By Peter Muennich, Founder, President on November 18, 2014 in Member's Stories
Man, Those Mountains Are Big!!
By :: Justin Shireman
Watching a luggage carousel start up always brings a sense of nervousness, but that nervousness is expounded to a greater level if you’re traveling with a rifle and the best of your camouflage collection. I had just arrived in Cranbrook, British Columbia and there was much relief once I saw my rifle case and duffel come around. I had told my wife two-years ago that I was tired of talking about it, and wanted to go after a big goat while I could, and not wait until I was 50-years-old and wish I had done it. It was now October 4th and I had been on three airplanes for around 10-hours and all I could think about was had I prepared the way I needed to? For a guy from Oklahoma, there are just not many mountains to hike and help one prepare for a hunt such as this. Sometimes you have to get creative. Had all the sit ups, running, lunges, squats, taking long walks with my boots and pack on, etc., etc., been enough? It was too late now if not.
Like many can relate to, I consider myself an avid hunter. But as a few others can relate to, what some people just cannot understand is that it is not a hobby, it truly is a way of life. It is a passion. A deep burning passion that only ones love of family and the good lord can top. I’m fortunate enough to have been several places across the lower 48 and been lucky enough to harvest plenty of whitetail, pronghorn, a few good mulies, and a couple of good elk, but this would be my first hunt that was elevated into the “dream” hunt status.
After much research, I had ended up booking through Joe Venne with Grand Slam Outfitters in Southeast British Columbia. As we traveled from Cranbrook and worked our way toward camp, it was somewhat of a surreal moment realizing that my dream hunt (to this point) was taking place. I tried to take it all in and at times felt the “tourist” coming out as it seemed I was taking pictures around every corner. Camp was pretty much what I had expected with a couple hunters cabins, a cook shack, guides cabin, tack shed, and a shower house. The plan was to leave every morning via horseback or quads and head into the woods glassing for goats. Once a prospect was found, we would start up toward them and pursue accordingly.
Finding goats was not tough as we saw some every day in this fabulous territory. I did find out that everything I’d read about field judging these animals was exactly true, it is very tough and definitely an art form that one has to develop. I’m still in awe of the country these suckers live in. All the pictures just cannot portray the true essence compared to actually seeing it.
As we were riding horseback at daylight on October 6th, I was as giddy as a young kid on Christmas morning. Watching the sunrise while entering a remote valley, one comes to realize that there are few people that will ever be able to embrace something as this. The postcard views and not knowing what the day will bring are just part of what makes a hunt such as this. We had no sooner tied up our horses when I spotted a goat up near the top through my binos. As were unpacking and getting a spotter set up, we found another one along the same ridge. Of course, it was still early in the morning and as they were feeding, they would move in and out of view. The cat & mouse game continued, but after an hour or so, we were finally able to distinguish that these two billies were absolutely worth going after. As we sat on the valley floor, watching two majestic animals in their own habitat, I couldn’t help but be a little optimistic as to how my day would end. Would it be in confidence, failure, or great triumph? Only time would tell.
Around 10:15am, the two goats had bedded down roughly 300-yards from each other. We planned our approach, shed a couple layers and took off. What I would call typical mountain hunting terrain ensued over the first hour or so. After that, we had reached what I would call a little steeper and a bit rockier terrain, but still a few trees. We were making normal progress, stopping every so often to catch our breath and maybe a swallow or two of water. But as we got about two-thirds of the way up, we were in some terrain that this Okie had never seen before. The places I’d hunted before just do not have this type of terrain. Literally, so steep that you use your hands as well as your legs to climb, but I think I was making it pretty well for a flat-lander. There does come a point when you are no longer “taking it all in”, and you are more concerned with not slipping, falling, or hurting yourself. It was about 1:30 when we reached a bit of a flat spot on a saddle. The closest goat should be only about 150-yards above us and to the right. As far as we knew, they were still there. The only problem was the look of concern on Joe’s face. I knew we couldn’t go right, and by his look, I wondered if we could go left. Would we have to go 1/3 of the way back down and take a different route? Joe went to the left while I sat down to have a sandwich. The wind was howling up there and there was cloud cover with moisture in the air that forced us to put an outside layer on. When Joe returned, he said we could make it but that it would be very tough. I remember thinking; “what was the last 30 minutes, a cakewalk?”
Sure enough, steep isn’t the word to explain it. It was nearly straight up on loose gravel & loose rocks with very few places that felt all that comfortable. After 30-minutes or so, we had to be very close to where we needed to be. As Joe peeked over a rock ridge, our closest billy was standing where we had last seen him earlier this morning. He was already up and proceeded to step over his ridge out of our sight. It was about 150 -yards and my heart just sank. I knew he hadn’t seen us and spooked and I was pretty sure he hadn’t heard us. But had he got our scent? The wind was howling and swirling through those ravines down the draw. I surely hoped that it was pure coincidence that he had just happened to get up and start his evening feeding session about the same time we had arrived.
