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Forty Days, and Forty Nights
A goat story for those so inclined to get you through the winter... I had just moved to Colorado and was young and full of ideas of what and how I was going to hunt in this vast and glorious mountain state. The applicant had to choose sheep or goat back then and I went with archery goat as it was a better chance to draw, and draw I did, on the very first try! My summer was spent endlessly tossing arrows into straw bales in anticipation. As fall approached I called a crusty old fart at the Division of Wildlife, named Nicely, and asked him if I might see a bear and should get a tag? “Hell boy” he said, “This is GOAT COUNTRY! Do you even know what you are letting yourself in for?” “Yes”, I lied, confidence trumped intelligence back then, I was 26 years old, 10 feet tall, and very bulletproof. He then told me why he gave out so many tags in that unit, as three quarters of the tag holders took the train ride, looked where they had to go and took the train home that afternoon. I assured him that would not be the case with me. I quit my job, and said goodbye to my cat, left in a forest service campground with a huge pile of cat chow in my camper and headed back into the Needles, full of confidence, energy and very little intelligence. It did not take long to encounter a problem, more like a lot of problems, I was carrying my bow and the hikers I met all wanted to kill me right then and there. I finally met a somewhat neutral fellow and he told me the story as to why all the hostility. There had been a group of goat hunters taken in by a local outfitter on horseback who had shot the tame goats the backpackers had been feeding all summer. They had been tame enough to hold a tape measure to their horns and then the hunters drew straws as to who got to shoot the first/biggest goat and all four shot them at daylight opening morning right in front of the Labor Day crowd of backpackers. From then on I hid my bow as I heard the people coming down the trail and had no more issues. When I got to the top of the drainage the mighty goat hunters were still there, toasting their prowess, and waiting for their ride back down to civilization. The next day their guide showed up and I had the basin more or less to myself, at least as far as hunters went, but there was a steady, if diminishing, flow of backpackers through the area.
So the hunters were gone (except for one) but so were the goats, and it seemed they were not inclined to come back any time soon. I climbed the nearby peaks daily looking for goats amongst the rocks, still hunting the cliffs as if I was stalking hardwood forests for whitetails back home. (I told you I was dumb!) There was of course some fresh sign around from the recently departed goats and once I took a goat trail, (I have always hated retracing my steps and always opt to see new country if possible).
Soon I was in over my head and lowering my day pack and bow by rope to ledges below me, couldn’t go back and scared to go on… I could see where the silly goats had jumped down the chimney using both sides and tiny ledges as a giant stairway. I dropped my gear and using my hands on one side and my feet on the other “walked” my way down, towards the bottom I was glad I wasn’t any shorter cause I was stretched about as far as I could get when I finally got my feet on tundra grass and I was home free. I had a couple bent arrows and some severe confidence damage. But I had learned a crucial goat country lesson… do not follow goat trails! When I got back to my tent a group of backpackers told me they watched my descent and wanted to wager on my making it , or not, but nobody wanted to bet on me, they all wanted to put their money on the mountain. I had several snow days of being cooped in my tent but kept on branching farther and farther in search of a goat. Instead of going to the adjacent peaks I went over and beyond to the next peak in several different directions. Looking for them miles away instead of hoping to run into one, I was learning how to hunt goats!
One day I was two peaks away from home and finally saw some goats, I tried to go towards them by following some goat tracks down a sheer glacier. I was doing well kicking my heels in for traction walking down like a giant set of stairs when a moment’s carelessness led to my heel breaking loose in mid stride. In a split second I was flying down the ice face on my ass towards a rock field many hundreds of feet below. I rolled sideways to the edge of the ice and nice sharp rocks slowed me down, albeit at a severe price in both clothing and blood. I limped out of the bottom of the glacier only wanting to get home; shooting a goat wasn’t a priority any more on that day. I had to go through a 13,500 pass, across several miles of glacier, through a more brutal pass and way down to camp, all while leaving a blood trail. I was very glad to crawl into the sleeping bag after dark that night!
