Well this trip started out earlier this year when I found out I drew the Eagle River Goat hunt tag (after putting in for it for years). The planning, research,gear buying & rifle tinkering started shortly after. I had just moved from Alaska last year (I am in the Air Force) and was missing it desperately,so it looked like this was my ticket back. The summer months seemed to last forever and September could not get here fast enough. Luckily I had a buddy that still lived up there that was willing to walk in and do some scouting before my season started. After everytime talking to him and listening to every detail, my longing for the hunt grew worse.
Well September finally rolled around and I was on an airplane heading to "God's Country". My buddy picked me up at Stevens and we were heading back to the house. The next day we went to the range and shot our rifles to make the zero hadnt changed, and packed and re-packed our packs numerous times until we were both finally in agreement.We were to start the hike the following day.
After a VERY sleepless night, we were on our way to the Nature Center to start on this dream hunt.The weather was cold,wet and rainy, just like the Goats like it. We hiked until we hit Echo Bend and decided to stop for a short snack. Back on the trail we reached Icicle Creek and stopped to have lunch. While eating we were glassing the mountain sides and were spotting Goats everywhere, some low, some high,very high. My buddy had registered for the Black bear hunt so we were also keeping an eye out for them,but didnt see very many. The first day glassed alot and got to know the area quite well.
On the second day while hiking along we spotted a Billy very low on the mountain side and decided we needed to take a closer look at him.After we climbed about 2000 feet on the slickest,nastiest shale rocks anywhere we finally reached a good spotting spot. While glassing the Billy I caught movement out of the corner of my eye up the gravel shoot, low and behold it was a Black Bear. Not a monster, but a very respectable bear with a beautiful jet-black hide. After pointing this out too him, a couple shots from a 338 Win Mag and a short but very "hairy" tracking job later, the bear was down. Some time in the process I tore my knee up and it swelled to the size of a volleyball, even though it hurt like crazy I did not want to give up yet.
Day 3 was spent glassing for goats and even taking an ill-advised shot a big Billy that thankfully came up short. Trying to put up with the pain in my knee and running out of time to register the bear with F & G, we were forced to pack out the next day. The hike back to Eagle River was one of the most mind numbing painful experiences I have ever done. With ever step and slip and incline and decline I thought I was never going to make. With some encouraging words and pep-talks from my buddy, we finally made it.
While back in town, I felt I needed to go to the hospital to get my knee looked at. I was told that I had torn my Miniscus (sp?) and had severely sprained it. The doctor encouraged me not go back out, but after talking it over with my wife and family, I decided I was not going to give up yet.
I gave my knee 2 days to heel up and let the swelling subside a little. I bought a knee-brace to help limit the motion and keep some pressure on it while hiking. We left the following morning for trip #2. The trip started alot like the first- cold and wet. We actually made pretty good time for as beat up and sore as we were, and let alone the fact the I could not bend my leg at all. We took our time and didnt race out there like the last time, and as long as I had my pain killers, life was good. On the way in we ran into a threesome of Sheep hunters (a Guide & a couple we were guessing) that filled us in on a big Billy that was sitting fairly low on the mountain and somewhat stalkable (as if any Goat is REALLY stalkable). After hearing this the adrenaline starting flowing and before we realized it, we were at the base of the mountain with the Goat still bedded down.
We dropped our packs and made a game plan on how we were going to scale up the mountain with my knee brace on and not slip or fall down to what would have been a very painful and long drop. We grabbed what we needed and headed up. We picked our route very carefully allowing time for me to make it safely and quietly. It took us 3 hours to make it to a good vantage point and see if we had spooked him from his afternoon nap. He was still there so headed to the next cliff. When we reached it, it was so steep that we could not locate the Billy, so I reluctantly asked my friend to hike back down to the last place we had seen him to help point me in the right direction. While hiking back down he either spooked him or something, because the Goat had walked out to the ledge and was staring straight at me! I did not see this because I was off in la-la land, after getting my attention I looked up and saw this beautiful animal having a staring contest with me. I slowly shouldered the rifle and took a shot. I had misjudged the angle and yardage so the bullet hit right in front of him on the cliff ledge. He scooted back and tried moving to his right giving me a perfect quartering away shot and I pulled the trigger again. The 150gr Barnes MRX from my .308 hit right where I aimed and I instantly heard an excited yell from my buddy. The Billy ran up the mountain out of sight. While waiting for my friend to get back up to me, I gathered my thoughts to start the climb up after him. Shortly after he reached me, we heard rocks tumble and saw my Goat flying through the air off the side of the 400 foot cliff. He hit the ledge right in front of us bounced down to the next one and then rolled off into the trees.
After seeing this, my heart sank thinking that he had just broken off his horns and bruised most of the meat, let alone how were we supposed to recover him. After SLOWLY climbing down to se if we could locate him, we saw a patch of white in the tree line. We rushed down to him and I finally got an up-close look at my trophy. We figured out how to get him down the mountain and went from there. We finally got him down and then I got too see him in all of his glory. We measured him at 8 1/4" long with 5 1/4" bases and aged him at 9 1/2 years old. He was all I had been dreaming about for the last 7 months. After the caping and butchering, we loaded up our packs the next day for the long and slow hike out.
I would personally like to thank Grant for putting up with me, I know it couldnt have been easy, as well as his family for their hospitality. Also my loving Wife for letting me go on this once in a lifetime hunt. I hope I will be able to do it again next year after my knee surgery, but until then I can still dream.