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I Didn't Hear No Bell...
One of my favorite lines from the many Rocky movies is Mick yelling at Rocky, lying there bleeding on the mat, “I didn’t hear no bell”… One of the most endearing aspects of solo wilderness hunting is the complete non-negotiable nature of the endeavor, you make your choice, when things go south in a big way you can blow that whistle, or ring that little bell all you want, and there is no retreat to a safe neutral corner for a re-start. There aint no mulligans on a mountain top mister. My first stab at archery goats in the Needles had ended about like Rocky’s round, I was dazed and bleeding when I limped out of those snow shrouded peaks. My clothes were shredded, my body bruised and bleeding, my gear broken, bent, and nearly destroyed. Some items, like my tent, I destroyed as soon as I could. My body started to heal immediately, my pride took a bit longer. I had taken note of the gear items the serious mountaineers had carried with them, and as soon as I could scrape together a little cash I started sending off for whatever I could afford. My “Campmor” catalog was well used, and my new toys started to arrive, weighing a small fraction of what I had carried on my first hunt. Many things I simply discarded as useless, others I upgraded, everything got lighter, MUCH lighter! The single biggest thing I had acquired was from the neck up, I was no longer a clueless idiot wandering around above tree line, well… I was LESS clueless anyway. I had been on the receiving end of some very lucky breaks on my first adventure, helped along by the vigor of youth and the ability to bounce well after a hard landing. Any number of those lessons could have gone the other way very easily, and in that country they would have never found the body let alone rescued my ass. I now had a free standing four season dome tent, along with a pack stove and light weight cook kit. I knew to take better and lighter weight food, and under no circumstance would I ever buy Ramen noodles again. I had better clothing made to be easily layered and no cotton at all. I had better optics, but still not good enough, I had no money for what I wanted. I ditched the pack frame I had won for selling stuff in Boy Scouts, and got a much bigger and stouter one, though still not seemingly big enough to hold all my new toys. My gear was a far cry from the quality of gear those mountaineers had carried but my income was a far cry below theirs as well, I got the best I could afford. About the only items that were the same were my sleeping bag, which had saved my life the year before, and my bow, but my arrows were all new and tripled in number.
By Thanksgiving I had mostly healed up and was well into convincing myself that it had all been a bad dream, an evil conspiracy of poor gear and brutal country, certainly no fault of mine… Now that I was so much better prepared what was there to fear? I kept telling myself this same BS until the applications showed up in the mail. There was a small sliver of doubt as I filled in my first choice as G-5-A, but what of it? After all, what were the odds of drawing two years in a row with no points? Turns out pretty damn good, I drew. With tag in hand I got serious about preparing myself during the summer, I knew this time what was waiting. I shot every day before and after work, I hiked every day off up in the crags of the continental divide above my place outside of Breckenridge. My dog and I stalked goats for pictures in the cliffs, watching and learning what they did and if possible figuring out why they did it. They are truly magnificent animals, and on the peaks I went up it was always billies, no girls allowed. (And they looked HAPPY)! I got toughened up that summer but the knowledge was probably more important, as it added to what I had gained the previous fall. I didn’t have any concerns on being there for the opening day mess I had almost been a part of the year before, and I had no intention of going to that overly populous basin anyway. My Dad was coming out for a muzzleloader elk hunt, and we decided to spend a week hunting the lower country for them after which I would head in solo for my goat hunt. My cat had come up short in a fight with a coyote so I had just my dog to worry about while I was off hunting. My Dad thought I was crazy but I just knocked on doors until I found someone who would dog-sit him until my return. I really wanted to take him but I knew it would be too rough, it was best to leave him in civilization I got into the wilderness in mid-September with beautiful weather, and stumbled into a camp run by Jerry Rapp, a local outfitter. He gave me some helpful advice on how to find a trail I was seeking and by nightfall I was camped by a gorgeous lake right at tree line. The fish I caught were on the big side of 24” and my little backpacker skillet was 6” across, so I turned them loose and promised each one that if it came down the them or Ramen noodles they were in BIG trouble. The next day I packed my set-up into the lowest reaches of goat country and pitched it in a very sheltered spot (fool me twice shame on me!). I was unable to resist going up and looking for the remains of last year’s goat, but was unable to find any sign of him at all, but I had to try. I was right next to goats though, nannies and kids were right beside me grazing and off in the distance there were two, single goats, big rectangular guys that begged a better look. My summer of playing with the goats was paying off; they were big and square, with good hair smeared with mud from wallowing. I wanted to get a better look at them, but put it off for the next day and stayed and played with the nannie group for the rest of the day, they were quite tame. There were two billies with them but they were youngsters, still hanging with mama, the ones in the distance were much bigger. I found a single huge yellow goat but he was safe from all but airplanes and eagles where he was at. The next morning I went up to locate one of the single goats. I was unable to locate him as it is far easier to see the opposite side of the valley rather than the one you are actually on. From the opposite side you can peer into every little crevice, on your side you can’t see squat. Sure enough on the opposite side I saw a nice solo goat. The next day I went up to his hang out and could only see the other goat. This time I knew the lay of the rocks better and made mental notes on exactly where his bed was. The next day I was there with a much better plan on how to find him, and it actually worked. I circled out of sight and crept up on his bed, which was empty. I sat there trying to figure out my next move when I noticed a wisp of white hair waving in the wind over a huge rock maybe fifty yards away.
