The following is an account as told by my father of his Once in a Lifetime hunt in the state of Utah of a Rocky Mountain Goat.
I found myself as usual checking the Utah draw results the second they were posted. I expected to see the usual unsuccessful notice. This year was different. I was lucky enough to draw a once in a lifetime Rocky Mountain goat tag for the 2008 late season in the Willard Peak area. I could hardly wait to start scouting. I was up on the mountain in May, and was on top bylate May. It took some breaking through snow drifts with a four wheeler to get on top. I was surprised to locate Goats within 100 yards of the trail head the first day. After several scouting trips I was able to find plenty of goats.
I found that I was able to get close on several occasions. I was sure I would be able to harvest a goat with archery equipment. I hunt with a rifle and muzzle loader but I have a passion for Archery. I invested in a good Vortex Spotting scope that would later prove to be worth its weight in gold. I shot all summer, and scouted whenever I could. A good friend Steve Elliott had drawn the early season goat tag, so he,I,and my son Randy scouted together whenever possible.
We scouted different places, on horses, on foot, and on four wheelers. The common thing was we were seeing plenty of goats on each trip. The only thing I thought that could ruin the hunt was bad weather, and I really didn’t think that would be a problem even if it snowed. The start of the early season was great weather. I wasn’t able to go with Steve because of business commitments. Steve his son Tag and my son Randy were up on the mountain at daylight opening morning. They were seeing plenty of goats and by mid day Steve got a shot at a really nice goat.
After a roll of about a half mile straight down into packers hell. Steve’s goat finally came to rest on a steep shell slide with plenty of sharp rocks and ledges. The three slid and walked straight down the shell and were relieved to find the horns and goat intact. After a hard earned trip back to the horses Steve had a great trophy, and a great hunt that will be a happy memory for him and his hunting companions the rest oftheir lives. I know that Steve was glad to have the young legs of Randy and Tag for the packing out part of the hunt.
I hoped that I would have the same kind of luck, and believed that I probably would.About a week before the hunt the weatherman started talking about a big winter storm that may be headed our way. The Wednesday before my hunt was to start the weather reports startedto show that we would have a huge storm for the weekend. The late season is only 9 days long, and I started to get worried about access to the top where it had been so easy to get to the goats. I broke out the 30-06 and sighted it in just in case I had to change plans.
On Saturday morning the opener of the hunt Randy and I were on our four wheelers at 5am, and were dressed for the snow. We were on top at daylight the wind was blowing, the sky was black and it was cold.
We as expected got on a goat right at light but he proved to be a little smaller than we wanted. Within less than an hour we were in a total white out and it was freezing cold. We made our way to our bikes and took the long cold very disappointing ride out.
That night on the news we herd that there were some goat hunters in trouble on the unit, they were cold and stranded and rescue units were being called in. They were able to find the hunters and get them out by morning. I tried to hunt the next day but weather kept us off the mountain. Monday at daylight we were on top again. Deep snow and a cold hard wind met us on the trail. The walk across was hard and the wind didn’t give us any relief. NO GOATS! No new Tracks,I was at a loss.
Later we decided that the snow and weather, along with all the searchers looking for the lost hunters had pushed all or most of the goats below the rim into the cliffs. The bow had long since been left home, and the spotting scope became my most valuable tool. I would be at the base of the mountain at daylight with my binoculars and scope set up. I found plenty of goats just off the top, but it would be a long hard hike from the base of the mountain to get into shooting range.
At 52 years old I wasn’t looking forward to what I had to do, but I had no choice if I wanted to fill my tag. I could pull off one try a day, because of the steep rough terrain. Randy and I found a small group of goats on Tuesday we felt we could get close enough to have a chance at a shot. We bedded them around 9 am and started our hike. After a three or four hours we found ourselves ledged up. We weren’t able to get around or through the ledges.
Wednesday we started the same way after locating some goats and bedding them we made our play. They were bedded on a shelf behind a large rock point. We knew we had to get around and above them to have a shot. We pushed ourselves as hard as we could, at least I did. Randy spent most of his time waiting for me or going ahead to spot. He has guided sheep, goat, Elk and Mule deer all of his adult life and is a hiking machine.
After we (I) finally made it to the rock outcropping we knew we needed to make it to for me to shoot, we peaked over the edge to find the only live thing there was us. The goats had slipped out when we were behind some ledges and were gone. I was physically and mentally spent. I had only 4 days left in my hunt and I was feeling the chance of filling my tag was now in real question.
Thursday Morning we spotted a group of about 12 goats under the ledges. We had bedded goats twice and twice we were unable to get the job done. We decided to start the assent to the goats right away and not wait for them to bed. We were hoping to be able to keep them in sight. The climb up was unbelievably steep and hard. I could feel the altitude, and I was beat up from the prior attempts. It was the hardest climb of my life and we were pushing to my limits.
We were able to see the goats off and on during the climb. We finally came around a ledge and we could see the goats some feeding some bedded about3/4 mile straight up a very steep loose rocky area. We were both sweating and I was already pretty much spent.
