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Wyoming Mountain Goat Story
Let me preface with saying, this is my first attempt at a write-up, but always enjoy following along with others when they chronicle their hunts. I wish I would have taken more pictures along the way, but when always alone, I forget to get the phone out. I have lived in Wyoming 20 years this fall, and have been applying for a Mountain Goat license for 19 years. Seems like a very long time, but have talked to many others that have been waiting much longer! Wyoming is a one and done state for Mountain Goats with no preference points. Its seems after a while you are just applying for sake of applying and it really is never going to happen. But this year in May when I eagerly checked my “big 3” draw results, expecting the usually string of yearly unsuccessful let-downs, Holy Crap! There it was, Resident Mountain Goat, Successful! It’s one of those deals you have to look at for a while, just for it to register. I wouldn’t say hunting a mountain goat was on my “bucket list”, because really didn’t think it would ever happen. I don’t travel to hunt much, just annually in November for archery whitetails back in Nebraska where I grew up, and some upland bird stuff. One of the key reasons I moved to Wyoming 20 years ago, was for the wide array of hunting opportunities that exist here. I always thought it would cool to harvest as many animals with bow that Wyoming has to offer. That is where luck of the draw comes in, literally.
Once the reality sank in, I mentioned my great fortune here on Bowsite, and immediately got several responses offering help. Man, what a great group. I travel all over Wyoming for work, but don’t often get to the area I had drawn the goat license in. So, I got all the forest service maps, downloaded all the onx for the area, and talked to the Mountain Goat biologist. Next, up was a summer scouting trip.
I know next to nothing about Mountain Goats or their behavior, other than they look cool, and inhabit some crazy country. The wife and I loaded up the dogs the third week of July and made the 6 hour drive up the hunting area. An interesting aspect of this particular area, is the main access for a good portion of the unit is via one of the most busy and popular summer tourist hi ways in the country. Lets just say I’m not real big on crowds, but who is. Hunting pressure isn’t a huge issue as only 8 licenses are issued for the entire area. It was more just people everywhere! Not my normal hunting experience
When you ask about hunting this area, generally everyone gives you the same list of spots to check out. I found goats are not hard to find, but they certainly aren’t everywhere. In fact, on our 2 ½ day scouting trip, we saw exactly one billy! I told my wife I don’t know much about mountain goats, but I would shoot that one! Problem was, he was standing in the hi way rubbing on a delineator post. Surely, not the experience I would be looking for! I was able to get some good pictures and phone skope video. I was hoping to see more numbers of goats for reference, as one the most difficult aspects of mountain goat hunting can be differentiating between a billy and a nanny. At least I got know the area and had any idea of what I was up against.
No! No! No! No!!!! Just as I am headed out of town with no service?? Cruel!
I apologize, not having much luck getting my photos to rotate!
^....You're doing good....keep it coming.
First time I saw the “Snowdrift Billy”
First time I saw the “Snowdrift Billy”
Another of “snowdrift billy”
Another of “snowdrift billy”
Found Billy from first scouting trip again.
Found Billy from first scouting trip again.
In Wyoming the archery season for mountain goats opens on August 15, then the rifle season opens Sept. 1. If you don’t harvest with a bow, you can go with rifle. I had already decided it was bow or nothing for me, I hadn’t even shot my rifle. This is a once in lifetime opportunity, and I was prepared to dedicate as much time as needed to get it done with bow. I arrived at the hunting area on Friday evening, the 13th to scout. Fortunately for me was not an unlucky Friday the 13th, as I was able to locate the billy was saw in July and another billy that appeared to be good from a mile and half away. I was starting to feel confident in my chances.
Congrats on the OIL goat tag, Jason! You’re doing good, so far. Keep it coming!
