Montana 316 Mountain Goat - 2022 Mountain Adventure

buffybr

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Joined
Oct 3, 2009
Messages
940
Location
BozAngeles, MT
Don’t wait too late. Snow can come early and make it difficult to find goats.
First, congrats to samual_284 on getting your goat. Where are the pics???

Next, I obviously waited too long to reply to this thread. My advise would have been to wait until November when the goats have their full winter coats.

Along the lines of Gerald Martin's post above, I drew my first Montana goat tag back in the mid '70s in the Pintler Wilderness. Back then the odds of drawing a goat tag were 1 in 4, and I drew my tag the first year that I put in. One of my co-workers back then had grown up in Phillipsburg and told me where to go. I think that I waited until the weekend before elk season to go after my goat. There was about a foot of snow where I parked my truck. The next morning I went up over the divide and found a lone billy half way down down the other side.

Everything that I had read said that goats don't look for trouble above them, so instead of taking a 200-300 yard shot, I tried to get closer.

Wrong decision! He looked up, saw me, then bounded down that side of the mountain and up and over the other side. The snow up there on the mountain was over my knees. I was about 30 years old and in good shape then, but when I started back up the mountain I would take 10 steps, then rest for 10 breaths, all the way to the top.

The next morning I woke up to another foot of fresh snow on my truck, so I bagged that hunt. It kept snowing through the rest of the season so I ate goat tag soup that year.

Three years later, I moved to the Bozeman area, and drew another goat tag near West Yellowstone. Back then that unit was also one of the Unlimited Sheep areas so I also bought one of those tags. I started scouting in August, and into September also looking for a ram. I intentionally left my goat tag at home during my September trips.

I saw goats on all of my trips, but no sheep. Finally on the 14th of November I went looking for my goat. It was -5* F with a foot of snow when I started up the mountain. The snow was almost crotch deep when I got up to my goat. The billies have a yellowish look that time of year, and I didn't have any trouble finding them. I ended up shooting a 6 1/2 year old billy with 9 5/8" horns and very long hair.

My only regret was having him mounted as a half mount instead of a full mount. I have applied every year since then without drawing another goat tag.
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samuel_284Win

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Messages
113
Location
Bozeman, MT
Day 1 of Scouting (Aug 29) and Hike into Hunt Area

The day finally arrived after a summer of anticipation I would finally get to set foot into the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness with a mountain goat tag in my bino harness and a rifle on my pack. My summer scouting plans were foiled for various reasons, such as sickness during the four days I had reserved for scouting and family activities, but I will not dwell on that. On Monday morning I rendezvoused with my parents (Tim and Regena) in Big Timber for fuel and coffee and drove the Beartooth HWY over to Cooke City. The last time that I was on the Beartooth HWY was as a 13-year-old boy on a family vacation in 2007 all across Montana, far before anyone in my family or myself envisioned moving to this wonderful state. Needless to say, I did not take in the views and focused on my driving. I can tell you that the glances from behind the wheel were more spectacular than I could remember or appreciate. Now I will diverge into a slight rabbit hole…

Side note 1: I grew up in east TN till I moved to Nebraska to complete a Master's degree in Agriculture. The hunting that was accessible to me was whitetail deer, turkeys, and small game. My dad had been on an elk hunt in Colorado a couple of years after I was born so I slightly knew of western big game hunting but always assumed it was unattainable and/or too pricey. @Big Fin has probably heard this already but I was trying to relax after a stressful week of graduate school and I happened upon FreshTracks original seasons 1 & 2 on Amazon Prime and I began to realize that western hunting wasn’t as complicated as I had made it out to be. So a big thank you is in order Randy for showing younger Samuel the potential for enjoyment and recreation via big game hunting. So, here I am, with very few bonus points to even slightly expect to draw a Big Three tag and even more so at my age and having never drawn a limited-entry tag, deciding to check the FWP drawing results during my lunch break. To my surprise, I see “Successful” next to my goat application. For a couple of minutes, I could barely hold my phone or speak. I quickly found the 2022 goat regs to make sure my tag wasn’t just a system error or something else weird. What do you know, I drew an either-sex goat tag! I surprised my parents by telling them I needed to talk to them in a very serious manner and then dropped the bomb on them that I drew such a tag. I think they were as excited as I was.

