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Goat Hunting 101… A Montana Mountain Goa
Everyone has a hunt that stands out in their minds. The one that probably can’t ever be topped. Filled with ups and downs, trial and tribulation, failure and ultimately success. Here is the story of mine.
June 16, 2014. After a decade of applying, I finally had a goat application next to the word SUCCESSFUL. I had drawn one of the two district 101 licenses for the West Cabinet Mountains located in northwestern Montana, along the Idaho border. I knew the hunt would be challenging and over the summer spoke with as many people as I could that had mountain goat hunting experience. Hell bent of filling this tag with my bow, I needed all of the insight I could get.
Aside from dropping my bear spray in the trail which punched a hole in the side, the first scouting trip to the area was fairly uneventful and didn’t turn up any goats.
We return the following weekend for a 7 mile pack in to the back of the unit hoping to find an area that had been overlooked by past hunters.
The area is steep and unforgiving, typical of goat country, and also home to a healthy population of bear. Both black and griz.
After setting up camp we turn up a few nannies and kids.
And a pretty good billy just before dark.
A storm moves in but gives us enough warning to get back to camp before opening up. Lightning pounds the peak to the east relentlessly, it's thunder bouncing off of the rock walls around us. We sleep well though and wake up to blue sky. After a morning of glassing without picking up any goats, we pack up and head back for the truck.
Keep posting pictures and the story.
Great so far!
Bring it on!
Fantastic!!! Can't wait to read the rest of the story.
I'm really digging this! Waiting for more.
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
Bring it on Eric. I didn't get enough photos with the Eastmans article. Congrats again on this years adventure. Hunt
This looks like a great story! Please keep it coming!
I'm in on ANYTHING high country!
Two weeks before the season opener, my dad and I return for a third and final scouting trip. We pick up a lone goat on the hike in but it feeds out of sight before I can get the spotter set up for a better look.
The rest of the day is uneventful aside from a mountain house mishap and some rain.
And more rain. It continues through the night and in the morning we are covered up in clouds, limiting visibility to a few hundred yards and making glassing impossible.
Finding the only flat spot on the mountain to set up camp is great, unless it rains for 12 hours. Dad is standing where our tent had been sitting a few minutes before. The experience was not unlike sleeping on a waterbed. We break camp and head back down the mountain.
In all, my scouting had produced only one for sure billy. The terrain was an even bigger concern. The thought of achieving success here with a 40-50 yard range limitation can be intimidating if you give it much thought. I choose not to, trusting that the last three months of shooting, conditioning and scouting will pay off and that the chips will fall where they should if I stick with it. September 15th can’t come soon enough.
What seems to be the problem here?!?!?!
Take it easy, we are still waiting for the ending of Bou's cougar hunt.
Good to get the Hiccups out of the way before the start of the season.
my best, Pal
Sweet! This is an area I grew up hunting. Can't wait to see the outcome!
This thread is having technical difficulties....
Someone needs to handcuff Eric to his keyboard! Mike
Sorry fellas, busy time of year for me.
Sept. 13, the wait is over. We arrive at the trailhead a few days before the season begins in hopes of finding a shooter for the opener. I slip on my boot and something isn’t right. I had treated my boots a week before and had taken the insoles out in the process, forgetting to put them back in after they dried. Not exactly a great start to the hunt, but without any great options put on a second pair of socks and laced them on. We strap on our four day packs (around 50#’s) and head up the trail.
A few miles up the trail we spot a goat feeding across the drainage.
A few minutes later, two more step into view. I’m set on a mature billy and one of them clearly is. When he turns he’s missing the top third of his right horn.
We stick with the plan and continue up the trail filling up on hucks along the way.
Out of trail and running low on daylight, we set up camp.
Then catch a few cuts before calling it a night.
The next morning we continue up the draw, bushwhacking our way in. By noon we are where we want to be.
We set camp and hang the bear bag
After lunch and a nap we head for the top to glass.
