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Back from Bolen Lewis
Well, I'm on my way back to the States from what was an incredible adventure in BC. I plan on writing up a detailed account of the hunt over the next few days and will get it posted. It was unquestionably the most challenging hunt I've ever been on and there are still a ton of thoughts and emotions to make sense of now that the trip has concluded. In the meantime, I thought I'd post up some pics of the scenery and country to kick things off and will follow up with the blow-by-blow account shortly!
Looking forward to it Jason!
Wow- impressive and awe inspiring country! Looking forward to the rest of the tale.
Beautiful Country Man, Can't wait to hear the story and see more picts.
Looking forward to it!!!
Can't wait for the "blow by blow". My knees are hurting just looking at the scenery.
Beautiful pics so far.....keep it coming!
Awesome country in those pics! Can't wait for the full story!
Beautiful scenery and an awesome adventure I'm sure. Bucket list hunt for me.
Great pics! Looking forward to the full telling!
wow. its hard for me to imagine there are places like that.... Get on with the story........ Thanks.
Beautiful scenery. Looking forward to the report!
This should be good.
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
I flew from New Orleans to Terrace, BC on September 7th with hopes of being on the top of a coastal mountain ridge September 8th. My hunt dates were originally planned for September 10-20th but I had spoke with Dave Bowen about shifting those dates forward a few days due to some conflicts on the backend. While there was no guarantee that could happen, there was a good chance a hunter would be tagged out early the previous hunt and I could fly in early. Once I got to Terrace, the option of starting the hunt early was looking unlikely, due to both the logistical challenges of getting the other hunters and guides out and due to the weather. As it turned out, I wouldn't get to fly out until September 11th. The one bright side was that I was stuck in hotel in Terrace rather than being tent bound for two to three days due to weather. I did start to worry that I'd undo all of my training with all the eating and drinking we were doing. Goat hunting is hard!!
Finally the weather broke and we hopped in the Cessna for the 20 minute flight into our mountain lake that would serve as the base of our adventure.
The pilot, Murray, got us there safe and sound and after setting up a quick base camp we shouldered our packs and began the hike to the top of the ridges that would serve as our home for the remainder of the hunt.
The hike in was demanding and at times intimidating. Not long into the hike I had broken both of my trekking poles, which left me flustered. My guide, James, was kind enough to lend me one of his and it no doubt helped. I didn't really take any pictures of the hike up as I was too busy surviving (in more ways than one), but the terrain was varied. It started in greener, lusher conditions that were treacherous enough with all of the recent moisture. This gave way to more steep rocky terrain that actually wasn't that bad as the rocks formed decent steps to work your way up. Save for a few spots, you could only really fall so far if something went wrong so it wasn't too bad, but there were a few spots that had me questioning what I had gotten myself into. I made it through and he steeper terrain gave way to slightly less steep alpine (relatively speaking!) and soon we found ourselves on the saddle of the ridge seeking out a sleeping spot. All in all, the hike in took about 3-4 hours. I was drenched, both from sweat and from the water running through all the ravines we climbed. As we were setting up camp, we started spotting goats on the opposite knob of the saddle from where we were set up, but as it was getting late there wasn't much we were going to do at that stage and the priority was dry clothes, food, and rest!
The next morning we woke up to more goats as the conditions were right to get them moving. The only problem was that the fog and mist was still thick so the goats we spotted would soon disappear into a fog that wouldn't clear for awhile and often times the goats were gone. Finally things started to clear more, and we watched a group of nannies and kids for a bit from camp before deciding to venture out.
We downed breakfast and decided to start working our way down the ridge. Not long into the hike, I managed to take a spill and twist my ankle but I had no choice to suck it up and keep hiking. A little while further into our hike James stopped me and whispered "Goat...20 yards." I took a step forward to his vantage point and sure enough, there was a big blob of white fur.
We tried to unhook my bow from the pack but the noise got the attention of the goat and the gig was up. It ended up being a nanny, and at that stage in the hunt I was set on a billy.
We continued on that day, which turned out to be beautiful. Cool temps and scattered clouds, and the conditions were right to see a lot of goats. We saw about a dozen in all that day, but no billies. I did manage to form a pretty nice blister on my pinky toe which would bug me the rest of the hunt as well. I managed to mitigate the ankle sprain with some Aleve and a backcountry tape job.
