Yeti

A Holiday weekend in Montana's Mountain Goat Country

Rat Fink

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2010
Messages
716
Location
Helena, MT
A couple years ago my wife drew this same Mountain Goat tag, but being 5 months pregnant at the time when we attempted her hunt, things just didn't work out for her. So when I drew the tag this year she staked claim to being my main hunting partner and had to be there for the action.

I started scouting the first weekend in August and only took one weekend off during that time. I saw goats in every corner of the unit I checked, but I didn't go beyond what I thought was a reasonable distance to backpack hunt. The scouting was intense with some beautiful scenery and wonderful days and nights spent in alpine country. Plenty of goats were spotted. I even took the entire family on the first scouting trip. It was on that trip my 3 year old son figured out that daddy was going to be hunting a "white fluffy goat". He was super excited for me and loved the 4 wheeler ride up into goat country and looking at them in the spotting scope and binoculars.

On the last scouting trip of August, two days before my unit opened, I found a gift of a goat. It was the biggest Billy I had seen so far and he was hanging out just a few hundred yards above the jeep trail in an easy to get to spot. But had anyone else noticed him in the last few weeks? It was not the first time I had seen him here. I couldn’t take the risk and had to hunt him opening morning at daylight. I arrived home Sunday night around 2 am, went to work all day and loaded back up and made it to the trailhead at 1 am. My buddy joined me on this trip to help me out. We slept out under the stars until 5 am and headed in on the wheelers on the old jeep trail. We were glassing the mountain face at daylight and there was no one else around. We never saw anyone all day which made for a nice “bonus” day of hunting. We never saw the billy I was after, but we saw a bunch of fresh grizzly sign and some goats spotted off in the distance in the area I was planning on backpack hunting on the first weekend of the season.
 

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Rat Fink

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2010
Messages
716
Location
Helena, MT
A Holiday weekend in Montana's Mountain Goat Country, cont.

On the first Saturday of September my wife and I made the 3 hour drive to the trailhead and arrived shortly after daylight. We chugged our Gatorades and strapped on the packs for the 5 mile hike in to camp. We started seeing goats immediately once we had good views of the alpine basin we would be camping in. We made it to the campsite, pitched the tent, set everything up, and gathered the necessary gear for climbing up and over the top into my unit.

Once we crested the ridgeline it was obvious I had made the right choice in where to do this backpack hunt. Within the first 20 minutes we had spotted over 40 goats, some in my unit and some in the adjacent unit. My wife couldn’t believe it and wished we had attempted to get her up there when she had the tag. We started spotting and marking locations where there were single goats that looked to be billies for the next day’s hunt. In the mean time we had a few nannies and kids moving around at close range which was fun to see. As it started to get dark we descended back down to camp and I had a good feeling about the next day.

Saturday night was really cold so we took our time getting up on Sunday morning, finally rolling out of the tent at 9 am and warming ourselves in the sun and with some hot oatmeal and tea. We headed back up the pass and once again we were immediately rewarded with large numbers of goats in view. We spent most of the day traversing the ridge tops trying to get views into basins that I had not checked the previous day. Some spots came up empty and the farther south we went to more goats we would see. I was also watching a herd of nannies and kids in the other unit that were feeding in a direction that would put them into my unit at some point in time. By late in the day we had put a nice billy to bed in a cliff and the plan was to go after him in the morning. So we headed back to the saddle to glass until dark before descending to camp. We crossed the steep face and made it back to the saddle where we sat glassing and closely watching the herd of nannies and kids, which also had a few billies in it. The herd had moved far enough that they were now comfortably in my district. As we watched them continue to get closer, I spotted a lone goat cresting the peak above them and start to make his way down to the herd. He was a really nice billy and it pushed me into a on the fly game plan. I hoped he would stay high and keep coming across the top of the basin, which would lead him right to me. He didn’t do that, instead he dropped into the basin and joined the herd of roughly 15 goats. There was a nice billy already with the herd so when the newcomer joined them there was some very interesting posturing, and actions from the two big billies. It was at that time I decided to close the gap and shoot either of the two as they were similar in size and maturity.
 

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Rat Fink

Member
Joined
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Messages
716
Location
Helena, MT
A Holiday weekend in Montana's Mountain Goat Country, cont.

