Congrats on the goat, now you just need to get busy and get that story typed out and more pictures.
42 replies [Last post]
Wed, 2011-09-21 20:54#11
Congrats on the goat, now you
Wed, 2011-09-21 21:21#12
Wow! Great job on your goat.
Wow! Great job on your goat.
Thu, 2011-09-22 02:43#13
Congratulation on the goat
Congratulation on the goat even thou you have only given us a tease sample. You said she makes Pope and Young so you got her with the bow which is very cool. Well look forward to the photos and video. I never packed out a goat but I trust your words about it being tough just knowing where the live. Sounds like all the work and scouting paid off with a great trophy. Now let’s see the old girl!
Thu, 2011-09-22 12:19#14
Here you go boys! As I
Here you go boys! As I mentioned, she is nine inches long and makes Pope and Young. I could not be happier with how things turned out. It was amazing!
The long-horned nanny that I was stalking was still 250 yards away. Me and my buddy Joe, an Oregonian accustomed to hunting the rain forest of the Pacific Northwest, were making our final approach on the mountain goat that I had spotted three hours earlier from a mile away; and 800 vertical feet above our current position in the bottom of a cirque surrounded on three sides by steep walls and broken cliffs. I crawled up to the top of a rocky rise that we were skirting and peered over. Three nannies stood feeding not 30 yards away completely unaware of our presence. It’s only 1PM on opening day so I decide to keep pushing on towards the old nanny. Then as I slowly passed a chute leading down the opposite side of our rise, I caught yet another glimpse of snow-white hide poking out from behind a boulder. I froze and motioned for Joe to start filming. When the goat stepped out from behind the rock, I instantly knew that we would not be making it the last 200 yards to the goat we planned on taking; this hidden nanny was all that any discerning hunter could ask for and then some. I knocked an arrow, came to full-draw and rose from my kneeling position behind the edge of the chute. But this story actually began over four months ago, in my apartment in Fort Collins of all places.
I had just gotten back from one of my last lectures at CSU. I logged on to my computer to check and see if the former Colorado Division of Wildlife had posted the draw results for bighorn sheep and mountain goats, the first species every year to get announced. The CDOW webpage did not anticipate the results being posted for another four days and so I was not prepared when the column next to the words mountain goat read SUCCESSFUL. I closed the browser window and logged in again and once more, the screen read SUCCESSFUL. I had not read those words in nine years of applying for a mountain goat tag and I’m sure the neighbors three floors below me heard my shouts of joy following this unique moment. My excitement quickly turned to a feeling of unpreparedness. I had not spent nearly enough time within the area to feel confident in my chances of filling my highly sought-after tag with archery tackle. Over the following three months, I made five trips up to the spine of the Rocky Mountains. I physically looked over more than 85 percent of the unit and observed over 200 goats. By the time I returned from my last scouting trip, I felt like I knew the terrain well enough to give myself a chance.
Being unemployed and out of school occasionally has its perks. Being able to hunt all fall is one of the big ones! I planned on being able to stay in the unit all season. The week before the hunt took its toll on me. My anxiousness hit record levels and I ended up heading up four days before the season opened. I just couldn’t take it anymore and figured that the extra days in the unit would pay off once the season began. I spent the first two days in a part of the unit that I had seen a unique, one-horned nanny earlier in the summer. She never turned up again. But I did find the weather. Or maybe I should say, IT found me. The first night, I got every kind of precipitation that the sky could throw at me including rain, snow, sleet, graupel and even freezing rain. Fast moving snow squalls blew me off the top twice during the second day. I did manage to find nine goats on this side of the unit but I knew that most of the other goat hunters would be there come opening day. A bunch of rifle hunters running around making it hard for me to stalk within bow range of a group of goats did not sound appealing to me. So with two days left before the hunt, I relocated to a more remote corner of the unit.