Big Easy, excellent story so far. Leukotape is the way to go for blisters and sprains, it's excellent stuff, tough as nails and won't come off when wet. 10X better than duct tape or medical tape!
Now keep it coming:)
The following day we decided to work our way over up onto the knob across the saddle that we had seen a handful of the goats on. The terrain revealed some cliffs that were absolutely sheer vertical walls and I made sure to stay a good ten feet back when we were walking them!
Leukotape is great and I taped my heels before the hunt started. The problem was I didn't think to tape my pinkies. I spent quite a bit of time breaking in my boots hiking and on the stepmill, but the problem is that neither of those simulates the uneven terrain you will be walking on and the pressure it will put on your feet. Furthermore, it ended up being the first day hike which was primarily downhill that led to the hot spot and blister on my pinky (as hard as it was to simulate going uphill with the slope and terrain in my training, downhill was impossible). Had I known that would have been a problem point I would have thrown a piece of tape on the spot, but I didn't find out until it was too late!
A bit further on, James (who was always in the lead, both due to his knowledge of navigating the terrain and his physical conditioning!) spotted a goat bedded down the south side of the ridge about 165 yards away. These goats would just lay out on their sides like cats sunning themselves. The goat looked really good to me, but James had a hard time telling if it was a nanny or a billy. Regardless, we weren't sure how we would even make a play on it. But man, it was a pretty goat. You can see the white dot below on the side of the knob which is the goat bedded.
We moved on to the top of the knob, which was about 4700' in elevation. The temperatures were starting to warm up and not much was moving. We spotted a few nannies and kids off the north face of the ridge and what looked like a billy WAY down in the trees off the south face of the ridge. Because the knob offered a prime glassing location both up to the east and the head of the ridge line as well as west down towards the base of the ridge line, we decided to move camp the following day.
The next day we packed up and moved camp in the morning and decided to explore past the peak we had placed camp on, as it looked like a fairly easy walk up the ridge line to the point where the basins on the north and south side of the ridge formed a head. Man, looks can be deceiving! What's looked like a fairly flat and easy shot was a rather considerable grade with lots of cuts and ridges that had to be traversed. There's really no such thing as easy country here (and of course for those that have not experienced it, pictures do it not justice).
Each of these little cuts and ridges offer hiding spots that are unglassable from our camp vantage point, so there's really no way to know what's there without putting your boots on the ground. While navigating the country, we bumped one goat (couldn't tell whether it was a nanny or a billy). We moved about halfway up the ridge from the knob we were on to the head, and then picked our way back towards camp. The weather was clearly playing a factor as we weren't seeing much of anything, with the only other goat of the day being the one billy way down low, and he wasn't spotted until almost last light. The plan for the following day was to do the same, but push on further with the hope of taking a look into some of the bowls and cuts that were blocked from our sight lines so far -- blister willing!
The next day, Friday 9/15, was pushing toward the end of the hunt. I was to fly back to NOLA on the 18th and the weather was looking possibly iffy on the 17th so to avoid any issue there was a good chance I'd need to fly off the mountain on the 16th. We saddled up and picked our way off the knob we were camped on.
Once off the knob, the ridge gave way to the bald rock and boulder fields that formed the majority of the terrain. We picked our way up and down. After about 20 minutes of hiking along James freezes and points ahead. Apparently we bumped a goat bedded and hidden in the rock and he caught the backend of it scrambling over the rocks ahead. While seemingly dislodged by us, James felt it wasn't totally spooked out of the country so we slowed the pace with the hope that maybe the goat settled back down and we could get eyes on it again.
Our strategy bore fruit, as we picked out a ball of white fur bedded in some snow pack below the next rise we ascended. We took cover and decided to swing a little bit more toward the center of the ridge, as the goat was bedded very close to the north side of the east-west running ridge line we had been hunting. Moving in provided us some more cover and a solid vantage point to assess the goat.
The goat was certainly not the biggest billy on the mountain, but pickings had been fairly slim and time was short. The goat seemed to be in a fairly good location for a stalk, though the wind wasn't the best. We weighed our options over and discussed what to do. James wanted to hold out for a bigger goat, but I told him I would be more than thrilled with this one and we decided to make a play.
