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HD 140 Goat Hunt done but not as I had hoped

sacountry

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Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
This is a hard one to share, but I feel like I owe it to Hunttalk to do so. Given this once in a life time hunt, I've been journaling the experience even though I'm not a journal kind of guy. Here's my entry following the hunt.

October 5th
Not the way I thought this season would start. I filled my goat tag over the weekend and I wish I could put the bullet back in the gun. I invested a lot of time and money to be properly prepared for this specific hunt and with that comes certain expectations of myself, the hunt, and of course the animal. The animal and the hunt did not disappoint, but the expectations of myself did.

On Thursday October 1st, my buddy Dan and I made our way up towards base camp on Thursday morning, then hiked up into goat country from there. To my surprise we were greeted by 3 goats on a perfect hillside between us and our glassing spot. We studied these goats for 10 minutes at 130 yards. The biggest goat was a mature goat and a trained eye would have concluded it was a nanny immediately. It took me an agonizingly long 10 minutes with the goat perfectly seated in my crosshairs to make the determination. She had one long thin horn and one that was busted off about half way up, but she also had dark circles around the bases like the glands a Billy would have. I kept thinking I need to make sure this is a billy...must make sure this is a billy. We let it go once I felt confident that it was a long horned, mature nanny. Could have been done with my hunt on the first day with a very safe, ethical shot had it been a billy. We were definitely in the right spot to harvest a goat. We proceeded to the glassing spot and saw about 15 goats in what is effectively a goat nursery.. So we confidently hiked back the 2 miles to base camp thinking we had a good chance at a billy the next day.

That night we decided to cut down on gear in order to set a spike camp closer to the goats, thus expanding the hours of hunting/day for the next 3 days. Friday morning we hiked back up. We had about 5 hours to hunt that afternoon after dropping gear for the spike camp. We glassed the nursery hard as well as the drainage to the south where our spike camp was. I think we saw about 14 goats that afternoon/evening in the nursery, two of which were solo goats from a distance with larger bodies. Figured them to be billies. We retreated to the spike camp for a beautiful fall sunset in Montana next to a high mountain spring.

On Saturday we saw about 11 of the goats we had seen the day before in the Nursery but none where alone, indicating these goats were likely all nannies and kids. All were feeding uphill with a group of 5 to a location where we could make a stalk for further review and possibly a shot. Spot and stalk hunting is a ton of fun, one of the reasons why elk hunting the Breaks is a kick in the pants. These goats were on the move so we moved quickly trying to avoid being seen, but the lead goat was on to us. We made it to within 200 yards when I put my crosshairs on the lead goat trying to determine it’s sex. It kept moving uphill to about 300 yards when I could finally determine testicles but this goat was moving. I took a fast, ill advised shot that missed completely as I saw the bullet implode on the rock band to the left of the goat. I was at a low. We hadn’t seen the solo goats from yesterday and this was Saturday which would have been an ideal time to make a harvest. We decided to push northward to the next drainage to see if we could get up on these goats again and glass that area. It was an incredibly rough and rugged drainage. Impossible to cross and dangerous to hike. As we glassed we saw 4 solo goats, none available for us to stalk. The 5 goats we saw move into the drainage were gone. This data proved a point on one of the hunting websites I’ve been using to help glean information. Nannies and kids will hang out in high country but in relatively easy terrain to move around. The billies will be nearby, maybe ½ mile to a mile, but the terrain will be much more rugged. We did see one billy that stood alone in size way up high. He was regal looking in his yellowish, offwhite hide, way up in the cliff bands. It was obvious that any shot taken in this area would be unethical because the goat would drop a couple thousand feet, turning into hamburger. Thinking that we’ve seen goats in the nursery for the last couple of days, we proceeded back to set up for an evening hunt hoping we might see those solo goats. We only saw 3 goats in a group that night, likely a nanny and two kids. Still seeing 15 goats in a day over two drainages was encouraging. Another buddy, Joe was hiking in this afternoon to participate in the rest of the hunt.

