I started doing a little research and it looks like a large number of goats are killed in the needle creek drainage area. I believe this area is accessible only by the train. Is that correct? If so, can anybody provide any insight as to how that process works?
Also, any additional information you are willing to provide would be much appreciated. We both live in montrose and are really looking forward to exploring some new areas. I will be archery elk hunting at the same time.
There are several ways into the areas where the goats live, although the train and Needle Creek are by far the easiest. (Please note that I said 'easiest', not 'easy'.) I'll also say that getting into the area where the goats were was the most difficult part of the hunt - once there, the actual hunt wasn't very difficult.
The logistics of the trip were also relatively complex. I'm used to hunting elk where I pack my equipment, drive 4 hours to a trail head, backpack in a few hours, and begin hunting; in this case, getting into the Needle Basin was logistically difficult, but the hunt was easy (relatively). We drove from Denver to Silverton, boarded the afternoon train on its way back to Durango (all of this had to be set up beforehand and best to do by calling their booking agent), got off an hour later, and backpacked into the basin. The pack in is about 4K feet in elevation gain and about 7-8 miles. Gorgeous country.
We left a cooler at the train drop off (hidden in the brush and padlocked to a tree) and packed into the basin. We camped in the trees at about 11,500 and hunted up from there. When the goat was down, it took us two trips each to get the goat and gear out. Also, given the relatively large number of backpackers and folks taking day trips on the train, we tried to minimize the impact of brining a goat back down the trail and on the train (the only thing that gave us away was me carrying my bow; otherwise, I don't think anyone knew we were up there hunting).
Begin by plotting the kill sites that are posted on the Colorado DOW website - this will give you a good idea where the goats spend most of their time. Knowing where the coordinates cluster will put you into animals - in fact, the Needle Basin is full of animals, although most are nannies/kids or smaller males. If you're looking to take a reasonable animal and one that could still make P&Y, I wouldn't hesitate to hunt primarily out of this area. From my experience, the larger males typically inhabit higher ridges in the basin or more often other drainages surrounding it; if you're looking for an exceptional animal, you will probably want to look over the other drainages. I saw several great billies during both trips, although most of them were impossible to get to without putting life in jeopardy.
Also, most of the animals (especially the younger ones) are very used to humans, given the huge amount of backpacking traffic throughout the summer. The goats, remarkably, are drawn like magnets to human urine - they pull salt from the urine. My friend woke in the middle of the night on the summer trip to find two huge billies 10 feet from his tent working an area that had been used - they just stood there and looked at him - definitely not afraid of humans. We watched several different groups of goats move down a mountain hundreds of yards and a couple thousand feet to a place where humans had camped (and undoubtedly urinated).
I'm happy to talk G5 goats with you if you'd like, just PM me and we'll find time to chat. There's a reasonable amount of information on this site about G5, although not a lot of specific details.
Congratulations and good luck!
Jake Powell is a heck of a guide. He guides elk in 76 right? Taken the big 8 in Co with stick bow almost 2 times?
I hope you do not mind my jumping in I am stoked I drew. I drew bow sheep years ago in CO and got skunked in S44. That is not going to happen again!
Jason, I am interested in your hunt - did you post that hunt with pics, or write it up anywhere?
Old geezer biologist ( he was as old as I am now! I was 26) told me in the mid-80's "Hell boy, you know why I give 15 tags there?" no... "Cause ten will take one look at where they have to go and get back on the train!"
I spent 35 days there that year and came out with a whole lot of respect for the needles and for goats, and a much smaller belly. No finer hunt on earth, right up until it kills you! I can't wait to see if I can still do it.