Randy leaned over to me and said now you know why they say sheep hunters are retired goat hunters. This did help lighten the moment. We decided that this may be our last chance. We had to get into range. We pushed upthe hill until I was totally exhausted and shaky. We may to have to shoot from here he said. I felt it was too far. I decided to try to get to the next point.
Randy kept them in the spotting scope while I made my way up. He caught me at the spot I thought I could shoot, No such luck. We were too far under them to see them, and I was now exhausted and didn’t know what our next move should be. Randy went (ran) up to the ridge to our left to a rock panicle. He hurried back down and told me if I could make it to there I may have a shot. I sometimes wonder why we as hunters would want to torture ourselves like this to conquer something we feel the need to. I know most hunters who have hunted the steep mountains of the west have felt this feeling. I pushed myself up to thetop of the ridge, and there they were.
They were Probably 500 yds above us, in the broken rocks and ledges. Randy had my spotting scope set up. There were two really nice goats in the bunch. I had practiced at long ranges and have made this kind of shot before. I had confidence I could make the shot. So after deciding on the best goat I set up for the shot. It was hard getting a good shooting rest on that steep of a hill. After taking several minutes to get my breathing back to normal, I leaned into my rifle and touched off a shot. Nothing! Clean miss and the goats were off up through the ledges. Probably my last chance disappeared over the ledges. I was sick! Randy decided to side hill along some ledges and look to see where they went.
He hurried back, dad they are crossing a big basin if we hurry up to that point up there we may have a chance. We hustled as fast as a spent guy can hustle to the point. We could see all of them working across the basin. I said they are too far, And even if I could make the shot we can’t get it out. Randy said if you can hit one I can get it out. I decided to try one more time. We set up the spotting scope and picked what we thought to be the best goat. At this point I was feeling the pressure of the last chance ever. Suddenly the one we wanted stopped and turned broadside on a ledge. It stood there and looked back in our direction as the rest filed over the top. It was now or never, I got a really good rest put the cross hairs where I thought they needed to be a squeezed one off.
Once more nothing, this time however Randy watching through the spotting scope and said in the cool air he had seen the vapor trail of the bullet, and that he had seen it hit the ledge about two inches high, right above the goats back. The goat headed for the top, it stopped one more time. This time I knew where I had to be. I squeezed the trigger and I saw the immediate reaction of the goat. Good shot Randy said. The goat tried to go again, but was having trouble. When it turned broadside again, I squeezed off another shot. Another hit the goat went down for good and after about a ¼ mile slide and roll it came to rest on a small rocky lip. I looked at Randy, your turn I said.
We emptied out one of our packs; he took my skinning knives some plastic bags to line the pack and was off. I was so exhausted that I could hardly stand, and there was my son working his way along the ledges to retrieve my trophy. I felt a lump in my throat, of pride in him, and for the kind of man he has turned out to be, a great father and husband. At the same time I felt relieved and blessed that he was able to be there with me. He worked his way to the goat in about 30 minutes.He let out a little whoop of approval at the sight of the goat, which made me feel good about everything being still intact. He had to roll it off the shelf and it went another 300 yds or so before it stopped rolling.
He was able to slide it to a flat spot where he snapped a few pictures before he capped it and boned it out. About an hour and a half later he was standing next to me, loaded with all the meat and the cape of a great goat. I think it is over 10 inches he said. What a feeling of joy came over me now that I knew it was ours, and realized what we had accomplished. We split up the load, loaded all our equipment and headed for the truck. Randy went ahead, I stopped and got out my cell phone and called my wife to tell her the good news.
A few hours later we were on the road headed home. What a hard hunt! I took for granted it was going to be easy because of my early scouting. I took a couple falls, hurt a knee, fell in a creek up to my arm pits, skinned up my legs and hands, and I hurt everywhere. I put some hard earned scratches in my rifle and new spotting scope. What a wonderful feeling!
Friday Morning found me resting! So this morning I sat down with my leg up and some ibuprofen in me for the knee. I realized how lucky I was to have had this opportunity. I keep replaying in my mind something I said to my wife when I called her from the rockslides and ledges that I was descending from. This is “no country for old men” I told her, and I meant it. Today I realized that I also know why this is a once in a lifetime hunt. Two would kill me!
Mountain goat bio.
Both male and female mountain goats have beards, short tails, and long black horns, 15–28 cm (5.9–11.0 in) in length, which contain yearly growth rings. They are protected from the elements by their woolly white double coats. The fine, dense wool of their undercoats is covered by an outer layer of longer, hollow hairs. Mountain goats molt in spring by rubbing against rocks and trees, with the adult billies (males) shedding their extra wool first and the pregnant nannies (females) shedding last. Their coats help them to withstand winter temperatures as low as −50 °F (−46 °C) and winds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h).
A male (billy) stands about 1 m (3.3 ft) at the shoulder to the waist and can weigh considerably more than the female (nanny) (around 30% more in some cases). Male goats also have longer horns and longer beards than females. Mountain goats can weigh between 45 and 140 kg (99 and 309 lb), though even males will often weigh less than 82 kg (181 lb). The head-and-body length can range from 120–179 cm (47–70 in), with a small tail adding 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in)