Recognizing tomorrow was Sunday and we had a long hike out, I started thinking in my mind about the following weekend and the weekend after that. I had already seen snow up in these mountains from home earlier in September. With any snow on the ground, this area would be shut down due to treacherous hiking conditions. I had sporadic cell service so I began texting buddies to see who could hunt next weekend while acknowledging that I had obligations at church next Sunday. I was hoping for a 3 day hunt, Thurs-Sat. As responses came in, my heart started sinking. I wasn’t going to be able to pull a 3 day hunt together. Who knows what the weather was going to do for the weekend after that. The weekend after that was already committed to a limited draw bull elk hunt with my step son. I dreaded the thought of not filling this tag. I also dreaded trying to hunt this district in November down low, balancing time here with the unique elk hunting opportunity and a pending sheep hunt that would kick off with the rut at the very end of October.

We awoke Sunday morning and tore down camp, moving the gear up to our glassing spot for an easier hike out later. Mentally, I was saying to myself I would shoot a young billy this morning if presented with a good shot. I had two guys with me to help. The weather was great. Juggling calendars with buddies was complicated by a myriad of things including COVID.. So this was prime time for a harvest. I was hopeful that the wind from last night would have pushed goats into the Nursery. Unfortunately, we only saw the 3 goats from the night before. We decided to hike over to the Billy drainage to see if any billies were lower. Those 3 goats we had seen from the glassing spot 45 minutes ago turned into 4 as we approached the Billy drainage. We studied them hard. I needed a billy, even a young billy. This would be the time. The biggest goat of the four was the broken horned nanny we had seen on Thursday. She had a kid locked on to her hip. The 3rd goat was clearly a young nanny and the 4th goat disappeared out of sight. We enjoyed watching them at close range for a bit, then decided to head over to the billy drainage, probably 9:30 at this point. Time was running thin given the eventual 6 hour hike out. With the huge population of Grizzlies in this area butted up to Glacier Park, no one rightfully wanted to hike out in the dark.

We glassed the Billy drainage for about 45 minutes or so. Some of the goats had moved down, but we were short on time plus any shot taken would result in that billy falling a long way. I was at another low. I didn’t have any legitimate opportunities and we needed to start our long hike out no later than noon. As we started back, we saw the 3 goats still bedded in the area that we had watched earlier. But now from this perspective we could see the 4th. All were bedded which allowed us the chance to begin evaluating the 4th. We looked at the goat for what felt like 30 minutes. Creeping up to within about 50 yards. The horns were short but held a steady curve and they looked different than the two confirmed nannies in the group. This certainly was a billy. I began evaluating the shot options. A good shot on a bedded goat would anchor it from falling from the cliff band it was on. Plus if it moved after the shot it wouldn’t go more than 40 -50 feet vs thousands of feet. I was calculating all this as I’m evaluating this opportunity. I was prepared to not take home a trophy. I was set on taking a billy no matter what, even a small, short faced one. I did not want to eat this once in a life-time tag.

I fired the shot with 90% confidence that this was a young billy….something I told myself over the course of the summer on my runs and scouting trips that I would absolutely not do. The shot hit it’s intended target. The goat did make a move to my surprise. I put another shot into it and it expired one shelf below. I had my goat. I punched my tag. It was 11:00. I was feeling a sense of accomplishment at this significant challenge, but because of that 10% of uncertainty I didn’t feel that complete elation of satisfying my goal. I needed to go check. My heart sank. It was a 4 year old nanny. Too young for her prominent hook shape to begin to appear at the top of her horns like the other nannies in this group. I just did what I knew I didn’t want to do. It wasn't easy to muster a smile for the picture. It was a long hike out with a heavy heart and a heavy pack. Lots of time to reflect. I was grateful for my wife, my true once in a life-time tag. I was grateful for friends that would tag along with me on this journey, including a long time hunting and fishing buddy that dropped what he was doing to come meet us on the trail for the pack out. I was grateful for my health to allow me to get up to this beautiful area that I would not have otherwise seen. I was amazed by God and the fall colors that had been painted before me. It's one thing to see the colors from the valley floor, it's entirely another to see them spread out like a patch work quilt from above tree line.