I stayed a little closer to home the next couple days healing up and getting my bravery built back up by taking on some easier basins to the south, long hikes but not so life threatening, and no sign of goats either. This entire hunt I had been making the acquaintance of serious backpackers and quizzing them up about their gear and its use, ice axes, crampons, ropes/carabiners/rappelling gear, stuff I had read about but never seen and certainly never used nor needed, I was developing quite a shopping list for if, and when, I ever survived goat country and made it back to civilization… I made friends with two hard core guys who wanted to do a through trip rather than up and back on the same trail, so I helped them rope their gear down the pass I had marked with my blood trail earlier, as I watched them traverse the glacier with crampons I realized if I was to get a goat I had to cover vastly more ground as there seemed to be a large radius around my camp that was goat free. I would have to move two basins, or more, away and start over
It was now early October and snowing all too frequently, and starting to stay on the northern sides of the rocks, I was low on food, even eating marmot and ptarmigan when I could get them, had more bent arrows than straight ones, shredded clothing, and had noticed that I no longer stunk even after four weeks without a bath. (This turned out to be not exactly true). I retreated to the low country for some more food from my stash, a 20 mile round trip day, and packed up for covering more remote basins. I roped my way down through the saddle and headed off to where I had seen the goats a week earlier. My tent was shredded from the winds so I had to drop into the highest bushes in the basin and lash it into place as best I could for some shelter. I was now camped in new country I had only glassed before and able to glass even more new stuff in all directions. On about the third or fourth day I found some goats in a next door basin and resolved to get after them the next day. I got an early start and they had disappeared on me when I got to where I could see where they had been. Feeling depressed I glassed from there and saw a big solo goat on the other side of the basin. I dropped 1000 feet down and back up and started approaching where he had been bedded but found nothing but where he had been wallowing. As I poked around he stood up out of a hidden bed about 75 yards away and tried to climb a ledge to get away, he couldn’t do it and I realized I was standing in his only way out of his crevice. He figured this out a bit later and ran right past me at 15 yards! Finally after a month I had been within archery range of a goat! This was getting exciting, now if I could just close the deal.
He was gone for good, of course, but glassing over where I had come from earlier I saw another solo goat bedded in some rocks, this goat hunting, where there were actually some goats, was a lot of fun! All jacked up from my close encounter, I did the same 1000 foot drop/climb for the second time that day and made my approach on goat #2. I got cliffed out a couple times and eventually had to traverse a scree field above him in the open about 50-75 yards away from him. I took my boots and socks off to be quiet on the rocks and only moved when his eyes would close as he dozed in the sun. After what seemed forever I made it and had a completely concealed approach to with ten yards of his bed, crept up over the rocks and he was gone! Instant depression set in and I made an error, I stood up… he was just 5 feet away from his bed stretched out pissing. I came to full draw in an instant and buried one of my last straight arrows right behind his shoulder. He spun and ran down the scree chute with my arrow out both sides of him in a perfect lung shot location. I was, quite literally and figuratively on top of the world at that given moment, barefoot jumping up and down in the rocks at my sudden turn of good fortune. How I wish my story ended right there. I looked off down the valley and saw right away why he had gotten out of his bed. I had been so focused on him I had not seen a wall of black coming up the mountain at breakneck speed. I went as fast as I could to my boots but before I could get them laced up visibility was 50 yards and closing and there was an inch on the ground. This was no fall precursor, winter had showed up. I went down the gulley in a panic, sometimes with just a few feet of visibility, in just moments it was several inches deep, and I was officially done… Oh I searched until dead dark hoping and praying to literally stumble upon him, but with every inch of accumulation it was more futile, and the reality of it hit me at dark.
I was several miles and several thousand vertical feet from my tent, already exhausted, wet, cold, and probably most important, falling into deep depression. It was the longest hike I have ever made, due to the mental state I was in. The wind was to my back, thankfully, and so strong you could lean back against it to rest, if you have never been in goat country it is hard to envision what a storm like this is truly like. It pushed me somehow up through the pass and down the other side to my flat tent and soggy sleeping bag. The one the army /navy store guy had told me several years before was way too much bag for anybody to need (in Pennsylvania). Well it was just what this exhausted goat less hunter needed at that moment; I was beyond shivering, couldn’t find my food, and soaked. I was young and dumb but I knew I was in trouble. To be honest I was more than a little surprised when I woke up the next dawn, stiff and freezing, smothering from two feet of snow on top of my flat tent, the next five days were brutal, with high winds and heavy snow further destroying my tent, trying to keep warm and as dry as I could, with nothing to eat but dry uncooked ramen noodles chased with snow. On the fifth day with no food left at all and a lull in the storm, I packed up everything I could find from the waist deep snow and headed down the basin I was in, not sure if it was passable, nor where it would take me. Several miles and several thousand feet lower I was in a different world of several inches of snow and intermittent sunshine poking through the clouds, strangely enough this was depressing, as soon as I began to realize I was going to live I started to think about my goat up there under the snow…
When I caught the train that afternoon, on damp ground with sunny skies, one straight arrow left, gear destroyed, clothing shredded to the point of indecent exposure being a real possibility, all I could think about was regrouping and going back up there to find my goat. But when farther away so I could look back and see the high country you could not see a thing, just a white fog, the fog of winter in the Needles, it was a very long train ride. My education at Goat Hunter University was not quite over though; the campground where my car/camper/cat awaited was a five mile uphill slog in 8-10 inches of snow from where I could hitchhike to. I got there about 3am to one very ecstatic kitty cat, which let me know what he thought about going 40 days and 40 nights without being petted. Technically I had been gone only 38 days, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it… Part of me wanted to re-group and head back in and retrieve my goat, but looking from 15 miles away nixed that idea, it was pure white at 14,000 feet. A bigger part of me wanted to slink off and lick my wounds and never do anything like that again, much as Mr. Nicely had told me most do. Almost all of my gear was either destroyed or had been inappropriate in the first place. While I had definitely killed a goat, I had not technically “harvested” a goat, meaning I did not have to suffer the five year penalty from applying. After several months my stiff muscles had healed up, the order of cool new toys had arrived from “Campmor”, and I had convinced myself that I was older, wiser, and tougher than I had been. Those white woolies would never see me coming… where is that application booklet? Like Mick told Rocky as he lay bleeding on the mat, “I didn’t hear no bell”
What a riveting story you just told. A true youth, full of adventure, bullet proof, and none too wise. Just like most young hunters. Love it!