Saturday morning the 14th, was once again was able to locate both billies from the night before, and also two large groups of nannies, kids, and younger billies. While researching mountain goats, everything said mature billys were solitary and were usually always alone, so, I was trying to locate lone goats. Saturday evening the two billys of interest were once again located and pictures taken. The new billy seemed to be hanging around a large snow drift on the leeward side of big east/west facing ridge. Though the spotting scope this billy appeared to be of considerably bigger body than the other billy. I couldn’t make out his horns, but he was so thick thought the body, I figured he had to be mature, and he was the only goat on this ridge. Another thing I liked bout this location was the ridge itself. It wasn’t just a massive cliff face, it was a series of rocky ledges, the grassy benches mixed in. It appeared from the glassing point to be huntable with a bow.
Above the snowdrift
Above the snowdrift
View from my camp
View from my camp
I had a plan now for the next morning, opening day for archery season. I had seen this billy 2 evenings and 1 morning. One of big questions about mountain goats was how much do they move around and how much country do they cover? This would become a very important aspect as the hunt progressed. More on that later…..
The next morning I was up early and parked at a pull-out on the very busy hi way. Luckily most tourist aren’t early risers, so I didn’t have to deal with many looky Lou’s with hiking off the road. May plan was to climb 1000 vertical feet of the road, to the top of the ridge that turned into a somewhat flat grassy plateau strewn the small boulder fields. I would then loop about 2 miles around on the back side of the plateau and come over the top of the ridge the snow drift where the billy had been hanging out. In hindsite, I probably should have let it get light enough to glass and see if he was even there, but hey, I was excited to be hiking with the bow in hand! By the way I am in decent shape, but air at 11,000 ft is pretty thin. It took me few more breaks than usual to make the top! I make my way around the plateau and begin to peer over the edge above the snowdrift, then slowly make my way down the ridge, peaking over the edge. No billy. I get to the end and think, maybe he is tucked in below and I just can’t see him. I loop around and repeat the search. No dice. By now, it is 10-11 am and getting hot! The ridge I am on is 11,000 ft. Daytime highs have been around 70 and 50 degrees at night. This seems unsually warm for this elevation. And by the way, not many shade trees this high, just the baking sun. The only relief at all is the smoke in the air from regional forest fires, and I mean smoky!! Stinky, lung burning smoke! The word spectacular does not due this country justice, but is so hazy and smoky, I can’t barely make out my the peaks surrounding me. That might be the biggest disappointment of this entire hunt.
So now is mid-morning, and most critters have found a shady spot for the day. I sent the rest of the afternoon poking around the huge drop-offs on the north side of the plateau thinking he may have be that way in the shade. I only see a group consisting of a nannies, kids,, and young billies on the rock face across the next canyon. I spent the next couple hours watching these things randomly climb and scale scary cliff faces and avalanche chutes for apparently no reason, other than to prove they could.
Ops, saw the same group on Tuesday morning, that is when this pic was taken.
I slowing made my way back around the plateau to here I had climbed up that morning. There was one 300 yard stretch where the snowdrift and ridge was visible before I dropped off. It was about 5 pm, so I stopped and glassed back. There right below the snowdrift was the billy feeding. Crap! I was pretty tired, and without much water from spending all day out, but I had to go! So off I went looping out of sight, making my way around above where I hoped he would stay.
I slowly came over the ridge and began to try to see the billly. I eased down and could see fresh tracks in the snow on the bottom side of the snowdrift, about 60 yards way. I slowing eased my head out and see the end of what looks like a white horse head laying below. There was no way to get directly above him without climbing out on the giant overhanging snowdrift. Now I could see he had been laying on the drift many times before and there were goat droppings all over the snow. I just wasn’t sure it would be a good idea for me to try and climb out on thing for shot. I could just see it breaking off or me sliding off to my death below! But believe me I thought once or twice about it!