Horseshoe Lake from Vertigo Ridge. Fitting names for both.
We have 360 degree views of prime goat country to look over.
But turn up no goats that night before heading back to camp. The biologist had estimated a population of 20-30 goats in the unit. Though the unit is much bigger, less than 10 square miles of it is true ‘goat country’. I expected looking for 2 or 3 white goats per square mile (a standard average density in goat country) to be a little easier than it was so far.
It’s disappointing that we don’t have a goat to go after in the morning but nothing a fire and a little whiskey can’t fix.
Sleep comes easy and we’re up before the alarm. Climb back up to the top in the dark and begin glassing at first light.
Within a few minutes, Jesse spots two goats a few miles to the North but they turn out to be a nanny and kid. It doesn’t take long to find another, this time to the South. It’s an older billy, and a goat I would be happy with.
A mile and a half away and about halfway up a 500 foot cliff, he’s in a place that isn’t seriously considerable for a stalk(though it was discussed). After an hour of feeding he digs out a bed and lays down for the day. We try to turn up another goat in a more navigable part of the mountain without any luck.
We make our way back down to camp for the afternoon and do some looking around on the way back.
Not entirely sure how this happened but there is a nearly perfectly concave bowl right in the middle of this giant rock slab.
The evening hunt comes up empty again and the next morning we locate the billy again. He’s in the same spot, safe and sound.
Jeff has a flight to catch the following morning so we pack up camp and head for home.
On the hike out we pick up another goat. A few minutes later he beds down in a spot I think I can get to.
Some pretty impressive pictures.
Very nice pictures them coming!
really cool pictures...
im sure ill never hunt them so i really appreciate threads like these.. thanks for your time putting it together..
Vicarious goat hunting! I'm loving this one! Who was with you on the trip? I see a bugle tube around the neck of one - were they hunting elk up there at the same time?
Thanks for sharing...looking forward to the next chapter.
Whip, from left to right in that picture, me, my buddy/mountain man/pack mule Jesse, and my brother Jeff. My goat unit also has a general archery deer and elk season open during this hunt so Jesse brought his bow along in case we found a buck or got a bull going. Neither happened.
Hey Eric is ALIVE! LOL, thanks for showin up! Mike
The goat is 350 yards away from us but after a look through the spotter we determine it’s either a nanny or an immature billy. I decide to pass and we’re back to the truck an hour later, my feet pounding from my sole-less boots. Hunt one is in the books, with a total of seven goats located, I’m feeling good about my chances on the next hunt.
Four days later we are back for round two. We will focus on the area we saw goats on the way in and out of on our last hunt. It’s only a three mile trip but we gain 3000 feet before reaching the top. No goats tonight.
In the morning our luck changes and we find a mature billy 700 yards below us. A few minutes later he disappears in the timber to bed for the day. Rather than blindly going in after him we leave him there hoping to pick him back up this evening.
Highs are pushing 80 the next few days and we are already out of water and needing showers. It had only taken a few hunts to learn that scent control was even more important on a goat hunt. After climbing 3000 feet with a pack you weren't exactly going to be scent free. And you seldom have a decision to make on an approach (aside from if you should or not). If there's a way to sneak on a goat at all, which was the case less than half the time, there is only one way, wind direction be damned. The approach was always going to be what it was and you’d better be prepared for that when an opportunity presented itself. We packed a lightweight 4 gallon solar shower for the job but would have to drop down 1000 feet to the closest water to fill it, along with the rest of our CamelBaks. We spend an hour drinking our fill from the creek before heading back up with around 60 pounds of water.