I knocked up an arrow and moved closer, at 20 yards He started moving and when he stepped into a shooting lane between the rocks I was at full draw as he froze and turned to see what I was. I loosed the arrow and he stampeded out of those boulders and out of sight around the curvature of the mountain side, with my arrow right where it needed to be. I was too excited to wait and found my snapped off arrow on the edge of a cliff, but no goat in sight. Then I looked down and my prize was lying at the bottom of the cliff, deader than a hammer. I have had the privilege of taking many great animals with my bow since that day but I don’t think any have equaled that moment, and I know for certain none have surpassed it. It really wasn’t the dead goat, beautiful though he was; it was the whole thing going back to the miserable failure of the year before. The sweet could not have been tasted without the bitter as a reference. Standing on that cliff and staring down at him was contrasted starkly with my “death march” back to the smashed tent in utter defeat the year before. Thank God that after taking that huge roundhouse to the jaw that “I didn’t hear no bell!” As with any tale that “ends” 20 miles from the truck, it didn’t end at all. In fact it started strongly resembling hard work… I butchered all day, skinning him for a rug, as there was no way I could afford a full body mount. I took some loin back to camp and over a tiny fire made of willow twigs determined that goat was not on the top of my list. The next morning I packed up everything I held dear, starting with that goat skin! I barely made the afternoon train to civilization and chose my taxidermist with care, as in, I chose the only one who would come to the train station to pick him up. I hiked a few miles to where I had left my car and went to visit my dog, then went to the edge of town and slept like I died. The next morning I was back on the train and slept in camp that night, though very late after dark.
Now while in town I had made a mistake, I had been in those same boots for three weeks all day/every day, I was ranker than any barn yard Billie in history. I had put on another pair of boots and they took my feet to heaven, no way could I put on those stinky old things to go back in the woods with. With no weight on my back I pretty much floated into camp but the next morning with a huge load of goat meat and miles of nothing but downhill, my feet started to take a beating. I got down to the river, stashed my meat in the shade and went back up for camp. On the way up, empty, it became apparent that I had a problem, my feet hurt like hell, those comfy boots were loose and my feet were sliding, and I could feel the skin leaving them. I did not dare to take them off, there was no option anyway as my other boots were 30 miles away. On the final trip down it was excruciating as my toes jammed into the front of the boots on every step. I got to the train stop limping severely, dropped my gear, and had to head back for the stashed meat, maybe two miles or so. At this point I had done maybe 17-20 miles on that day alone with 14-15000 feet of vertical. I was dead tired.
I heard the train whistle WAY too soon and had to start running with an entire goat on my back, probably 100 lbs. On the bridge the train guys (who are super nice) were yelling at me to hurry my ass up or get left behind. They helped me out of my pack and tossed it in the cargo car as I pulled myself into the passenger car. The cars were, as usual, in late September, uncrowded. With the stench that was rolling off of me I very quickly had my very own private car. I simply had to get my boots off, no matter what. When I got them peeled off, with no small number of school girl screams, it looked like my feet had slipped into a meat grinder. My socks were beet red, and my language was blue. I had no spare socks; they were in the baggage car, so I wrung blood out of those ones and pulled them back on with more girl squeals. I wouldn’t have pulled those boots back on for all the assets of the Durango/Silverton narrow gauge train… many times people have questioned the truthfulness of whether I wrung blood out of my socks, as I recall they weren’t there, and the people who were there left… I checked my goat in at the Durango office of the DOW the next day, having rescued my dog, and they informed me that since I had harvested a goat I had to pay the penalty of not applying for goats for five years. Upon hearing this news I was… grateful.
Classic two year tale..... right there! Thanks , thoroughly enjoyed that.