Continued....
 

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sacountry

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
I felt like I met the physical challenge of this hunt, but failed at the mental challenge which sucks (can’t think of a better word than that to describe the feeling). Not the start to the season I had drawn up in my mind. The next chapter of this season is about to begin. I need to get down to do some scouting in the sheep district. I need to adjust my attitude for the coming elk hunts with my step son. I need to embrace this goat hunt for all its lessons, the good and the bad, and accept that I still have a long way to go to become a stronger hunter.

One tactical takeaway to hunting goats which I found to be counter intuitive to all other hunting I've done. I didn't want to leave goats to find goats. Despite knowing that there was a decent billy on great northern, I chose to pursue this area where the goats were more concentrated. It was also an area where I knew I could move around and hunt more after climbing those thin steep spines. That was my downfall. Great Northern had two billies on it that I had seen in person as well as on other people's Facebook pages. Unfortunately Great Northern only offered an extremely limited huntable area and a limited number of goats so I elected not to make that hike this weekend. After seeing the solo goats in the billy drainage, I realized that perhaps I should have gone back up Great Northern this weekend to see the if those two billies were still lingering, and leave the Nursery as a backup. In the case of goats, I learned that it is advisable to leave goats to find goats.

October 6th

Last night in my kitchen, I sealed up my goat quarters to wet age them in my fridge. My 12 year old step daughter was eager to help. It was a sweet moment. She loves watching Mountain Men, Alone, and other outdoor adventure shows, especially when they cut a hunk of meat off the animal and eat it right there over a small fire. She wanted to be a part of the process so we cleaned and sealed the meat together. She busted out her hunting knife, we sharpened it, and she joyfully began trimming up one of the backstraps. Having processed meat with me over these last 6 years, she's pretty proficient at the process. I swapped her knife out so she could trim off the silver skin. We then cut a small chunk off a back strap, cut it into 4 bite sized pieces and quickly seared them in a pan so everyone in the family could enjoy their first taste of mountain goat. We toasted our forks as if they were glasses and each had a taste. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. That will be something I won’t soon forget, but I will also carry the regret that I shot a young nanny.
 

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npaden

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Feb 3, 2011
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3,588
Location
Lubbock, Texas
Don't beat yourself up too badly. There are a lot of people that make the same mistake. Not shooting a nanny was one of my number one goals as well, but one person making a mistake isn't the end of the world for sure. As long as most people take billies I think things should work out.

Accurately determining the sex on a mountain goat is way harder than most people realize. I watched a "billy" suddenly squat to pee on more than one occasion when I was hunting mine. It took me 8 days to find a 100% for sure billy.

Congratulations on a fine hunt and sharing it with friends and family.
 

kansasdad

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Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Messages
4,779
Location
Wichita
I love the kitchen/processing epilogue.

Thanks for the warts-and-all story. Amazing country spent with good friends and a filled tag. I imagine the stinging sensation will temper with time.
 

BAKPAKR

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Joined
May 16, 2018
Messages
502
Location
Appalachia
I have been following your journey for a goat from the beginning. You worked your tail off in pre-season scouting and you got to experience a hunt that most people on here can only dream of. The tag was for either sex so I would not beat myself up over shooting a nanny. A little confession — when I shot mine (the only goat I saw) in the adjoining area many years ago, I did not know if it was a nanny or a billy. I did know that it met the criteria I had set of being white with black horns and no kid following it.

So, congrats on a well-earned goat, and now go get yourself a ram!
 

kodiakisland

New member
Joined
Apr 29, 2020
Messages
5
It happens. I shot what I thought was a young billy last day of a hunt. He was the only goat in the drainage and was constantly in and out of brush so I couldn’t get a great look. Turned out to be a nanny. Was a small letdown, but still a great hunt. She’s on the wall next to a billy like they’re a set.
 

appaloosa

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Joined
Mar 29, 2014
Messages
150
I made the same mistake once. I was toward the end of a long, brutal week of hunting in unforgiving snow and cold. I was so mentally drained and exhausted, that I completely ignored all of the reliable indicators and talked myself into a nanny that I was convinced was a billy. It was hard at first and I shared many of the same emotions you did, but I eventually got past it and now appreciate that hunt as much as anything. Thanks for sharing your experience.
 