We start down the chute at 5:00 and spot our goat within a few minutes. He’s close to where we’d seen him this morning, 500 yards away bedded facing towards. Now ‘scent free’ and with three hours of daylight to get it done, things are looking good. Within a few minutes he’s on his feet but only turns to re-bed, and is now facing down and away. We quickly cut the distance in half before leaving Seth in the rocks to signal. The terrain keeps me out of site of the billy as I move closer. I’m within 100 yards now scanning ahead as I go, wanting to see him before he sees me. I’m not paying enough attention to where I’m stepping and my boot comes down on a loose rock. I stop for a few seconds praying the goat hadn’t heard my misstep. No such luck as I hear him get to his feet and escape down the hill. I have nothing to blame but myself, I had been moving too quickly. Spot and stalk hunting with a bow is a perfectionist’s game, and I had been far from it, lost in the excitement of my first stalk on a goat.
We’re glassing for him at first light, but he’s nowhere to be found. At 3:00 we’re bored of sitting all day. Seth and I drop back down in to the bowl he had been in yesterday for a better look. Again Jeff stays up top keeping tabs from above. We get where we want to be and find a dug out bed with goat tracks in it, and then another. They are all over down here, a good sign.
Then a goat. It’s bedded in inaccessible spot. A closer look shows that this is not the same goat, instead a bigger one. With solid mass and horns that might push 10 inches, we come up with a plan. Hoping it will feed down the cliff when it gets up, I would set up there. I would be in the open for the first few hundred yards and would wear my whites until I could get to cover. Seth stays back to signal and I begin making my way through the rocks towards the goat. He doesn’t seem spooked and lets me get to where I want to be. Seth signals me left and lines me up within a few hundred yards and directly below him. I’m as close as I can get now, limited by the steep cliff I’m standing beneath. I take off my white and wait. An hour later Seth finally signals that the billy is on his feet and on his way down towards me. He’s heading right down the route we had hoped he would take.
The black flies are insane and I try to ignore them flying in my ears, up my nose and chewing away on any exposed skin. Then I see him... 104 yards. I was calm and ready, already wondering how we would pack him out of here. He would walk right by me at 50 yards or less. He had to. He disappears again, dropping down closer and still headed my way. Then nothing for 5 minutes. Seth blows his cow call to get my attention and frantically signals for me to head up the chute to my left. I miss the cue and think he’s signaling that the goat took off up the hill. Assuming the billy is gone, I motion him over and reluctantly he heads my way. He’s confused when he gets to me pointing out that the goat is still in plain view at the top of the chute, now clearly spooked heading up and over the mountain. Both of us frustrated, we head back to camp.
Looks like you have enough 'muscle' for the pack out!
That is a good looking goat ya have in the spotter pic.
Good luck, Robb
Keep it coming :) So far so good!
Awesome so far, keep it coming
Back at camp Jeff shows us the footage he had taken of ‘Shorty’ as we were working in on him from below
We wake to rain and the morning hunt turns up no goats. I wasn’t expecting either of the two billys we had spooked to be back. With more weather moving in I decide to call it. We’ll give it a few days, hoping the goats are back for the next hunt.
September 28, Jason and I return to the same area but no goats over the next few days.
Another water run. We’re using about 5 liters of water per person, per day, to cook 2 freeze-dried meals (breakfast and dinner) and stay reasonably hydrated. Taking a shower added another 5 liters per person.
Day three the weather moves in leaving no visibility for glassing.
We spend most of the day in the tent playing crib and collecting water.
On the final day of our hunt the weather breaks and we pick up a goat. It’s the broken billy we had seen on the first hunt.
In a spot I can't get to.
We watch him for three hours before he gets up to feed then beds down in an even more inaccessible area.
We call it a hunt and head back for the truck, again with nothing to show for it except for a few blisters. I’ve now logged over 100 miles on foot and they are starting to take a toll. Also, this is my first hunting season since becoming a dad and that too is having an effect on my usually steadfast determination. My standards are starting to slip and decide that from here on, I will try for any billy we see.
October 10. After waiting all week for a break in the weather, it finally comes. I call Seth to see if he can get out for a few days and he’s in. We’re up at three and head back up the mountain.
We get to the top by dawn and find the broken billy feeding a few hundred yards from us.