We took off our boots and started picking our way over the rocks and boulders toward the location of the goat. The terrain kept us hidden as we approached and we hoped that the wind, which was essentially blowing right toward the goat, would be met with some thermals coming up the north side of the ridge and keep our scent from the goat.
We got to a point above the goat and James slowly rose to get a range on the goat while I stayed crouched at his side. The goat knew something was up before we even started the stalk so it was somewhat alert, but clearly not too alarmed, as it was still bedded a mere 16 yards away.
James relayed the yardage, and I slowly rose in anticipation that once standing and in view, he would get up from his bed and offer brief moment for a shot before he bolted. My instincts were right, and as I rose, the goat did too and offered a perfect broadside shot at 16 yards.
I settled the pin halfway up the body, a bit behind the shoulder, and squeezed the release. I watched the arrow impact right where I held my 20 yard pin and watched blood start to pool on the white hide of the goat for a second before he took off.
James called out "Great shot! Perfect!" And we watched the goat hug the side of the ridge, trying to will it towards the flat ground of the saddle and away from the cliffs that filled the north face of the ridge. After some celebratory pats on the back and discussion, we went back for our packs and moved into recovery mode.
I've come across many people claiming that goats are pound for pound the toughest animal on the mountain, and I don't really have enough experience to say yes or no to that. What I will say in this particular instance is that the goat knew something wasn't right and was on alert before we shot, and certainly saw both of us as we were executing the shot. We weren't able to catch the goat by surprise, in which case James said that often a goat will only go a few yards after getting shot and bed down as it simply doesn't know better.
Again, that wasn't the case this time and the goat tore out of there and we watched it cover about 50 yards in 5 seconds over some rough terrain before it disappeared. We took up the blood trail and I quickly backed off as the goat was moving into terrain that started to make me uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it started moving into terrain that made James uncomfortable too. The last blood James got to was a sizable smear on a bald rock face that led to a steep drop off for a thousand feet or so. The reality was setting in that a recovery might not happen.
The goat sprinted away from us across the snowpack up onto the face of the ridge that quickly turned to cliffs. He went about 100 yards to the last spot of blood and that was as far as we could go. We theorized he died on his feet there and tumbled off the mountain.
This is what the view looking down from the last spot of blood looked like. Again, pictures never really do it justice of how sheer and steep and far down you are actually looking. For some perspective, those lakes are about 1,500' down from where the picture was taken. You can get a sense that the goat really could have rolled and hung up just about anywhere between the top and the bottom, with most of that slope being inaccessible without climbing equipment.
Elation soon turned to heartbreak for a number of reasons, and I'll reflect on the emotions a little later. We moved up and down the ridge line to try and glass down with the hopes of spotting the goat somewhere on the mountain to no avail. We talked it over and decided the only bet was to basically move down low to the base camp and perhaps we might see something from the bottom or when we flew out. I knew the chances of that were slim. The "hunt" portion of the adventure was over, and we headed back to camp for a final night on the mountain. I packed in some scotch and we both had a drink and celebrated the life of the goat and the end of the hunt.
The next morning broke clear at the top of the ridge where we were camped, but fog settled in on the lake below us. We broke down camp and picked our way off the mountain (or, more appropriately, James picked his way down and I slid most of the way down on my side and my butt!). The fog was still thick once we got to the bottom, but Murray managed to get the plane in during some breaks in the fog.
We took a look from the plane, but as I suspected, it was hard to really get eyes on much of anything flying over in the Super Cub. While I started thinking about that warm shower and hot meal to come, thoughts of that goat weren't far away...
As I said, it was a mix of emotions. On the one hand, I took some solace in the fact that everything I had in my control and in my power I did right. I survived some of the toughest terrain on the continent. I stalked in and executed a perfect shot on the mountain goat. The only thing separating me and other successful mountain goat hunters was actually putting my hands on the goat I killed -- but man does that separation feel like everything at times. I know nothing goes to waste in nature, but it's still hard to know you took an animal's life and will possibly take no part in enjoying and celebrating that life, through the meat, horns, and cape. I tend to dwell more on the positive side of the experience -- but like I said, it's still very tough. Despite the outcome, it was one of the most amazing hunts I will ever go on.
