Those of us that have been playing the application games across the western states for multiple years know the highs and lows that come from both sides of the coin when it comes to drawing tags.
Depression from not drawing that coveted tag that you have diligently applied for for over 20 years.
Exhilaration when that coveted tag is in your hand.
High anxiety to be able to make the time away from work, home and family to have even a slim chance of success.
Tough wilderness mountain hunts in crazy country for such amazing creatures as sheep, goat, and moose are the most precious and coveted of those tags. Many of these can take the better part of a lifetime to acquire.
Only a crazy person would apply for those super tough hunts with a bow. Only a truly insane person would think that they would have a chance with a traditional bow!
My 2019 goat tag arrived in the mail on a snowy day in May. I was the proud owner of a tag to hunt what has been labeled “the toughest goat hunt in North America”!
Yeehaw! Let the games begin!
I had committed to helping one of my best and oldest hunting buddies for an elk hunt in Colorado. On top of that, I had also drawn a top shelf Wyoming elk limited draw that had taken 1 less than maximum points.
From where I sit, I was probably holding two “once in a lifetime” tags.
On top of that, I was right at a year into a new job with very limited vacation!
I immediately started contacting people who had previously hunted the unit as well as several people with horses. The recommendations were, for the most part, very similar as to where to go and matched the CPW kill data.
I was actually considering going deeper into the back country than what most hunters do on horseback. The trip to the area I was looking at is 18 miles from the south trailhead and would be quite the adventure.
May was still really early down in the San Juan’s this year. Still way too much snow. Colorado had a bumper crop of snow last winter and the SW corner really got pounded with around 500% of normal.
A buddy from down that way sent me a picture of what it looked like on the highway on one of the passes on May 16.
Travis stated "On top of that, I was right at a year into a new job with very limited vacation!"
I have that same issue back in the mid 80'2 when I drew a Sheep tag for a 30 day long season. Told my boss that I had drawn a OIL Sheep tag (actually my second) and that the season was 30 days long and I was going to hunt every day of it if needed. Told him I would be back to work after I killed one or the season ended if he still wanted me back. He said to call him when I was back in town, when I did he told me I could come back to work the next day after hunting all 30 days.
That was not the first or last time I told a boss what I was going to do or quit a job for a hunt.
Well, summer blew past. Seems like every year that goes by is shorter than the last. Could not imagine what my grandparents were talking about when I was young and they kept telling me that.
Must be getting old.
Working at an office 4 hours from home is a real pain sometimes. Time to do the things I want to do becomes very precious. Weekends home become relegated to yard work, repairs around the house, plumbing, painting, spending time with the wife, vacationing with the wife, etc.
Not much left over for shooting, getting in shape, scouting, etc. I did get in some fishing and one good scouting trip to Wyoming, though.
Late August and the start of archery season in Colorado found me in Peru. Damnit.
A major proposal had me tied down as soon as I returned. Double Damnit!
Finally got the fires beat down enough to meet my buddies in Wyoming for elk the 22nd of September. That hunt did not go well and lost a lot of hunting time to weather and logistics. A couple of close calls but did not close the deal...
Ouray for the night, a little weather possible in the high country
Ouray for the night, a little weather possible in the high country
Wyoming was a bust. Along with OTC elk and two bear tags in CO.
Work took me out of the country again in early October but I was able to get back for a few days to help my buddy get a nice bull with his rifle.
Time was not on my side for the goat hunt, but I was still determined to give ‘em hell! Finally got a break on the work front on October 17 and actually had a buddy with some time that was fired up to come along for the ride!
Not sure how to add video on Bowsite from the phone but have some really cool stuff showing how to get a Toyota up a nasty, snowy, icy, mountain;-). It was really windy and stormy on top.
We glassed a number of basins and walls with no goats spotted.
That was OK though because we had a plan! Headed to Goat Central the next day! The place where there were so many goats that they were a considered to be a nuisance! Actually follow the hikers around trying to get a candy bar or a bit of salt from the urine!
Hell yeah! Easy Peezy! We were gonna be neck deep in pet goats! Even someone with limited shooting ability like me could even have a chance!
