within 200 yards I dropped my pack and took off my boots so I could be as quite as possible. I slowly started to pick my way through a boulder field and deliberately analyzed each part of the landscape before I made the next step. As I crested the little ridge using everything I could for cover, I finally found the Billy. He was slowly working his way up the little avalanche chute towards my location. I hurried and nocked an arrow, ranged several prominent land marks, and just as soon as I finished the Billy appeared broadside below me.
At 35 yards away I drew my bow and tried to calm my nerves at full draw as my heart pounded and sweat dripped down my face. I told myself to breath, pick a hair, and to squeeze my Trufire release ever so slowly. In the next instant the hair I was aiming at split apart as my shuttle found its mark and I heard the arrow skip off the rocks on the other side of the Billy. Once hit he scrambled up onto a 40-foot cliff. This time the distance was longer, but I wanted to attempt another arrow. I drew, anchored, and released my second arrow. The arrow was a little forward of my mark and hit with a large whack, breaking the shoulder and slicing into the lungs. The Billy slowing, walked away towards a small patch of timber. Within a couple minutes the Billy laid down. Both shots had hit the vitals and I knew it was just a matter of time before he would expire.
As the sun started to dip below the ridge line the temperature started to drop. I hadn’t noticed but as I felt the chill of the air I realized I had killed my Mountain Goat wearing only a set of camo Under Amour long johns and a camo t-shirt. I had to laugh since it was not the attire I imagined wearing when I took my Mountain Goat, but it worked. As I gathered my things and got dressed, the success of my hunt hit me. Wow, I had done it. It wasn’t the nine day hunt I had planned, but I had accomplished what I had set out to do; a SOLO, DIY archery Mountain Goat hunt!
I hurried and set up my camera on my tripod to get as many pictures as I could. Then I completely skinned the Billy, laid all the quarters on the rocks to cool off, and laid the hide on another. I felt confident that nothing would bother them during the night. I headed back to my little camp, grabbed a protein bar, broke my camp down and backpacked back to the truck. The truck was a nice sight, even if it was around 3 in the morning. After grabbing a couple hours of sleep I was up early, but during the night the storm had started to move in. As I loaded all the meat, hide, and horns in my pack, snowflakes started to float from the sky. Unbeknownst to me before the hunt, it ended up snowing a foot that night. The pack was heavy, the hike out was slow, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I knew I had tested myself in the backcountry and won. Knowing I made a clean kill and left only bones on the mountain was the greatest reward I could ask for.