I wouldn't hesitate to book again with Bolen Lewis and I want to throw out a special thanks to my guide, James. One defining characteristic of great outfitters and guides is that they are as emotionally invested in your hunt and success as you are. And I can say that is without a doubt the case with James. He felt just as bad if not worse about not being able to recover the goat than I did, and I think that speaks volume to his character. I hope to hunt with him again sometime in the near future.
I will follow-up in a bit with some thoughts on equipment and conditioning, but I hope you all enjoyed the recap some. I'm also happy to answer any questions you guys have!
You did a great job and got it done like few have ever even tried. There is not a regret worth having. You executed in all regards and are a successful goat hunter.
You accepted the challenge of the terrain and animal and met them both head on. The north west corner of BC has some of the most challenging hunting available. I know of several goats, among friends, that were only recovered with full on mountain climbing gear! A goat can slide under a big slab rock or into a small crevasse and can only be found by following the smear trail by rappelling down the "slope".
It's really too bad you didn't get to put your hands on your billy. But the other 98% of the hunt was a total success. And the journey to that point was 100%.
Looking forward to your gear reviews and the could'a, would'a, shoulden'na suggestions.
I've lived and hunted in northern BC for the past thirty eight years, and plenty in the mountains. You did good!
Congratulations again. Next goat hunt here will be totally the same and completely different at the same time.
Tough stuff man! Beautiful pics and it was a great adventure!
And thanks for finishing today...
Thanks guys! And I know I had to get it in before you went off the grid again, Scott ;-)
Congratulations Brother, sorry for the loss of the animal, but as others said you toughed it out, made the shot and you were successful!
Congrats on a great hunt and adventure!
Success is measured in many different ways! It had to be heartbreaking not laying your hands on your goat. I couldn't imagine what that must have felt like. At the end of the day though you came away with a pack full of memories and accomplishments that have to be extremely satisfying and a good comfort to the disappointment. Congrats on a fantastic hunt! Thanks for sharing it with us!
Well said, Brotsky. My thoughts exactly.
I agree with ^^^^
Great job and story telling Jeff. You have done well sir !
Tough losing your goat, but a great adventure! I've lost a friend Roy Caylor goat hunting in CO back in the late '86 or so.......it certainly could have been worse.
James is a friend and a great guy/guide....bet he was fun and skilled to hunt with. Hope you have some great hunts this fall.
I echo the above sentiments. Congrats on what you were able to accomplish, and take great pics and thanks for sharing the story.
When life throws you a lemon, make lemonade. Sounds like you did everything you could. Great job! You got to experience some beautiful country that most of us never will for a variety of reasons.
Tremendous effort, thread and hunt. You are DEFINITELY a mountain goat hunter....hats off to you sir.
Congrats on making memories. Sorry you didn't recover him, I've done two goat hunts and left part of my soul on the mountain each time. Great write-up and pics, thanks for sharing! See you soon, first drink is on me!
I feel for ya! Great story and adventure - well done!
Really enjoyed the read, and so glad you didn't draw it out for a week, or three!!
You took on the mountain, hunted hard, had the experience & shot a goat. It's tough when you don't recover your animal, but it sounds like all other aspects of the hunt were there. There will be another day on the mountain. Congrats on the adventure of a lifetime!
I feel for ya BEG. Beautiful scenery and I'm sure some great memories. Thanks for sharing.
Dang that just sucks. You had a great hunt, a "successful" hunt, and returned safe. Congratulations even though I feel for you in not recovering your trophy. Thanks for the thread!
That terrain is inspiringly beautiful. Your pack looks huge - any idea how much it weighed?
Excellent writing and storytelling Jason. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks everyone! Though I wasn't looking for any sympathy or positive encouragement, it is refreshing to see that there are so many people that share the perspective that I do on the hunt and it is certainly nice to have that reinforced -- not that I should be surprised as there isn't a finer community of folks than bowhunters!
Kurt, James was great. He made the hunt so much of what it was and I'm happy to count him as a friend now that it is said and done.
Overland, we weighed my pack after we loaded it up. It was at 48 lbs for nine days worth of stay in the backcountry, not including my bow which took the total to about 55 lbs. Water was everywhere so you didn't need to carry that in. I packed a few luxury items that added 3-4 lbs to the pack but I'm glad I had them (I'll touch on them later). Because we didn't fly out for a few days, we were able to take a few lbs of food out before we finally flew in so I'd guess the total pack weight when I hiked in was about 52 lbs.