We had to get to the ridge we had just seen him on. As we navigated the rocks and crossed a ridge that I would definitely classify as dangerous territory, another 30-minutes had passed. As we climbed the giant rocks of the ridgeline, I was elated when Joe gave me the nod that our goat was on the other side. I immediately snuck into position and was ready to go, but Joe held me off. He had to sneak down a ways to see what would happen if he rolled. When Joe came back and said not to shoot I was a little argumentative. But he’s the expert and, after all, he was right, I just didn’t want to admit to his being right. There was a cliff about 100-yards below him and if rolled to that point, we may never see him again. So the wait began..…
There were a couple of somewhat flat spots above him, and if he fed to one of those, we could pull it off. If not, who knows, I guess we shall wait and see what happens? It’s about 3:30pm at this point so we do have some daylight left and we were not in panic mode yet. The first 10-minutes of this wait were pretty nerve racking. I ran through every scenario I could in my head about what could go wrong. But after those first 10 minutes I was back in the mode of “taking it all in”. The wind had settled down a bit, but we still had to pull out some layers as our body temperatures cooled. There’s no telling how many times I asked Joe how big this goat was and if he was 100% a shooter. I think he got tired of me asking. I actually got to take a few pictures through my rifle scope as the wait drug on. I was watching a mature mountain goat less than 150-yards away, in his own habitat, the roughest of the rough. How many hunters ever get this pleasure? The big billy did eventually start to feed up a small V toward one of the plateau’s we hoped he would go to. As he fed about halfway up this particular V, we knew it was getting very close to game time. We had no idea what was on the other side or how steep it was? I wanted to anchor him on that point. At that time, Joe pointed out an old spruce log that was across this particular point. “Sure, I see it, why?” “It’s 130-yards, when he gets there, you shoot him there, if he rolls, the log will stop him.” My first thought was he and the log would just roll together down the mountain, but the more I looked at, the more I liked the idea.
“Not yet, not yet, OK, shoot him!”, were Joe’s whispering words as the muscled up goat approached the log. I knew the answer as soon as my precious 7STW barked, the first shot was money, and he went down right next to the log. I followed up with an insurance shot just to be sure and continued to watch for any movement, but I knew the old man’s story was over. His beautiful head resting on the very log we had hoped would finalize our goal. A few minutes passed as we had a chug of water and a handshake but we knew our chore was far from over. It appears that we could have quite a time just getting to him.
It took us over an hour to make the 130-yards to him. And to think, I thought the rough country was earlier in the day! We actually had to scale down a rock face, and cross a 20 foot deep ravine before climbing back up to my trophy. Joe arrived slightly ahead of me. I can still hear his words in his crazy French-Canadian accent, “What a goat! I think you got yourself a book goat my friend”. To be honest, that was the least of my worries. I just wanted my hands on such a majestic animal that I had worked my tail off for. His huge body and magnificent coat portrayed him as the king of this mountain. A quick measurement revealed 9 7/8” horns with 5” bases on this 9-year-old beast. We didn’t have much time to celebrate. It was nearly 5 o’clock and we still had quite of bit of work to do. Our picture session ended and we had to cape the monster out. Of course that’s a chore in itself in this terrain. Next came the 4 quarters and back strap. I had a quick apple and a half bottle of water as we packed up.
As we were ready to head down, Joe reminded me this is when most people get hurt or get in trouble. As exhausted as I was, we couldn’t afford to try and hurry down. We had come 4000-feet in elevation gain over several hours. It was just as steep going down and now with extra weight. Carefulness needed to be at the top of minds. We ‘cliffed out’ a couple times that forced us to go up and around which only added to the throbbing in my knees. I remember thinking several times on the way down how hard it was going to be to explain exactly what I’d done that day. Few would be able to understand what it’s like. I could only hope that all of my pictures would somehow do it justice.
It took a little over two-hours to get back to our horses. We shared a half bottle of water we found in the gear we’d left behind what seemed like an eternity ago. Riding out in the dark only added to the great story I’d be able to tell. As we arrived back at camp I bet I drank three-gallons of water! I awoke the next morning already trying to reflect on what I’d accomplished. After only three-days on my voyage and I had completed it. All the hard work had paid off in a huge way.
I hung out the next four-days ‘taking it all in’. I went out a few times with another hunter in camp and just enjoyed myself. The trip home was somewhat non-eventful except for a delayed flight on my last leg. My wife and daughters had made it fine with Daddy being gone and were anxiously awaiting the stories. Going back to work after 10-days away brought the normal questions of; “Did you get one?” And “How was it?” My assumptions had been correct that it was very hard to explain exactly what my journey entailed. A culmination of two-years worth of planning, hard work, and dedication to my passion was hard to layout in a 10-minute conversation.
I know that some of us understand……………..
About the Author:
Justin Shireman is employed in the Oil & Gas industry in Oklahoma City. His wife and their two daughters regularly enjoy the outdoors. He hunts any and all game in his home state as well as the surrounding areas. Justin regularly competes in the Precision Rifle Series which is a hobby that helps him tune his shooting skills throughout the year.