Well chapter one of your goat hunting career has been an awesome read. I sure hope there's many more to come.
Wow is any of that true?? Haha that is one heck of a story, thanks so much for sharing. You are one heck of a man!! 38 days....wow.
You write really well! Excellent story and congrats on a really great adventure. Bummer on the recovery, no doubt, but you definitely did some high class living up in those peaks and passes!
Awesome! Enjoying the read very much!
I think you must have had a whole flock of guardian angels keeping you alive. Couldn't stop reading.
There were probably a half dozen times where you barely escaped death.
Loved reading it. Glad I never lived it.
Now that is extreme! Hope there is more........much more!
That was great. Young and full of excitement!! Fun stuff
Goat hunter here, tuned in!
Very Nice reading there!!
Excellent read. What a trip!
Excellent story telling skills and a fun read! And I bet if a guy divided every number by four, it would come close to the truth to.
Can’t wait for Round Two!!
Awesome story! Makes me want another goat tag! In the 20 years since my last one, a lot of the memories of the pain and misery have faded to the point that I’m pretty sure I’m up for it again!
You got what you deserved when you drew that tag on your very first try! ;-)
Great story, and very well written as well.
Great story so far. Having dreamt of a goat tag for as long as I can remember, this presents an exciting, yet cautionary tale. Not enough to make me quit yearning for the tag, but maybe enough to double check that the life insurance is paid up before heading out.
Squirrel..... great story!
Back in the day when you were wide eyed and bushy tailed you were more than a little nuts! Good hunting
What a great story, told by a great storyteller! Thanks for sharing
Thank you for providing what Bowsite is when it is at it's best!
That was a gripping story, skillfully rendered. Congrats for your "success"... and living to tell the tale!
Best of Luck Jeff
Great story! You definitely had quite the adventure.
Well done! Great storytelling
Awesome. Just awesome. Were you tempted to go back in the spring to see if you could find him?
Amazing story! Very good read!
"Those white woolies would never see me coming… where is that application booklet? Like Mick told Rocky as he lay bleeding on the mat, “I didn’t hear no bell” "
It sure sounds like more is coming.....
Gotta leave us hangin'!
Great story! I almost didn't read it and once I got started I couldn't stop! I remember when I was young and 10' tall and nothing could stop me too. Those were the days.
No worries guys it's a long winter... It was easy to write this one, the hard part was pairing it down to a length readable by the average guy, the unabridged version stretched for several more pages and even that ignored several events. It is hard to put 6 weeks of adventure into a 2000 word story. And all those pics have to be scanned from the old days of film, by an idiot that doesn't do well at button pushing.
This is a free standing story, my tag ended in misery and depression. But I did draw the following year. If this one is popular I will post up "I didn't hear no Bell" with some more old pics. Goats are so cool, they just say come get me if you aint skeered. And if you aint a bit skeered you is dum...
Awesome adventure! Great read. Keep it coming!!
Great story! I often look at the needles thinking "I sure would have liked to goat hunt there." I've tried several times for Ibex and that mountain is brutal! Being an overweight 40 year old butcher with 3 little kids at home sure makes me a lot more cautious now Lol!
Good reading and very kool pix!
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
Hell yes! Bring the second round on.
Great story! I'm glad you lived to tell it! Looking forward to round 2. FM
Can't get enough of true adventure. Bring it!
Where is part 2? I am riveted...
I hunted the needles in 1991. Your story brought back all the memories of pain and joy. I almost bought it up there too. A brutal place of indescribable beauty. What basin did your goat fall down? NY?
I've spent a lot of my life in the needles, much of it in misery of varying degrees. I hope when it is my last trip I am not aware of it at the time.
This story would be 1986'ish My gear (and i mean ALL of it) probably cost < $500, including $150 for my bow and $200 for my camera. As i lay there shivering and crunching ramen noodles touching the "flavor" powder with my tongue and chasing with powder snow I swore if I made it out I would never eat Ramen noodles again... I have never broken that vow.
