I booked a mountain goat hunt with Babine Outfitters near Smithers, British Columbia starting August 19. I drove two days from my home in Montana to arrive early the day before the first hunting day. When I arrived at the lodge the Hoopers and their guides and friends were finishing up the last touches on their brand new main lodge.
Seems I meet the whole family unit all at once. Jack and Lloyd Hooper head up the outfit. I got checked into my cabin right away. It was great to settle in with time to spare to sort through my gear. My guide would be Lloyd Hooper who provided all the paper work and licenses. We went over my gear to eliminate any duplications since being a backpack hunt, every ounce counts. At least it did to me!
Anyway, my cabin was great and mine for the duration of the hunt. I later missed those luxury accommodations up on the mountain, as we will see.
We climbed through the timber up above timberline to check an area Lloyd had in mind. They had had success there in the past. Of course, I wanted to hear all about the bow hunters who had killed goats. Several of them Bowsiters and several tagged out on billies early with lots of time to hunt black bear or fish. And sleep in those nice cabins. And eat those great meals in the lodge.... Yeah, maybe I'll get lucky, too.
We climbed on to a high point after glassing all the way up a ridge. We checked a lot of beautiful valleys and peaks, but we did not see any goats. We did see old goat sign though and wolf tracks along the ridge we were climbing. It was a beautiful day until we saw a storm rolling in over the peaks. Then it started raining, then sleeting. Given the lack of goats and the miserable weather moving in, we decided to bail off and go back down the mountain to the truck. So that night we stayed back at the lodge.
The second day of the hunt, we packed into a new area. It was more difficult to reach. The plan was to stay 3 to 4 days to see how the hunting was. Early on Lloyd said we would be going out for a few days, then return to dry out, re-fit and re-supply with food. Being an experienced goat guide and not as much an "ounce counter", he brought along a few extra days of food. He didn't worry too much about weight like I did. If he thought we might needed it, he brought it. It kind of became a theme. If we need to do it to get a goat, then we do it.
We climbed into goat country and found goats right away. Lloyd peaked over the edge to see a group. Seeing lots of goats is good, but a group probably means nannies and kids. The billies like to hang out alone or in small groups.
We covered some ground, checking basins, trying to make it to an old campsite. Good camp spots are not just everywhere. Finding a flat piece of ground is sometimes tough, but add to that it needs water near by and ideally be close to a good vantage point for spotting goats to start the day. And you really do not want to have to sleep on rocks. And rocks are everywhere from little piles to big piles. Pretty much the whole mountain is just a pile of rocks. We finally made it to the site after a pretty good troop.
I had trained hard for this hunt. I felt good, but was glad to settle in and take the pack off.
The tent was more roomy than I expected and had a vestibule for cooking and packs. It is a luxury to have room to sit up and move around in case you get weathered in for long periods. But luxury comes at a price which Lloyd paid. He carried the tent. Couldn't even tell me just how much it weighed. Didn't matter. We needed it to get a goat.
The next morning, the third day, we climbed up to a high point nearby to glass the drainages. Goats were seen in the distance. My guide points them out. "You see that rock there? They are right next to that rock...". What rock? The whole place has rocks!
Weather moves in on us real quick this morning. Mountain weather dictates the hunt. If you can't spot the goats you are out of business. Not to mention you can not even move around safely. All landmarks disappear. Depth perception goes away. If finding camp is questionable, you may just have to stay put. Could be for a long time. We scurry off down to the tent where we spend the rest of the day. This is the mental part. You can't kill a goat in the tent and time is slipping away. It can eat at your patience.
We located a billy in the drainage and watch him climb up a very steep slope to feed. It was very hard to determine if it we could cross that face just looking at it from across the valley. Lloyd says it is do-able. We start a long trek to get above the goat on a knife edge ridge and start dropping down. Slowly - so he doesn't see us and so we don't kick rocks down. Or at least not many. I am not taking photos or video now. It is kill mode time. Lloyd has brought his HD video camera, takes a spot on a point a couple hundred yards above the goat and lets me stalk. He will direct through signals. It is steep and full of loose rock. It is all rock. I finally get a small ridge between me and the billie. Moving is at such a slow rate trying to balance on rocks that won't move. I get to the ridge, peek over the top and see the billie about 70 yards down the slope. From here it is all on video. Never downloaded video to Bowsite. I will try tomorrow.
Lloyd and Jack are goat killing machines. Can't wait to see how this turns out. Can't say enough good about the Hooper's. Great family, great outfit, their hunts continue to be a top of my "favorites" list.
I've been fortunate to take two goats with them and everytime I say "I'm done goat hunting" a thread like this pops up and makes me want to go back.