We wait for him to bed and pick up another goat a half mile away and in the most navigable part of the mountain. A look through the spotter confirms Shorty’s back after spooking him over two weeks ago.
This is the best opportunity I’ve had since the start of the season. I spend some time studying the surrounding terrain; memorizing rocks, trees and logs to use as landmarks before the stalk. I cut the distance in half and drop my pack, taking only my rangefinder and bow. 300 yards to go. First, get to the mohawk, a line of trees that was my first landmark, they would have me 130 yards closer. Once there I would be in the shade and cover for another 50 yards. After that the white rock, about the size of a sheet of plywood, made for a perfect landmark and was only 60 yards from his bed.
Two hours after leaving the top I’m on the white rock. I stand, arrow knocked, hoping to catch a glimpse of white below. He has to be close, but his bed is empty and I see no sign of him. I need to get closer but I’m on a 20 foot cliff and can’t go straight down. Pretty sketchy exposure to the right too, followed by a bunch of sticks and broken rock to sneak across. No good.
To the left is… a goat? The shadowed outline is partially concealed behind a fir bough and is shaped like that of a goat’s head. Then it moves. It is a goat, and close, maybe 30 yards. He’s bedded, facing straight away, looking down to my right. He tips his head back a bit and slowly turns towards me for a few seconds before turning back, his attention again focused down the mountain away from me. I stand motionless, my mind racing. This is happening, if I can get the fir branch between us out of the way.
I slowly step to the left clearing my shooting lane. Then the rush that overwhelms you when you know it’s just a matter of time before you get a shot. The goat’s head suddenly dips, the first movement of an animal getting out of its bed. Using the cue I draw my bow as he swings his head back up and scoots up onto his haunches using his front legs. I consider the shot as the goat sits broadside in his bed, his front leg centered on his vitals. It’s not a great shot. I stand at full draw waiting for him to get up and present a better one. After a few seconds he does. Quartering away now it looks like he’s going to leave and I fight the urge to punch the trigger. I recheck anchor points, check level and center, and gap my 25 & 35 yard pins behind his shoulder. Time stops as my bow breaks the silence, surprising me a little. The follow through feels good but I lose my arrow in flight. In a step, the goat drops from view over the rock he’s standing on, followed by silence. Unsure of where he's hit I back out and regroup with Seth.
We give it an hour before taking up the trail.
Chasin Bugles's Link
Man you are killing me:) Keep it coming, Awesome story and great pictures!
We make our way to where he’d gone over and find good blood on the rock he’d been standing on when I’d shot. We only go a few steps before seeing the goat lying motionless in an overgrown huckleberry bush at the base of a fir. He hadn’t made it ten yards. Walking up on the billy makes for some of the most surreal moments I can remember. Not all because of what had just happened but also because of what I was looking at. His thick white shaggy hair, sweeping black horns, and long horse face, nicked with battle scars, give him the look of something prehistoric. His hooves are massive and spongy, obviously well suited for keeping his 300 pound frame secure to the vertical rocks he called home. We measure his long horn at 10 3/8” and count out 10 growth rings on his horns. I couldn’t be any happier taking in the accomplishment of a lifelong dream of hunting mountain goats with a bow.
Sweet! Congrats! He sure didn't make it far!
great story! Thank you for sharing!
Beautiful and Awesome! Great Goat! Congratulations!
Excellent write-up and a hell of a trophy. Congrats!
Epic hunt! Congrats on your success...that's a beautiful Billy.
Great write-up, and congrats on an awesome goat.
Saweet! Congrats on one heck of an incredible experience!
Congrats again and thanks for Posting all the photos. You got some Good ones. Hunt
Congratulations! Great story! Great goat! Mike
Congrats, thanks for the suspenseful, never ending determination, great goat, and hell of a hunt!
Congratulations. Awesome goat. Thanks for sharing.
Great write up! Thanks for taking the time.