Tim, I'll take you up on that! Though you have to let me buy the next round in honor of your Stone sheep!
Congrats bigeasy. Great pictures and write-up. Sorry to hear you weren't able to lay your hands on the goat, but as others have said, you still had a successful hunt!
Thanks so much for sharing. You've successfully completed something I'm 99% sure I'll never get to do.
Congrats on a great adventure!
Thanks for sharing your adventure. Your write-up was great. The reader can feel feel the victory of meeting the challenge and the emotional defeat you and your guide experience.
Life normally has a way of going full circle. Stay strong and stay in shape, you chance to settle the score may happen sooner than you think.
Hell of a read for sure-------> Thanks
Good luck, Robb
Great outlook and attitude, very commendable. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing your adventure. Great memories of wild country where only a few hunters have a chance to experience.
Jason, nice story, great pictures to boot. Hunting on that moonscape is a special experience and I know the memories of that hunt will last forever. my best, Paul
If success was measured on a 1-10 scale, you had a 9+ experience. Excellent in anyone’s book. Nature is unpredictable. Congrats on an amazing experience!
Sorry you weren't able to recover your goat, but man...what a story and awesome adventure!
What setup were you using if I may ask?
Thanks again everyone for the kind words and glad you enjoyed the recap. I still plan on giving a breakdown of the gear I used, things I'd do different, things I'd do the same, etc just have been a bit busy! Promise I'll get to it by the end of the week!
Iowabowhunter, are you asking about my bow/arrow setup specifically or referring to other gear as well?
Awesome pictures and story. Sorry you couldn't find your Billy. I hunted with them in 2011 and know that country can hide them well. Thanks for sharing.
Great story. Very impressive! Sorry about the non-recovery but you were successful and accomplished something many of us will never attempt. Great hunt, great story, solid character! Congrats.
Hey Jason, sorry didn't mean to rush!
I was curious as to the bow setup you were using, and also boots. I won't be able to go on a Mtn Goat hunt for quite a few years, unless I draw for MT.
No worries Iowabowhunter!
Bow was a Mathews Halon 32 set at 70 lbs. I run a limb-driven Axiom Pulse rest and a Montana Black Gold Ascent Verdict 5-pin sight set at 20-30-40-50-60 with the 60 pin set as the slider. I also had an identically set-up bow as a back-up that made the trip with me but was left in town. The arrows were Easton Bowfire's with a 330 spine. I had a Tight-Spot 7-arrow quiver to hold the arrows. The arrows in the quiver were tipped with three mechanicals (Grim Reaper's) and three fixed blade (Solid Broadhead Company Legend) broadheads and one arrow was equipped with a field point (all 100 grains). I shot the goat with the SBC Legend and had a complete pass through.
The boots were Scarpa Grand Dru GTX's. They were incredible and allowed me to navigate some terrain I wouldn't have thought possible. The grip from the soles really grabbed onto the rock and even with only a bit of sole touching I was able to get really good grip. It took awhile to get to the point where I could actually "trust" my boots and the footing, and in reality I probably still had a ways to go, but that was on me, not the boots. I highly recommend a full shank mountaineering type boot for this hunt. Scarpa, Crispi, Lowa, La Sportiva, etc all make great boots (as do others).
I did get a blister but I can't blame it on the boots at all. A few things contributed to it. I put at least 50-60 miles on my boots building up to the hunt. However, living in Louisiana there's nowhere to put them through the places in any mountains. This meant I was limited largely to stadium stairs and stepmills, which are great for getting you in shape so to speak. However, they do not simulate the uneven terrain you will be walking on and there's no way to really fully break in the boot or see how your feet will react to the boots in those situations unless you can get onto some slopes. My blister was caused the first day when we primarily hiked downhill and my toes were sliding into the front of my boot with each step. Again, you don't don't get that sliding when you're walking on flat stairs. It was exacerbated by socks that were likely too warm and created a bit more moisture than was ideal. Frankly, I don't know how I could have figured this out ahead of time where I live. That said, I did use Leukotape on other areas of my foot and it worked well. Had I known the pinky would have been the issue I would have put on some tape and likely it wouldn't have been an issue. I know for next time now.