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Thread: My 1971 Alaska Mt. Goat Hunt

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    Member Phil's Avatar
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    Default My 1971 Alaska Mt. Goat Hunt

    On August 16, 2011 I will celebrate the 40th anniversary of what will probably be my 1 and only Alaska Mt. Goat hunt. This is the story of that hunt but it is also the story of the adventure that put 4 NY adults and their 5 children in the brand new state of Alaska for 70 days.

    Now, some will say that nothing has changed since then BUT I know better. For some examples, Gore-tex was not patented until 1976 so, there was no such thing as gore-tex clothing and the Dalton Highway did not exist. In fact, the pipe for the oil pipeline was stored in Valdez - waiting for congressional approval. Also, the Alaskan native claims settlement (or whatever it's correct name is) had not taken place yet.

    The 4 adults icluded 3 teachers and 1 school nurse. We (Helen & Phil Stewart) and Don & Gloria Stevenson (Gloria was the school nurse) had camped & become friends in previous years but this was the first time we had been together for an extended time. The 5 children? Lara, Lois, & David Stevenson (now on the Fairbanks Police Force), Craig & Jodie Stewart. Their ages? 8 years through 12 years. Was this a great place to be headed for? You bet. Pull into a campground and turn the kids loose - just make sure they were around for meals which was usually not a problem.

    I (Phil) was the only hunter of the group but we did take rifles on everyone's advice. "If you are going to fish for salmon - make sure you carry a loaded rifle. Just in case." So we were armed - Don with a Browning BAR chambered in 300 WM and me with a Browning BAR chambered in the new, 7 mm Remington Mag. As long as we packed rifles, we might as well hunt. What to hunt? Moose were eliminated because success was so assured that there was no challenge and a successful hunt meant way too much meat to handle. Dall sheep were eliminated because there was no convenient place for everyone else while the hunt took place. Brown bears required hiring a guide (even then) so that put a brown bear hunt out of my price range. After a call to Viking Air in Petersburg and a look at maps to make sure elevations were OK for a "flat-lander", Mt. Goats became the target of choice.

    I did talk to Bill Stedman just a week or so ago and in 1971 Bill was flying for Alaska Island Air. Viking Air was owned by a local Dr. and wasn't in business for too many years. However, their pilot (Bill thinks his name was Charlie) assured me that 3 days would be plenty long enough for goat hunting. I shot my Mt. Goat on day 5 of that 3-day hunt. Charlie didn't take into account the miserable weather we ran into. We knew some elementary teachers in Petersburg and had planned on staying for a week to visit. I talked to several natives and all told me the same thing. I was crazy to hunt goats in August. All I had to do was wait until October and the snows would push them down to where a successful hunt would be much easier. Funny, the Board of Education thought that in October I should be in my classroom back in Penn Yan, NY.

    Bill also pointed out that today there are 2 flights each day with 737 service to Petersburg. No such thing in 1971. The only way in or out was by either a bush plane of ferry.

    Viking had 2 planes for us. The 2 ladies & 5 kids stayed at a lower lake, picked blueberries, watched black bears, and generally enjoyed the government cabin while Don & I were flown in a 206 Cessna on floats to a higher elevation lake
    not far from Farragut glacier for our hunt. We splurged and spent $25 each for the over-the-counter goat license that was good any place in the entire state. No such thing as "draw" licenses then. No "same day air" laws and, as far as I know, no "wanton waste" laws although that concept had been talked about for some time.

    The plane left and it started to rain & blow - hard. Because of weight restraints, there was no tent. We did get a fire going under an overhanging rock and I promptly burned up one of my 2 pairs of socks - trying to get them dry. I finally just decided to be wet (and dirty - eventually). Within an hour of when the plane left, we were hunting. No goats that afternoon. Day 2 turned out to be so foggy that I couldn't have seen a goat if it was standing 10 yards away. Day 3 was more rain and the Cessna to take Don & I back to Petersburg.

    Helen (now my ex) knew that I was upset at not having a shot at a goat. Don's ankle was acting up so Helen agreed to go back for another hunt for 3 more days. That time we agreed to live in luxury and we stopped at the local hardware and bought a sheet of plastic and a lenght of rope - so we could fashion some shelter. We also agreed to camp at a higher elevation

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    Member Phil's Avatar
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    Default Goat Hunting Continued

    The Cessna dropped the 2 of us off and we climbed to a camping spot above tree line bythe only way we had found so far - up a streambed. We strung the rope and put up the sheet of plastic and I learned another lesson. The tundra burns really well - even when soaking wet. Fortunately we were able to put out the fire and we ate cold food thereafter. We did spot 1 really nice billy but he was too far uphill to try a stalk that afternoon. Exhausted, we fell into the sleeping bags we had carried up the stream.