What a beautiful animal and a great story! You earned that one the hard way - epic hunt! Goats have been a long time dream of mine, and will most likely always remain just that. Your adventure brought me along with you, and I loved it!
Great hunt and pictures. Congrats on a great goat!
Wow! Nicely done, Eric! Enjoyed the write-up
That was awesome. Enjoyed it a great deal, thanks much for sharing it.
Congrats. That's one that lives on forever.
Congrats..Really nice story
Totally agree with all above.
Your description and write up of the shot was excellent.
Outstanding and Congrats!
Way to stick with it! You'll remember every mile and the ups and downs of that hunt forever. Excellent pics and write-up.
Great job man! On the awesome story, and the outstanding goat! Congrats!
Well done. Did you enjoy the meat? It was much better than what some of my friends had told me to expect. Full mount?
Absolutely awesome story and photos!!!
Fantastic! Great story and adventure too! Mike
Congratulations and very nice narrative.
Damn that's awesome! Great job
Way to stick with it! Congrats on an amazing trophy!!!
Excellent write up and a great adventure, thanks for taking us along.
What a great read!
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
Way to persevere and make it happen!!!
Congrats on a great Billy!!!
Outstanding goat, and even better photos and story!
Best thread on here in years. Congrats! Way to persevere! Great job!
Awesome job! Congrats on a beautiful billy. Thank you for sharing it with us! Outstanding photos and story telling.
Thanks for all of your comments guys. A culmination of great memories and even better help in some of the most impressive country in Northwest Montana, the places these animals call home are as challenging as they are beautiful. Good luck to all in your upcoming hunts! I encourage those of you who have pulled the tag of a lifetime to stick it out with your bow through to the end. The delay in gratification is easily worth it.
Medicinemann, agreed on the meat. It was fantastic. I will say it was probably the toughest meat I’ve had though. You didn’t even try to work through eating any sinew lines. Not sure if this was because of his age or because he was a goat but I would steak every cut I could on a younger billy.
And yeah, had to go full mount on this one, just got him up a few weeks ago.
Loved it! Thanks for posting and congrats
Awesome story, thanks man!
Congrats and thanks for sharing your story.
Excellent write up and a great presentation to us
Epic story all around! Thanks for sharing. Congratulations!
Awesome story! Great pics! Thanks for sharing! Congrats to you!
Fantastic thread...It depends but I kind of like broken horn horned game adds character well done great beast of a Billy
What a hunt!
Grats and thanks for posting the story.
Great story and thanks for sharing!
Great looking mount Eric!
A stud Billy for sure!
Great story and congratulations! Got my heart going as I continued to read it.
Fantastic story and pictures, start to finish! Your perseverance paid off. One heck of a Billy too.
Nice mount! Come on September...
Amazing accomplishment! Thanks for taking the time to share it!
Hey Eric. I am glad I waited to read the total story of your hunt from start to (just now) the finish.
Incredible grit to accomplish a very hard hunt in some very rough country. Congratulations to you and your buddies for sticking in there.
You also did well in documenting the adventure with bow in one hand and the camera in the other. I really enjoyed that a lot.
My best, Paul
Great thread, congratulations on an excellent hunt a cool read too!!
Great work Eric. Great story and great goat. Way to stick it out with the bow! Thanks for taking the time to post it all up for us.
Incredible goat, fantastic narrative and pics.
Congrats and well done!
Incredible story, well done Eric!
Best of Luck, Jeff
Great story and pictures! I really enjoyed your recap. Congrats!
Your mount turned out Great!
Good luck, Robb
Great thread. Congrats on the quest.
Great story and great mount! Congrats
Great story and beautiful goat. Thanks for taking me along on a hunt I will never get to do.
Tremendous. Great hunt and well told. You put in the effort for sure. Congrats and thanks for sharing.
wow sorry to bump this thread late but that was an amazing story and amazing goat!Cheers!
Congratulations. Very nice.