I stayed put, and keep the end of his nose in sight. This went on for a good hour. Finally he stands, and I think here we go, he’s at 55 yards, pretty much the max I am willing to shoot. He then proceeds to get up and walk straight way following the bottom side of the snowdrift. He then seems to content to feed away to the rest of the evening. At this point I decide to back out. It is getting dark and I am spent. He has been in this exact spot now 3 evenings in row and doesn’t know I’m around. Could this be a pattern and are billies this predictable??
Morning of day two finds me once again on the ridge above the snowdrift. I should have waited for daylight and glassed the ridge to see if he was there, but he was that at dark the night before, so was hoping. Nope, not there. I decide I’m not spending the whole day baking in the sun again, so make my way back to camp. The weather continues to be unseasonably warm, so I spend the day in shorts reading a book. About 0330 in the afternoon and make the drive back towards the top, and pull out to the glass the snowdrift, there he is, laying of the snow!!! I quickly hustle to get hiked around above his location. By the time I get over there he is laying on the bottom of the drift. So same as night one, I slowing ease down hoping for a shot opportunity. The wait begins, until over an hour later he gets up and feeds way again. I have more time tonight and decide to wait out hoping.
The billy meanders closer, then away, finally bedding on a rock 70 yards below me. There is a stiff cross-wind and I’m not taking that long shot anyway. He eventually gets up again and feeds away. I wait it out until 8 pm, them scoot out without spooking him. At this point I’m beginning to wonder if he knows I’m there and is just messing with me. Because…..When I make it back to the vantage point above my truck and look back in the almost darkness… there he is bedded in the rocks 20 yards from where I was sitting a half hour ago!!!! You’ve got to be kidding me!!! That hurt a little, I’m not going to lie.
Morning of day 3, and the last day hot day before and major weather change calling for rain, much colder, even night time snow. I am very concerned thinking this could be a warm weather pattern, and he may be much less predictable if the weather changes. I make the decision to head over to the snowdrift knowing full well he may not be there in the morning, but you never know….
Looking northwest, off the backside of the plateau.
Looking northwest, off the backside of the plateau.
Well, not there. Becomes obvious he has a morning bedding location and an evening spot. I only know of the evening spot. I start thinking, I can sit in a treestand waiting on whitetail for 12 hours straight, and I’ve been in antelope blind for that long, just gonna wait it out in the sun. He has been here 4 evenings in a row showing up between 0330 and 0430 pm. Remarkably predictable. But would he show up again, what are the odd especially since I spend 8 hrs sitting here waiting…
As you can image it was a looooong day! I dug out a hole in the rocks and attempted to nap, not very well mind you. I spent the day watching picas and marmots, not a lot else going on at 11,000 ft. Oh, and the 4 hikers that decided to hike a big loop all the way around me. The whole time me thinking, please don’t screw this up!!
As late afternoon finally approaches anticipation is high, followed by doubt. 3 pm comes, 0330, 4 pm, no billy. I’m starting to thinks with is what you get for getting so confident. Then…… I notice an out of place white rock! Here he comes from the backside of the plateau. Oh, boy!!
He walks at a steady pace to the far side of the snowdrift 160 yards away. Crap! All his beds in the gravel above snowdrift are within 50 yards of my on my side of the snowdrift. He then slides off the snowdrift and begins to feed and drink below. I’m thinking, here we go again…. After about half hour of feeding, he suddenly starts heading my way at a brisk pace, disappearing below the lip of the snowdrift.
De ja vu! I start sliding down from above hoping this will turn out different this time…
Great story so far, I'm hooked. Can't wait to hear the rest!
I can't wait for more,
Great write up so far, can't wait to hear the rest!
What a d:@k move quitting the story like that….. that’s a move I’d pull! Lol great write up so far!
Ok, enough with the suspense!
I creep downward, scooting on my butt, gradually exposing more or the slope below the snowdrift. Eventually I can see the whole lower side of the drift, no billy, hmmm… I gradually scan to my right, and whoa, I see the goat butt 50 yards bedded to my right on a rock ledge. I think yes, finally!!