Although I preferred this more remote area, it presented its own set of complications. For one, the bottom of the valley that I would be camping in is the border of the unit. The other side of the valley has sheep, goats and its own hunters but it was all off-limits to me. To further complicate things, my side of the valley faced north and therefore the snow had been building at a steady clip while the adjacent ridge was nearly dry. I got one whole day of scouting this new area prior to opening day. Up to this point, I had been solo, having my backpack, spotting scope and video camera as my only companions. When Joe, a friend that I have worked with on wildlife projects, and my dad finally showed up, I was happily surprised to find that they brought the sunshine with them! It had rained or snowed on me constantly since I had arrived but as soon as they pulled into camp the day before the hunt, the weather decided to cooperate. I took this as a good omen. At the head of the valley we were camped in, the unit boundary makes its way up the rocky cliffs to the top of the Continental Divide. In the last few hours of light we found 28 goats… but they were all just across the unit boundary! All we could do was hope that during the night, they would move the quarter of a mile that separated them from the unit that I had drawn a tag for.
That night was warmer than the prior ones. The wind was calmer and I finally had companions in camp… but I still didn’t sleep. The anticipation that builds over the course of applying for nearly a decade for a tag like this was more than I could bear. I was fully dressed, geared up and had eaten a quick breakfast before any hint of alpenglow shown on the peaks to the east. Keep in mind that by this point, we had not found any goats in this area of my unit. My dad volunteered to go looking up two distant drainages and fill us in on his any sightings back in camp at lunch if we hadn’t found anything to put a stalk on. By the time the first rays of sunshine danced and played atop the high peaks, Joe and I had our spotting scopes on goats… but they were the same group from the night before and had moved even further into the wrong unit.
With snow still covering all the peaks above our camp, we knew that we needed to ascend to the divide in order to access the south-facing drainages within my unit. And so without a goat to stalk, we began to climb. We hiked through creeks, willow, spruce and fir, krummholz (a German word describing the stunted, wind-blown trees making a valiant effort at hacking out a living right at treeline) and finally out into the alpine. As soon as we popped out on a bench about a mile back from the head of the cirque we were hiking towards, we dropped the packs and started glassing. I started at the head of the basin and instantly caught sight of a lone goat silhouetting itself. “We’ve got a goat!”, I proclaimed. But as soon as it had made its appearance and peered into our basin, it turned and disappeared behind the skyline. We threw are scopes back in the packs and kept moving, glassing the tops all around us constantly so as not to spook any unseen goats.
We neared the top of the basin and slowed are pace even more. We crawled to the edge and peered over. Sure enough, about one hundred yards below us, a two-year old nanny grazed on the hardy alpine forbs and graminoids that dominate the haunts of this beast the color of winter. She was out on a slope obviously out of bow range but we hoped the rest of her group was bedded in the cliffs below us. Over the next fifteen minutes we moved to different vantage points trying to see into the cliffs below. In that time we came to the conclusion that this young nanny was by herself; an odd situation since nannies of all ages are normally found in groups. Even billies stick to these groups until after their first rut when they are 2.5 years old. It was opening morning and with nine more days to find a mature goat, we decided to pass on this anti-social specimen. It was not five minutes after this decision was made that I found the group of goats that would later yield my first archery harvest.
My eyes must have been the size of my spotting scope’s objective lens when I counted 19 goats just over a mile away, but hundreds of vertical feet below us. It was an awesome sight finally seeing this many goats in my unit, especially in a remote basin with no other people (hunters, hikers or otherwise) present. They were strung out, bedded at the edge of the scree beneath the cliffs of a behemoth of a mountain. We found a chute that we could descend into the bowl while keeping out of sight of this large group of primitive ancestors of true goats. As we descended the chute, our lone, two-year old nanny decided to keep an eye on us but from much higher up on the ridge. We reached the bottom and stuck to the route that I had planned from above. We worked across the rolling basin using every glacial erratic, rise and gully to our advantage. After about thirty minutes we made it to our last terrain feature offering superior concealment. From here on, things were much more open. So we set up to the scopes to get a better look at the gang of goats bedded about 425 yards away. The goats were essentially in three sub-groups: One group of five nannies, kids and yearlings bedded about 100 yards to the west of the middle group which consisted of 9 nannies, two-year old billies and yearlings and lastly, a group of five larger billies which were picking their way through the scree in route to the cliffs to the east. We glassed these goats for over an hour and found two massive nannies that were obviously the matriarchs of the alpine cathedrals that stand cloaked in snow for the majority of the year. The first ancient nanny was in the group of five bedded further to the west and had completely shed last winter’s coat. The other, incredibly shaggy nanny prodded the two-year old billy bedded next to her and got the middle group of goats moving towards the scree, in the direction that the older billies had traversed. We decided to target the sleek nanny still bedded off to the west but to first move in on the group now moving towards the cliffs. The wind was blowing steadily in our faces when I pulled my bow off my pack and started the stalk. Joe stayed ten yards behind me filming all the while.