I started to scramble down the slope and close the distance. The winds were swirling a bit and I think some of my scent was blown down to the goats as they started getting nervous and some ran back towards the cliffs in the other district. But the billies stayed, so I kept moving. I eventually found myself prone with a steady rest on a boulder with my Tikka 7mm-08 Superlight, waiting for the billies to feed out of the washout they were in. It took just a few minutes before I started to see a white body partially appear from the rocks. As it slowly climbed out of the washout, I visually recognized it as a billy and knew that as soon as I had a clear shot I would take it. I was hoping my wife who was back at the saddle would be enjoying her role of filming, as the stalk was about to culminate with a punched tag. The billy gave me a completely open shot at 161 yards and at no time did I question my decision. The Tikka barked and the goat pancaked, he scrambled back to his feet and stood on a large flat rock. He was wobbling and looked like he was going to go down again but I wasn’t going to take any chances and put a 2nd round in him which tumbled him down the embankment and out of my view.

It was over; there was a dead goat with my tag about to be on it. I walked over and about halfway there I saw one of the bigger billies come out of the washout and look at me before running off. No problem that was the “other” goat. About 30 yards out from the washout another big billy came out of the washout, looked at me and ran off. Now I freaked out wondering what the hell just happened. I look over and see a nanny and two kids standing on the rocks looking at the dead goat laying in the washout. I am instantly convinced I just accidentally shot a nanny and orphaned her kid. I got to about 10 yards away and the two kids and nanny run off, leaving me to peer over the edge at the dead nanny I was sure was laying there. Sure enough a big white dead goat was laying in the washout, and it wasn’t one of the big billies I had been after.

My wife was working her way to me with the packs so I could start the process of skinning and boning the meat out. She made it to me right at dark about half an hour after the shot. She was so excited. I told her it shouldn’t take too much work as I had just royally screwed up and shot a nanny. She couldn’t believe it, and I was beside myself. I grabbed my knife and was ready to start skinning. Lucky for me the goat dropped onto a nice flat spot with a little water spring off to one side for easy cleanup. That was my consolation prize in this SNAFU. I bent down to grab a hind leg and start skinning, I lift the leg and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a set of fuzzy dice staring me in the face. Never in my life had I been so happy to see a set of balls. I finally put it all together, I had indeed killed a billy, just not one of the two big guys, it was a third unseen billy that had been hanging in the washout after the other goats had run off. The billy I wanted was below him below the rocks and I couldn't see him. I literally shot right over the back of the billy I was after, to kill this billy. He was a bit younger than I wanted but still a decent billy with just over 8 inch horns and a respectable hide for this time of year. It was that hide that fooled me because I am not really one to try and reassess size of a critter once I decide to shoot. So with a few hugs and a few poor pictures taken I finally got to skin my billy. We boned out the meat and I loaded my pack with the entire load. It was heavy, seriously heavy, and it took me from 11:30 pm until 1:00 am to get back to the saddle. We finally descended to camp and were getting to bed just after 2 am.

Once again we slept until 9 am, had a hot breakfast and proceeded to pack up camp. I went and retrieved all of the meat from some trees and we loaded our packs down for the 5 mile hike out to the truck. My wife took as much as her Kelty pack could handle, and I loaded my ILBE down with all of the meat, hide, and whatever was left. It took us four hours to hike out and it was damn tough even with it being mostly downhill, but we got it done together and we brought the “white fluffy goat” home for our sons to see and put their hands on.
 

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JBS

Active member
Joined
Feb 24, 2011
Messages
218
Location
Helena
Sounds like a good hunt and a nice goat Congratulations. Nice write up.
Goats are really difficult for me to judge and tell apart. I shot a goat 19 years ago that disappeared in a wash. A minute later 2 billies that looked just like him appeared that I had no idea where there. I frantically tried to figure out which of the two was the one I had hit. They went out of sight and I was surprised to see my billy laying dead in the wash.
 

Randy11

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 12, 2009
Messages
6,109
Fantastic! Very cool that your wife tagged along. Mine's a great hunting partner, but she was a no-go on my goat tag.

Unbelievable memories you two will share from this, I'm sure.
 

havgunwilltravel

Active member
Joined
Aug 9, 2012
Messages
1,111
Location
Australia
Great hunt, and a good effort with the wife getting up there. You will have memories for a long time following that back trip I'm sure. Well done.
 

mtmiller

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 7, 2001
Messages
10,376
Location
Montana
Amazing country, thanks for the reminder. I am back in the game next year, but guessing my MT goat hunting is probably over. Nothing like a goat hunt.
 

Oak

Expert
Joined
Dec 23, 2000
Messages
13,587
Location
Colorado
Congrats on the goat. As stated, that is amazing country. The geology looks similar to some of the stuff down south of me, where T Bone hunts grouse. But I'm no geologist....
 

MT_elk

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 2, 2012
Messages
2,684
Location
MT
Congratulations on a great hunt. Sorry you didn't get the Billy you were after, but a great Billy nevertheless.
 

elkrchr

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 26, 2010
Messages
1,139
Location
Three Forks, MT
Way to get it done and involve the family throughout the scouting/hunting process! Great memories were made.
 
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