I've really enjoyed the stories folks have posted of their hunts the last couple of years since I started up with the forums. So, I thought I’d write up the mountain goat hunt my father, brother, and I took this year, and share it with you.
We flew into a lake on Baranof Island – same place we went last year. We used Harris Aircraft Services for our flyout. They’re nice folks, they’re professional, and they’re safe. Last year the weather was classically Southeast – constant blowing rain and low ceilings – and we held up in Sitka a day before flying out. They made it very clear last year that if the weather isn’t safe, the plane wouldn’t go. I appreciated that. This year the weather was abnormally beautiful almost the entire trip.
We flew in the night of 7/30 and got our gear sorted at base camp. My brother climbed way, way up the trees, and hung pulleys so we’d be ready to go if we got meat. I’ve never seen a meat hang so high – the bottom of the lowest game bag ended up being about 12’ up, and 4’ off the closest tree. We felt like when we got back, we'd be as bear-safe as possible.
After a night at base camp, we hiked the morning of 7/31 for the spike camp. We’d sorted out the best routes the year before, so there was a minimum of brush-busting and alder-wrangling. The stream banks were still no fun with spike camp and four days of food on our backs, but it sure beat thrashing through as much devil’s club as we had the year before. There was a light mist all day, so we wore our raingear. We wouldn’t have gotten too wet from the mist, but the damp brush would’ve sogged our clothes right through. Let’s hear it for Impertech!
We made our spike camp at about 1300’ elevation, on a saddle where the deer tracks gave way to mountain goat tracks. 1100 calories apiece got us ready for bed – we’d lugged an awfully big tent up to spike camp.
Opening day dawned with bright, blazing sunshine. Given last year’s constant rain, that was a really nice surprise. We boiled water for breakfast, filtered some for our water bottles, and got out the binoculars. Glassing the ridgelines to either side of us found no goats, so we decided to head north, where we could climb to a peak that would let us glass further ridges. No sooner had we finished eating than another sweep with the binoculars found goats working a ridgeline in the other direction. Sometimes plans change like that…
Out came the spotting scope. The season is open for either sex, and only the taking of nannies accompanied by kids is prohibited. Our priority wasn’t taxidermy – we were looking for legal animals to eat. Thus the question to be answered with the spotting scope was whether the four goats we saw were a nursery group, nannies who hadn’t reproduced (or who lost a kid), or a bachelor band.
Time here for a mea culpa: I’ve suggested in the past that while a spotting scope is worthwhile weight to pack on a mountain hunt, a tripod may not be necessary. I take it back. Nestling the spotting scope on my pack worked well enough to get a good look at the goats, but it was a giant pain in the neck (and one elbow). It’s worth an extra pound or so to bring a lightweight tripod.
After a good look, we decided it was a band of four billies – there were dark stains on all their rumps, gradual curves to their horns, close-set horn bases, and none of them were kid-sized, although one was pretty clearly in his first summer with the big boys – different enough in size to give us a few minutes’ pause.
We beat feet for the peak.
By the time we got up there, picking our way among the boulders and scrub hemlocks, the goats were in their beds. We crept quietly around the mountaintop for a while, and stalked the ridgeline peering carefully down to try and see them bedded below, but the goats were in hiding.
Around three in the afternoon, Dad decided to make for spike camp. We set a check-in time to turn on the walkie-talkies and make sure everyone was OK, and my brother and I agreed to radio Dad when we started back down. He offered the great luxury of getting food ready for our return, and we weren’t about to turn that down.
Then came the discussion. My brother was sure the goats had gone in one direction to bed in a certain area of cliffs. I was convinced they’d gone another. We talked it over and figured out there was a spot on the mountain where we could sit about 30 yards from one another and each see the area we thought the goats were most likely to come from when they got up for an evening feed on the high slopes.
We worked out a signal in case the bachelor band formed up again. Each of us had a good-sized rock we could drop to alert the other – in hopes we might each get a goat. The area we were hunting was so steep it had many naturally-occurring rockfalls each day, and we figured a falling rock wouldn’t spook the goats, as long as it wasn’t followed by immediate scampering by the other hunter. The plan was to sit still for a minute if you heard a rock, then look for an opportunity to join the other guy.
By 3:30 we had each settled in – my brother on a flat space between two large rocks, and me in a dirt bed the goats had kicked out.
That's a Model 70 Classic, for anyone interested, with a Leupold VXII on top - 3-9x40.
(To be continued...)