As we were loading our gear we actually spotted a goat way above the campground in the nose bleed section. The season wouldn't start until tomorrow so we loaded our gear and started the slow ascent up the trail head deeper into the mountain range.
I would pack my bow and Jacob would pack my rifle. I normally hunt with a badlands pack but for maximum load, we both wore heavier MOLLE II marine packs I'd purchased from ebay years earlier that we normally used to haul meat. They were heavier weight but tough. I brought some climbing rope and felt like I could even tie on to Jacob and his pack and lower him down to my goat if I had to:)
I could see right away that finding a piece of level dirt could be a problem for pitching a tent. Additionally, I had pictured us wearing our camp on our backs and camping each night wherever we ended up. With the warm temperatures and the physical weight I was starting to think we should set up a permanent camp that was central and we could reach each night without having to hike out.
We were also relying on our catadyne water filter and I needed our camp to be close to a creek or spring for convenience. As darkness was approaching that first night we found a small fairly level spot just large enough for our tent next to a foot bridge.
I had also purchased a couple of the new "ultralight" inflatable air mattresses that are selling all over facebook. I tested them at home and they seemed amazing but I have to be honest and tell you that at 49 years of age, they were no match for the packed granite soil.
We finished dinner and decided to look around for a few minutes of last light to hopefully spot some animals. We walked out on the foot bridge and could see some openings and avalanche chutes directly above our camp. Low and behold, we spotted a large, lone mountain goat feeding about 1500 yards above camp. We watched as he bedded down with darkness finally making him invisible.
We had a plan for the morning now! Could it be this easy as we were only 2.5 miles in on the first day? I knew we could get to the tree line but it looked pretty dang steep in the chutes. I was starting to get some anxiety as nearly all the goats we spotted walking in were in definite "no go zones" for me and it was unnerving even imagining trying to climb up to them. I was encouraged as we went further into the mountains, they were getting closer to us as the trail was gaining elevation.
I kept thinking that a bedded mountain goat should stay put especially on a dark night without the moon. As warm as it was during the day (80 degrees), we were a little chilly in the pre-dawn hours without heavy clothing. Additionally, the vestibule was nice as morning dew had everything out in the open wetted down.
To my surprise, the lone goat was completely gone as I hustled to the foot bridge to glass in the morning. I climbed up further on the opposite side of the creek into a meadow to see better and still no sighting. He'd either come down to the tree line, went completely over the top or rounded the corners of the chutes. Both Jacob and I would have never guessed that but it was our first day and we hadn't really explored our area.
Both my client and the ranch foreman had mentioned a chain of lakes about 5.5-6 miles in where goats had been spotted over the summer. My client had waited too long the year he hunted and couldn't make it all the way to the lakes with deep snow stopping them.
I talked it over with my son and we decided to make the hike to the lakes, hopefully glassing as we hiked and if nothing turned up, we could double time it back to camp and look for the goat above our camp in the afternoon.
( Jacob enjoys hunting but has never shown interest in archery. He's also a pretty quiet kid but he said to me while hiking that he was fascinated with mountain goats and it was his dream hunt someday and he was glad I was sharing the hunt with him) choke-up moment:)
Also, the secondary trail climbing up to the lakes could have been missed if you weren't paying attention but I knew we were getting close with the map and zoned in when it was time.
I was surprised how long my cell phone battery was holding up with it turned to airplane mode and using the off-line map. I also had picked up a charging battery from Wal Mart for like 12.00 that carried 3 charges and was small and both Jacob and I charged our phones off it at night with two ports.
The climb was getting pretty steep going up the secondary trail and we would stop and glass back across the main drainage to the opposite side with still no goats spotted...…..I'm getting a little nervous now both with elevation and lack of game.
One sweet surprise was at a certain altitude, we found a cluster of wild raspberry plants. We took a break and grazed on the fresh fruit which was a nice supplement to our mountain house meals.
According to the map, the trail dead ended at the lakes and I was noticing now our steep descent down to the lakes the last 4-500 yards. Anything shot would have to be packed up and over now.
We finally made it and we're 5-6 miles in at this point and worked up a pretty good sweat. I suggested we sit down and glass and rest for awhile. My initial scanning isn't showing any goats but this place is a postcard. It's around 11:00 a.m. and I'm in no hurry to leave and know we have plenty of time to make it back to hunt for the goat above camp if necessary. So we take off our packs and hydrate and eat some snacks and I'm considering taking a little siesta:)
Jacob is restless and decides to walk around in the immediate trees to glass and look around. Since were in the timber we have openings and blocked areas where we can't see as we look across the lakes and up the canyons and cliffs across.
As you can see from the map, the Crazy Mountains are isolated from other mountain ranges and OnX showed the fire activity. Amazingly, as smoky as it was coming in, this day was clear and beautiful.
Suddenly, I see another larger goat below them 300-400 yards and he looks to be a Billy. I'm not sure if it's possible but we have to cross the lakes below us and climb an steep face and we'll have to approach them in sight the last stretch. I lay out the possibilities to Jacob and tell him we have time but it's even farther to pack one out.
He's game and we take off down the hill and hope to cross between Blue Lake and Granite Lake. When we approach the bottom, I can see it's basically a dried up creek bed with water and boulders scattered in the bottom. We were able to keep our feet dry and jump from stone to stone and begin making our way up the opposite side. We'll have to top the first ridge to be in sight of the goats again. The wind is in our favor but the shade is moving and I'm worried if we don't hustle, they may reposition.
