"In North America there is one large animal that belongs almost entirely to the realm of towering rock and unmelting snow. Pressing hard against the upper limit of life's possibilities, it exists higher and steeper throughout the year than any other big beast on the continent. It is possibly the best and most complete mountaineer that ever existed on any continent. Oreamnos americanus is its scientific name. Its common name is mountain goat." -Douglas H. Chadwick
I just finished up a great season of guiding for Lonesome Dove Outfitters, which ended up with 100% success rate for the season. My brother, Eric, and friends, Fred and Jerry, had planned to meet up and do our own personal goat hunt in a registration area that opened October 7th. We spotted a lone billy on our way in, but opted to try another area due to the fact there were four of us.
Well, that area didn’t work out. We saw a ton of goats but all nannies and kids except for one billy that we made a stalk on, but he caught our wind and blew out before a ethical shot could be taken. Although it was a bummer to miss out on that goat, the vantage point we now had gave us a view of two big bodied goats two peaks over from the first goat we spotted. The plan was made to head back to base camp for the night and then bring spike up the next morning and try to get goat #1 down.
Everything seemed to be working out until we couldn’t find the goat. It had been three days, so we just figured he had moved on to another peak. The following day we were on to the next valley over. As we were about to summit we looked back to see a goat just watching us from where we were the day prior.
From where we were at, we couldn’t make a move on him so we continued on. As we peered over the peak we immediately spotted three goats on the far side of the valley, which were all billies. The problem was that they positioned themselves perfectly to where we would have to walk out in the open to approach them. As we were glassing them up, we heard a gun shot. We looked back and there was a hunter on the other peak and ended up watching the goat take a 300-foot dive off a cliff. Things didn’t seem to be going our way.
Jerry had already started to sneak around trying to see if there was a way to get to the other goats, so I headed after him. When I approached him, he had his gun up and was looking through his scope. There was a goat a couple hundred yards down the mountain just snoozing. As I glassed him up, I could tell he was a nice billy, and then made out a tip of another horn. I ran and grabbed Eric and Fred.
As we were getting into a better position, another goat appeared and then another! In total, four goats, all billies, just napping in front of us at 150-yards. We assigned everybody a goat and lined up accordingly. Eric’s goat was laying perfectly broadside so I told him to shoot first and everybody follow. Well, as you can see from the photo three were dropped right there. Fred’s goat had other plans and ran halfway down the mountain before we caught up to the wounded animal. Time to go to work!
By the time we butchered and skinned all four, there was no hope for us to get back to camp. Trying to get back with only our headlamps would be a death wish. The wind was howling and right as darkness set in the ice cold October rain started to fall. We all laid on our hides in a circle and listened to teeth chatter all night. Morning couldn’t come soon enough.
First evidence of light we were up and going. Everyone was responsible for carrying out a whole goat, which is no small feat in itself, but Fred didn’t have a pack frame and his pack was sliding and throwing him around. About 2-1/2 hours into our trek back to spike, Jerry slipped while climbing a big Boulder and smashed his face off of it, opening a gash above his eye. We had some paper towels and tape, so we just wrapped his head and kept on going. We ended up fitting spike camp on our backs as well and walked out in the darkness of night.