Old Stomping Grounds
Last weekend my father and I headed west to Montana to chase speed goats. Nearly 15 years from the last time we pursued them there. We expected to show up and find abundant antelope and spend the days driving around and glassing goats cruising everywhere. In fact, my initial assumption was that I’d be picking through which bucks I wanted to try and put a stalk on. What we found, was quite the opposite. We got lucky and didn’t have to deal with a large amount of other hunting pressure, even with it being the second weekend of the season. Two days of snow made it really difficult to locate goats and even harder to sit up high and glass. However, we made it happen.
Our success came from honing in on the areas that we found antelope; period. We didn’t keep moving to find other herds or block management units. We stuck it out on the couple that showed us signs of life. Once we found a couple smaller areas that had animals, we hiked off the beaten path. Then made decisions about where to head based off of where we thought other people may have accessed the units. We picked out some places we thought would be easy access points or looked like other vehicles had parked and avoided them. Focused on spots a mile or two away and hiked in roughly two miles and bam! We found some good antelope.
Two great shots were made on some great representatives of antelope by crawling our way in and out of the sagebrush flats to close the distance. When the goats are in herds of 15-50, there can get to be a lot of eyes on the prowl. We had several herds of goats spot us at over a mile away and take off running so we knew our stalk in had to be carefully planned. Both goats ended up going just over 13 inches tall, which is fairly respectable for two far from veteran antelope hunters with very little knowledge of the area and only 3 days to do it.
Tools of the Trade
Our biggest tool while in the field was by far our optics. Spotting scopes to see if a buck is worth making a move on. Binoculars to simply locate animals that are bedded amongst the sage. A rangefinder for distance checking. And especially our rifle scopes for assisting with a clean quick shot, we utilized our glass the best we could. People say it time and time again that optics are a necessity in the west, and they are absolutely correct. Without the glass we had, we would have missed out on several opportunities on animals.
We picked out our block management units by using our OnX Maps app on both our computers and our phones. It is almost unbelievable the amount of time saved by this piece of technology. We used to have a gazette, block management books, forest service maps, and google earth all sprawled out across the floor in order to simply attempt to narrow down places to hunt. It helped us cross off certain pieces of block management simply by looking for it on the app and looking at it with the aerial photo as the background. We could tell very quickly if it was a piece of property that looked like it would hold goats. It cut our initial land searches by at least fifty percent thanks to OnX.
We would highly recommend anyone headed out west, whether a veteran or a beginner to western hunts, get the app. Saves time, money, and energy of hiking into an area just to find out you’re a quarter mile from “the good stuff.” For anyone who is still out chasing goats our tips for you are to hunt smart, use your optics, shoot straight, and of course, have fun!