I don't rifle hunt much anymore and I don't even have a gun for long range shooting. It's a Remington model 7600 pump chambered in 30-06. I did replace the scope with the 3 reticle version and sighted it in and taped the trajectory table to the stock. However, my cheap range finders that work well for bow hunting don't seem to register hardly anything past 250-300 yards.
We make it to the trees and we're out of sight for the moment but I don't know if he's going to blow out or simply exit up and over the top like I suspect the two above him have already done. We are probably at 5-600 yards and Jacob and drop our packs since we're running out of trees to hide in. I can see the goat looking down for us but remarkably he moved a few yards and re-bedded. Once again Jacob is asking me to shoot. It's starting to sink in that this particular goat is not going to be within archery range and he's seen us. I am fighting the range finder and finally get a reading off a large slab below him at 320 yards. I'm estimating the goat which is above and behind the slab to be around 380 yards now. He looks huge and I decide I will try with my rifle so Jacob takes off his coat and rolls it up and I try and look at him but the distance is between reticles and he's so far above us that I can't get the gun stock square on my shoulder. I tell him I'm not comfortable and we should try to get closer.
I can see a mound up ahead of us that I could set up on but the goat is laying down broadside and looks nervous. I can see a diagonal trail through the rubble just above him that he could escape on. We make it safely to the mound and I set up again and I get a range of 309 yards just in front of him. I estimate he's about 312 yards which is exactly the first reticle on my scope below the cross hairs.
I squeeze and shoot and apparently hit just above him and he stands. I shoot again I hear the familiar pop and he jumps. He's still broadside and I shoot a third time and hear it pop and he jumps about 5 feet in the air and commandos off the cliff and starts somersaulting back down right at us. I'm guessing he rolled close to 100 yards and finally stops wedged in boulders on his back with his chin pointed up.
I send Jacob back for our packs and just lay there and take it all in. I can't see his horns but I'm worried he's probably broke his horns off and I'm picturing myself digging through rubble looking for pieces of broken goat horn:)
Even though he's not far above us now, it took forever to climb the rubble and I keep looking at him in my binos. I'm second guessing myself and wondering if I shot a nanny and if it's smaller bodied than I suspected. When we finally reach him I'm blown away. He's huge! The body is larger than I suspected and his horns are intact with some fresh chipping at the tips from the fall. I suspected he'd have bare patches of hide from falling but that's all in place too although I can see a trail of white hair on the rocks. It's a beautiful moment and I want the lakes in the background for photos but we're afraid of moving him and sending him rolling again. We finally get him tagged and positioned for photos and then I decide to skin him life-size.
What a chore! I think from adrenaline and the altitude and exhaustion I'm starting to get sick. It probably took two hours to skin him out and debone the meat in that awkward position.
We faced another decision as we had crossed between the first two lakes coming in but I did not want to climb the steep grade we'd come down to the lakes. I look at my map and study the contour lines and asked Jacob if we should cross between the 2nd and 3rd lakes and bush whack around back to the main trail without having to climb. I said it was possibly risky but he agreed and we had a rough go side hilling and cliffing out with no trail. He couldn't stand up by himself so I'd stand on his feet and pull him up. He was top heavy enough that he nearly fell backwards down the cliffs while we were bush whacking back to the main trail. My fear was running out of daylight and having to spend the night on that steep face I couldn't see around.
Finally we reunited with the lake trail and my anxiety was finally starting to subside. Additionally, I was getting stronger as we were getting lower and I took the additional meat from Jacob's pack.
We made it back to our tent just before dark and I was dumbfounded as the large goat was in the exact same spot from the evening before . I could see a water coming out of the rocks in that spot and now suspected it was his watering spot in the afternoons. It's a really tough archery area in my estimation but I would have liked to have tried to set up for that goat with my bow. Unfortunately, the lack of boots on the ground scouting hurt us in that department.
I found some hair slippage but I think most of it was arrested with the timely care of the hide. I turned the lips, nose, ears etc....and applied the salt.
Also, my youngest is a Randy Newberg fan and said he also has a M.G. tag this year so hopefully we hear from him at some point and hopefully he wasn't the guy that shot the kid:)
I boiled the entire skull for now and fixed the chipped tips...…..he's now flawless, ha.
One thing to consider is getting a reproduction made for mounting and keep the skull. Kind of a two for one on the trophy….
I’m doing that for my black tail from last year and will do it for any sheep in the future!
Crazy Mountains mtn. goat is my dream hunt but I'm a few years behind you in points.
Next time you're in Bozeman, I hope I am around. I'd love to catch up with you and your son. I do have a goat tag, but in a different unit. I saw a shooter on Monday, but I am waiting for November fur. Hope I don't regret that decision to pass.
Memories for you and your Son for life.
Good luck, Robb
We ground the burger with some beef tallow.
The back straps were a little chewy but tolerable. However, the sirloin were chewier and the round steaks were so chewy I spit out a sample. For the latter two steaks, we ran them 4 directions through a cuber.
The meat had no wild taste at all with great flavor and color. The chewy reputation was correct but there are fixes for that like grounding and cubing.
I do remember when field dressing the goat that I thought the meat smelled very good, and I wasn't disappointed in the flavor. But man was it tough.
Thanks again for your write up, and good luck with the rest of the season.