Its always nice to meet other bowsiters while at Babine. I know the end of this story so I wont spoil it for others. Too bad we couldn't do some fishing and have a few beers together. Good luck on your elk hunt!
Babine runs a fantastic goat hunt and everything is priced Canadian.......that's about a 30% discount right now! Anyone sitting on the goat fence should book it soon.
Hey, Brett. I wish we could have visited longer, too. I think there could be some really good times to be had in the evenings in that new lodge with all those mounts on the wall. What stories could be told! Catch you next time maybe.
Folks, looks like the video transfer from Lloyd's video to mine did not happen. He got some great footage of this stalk, but right now I don't have a copy. Maybe Jack can jump in here with the stalk on the nanny and young billie on day 5. But regardless there is more to come. Stay tuned.
OK. Let's get this going again. This thread is like goat hunting. Unexpected challenges which must be dealt with one way or another to reach the goal. First, I do not have the video from Lloyd's camera. It didn't transfer to my video card. But, I still have some good stuff on mine. Trust me. But secondly, my dear wife decided it was the perfect time to update to Windows 10 while I was hunting. I barely knew how to work the other, so now I am learning as I go. Will do the best I can under difficult conditions. Just like goat hunting.
When we last left off I was about 70 yards above the billie on the near side of the finger ridge. I moved down the ridge keeping him located. Then he walked to my side of the ridge, so I froze. He then calmly walked slowly downhill to what appeared to be a small ledge over the break. He looked like he was in a great spot to move on him. The unavailable video shows him stepping down on the ledge, me moving down quickly but exposed in a gully. Just sneek to the edge, peak over, and shoot him at close range, right? Nope. He pulled a crazy Ivan on me, coming right back up. I might have passed for a big rock, but the sliding rocks were a dead give away. He slowly walked behind a rock and bailed off the ledge running into the valley. He was probably 40 to 50 yards below me, stopped broadside long enough for any of my compound shooting bretheran to end their hunt right there.
We'll just go with photos for now. The start of the fifth day was clear and frosty. We climbed to our vantage point where we spotted goats right away. The closest was just below on a rocky slope sitting on a small knob. It was a good billie, but getting a stalk was tough. The slope down to him was severe. Not safe in most places, much less concealed from him. We had to try a safe rock chute off to the side. We were exposed to view a good part of the descent. We just moved when he was looking away and very slowly. One at a time while the other glassed the goat. You have to move slowly and deliberately all the time in goat country, but moving quietly is even harder. Anyway after a couple hour stalk, the goat heard, smelled, or saw us with help from his buddy across the basin who spooked. We were left with this view down the valley. With two more goats to stalk.
One goat was obviously larger than the other, looking like a nanny/kid group which is not legal. Then they moved up valley closer and bedded, so we moved on them. We walked right down to them with good cover, peeked over a rock and got a good view.
Lloyd looked them over closely. He said they were both legal. The big, old nanny had good horns for a female. The smaller goat was a three year old billie. We could count the growth rings. Well, Lloyd could. I relied on his considerable experience. He could even see the pertinent parts on the male. They were bedded so no stalk was possible, then the billie moved off over a rise. The nanny was vulnerable. Decision time.
We had discussed what I would shoot. I wanted a goat. This was my third goat tag, one in MT and the second in BC. But, understand the Hoopers are serious about the management of the goats in their area. They take pride in their record. They manage for quality and shoot billies, some really big billies. Regulations allow for taking nannies w/o kids. Their hunting ethics stress selecting mature males. Lloyd never tried to tell me what to shoot, but was scrupulous in describing what we were seeing. He did state he had never had a bow hunter pass on a billie. The choice was mine. I told him I was moving in on the nanny and see if I got a slam dunk shot. He started his video.
I just wish I had that video now, but hopefully it can get posted later. It is great footage.
I crawled through the rocks above the nanny which can be seen in the above photo to Lloyd's left, uphill. It surprised me the cover they ended up providing. Add wind noise and I got 30 yards above the nanny. Then she stood up and started walking straight towards Lloyd until she was directly downhill from me. She couldn't really see either of us, but definitely was wondering what those quivering blobs were. It was not the shot I was looking for especially since any movement would surely spook her.
But then she turned and walked diagonally uphill to my left to a small rock ridge where she stopped 25 yards away broadside. I was hunkered down into the slope with no chance to draw from that position because of the slope. Then the billy walked up. This was all quite fun, but I couldn't see how I could even get a shot off. By now both had seen my head swivilling around and had me pegged at that distance. Curious but not skittish. I figured we had had our fun but with any movement, even to draw my bow, they would blow out.
So, I slowly stood up and not gracefully as the video shows. And then I turned around to face them. They just looked at me. The billie was head on, but the nanny had offered both sides. We just stared for what seemed like a long time.