We had covered about 400 yards when we crept to the top of the rocky rise that I mentioned at the beginning of the story. I slowly crawled to the top of the knoll, peeked over and sure enough, three nannies fed unaware of our presence not 30 yards away. I motioned for Joe to hand me the camera and I was able to peek over the crest once more and get some footage of these three to four year old nannies. I had never harvested an animal with a bow and the fact that these goats were within archery range made it very tempting to knock an arrow and give it a go. But since this was the first day of the hunt, and I was in no hurry to end this rare pursuit, I dipped back down below the top and kept working my way toward the big, sleek nanny in the group further to the west. I had covered about 25 yards when I reached a break in the rise and laid eyes on the oldest nanny mountain goat I have ever seen. She was shaggy, she was large-bodied and she was stepping out from behind the last boulder between her and me. I came to full draw, slowly rose from my kneeling position, and guessed the range at a little over thirty yards. Since she was about 20 vertical feet below us, I accounted for the angle by holding for thirty yards. I slowly let out one last breath, steadied the bow and released the arrow. I watched the fletchings disappear right behind her shoulder. She turned around and started climbing up the chute that we were standing at the top of! She had no idea of our presence and I knocked another arrow. At 12 yards, I put one more arrow right behind her shoulder as a coup de grace. Both arrows had passed through both her lungs. She went down and lay still on the alpine flora that had nourished her since being weaned of her mother’s milk over a decade ago. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife office that did the harvest inspection had never sealed an older mountain goat and their records showed that no one had ever taken a nanny out of the same cirque. The taxidermist that I took her to had never received an older nanny. The rings on her weathered horns told the story of 13 long years in these beautifully rugged crags. This ancient nanny had no incisors left and her pre-molars and molars where nearly worn to the gums. She had climbed her first cliff before I could even legally hunt big game. I was humbled by her hardiness and by the terrain that she traversed so effortlessly.
Packing the meat and hide out of that remote drainage ranks very high on my list of most strenuous packouts. We fought for every vertical foot and paid close attention to every foot-fall because one misstep could have turned into a very serious situation. The days I spent among these creatures were some of my best and I will never forget my brief pursuit of the white beast that Doug Chadwick so eloquently describes as “being perched atop the tip top of the continent, the sentinel left by the Ice Ages to keep watch over their old domain until the time comes for the glaciers to claim it once more.”
Long live the beast.
Thu, 2011-09-22 13:52#15
Incredible photos, incredible
Incredible photos, incredible story, and incredible result! A huge congrats, that's one nice looking goat!!!
Can't believe you tackled it with archery gear too! What are you going to do for a mount?
Thu, 2011-09-22 12:56#17
Those are spectacular pictures. Cool story too, and congrats
Thu, 2011-09-22 15:00#18
Vermonster: It actually
Vermonster: It actually started nine years ago when I started applying for that darn tag but winning that bow is where the bowhunt started for sure!
I'm Euromounting her lower skull to show off what's left of those teeth. I'm brain tanning her flank hide and making moccasins or boot covers. As for the rest of her, I'm having the taxidermist create a bedded half-lifesize mount. She'll be bedded on a rock ledge that surrounds her on three sides and she'll be hanging one foot off the edge like she was when I first spotted her. Should be pretty darn neat but I need a job to pay for it... NOW!
Thu, 2011-09-22 16:12#19
How far is Walden from you?
How far is Walden from you? You are studying Biology, correct? If so, are you still in school?
Thu, 2011-09-22 17:08#20
Congratulations!!! Great story, great pictures and a great hunt. Like I said before all your scouting and determination would really pay off. I wasn't sure how the archery part would go but it's obvious you were well prepared for that as well.
Congratulations again and now that the big pressure is off you can start getting ready for your "easy" deer and antelope hunts. Good luck with those as well.