“Let me preface this with saying, this is my first attempt at a write up”
I’d say you should have attempted it years ago! Great job so far! Keep it coming!
I loop back out of site and above his location. I carefully peek over, and he is bedded 30 yards way with butt angled towards me and the cliff edge. It get positioned for the shot, expecting a lengthy wait….
Nope, 5 minutes, he’s up and I think quartering way. I draw my bow, lean out, and put the pin on the back of his ribs. The shot is away.. Crap, he wasn’t quartering has much as I thought, and shot is a little farther back than desired.
He makes a few bounds down the slope and looks back. I nock another arrow and rise-up, but he catches my movement, and disappears around a rock outcrop. I quickly loop around the top, and can see blood on the rocks below. In a few more steeps, and peer over and he is directly below me. I step back, draw my bow, lean out, put my top pin on him, and send another arrow right behind the shoulders. He once again bounded around a rock outcrop, already starting to wobble. I new instantly that is over, he is mine!! The whole thing took a minute or two.
I hope nobody was watching from the hi way a mile and half way, because I’m sure they would have thought, why is that goof ball jumping around on that rock ledge!!
I go back and my pack, and began to make it down to where I had last seen him. It takes a minute, but see white and red object 100 for so feet below. Now I little concerned, hoping the fall didn’t do much damage. It was a sheer cliff, but still pretty steep. He is wadded up with his head under his body. I slowly roll him over, and am grateful in pretty good shape. May slight chipping on the horn tips, and once eyelid scraped up. By now is 0530 pm, and have a lot work to do by myself before dark. Luckily he came to rest a nice grassy bench perfect for pictures and working him up. I took a bunch of pictures and got started. I have never skinned anything for a full body mount, but I wasn’t sure what my plans were, and easier to cut some off, them sew some on I thought….
Jason, Yep, you have just accomplished a hunt for a very unique animal of North American, the North American Mountain Goat. Nicely done, great write up. My best, Paul
I hurried to get him skinned and quartered as darkness and a thunderstorm closed in. I stashed the quarters under a rock ledge some distance from the carcass, and packed the hide and head out. This is a grizzly area, but never saw any bear sign in 5 days this high, so wasn’t too concerned. The temperature also dropped like a rock when the storm moved in. Since I was already towards the bottom of the ridge, I just make the mostly rolling 1 ½ back to the road as darkness arrived. I then had make the mile penalty hike up the hi way to may truck…so worth it!!
After a restless night, I never sleep well after I harvest an animal, I made my way back to retrieve the meat. What was odd, was I was struck with a feeling of sadness. I had spend that 5 days scouring this hillside for the one billy, and now as I looked up at the snowdrift, I knew he wasn’t there and never would be. No regrets, just a little sad, must bet getting soft in old 46 years of age. I didn’t find the first arrow, as it passed though into oblivion, but the did find pieces of the second. I think his should broke of the shaft as he bounded away.
As I packed out the meat in one big load, the peaks around me started to sock in with fog, and rain began to fall. I just thought, man, I am so fortunate and lucky how this whole thing played out. Truly a once in a lifetime experience my me. I still don’t know much about mountain goats after my 3 day hunting experience. Are all mature billies this patternable and predictable, or did I just get really lucky?? I guess I’ll never know…… Thanks for reading, hope wasn’t too long winded…
I know nothing about Mt Goats but he looks like a tank! Congrats and thanks for sharing.
Nice job! Great to tag along.
Jason, Courtship and mating: Mountain goats are polygamous [78,99,100]. The rut—the peak breeding period—occurs from late October to December, but primarily in November [24,110]. Based on the short birthing period in spring, it is likely that most females in a population attain estrus within a 2-week period .
In addition, prior to courtship, the males hang out together or solo. and away from the females and sometime higher up on the mountain. I would expect, this goat found a good place, with a snow bank to cool off on, water and food and a good bedding spot where it could observe the surrounding areas.