In am sure people want to know why I didn't shoot. I am not sure I can even explain it. The video shows the nanny walking away and the billie following. He briefly gave a broadside. I started to draw, but the instant passed. It was more reflex reaction to the opportunity. I then just walked back to my guide holding the video camera.
I had just passed on an solid opportunity at a nanny and, briefly, a billy. I just figured my guide would be at least annoyed and maybe angry. We had hunted hard. This was day 5 of 8. I couldn't even express why I didn't shoot.
Lloyd had a big grin on his face and said something like "That was fun! What an experience". When I said I thought he might be mad he said it was my hunt and I could choose to do what ever I wanted. When I strongly questioned my it he reassured me the decision made at the time is probably the right one and not to agonize. Good advice, but difficult to apply. But, I really appreciated his whole attitude. I had the right bow hunting goat guide!
A fair question on the horn size, although not overriding in my decision making. As you may know, nannies have thinner horns with smaller bases than billies who have thicker horns with heavier bases. On these goats, I would give the nod to the nanny under most scoring systems. Field judging is not an exact science even for experienced goat hunters which I do claim. My personal scoring system rewards the highest score to the goat with my tag on it!
There were several goats in different directions and different distances. There are four goats, probably all mature billies, in this photo. Unstalkable now, but the goat guide's mind is already several chess moves across the board. Poor babies are tucked in nicely dreaming unaware. They can't know what is in store.
By this time we are five days into this pack. The original plan was to return, regroup, resupply, and clean up back at the lodge after about four days. The hunting was good and the climb back so tough, we had decided to stay put which meant cutting rations. When we had Mountain House, we split the two serving size between us. It was, after all, two servings, let's not get greedy. The lunch sandwich rolls were gone and it was trail mix and water. And lots of granola bars. But we were going to hunt until the last dog dies, or goat, in this case. There is that theme again of just doing what is needed to get that goat.
Lloyd always carried the stuff so we could coyote out or spike out overnight. So far we had made it back to camp each night, but if we had a stalk right at dark or the clouds moved in or were packing meat back and didn't make it, we had a stove, food, a tarp, and the resolve to stay on the mountain. Tonight we decided to hike back and return to this valley in the morning. It would be last resort type of stalks since tomorrow was the last full day of hunting. The final day would be packing camp out and hunting old ground back to the truck. One last look into the valley. Remember this mountain side scene.....
Bowboy, for an accomplished goat hunter you show surprising impatience! But you do make a good point.
So the next day we return to the drainage with all the goats after pre-scouting a new route back to camp. My goat guide is thinking in chess moves ahead again with maybe more confidence than me. We find three billies on the right side of the photo with the rainbow above, but no good route down into them without exposing ourselves in full view. We go for broke by climbing down one of the steepest and most treacherous chutes yet. I have to lash my bow across my pack to free my hands to use walking sticks. Lloyd uses a European style long wooden staff which is more quiet than the metal sticks and more useful. It is very slow going because of the major rockfall issue and any quick movements (like falling down the chute hundreds of feet) would alert the goats. Lloyd watches to see when they are feeding or lying down facing away. It takes a long time to descend, a lot of it scooting on our butts. we finally reach the bottom where we can start using terrain and boulders as cover. The billies start feeding up the slope into great stalking terrain. Perfect.
Lloyd used his spotting scope to look them over. All are mature billies. The biggest in body size has one horn and is separated. The other two move up the slope in sparse cover feeding slowly and bedding at times. We stalk the two above figuring if we blow them out we can possibly salvage one more stalk on the lower goat. It is past mid-day and getting warm in the sun. The thermals are holding great. We keep a close eye on all three so we don't get caught moving when one is looking up.
We position ourselves above the two, trying to maneuver in front of their feeding route which is tough because they are changing course all the time. We take a route down around a rock ridge, but have to back up due to lack of cover. The goofy client turns to lead the retreat and, although shielded from the two by rock, the lower goat catches the too quick movement instantly even from way down below. He almost blows out, but after a long stare down seems to loose interest.
We make our move on the two billies now bedded side by side just below some tanglefoot (stunted spruce). We are coming down a boulder field right above them. Can't see them, but know exactly where they are from the trees which will provide the perfect screen for a close 15-20 yard shot. After stepping through some rocks, I can sneak the last bit on soft moss. This is the view coming down.
Then the thermals switched and the two billies ran off down the mountain. Just like that. The lone goat below took note of the exit above and shuffled over the rise he was standing on. They don' miss much.
Lloyd took note of the last seen point, so we wander down the hill to see where he went and look for some other goats to stalk.
Lloyd is in the lead when he turns around and whispers "He's 15 yards down the hill!". I knock an arrow, creep along low looking over the crest and shoot my goat at just over 10 yards. Lloyd is right behind me and gets the shot on video.