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sacountry

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
Don't beat yourself up too badly. There are a lot of people that make the same mistake. Not shooting a nanny was one of my number one goals as well, but one person making a mistake isn't the end of the world for sure. As long as most people take billies I think things should work out.

Accurately determining the sex on a mountain goat is way harder than most people realize. I watched a "billy" suddenly squat to pee on more than one occasion when I was hunting mine. It took me 8 days to find a 100% for sure billy.

Congratulations on a fine hunt and sharing it with friends and family.
Thanks for the reassuring words npaden
 

sacountry

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Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
Good on you for owning it. Nothing is worse than excuses. Shit happens, people mess up, we've all been there, and probably all let ourselves down from time to time. Move on, it's a long fall.
Appreciate that neffa3
 

sacountry

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
I love the kitchen/processing epilogue.

Thanks for the warts-and-all story. Amazing country spent with good friends and a filled tag. I imagine the stinging sensation will temper with time.
The kitchen time was a good salvo.
 

sacountry

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
I have been following your journey for a goat from the beginning. You worked your tail off in pre-season scouting and you got to experience a hunt that most people on here can only dream of. The tag was for either sex so I would not beat myself up over shooting a nanny. A little confession — when I shot mine (the only goat I saw) in the adjoining area many years ago, I did not know if it was a nanny or a billy. I did know that it met the criteria I had set of being white with black horns and no kid following it.

So, congrats on a well-earned goat, and now go get yourself a ram!
Really appreciate that bakpakr.
 

Dinkshooter

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 5, 2005
Messages
7,443
Location
Colorado
I shot a younger billy in AK a couple years ago. The nanny that walked by me right after made me regret it a little bit. She was bigger in both body and horn by a long stretch.
 

Jc2020

Active member
Joined
Feb 10, 2020
Messages
343
I definitely wouldn’t beat your self up over it stuff happens it’s too bad you didn’t get what you wanted but I’d still consider it a successful hunt sounds like a good experience overall and I like how you have the kids help process it I do this with my kids also congrats on getting it done
 

thusby

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Joined
Apr 2, 2019
Messages
1,052
Location
Douglas County, Wisconsin
There are so many things that factor into a shot. I can't count on one hand how many times the thrill/fatigue/mind games got me into the position of standing over a game animal I didn't expect to be standing over.
As long as you enjoy the meat and the hide that comes from that animal, then I say the experience is a great one.
 

N_8

Active member
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
48
Location
Yakutat, Alaska
It can be harder then it seems to tell them apart in the field. Goats live in a different world and few develop the kind of familiarity you get with other game species.
 

CubSlayer

Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2020
Messages
89
Dude, revel in what was clearly an amazing hunt. I'm totally jealous, warts and all. You were ethical, patient, and skilled. You made a clean kill and although it was not what you wanted, it was legal.

I love that you journaled your hunt. I do the same thing, even for my rather unremarkable bear-over-bait hunts. You'll be reliving this one for a long time.
 

6mm Remington

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 4, 2014
Messages
1,499
Location
Westen Montana
Your story was amazing and very well detailed. You should be proud of taking a beautiful animal and sharing the meat and hunt with family and friends and letting us tag along as well. Enjoy your memories and honor your goat.
 

sacountry

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
172
Location
Montana
Dude, revel in what was clearly an amazing hunt. I'm totally jealous, warts and all. You were ethical, patient, and skilled. You made a clean kill and although it was not what you wanted, it was legal.

I love that you journaled your hunt. I do the same thing, even for my rather unremarkable bear-over-bait hunts. You'll be reliving this one for a long time.
Thanks CubSlayer.
 

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