    Next morning (day 2) I awoke to see 4 goats just 400 or so yards uphill. I think it was a nanny, 2 kids, & a billy but I never did get close enough to tell. I didn't mention before - no binoculars. We dressed and headed up the mountain. I crested the ridge and, there on a relatively flat & grass covered area stood 3 billies - all of approximately the same size. They were 30 to 50 yards away and eating peacefully. Helen & I looked them over carefully and I shot the closest one. A different world? Right again. The other 2 billies looked at us, and went back to eating. Only when we walked up to the downed goat did they mve away and then - only at a walk. I'm pretty sure that none of the goats had ever seen a human before in spite of the fact that the one I killed was 5 years old. DSC01891.jpgAttachment 0

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    Member Phil's Avatar
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    Default Moe 1971 Hunting

    As far as I know, the picture posted in the previous reply is the only picture in existence of the goat. I cleaned my goat, put some of the meat in our backpacks, put the rest in a snowbank and looked up to see a Viking Air Cessna fly over and waggle its wings. I was sure it was a signal that he would soon be back for us. We buried the plastic under a bush and headed down to the lake. On the way we got slightly off course and took 4 1/2 hours to do what was usually a 1 1/2 hour trip.

    On the lakeside - no plane. Helen put dried onion soup mix on the goat rib rack and we cooked them over the open fire. Delicious. We camped next to a car-sized rock and threw the gnawed ribs over the rock. Next morning they were gone. Probably the work of one or more of the black bears we had seen. Two days later when Charlie landed for us I learned that the "waggle" in the wings was him flighting to keep the plane stable in 60 mph winds.

    Charlie had cached his 5-gallon gas can on the lake shore and backed the plane as far as he could. First attempt - shut down just short of the end of the lake & a 1500 foot drop. No problem - if we didn't get off on the second try he would take one of us down to the big lake, get the 2nd, and then take off from the bigger water. On the second try, he headed up the lake, turned sharply, and got us off with no problem.

    He had flown back to pick us up on his first day off in almost a month. Pretty impressive. We arrived back in Petersburg with just 2 hours left before the ferry was scheduled to leave. A quick breakfast at our acquaintences house and then on the ferry. To my dying day I will remember just how great that hot shower felt as I pealed off the wet, dirty clothes that I had lived in for the last 7 days with nothing but an open fire for warmth. Lets see - 7 days, 5 days of hunting - to get a Mt. Goat in a time when a 3-day hunt should have been plenty.

    The moral to my story? You can do everything wrong, be a tenderfoot, and still be successful - as long as you hunt in 1971. Need a second moral - we arrived home safely and were still friends for many years.

    Was that a different time? Absolutely

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    Member Phil's Avatar
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    Default An Aded Thought

    Yes, I know - I had promised to wail until august 16 BUT Judy, my wife of 16 years, is busy and Bushrat warned me not to do anyhing stupid so I figured I had better get this done. Some of my friends agree with me that I'm on borrowed time (the average age is lower than my current age) so this is my assurance that I will get it done.

    For any of you skeptics - Alaska is very different than it was 40 years ago or 80 years ago (before my time). If you don't believe me - read some books written by the people who lived in those times.

  5. #5

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    I REALLY enjoyed reading this chronicle. The hunts of days past always catch my interest and get me dreaming...

    Thank you!

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    Great story, Phil.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Was looking fwd to this Phil, great writeup. A different time for sure. Funny though we are still using the same kind of aircraft to get out to the bush, the venerable 206s and cubs etc.

  8. #8

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    Phil, Nice story. Congratulations on a successful hunt.

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Great story Phil. Made me really miss Alaska... as it was in the 60s and 70s. Other than the scenery, sometimes I find myself wondering if I'm even in the same state.

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    Member Steve Springer's Avatar
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    Good Read Phil,

    This brought back a lot of great memories for me too! I took my father who lives in PA on his hunt of a life time down in Petersburg. When asking a F&G biologist in Fairbanks where to go for goats an older fella overheard our conversation (wasn't getting any good info from F&G). This gentleman told me of a place I could fly into out of Petersburg. I could tell he knew I was looking to repay my father for all the good things he had done for me in my life by taking him on his hunt of a lifetime. I had just moved to Alaska the year before and was a greenhorn. We too flew into a Mtn. lake and I got my dad his Billy and man I'll never forget even one moment of that tough hunt. Tough weather and steep terrain. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.

    Steve

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    I appreciate you allowing us the stroll down your memory lane. It was well worth reading. Thank you!

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    New or old ,I want to hear goat hunts .
    Thank you phil.

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    Member cusackla's Avatar
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    Great Story Phil,
    Hunting Mountain Goats is one of the best hunts, that hunting has to offer. I can't with for October and our Kodiak Island Goat hunt.

    Ever thought of re-mounting your goat with a new cape? I have several 1/2 and lifesized mounts. I try to mount them as close to the postion they were in when I 1st saw them and I try to match the rock is possible. Everytime I look up the wall it is like being there all over again!

    Louis

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    Very nice story Phil, sometimes one just has to flip a coin and go for - lack of gear - well I think I would have taken 3 pair of socks!
    Thx for the story....
    Randy
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    Enjoyable read, Phil. Thanks for sharing your memories with us !

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    Mr Phil,

    Thanks for sharing your hunt with us. I though of you on my recent Sheep hunt and made sure to take the time to truly soak up every detail of what could be my last trip into the Sheep Mountains.

    As you know, Alaska really does get under your skin.

    Wishing you a very long life Sir!!!

    Thanks for Sharing with us.

    Steve
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