Just like that the fortunes of the hunt turn around and about 4 PM on the last full day of the hunt I shoot an old, heavy bodied billie.
Of course the drama is not completely over. He runs down hill where we track him. I put a couple of more arrows into him and he dies in a creek.
It is the one horn billie. He is about 11 years old and massive. Lloyd had said earlier "If you shoot that goat we'll be packing 20 more pounds of meat". A worthy mountain warrior who broke his horn off at 4 years old. He is my hardest earned trophy in 40 years of bow hunting. Satisfaction!!
Let's finish this up for any diehards who appreciate "the rest of the story". Videos have been submitted, but I have no idea how that works or how long it takes.
After the photo session, we caped and boned the goat out, then loaded our packs. At 6 PM we started back to camp.
I have to say when we dropped into the drainage after the goats, I knew we couldn't climb out the way we came. No that's not right. I have learned by now "Couldn't" is not a term to throw around about goat hunting. But I knew we would not try the same route. Lloyd had looked over another do-able route before we dropped down. Now, looking at that route with heavy packs, it was intimidating to say the least. It was a steep chute full of small, loose rock with a small stream flowing in the middle.
Sorry' no photos because at the time there was one focus. Put one foot in front of the other. My pack was heavy enough, but Lloyd must have had north of 100 pounds. We made the last leg of the climb right in the creek, more like a waterfall at that point, because the footing was better. We finally topped out.
We started back on a different route which would eliminate some more long,steep loose rock climbs. It would take us around the lower part of a mountain with more contouring. We hoped and expected to make it to camp, but allowed the choice of spiking out if it came to it.
I won't bore you with a step by step narrative, but what ensued was the most difficult pack job I have ever endured. We traversed loose talus slopes and crossed dense tanglefoot in places. All we did was just grind it out for almost 5 hours. The last 1 1/2 hours was in the dark, but no headlamps were needed. A beautiful full moon rose over the mountain. And then, the northern lights, absent the whole trip, flashed in a band across the sky.
The last third of the trip ended up being an uphill climb and we got in at almost 11 PM. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and more than I thought I could do. No exaggeration.
The next day we packed up camp and the goat down off the mountain. Mostly downhill through great scenery. My Kuiu Ultra 6000 worked fine for me. The load sling between the frame and pack carried the meat in a dry bag. Lloyd used a rugged old Kelty Tioga.
I carried a few items of camp, but he carried the majority. He wasn't interested in weighing his pack after. A goat guide just does what it takes to get the goat. But I weighed mine. With 35 pounds of meat, it weighed a pound shy of 70. He carried about 40 pounds of meat, the wet cape and head (estimate about 25#), and most of the camp. Now you tell me.
I think that is enough. Except for those darn videos which seem to be lost in the Cloud which is appropriate. It has been fun, but I leave in two days for another hunt. This is my first Bowsite hunt story. Fun, but not just a little work. I truly appreciate the people who have commented. I am glad people seemed to enjoy it.
But I have to say, the main reason I did this was so Babine Guide Outfitters, especially Lloyd Hooper, could be recognized for the outstanding hunt they provided. This thread seemed to be all about me, but understand credit should go to Lloyd. His ethics, professionalism, companionship, and sheer effort are to be commended.
One more example I have to tell. When we came off the mountain after 8 days of hunting and a grueling pack, Lloyd insisted on taking the afternoon to turn ears and split lips, salt and dry the cape. I told him to just freeze it. I could get it to my taxidermist no problem. Wouldn't hear of it. My taxidermist commented on the fine work. Oh, and I took a shower and a nap that afternoon
Lloyd asked me just after I shot the billie if it had hit me yet what we had accomplished. I thought it had. After we checked my goat with the wildlife biologist, Lloyd and I shook hands and I started the 27 hour drive home. I put on The Last of the Mohicans CD as I pulled of Smithers. Hey Lloyd, it hit me then. Thanks.
Great hunt, great story as well. Sticking it out and not giving up pays big dividends! I have looked at the goat hunts with Babine, never heard anything but praise for the work they do. Congrats on your goat.
Thanks for posting the story Rich. I enjoyed taking you out on the hunt. I just got back down from the mountain last night with another hunter. The first 3 days we were snow and rained out so we fished during that time. He shot his goat on the second day up on the mountain(rifle hunter) and we hiked out on the third. This next week is going to be real busy with moose, black bear and goat hunters all in camp. Good luck on your elk hunt.
I got as far as getting it on YouTube and I am not sure how I did that. It is under "bowonly shoots goat". The video of the nanny and young billie is still with the Hoopers. Maybe they can put that up, it was pretty fun.
Thanks for asking. I figured it was old news by now!