Thanks Paul! They are definitely like no other critter I’ve hunted!
Congrats on a beautiful goat, Jason! Excellent write up as well!
Great pictures and story Jason. Thanks for taking us along on your hunt!
Great story. Thank you for sharing.
Great goat and awesome write up. Looking forward to reading your next one! Congrats to you Jason!!
Nice write up… thanks for sharing!
Well done Jason. Congrats !
Congrats and a big thank you for taking the time to do a story and post up the pics. Well done sir!!
Congrats Jason - wonderful write-up and a fantastic goat! I often recall the fond memories from my one goat hunt and quite certain you will as well for many years to come. Great stuff!
Congrats on a awesome animal and good job telling the story.
Super story and goat. Amazing. You did it.
Nice story, beautiful goat!
Great story and sounds like definitely a memorable hunt. Thanks for the recap.
I’ve had that same feeling when I shot a mature buck that was very patternable. It’s like I expect to see him when I’m back in there - except he’s on my wall.
I agree, amazing hunt and great write-up. I tried to rotate a couple pics for you, but ever since the web site mess up a few days ago, I can't add any pics????????????
Great story and congratulations!
Thank You for taking the time to write this up and post your photos.
Congratulations and thanks for sharing
Thanks, guys! Definitely have more respect for those that routinely do hunt write-ups. Took a lot more time than I figured.
Does anyone know of any photoshop wizards around anymore? I’m not ashamed of the field photos at all, but would like to send a couple places that might prefer things “cleaned up” a bit.
Congrats...thanks for taking us along!
Best "Camp View" featured on Bowsite. Congrats on the great hunt and the billy.
Congrats! Loved the story.
Nice work! Thanks for taking the time to do the write up for us.
Congrats on the tag and your success! Nice write up.
Great recap Jason, made me feel like I was right there with you. Awesome Billy!
Outstanding! Many congrats on a find trophy. Excellent job on the write up!
Congratulations Jason! An outstanding hunt and a story worthy of your beautiful Mountain Goat. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Congrats on a great hunt and animal. Thanks for sharing, you did great!
Awesome write up and pics, congrats on a great animal and thanks for sharing your hunt with us!
Congrats and thanks for sharing!
Great write-up and a beautiful goat.
Congrats on your Billy! I’ve done a few of these writes ups before and It’s very time consuming. Great job on the recap.
Congrats Jason! Well done!
Congrats and great write up!
Congratulations. great write up. What would the weight of a goat like that be after field dressing?
Way to go, great looking Billy too! Congrats!
Jeff, not as much as I thought. They appear bigger than they are, with very little for reference. I carried all the meat out in bone-in quarters in one load, 80 lbs-ish. They definitely don’t yield as well as an elk or deer.
Congrats Jason! Great story! You did a great job with the telling....Thanks for sharing!!
Thank you Jason for taking the time and taking us on an adventure that I will never get to do! Congrats on the beautiful goat as well, hope to see more of your stories as well! This is what makes Bowsite great!
Awesome. Congratulations on a great goat
Jason, my first visit on here in a few days. Congrats again on a great billy, and thanks for doing the write up. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Beers on me your next trip through! Ron
Awesome story and write up! Congratulations and thanks for sharing! I just returned from a BC Billy goat hunt, empty handed, but filled with the knowledge of how hard Mountain goat hunting is! Congrats once again!
Awesome write up! Thank you for taking us along!! Congrats on a successful hunt!!!
Congratulations! Great job on your story. Hard to believe it's your first time with a write up like this. Again all around outstanding and thanks for sharing!
Great job and a beautiful motivator for my own goat hunt here in Montana next week. I hope I have at least part of the great experience you obviously had in the mountains!
Thanks everyone! I assure this is my first recap, as you can tell by the errors! Should have proofread better! Good luck Mike! It was truly unique experience! I hope to be reading your successful hunt write up very soon.