Hey, thanks for the second chapter. I hope there's more stories to be told. You do a terrific job.
Great story and grats on the goat! What year did you kill your goat?
I’ve been waiting for this second chapter! Thanks for sharing
I knew we'd hadn't heard the last of your journey!! Congratulations Squirrel !!!!!!
Excellent Story and great pictures... Hope there is more to come!
Squirrel....You're way tougher than woodpecker lips!!!
Thanks for posting this second adventure.
Perseverance!! Congrats on a great story and goat!!
Enjoyed that... Congrats. This had to be a while ago... before points. Ed F
Thanks for taking us along, that was great.
I struggle to think of a better story on the BS in the twenty couple years since I first logged on!
Really, really good stuff there. Redemption can really be sweet, congrats!
Great tale and well told! Both installments!
Thank you so much for taking us along...
I will be thinking about you when I apply for goats this year! It has been 20 years since my last one, so I think I am ready for round 2.
Squirrel that was one hell of a ride. Thank you and congrats!
Great story and well told.
Thanks for taking us along for the ride Squirrel.
Loved the story. Creatively well written, thanks!
I didn't know there were any units in Colorado you could draw a goat tag with no points, let alone 2 years in a row.
A couple of excellent stories! Thank you for sharing them with us!
'squirrel' ...Kevin, " you did well grasshopper " ........Great story and ram .... congrats sir!
Congrats on your great Needles Billy! Great writeups. Have you been back?
Ha ha awesome!!!! Love it!!
Cool story! Well written too.
Thanks for both!
Best of Luck, Jeff
Well told, I really enjoyed your adventure! Congrats! Old school bow and camo solid mullet I’d say it was the 80’s?
Thankfully Jerry Rapp knew how to take a good pic!
Thankfully Jerry Rapp knew how to take a good pic!
glad you guys liked it, it was... memorable...
Those were awesome stories! Thanks for sharing them here!
Amazing story, thanks for sharing!
Great story and writing. Thanks for sharing.
Glad you bounced back and were not only headed back to the mountain with better gear but also with optimism. Usually you find bones scattered downhill of a kill site so that is a bit odd if you absolutely knew how to hike to where the goat piled up the prior year. Perhaps lots of small rodents there craving calcium. Congrats on both adventures!
You, sir, have a way with words. That was great!
Digging through these pics was so much fun. That beet red left eye in the grip-n-grin shot? I had completely forgotten about that... A momento of an ass-kicking outside of a bar several years earlier... there was a girl, a bar, a boyfriend... never mind!
Mom did her best but was generally disappointed. And she'd have had a fit if she knew jack about my goat hunt.
Fantastic write- I love your writing style and descriptiveness. Congrats on a super trophy !!
A VERY enjoyable read....!!
Great storytelling squirrel! I'm also a glutton punishment and could relate to your desire to get back at it the next year!
Thanks for taking us along !!
That's a hard earned trophy and somee of the best writing ever on Bowsite. Congratulations!
What a well written story! Thanks s much for sharing, one of my favorite!
Fantastic write up again! And congrats!
absolutely fantastic job of telling the tale!!!
Thanks for the great write-up!
You need to post more stories on here! Those last 2 were awesome!
Great story! this brings back my time in the needles chasing goats 11 years ago now, I was 23, tough, clueless, and motivated.. I only spent 20 days solo but your stories remind me so much of my time there, I repeated all of your mistakes plus some, I learned a lot about myself, a lot about gear, a lot about just living in the wilderness that has served me well since. looking back that time in the needles was probably one of the biggest turning points in my life, I shot a goat and lost him in the middle of a 1,200ft cliff, I swore that I would have the technical abilities to go anywhere before I came back and got into climbing the next year for that reason..little did I know the giant impact that would have over the next decade, bowhunting is still my favorite time in the mountains but climbing is a very close second, it caught me at the right time and provided a direction that has kept me out of trouble since.. Thanks again for refreshing those memories!
Read both the threads and loved them. Great work!
Both stories very well done. More please!
Ya like to hear the story about how you got the name squirrel!
thats a short story huntcell
In Oct '81 I left a party early on friday night as i had to be in my tree stand at dawn, a "complete waste of time" according to two frat boys who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty.
The next morning while smoking bongs and watching saturday morning cartoons (in their opinion a sensible use of time) they watched "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and thought that me in my tree resembled Rocky the Secret Squirrel...
By that night it had been nominated, seconded, and passed. And it stuck.
I love the nickname story. Classic. Hunt
Awesome nickname story to boot!
Nicely done all the way!