The train stopped at Needleton and they tossed out our bags. There was a big camp of rifle elk hunters already set up across the tracks. We shouldered into our packs and took off across the bridge and the trail to the fabled Chicago Basin.
Tavis, it was 18 years ago I stayed at your house in Leadville and then later climbed to the spot you showed me to bow hunt mt goats. I still remember your gracious help to this day for my successful hunt. Fun stuff for sure. my best, Paul
The next morning was cold! The weather was calling for it to get colder with snow over the next couple of days. The forecast called for it to drop down to single digits.
Since we hadn’t seen any goats the evening before, we climbed to the top of the hanging basin above camp to see if there were any goats back there we couldn’t see from below.
Tough camping conditions for sure! Especially with the fire restrictions!
Although it made for extra weight in the packs, we had packed plenty of warm clothes and gear to keep from freezing to death. We also packed in climbing gear just in case we might need it on ice covered rocks and cliffs.
We saw mule deer and elk on the way up, but no goats.
We kept climbing till we ran out of up.
Then dropped over into New York Basin. A good friend that had the tag a few years back had told me that it was full of goats. At least 60 in there and several billies when he had hunted the last week of the season.
I had a water bladder between my sleeping bag and pad and the damn thing froze solid.
Getting water at the creek was interesting. It was frozen solid and I had to break a hole to get to water. Put the pump in my pocket to keep it from freezing up. As soon as a water bottle was filled, it froze.
Really neat watching ice form in your water bottle like that.
Had a little snow. Just enough to make it interesting in the rocks:-)
Was certain that today was the day! Hell, with the fresh snow and ice, they couldn’t possible get away!
We packed up our modest camp and headed down the trail to catch the return train. A bit discouraging not to find goats in there but, it happens.
We ended up with time to spare When we got down and BS’d with the elk hunters at the camp when we got there. Also tried to catch an early ride out with one of the work cars. The hunters and railroad workers commented on the lack of game this year.
The snow was wet and the plows were throwing balls out all over the road. Some the size of small cars!
We tried to get a room in a couple of places, but no one was manning the lobbies in those small towns. One hotel had 8 people crashed out on the couches and floor. Looked like a group of hunters. They probably had their tent crushed.
We ended up sleeping on the side of the road and in a hotel parking lot.
The whole time I was in my meetings and at work, all I could think about was that I still had a few days left and this would most likely be my last Colorado goat tag.
Getting too old and the costs are getting out of hand to apply.
As I was driving up I-70, I made a call to an outfitter buddy. He offered up a suggestion for an area where he had seen some goats 10 days earlier. Only 8 miles or so in! Doable!
Called the wife and told her I was not coming home and was headed back to goat country! She wasn’t overly ecstatic and listed off the chores that needed to be done and told me we had a big winter storm coming in on Sunday with a lot of snow expected.
It was a tight window but possible! Heck, all I needed to do was find a darn goat and run over there and kill it!
Got to Silverton a little after midnight and we’re able to get a room. Backpacks were emptied and repacked for enough stuff to make it for two days - three in a pinch.
After a couple hours of sleep, we were back on the mountain!
Problem was, to access where they were would take at least 2 more days. Days I did not have.
We walked away from those goats and set camp where we had seen what appeared to be goat tracks several miles back up the trail.
On the way out, we ran into a buddy that also had a goat tag coming in. He had one day to hunt and had driven down from Denver in the middle of the night. Traded information and he headed up the trail for his last ditch effort as well.
Hit the snow and ice pretty close to home so it wasn't too bad.
Heck of a ride Tavis! All you can do is give it your all and leave it all out there. You did that and then some. Every once in awhile I guess it’s okay if the animals win. Great story, thanks for taking us all along. Would love to hunt goats someday but will likely never happen. Good to live vicariously through you guys!
I loved that story Tavis! It had the feel of my NM elk hunt this year, except on steroids! Great effort is typically rewarded, but sure as heck not always. Congrats on a great effort. In the end effort is one of the few things you can control.
No way I was doubt you. Sounds like you covered tons of country. Was only curious to your thoughts on why your hunt this year was so different from reports in years past. It is the unit I have been putting in for so that is also part of reason for question. Thanks for the answer. Country still looks awesome from all of your pictures!