I will have to do some scanning and a bit of editing for length on the next story though it is written already. If it ever snows this winter it will get done when cooped up.
A couple of sub-stories fell to the editing room floor so as to not offend some characters I met, who are probably still as important in their own minds as they were back then!
Pat I sent you a pm Did you find him???? NY is for pregnant women and small children... BTW ;)
Squirrel, Trackman and I hunted the Needles in 1986!!!! Hell of a storm early in the season that left a lot of snow. 36 hours straight of first rain, then the foot plus of snow. We each had an Early Winters single wall tent they were prototyping. They leaked like a sieve......terrible product. Mopped water out of the tent for a day with my tee shirt.
We road the train in and stayed about a week. Don't remember seeing you there. We hunted Chicago Basin and over the ridge to the SE in Edith (or Ethel?) Lake and Grizzly Basin where I'd seen goats when scouting. In the summer I'd hiked in from Vallacito Reservoir area 10 miles to goat country. Anyway, it was a long time ago and a wet adventure. I'd already killed a goat years earlier in CO so this hunt was for Trackman. He didn't get one, but a few years later he killed the P&Y World Record goat in CO in another unit so it all worked out. The record stood for about 20 years until topped by a BC goat.
No I did not see trackman on this hunt. I would have to dig to see if it was '86, could have been one year either way. Any gear that tests out in the needles in inclement weather is Ok by me, hell if it handles the milder stuff it is most likely damn good. Out of the 38 days i would say i probably spent 10+ tent bound, and I went out in anything remotely passable, but sometimes ran like hell to get home in time to avoid a front!
I spent a lot of youthful energy packing wood to 12,800 just so my ramen noodles could be toasty warm...
I weren't none too bright...
Heck, maybe it was 1985 we were in there. Sure thought it was ‘86 though.
I guess it would have to be some time ago...... drawing back to back tags......=D
Did'ja take couple bags of potato chips up the next trip? Some Pachoili oil cover scent? heheheheh.....
Thanks much for sharing.... quite an adventure to say the least..... Can't wait for Part Deux.....
Sounds like the needles! Some rugged country. Cool story and adventure. Bummer that you didn’t recover your goat
Potato chips? That's a new one on me. Must be a Needles thing. I have it on good authority that Trackman baited his world record goat in with twinkies.
Twinkies?? yeah I'm pretty sure I saw a pic... Never been back to Chicago, ever... twas OK for an opening act but nothing there resembled what I call hunting. No offense to anyone who has done it! Not trying to start a pissing match, it's just that I hunt for my own reasons not those dictated by what others do. And after crossing over that dividing saddle and seeing what the real needles are nothing else could ever draw me back to where you have to bag your poop!
A few years ago I was in the saddle between Pigeon and Turret taking some pics of goats and they spooked up onto Pigeon, I started to follow and chickened out. Truly pathetic what old age does to one's testicles... I sat there enjoying an 80 mph breeze and thought about it long and hard, and saw no reason to go up there! I started admiring white quartz instead.
I've had 4 G-5 tags in my life, it is a spectacular place.
I was telling my friend about this story. He asked a question that no one has yet asked.
How does marmot taste???? (Because I will never know!)
Z Barebow- I have eaten marmot. It wasn’t all that bad. Kind of chewy and greasy. I have cooked in on a backpacking stove. I’m sure if you cooked it differently it would be even better.
It’s what we call Colorado surf and turf!!
I have eaten equal portions of marmot and ramen noodles since 1986
I ate marmot, cooked on a stick in the dark, over a pathetic open fire, one season when we got snowed in on a sheep hunt. It was fairly greasy and quite juicy. We discovered in the morning that it was juicy because it was still almost raw, judging by the leftovers. I have always carried a bit of salt with me after that. But then I ate groundhogs as a kid to.
Once made a soup/stew from the hind legs of about twenty mountain pika's, on a back pack fishing trip where the fishing didn't live up to the "live off the land" dream.
Great story! Thanks for sharing.
Kevin ,I used to outfit my self from campmor too, you are one tough son of a bitch,,I don't doubt one word...most fair fellas couldn't carry your ramen up there......thanks for one one best reads ever,,
Really enjoyed the read. I was young, dumb and new to CO in 86 also, my adventure was a sheep tag in unit 20. It took me 2 years to draw though.
My tent which was ceremonially burned afterwards... not quite up to goat country standards!
My tent which was ceremonially burned afterwards... not quite up to goat country standards!
I was reading a book on the 1200 mile Yukon dogsled race and a musher said "an adventure is what you have if you are stupid or unlucky" I've had lots of adventures so I guess that means???? Only funny cause it is true!
Did my research and this was '86...
I got my old pics scanned, took awhile due to the "down memory lane" thing.