Side note 2: my mom has never been on a backcountry hunt before. When I broke the news to her about this tag she began to apply herself in the gym, lose weight, and begin to come on elk scouting missions with dad and me. My mom got the “Grit” award for venturing into this terrain. Most women her age would be looking to hang things up and take on less stressful adventures or hobbies.

So back to the driving, I did not realize the scale of road construction that was taking place on the Beartooth Hwy so we were delayed by at least 30 minutes, probably more like a whole hour. We arrived in Cooke City to fill up the trucks and begin to drive up Daisy Pass Rd. Although I anticipated that it might take some time to drive that road up to the trailhead, I had no idea what a “goat path” that road is at some points, which added to putting us behind our desired arrival time to the trailhead. We stopped at the Daisy Pass trailhead for a few minutes to see if any goats were hanging out “close” to the road. A big negative ghost rider. About 1 mile from the parking area I spot a fellow coming down the road towards me with just a jacket and bottle of water. In my mind I am thinking, “this is crazy, what are you doing here, it’s a long walk back to Cooke City!” Come to find out this fellow (Dean) is a lucky Moose tag holder for that area and was on a day drive about the area to scout for his upcoming hunt. He had high-centered his truck near Lake Abundance and was walking out to find someone with a truck and tow strap. Lucky for him we had the needed gear to help. Come to find out Dean is a fanatic hunter and a very successful MT Unlimited sheep hunter. Neat to chat with him while I drove him back to his truck. After making short work of the stuck truck and parting ways, my parents and I finally arrived at the parking area for the Wolverine Cuttoff trail parking area on the east side of Wolverine Pass. By the time we strapped on our packs and locked up the trucks it was 5 pm on the dot. Given our delay, we still decided that we would at least get up and over the pass and find a suitable campsite for night 1 that would allow us to glass the north-facing ridge system along Wolverine Creek. On the way in we would stop for a couple of minutes to glass the mountain ledges and upper gravel slides for any goats. No goats were located on day 1. We got 2.5 miles that evening and were setting up the Seek Outside tipi at last light in a nice meadow. We found a great water source about 100 yards from camp and then proceeded to eat a Peak Refuel meal in the dark via headlamp light. That night we all slept hard.


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Smiles at the trailhead knowing the work and pain that lay ahead in the coming days.

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Views from camp on the morning of day 2 (Aug 30).
 

Firehead117

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Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
Ready to follow this one and hear how it unfolds. Kudos to Mom for the grit award!!! So awesome. Can’t wait to read more
 

MT_elk

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Joined
Oct 2, 2012
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2,831
Location
MT
Looks like a great start to a great hunt! Looking forward to following along.
 

samuel_284Win

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Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Messages
113
Location
Bozeman, MT
Day 2 of Scouting (Aug 30)

After a wonderful night's sleep in the tipi we woke at first light to a wonderful sunrise and illumination of the north-facing ridge system that we hoped to find goats on before committing to hiking spike camp further into the wilderness. Regena awoke first and was the first one on the glass that morning and was the first to spot goats on the trip. Her announcement of spotting a nanny and kid prompted Tim and me to jump out of our warm sleeping bags and dawn our clothes to come to make coffee and get behind the glass. After about 30 minutes of glassing while enjoying the morning sun I looked again at what we originally thought was just an odd white rock. However, the odd white rock moved. Wouldn’t you know it, a mature billy was laid out on a rock ledge above a small gravel slide, which positioned him near water and young green forbs emerging from the gravel. A couple of moments later we spotted a younger billy on the next ledge system above him. Spotting both of these billys radically changed our plan for the day, as we no longer necessarily needed to hike an additional 4.5 miles down and around the drainage to my original camp location.

After watching both males till they moved about 30 yards to the nearest shade behind a few trees that had scraped out a living in the rock, we decided that the best move would be to take a day hike to a finger ridge that allowed a perfect view of both billys throughout the entire day. I should mention here that Google Earth Pro and OnXmaps only tell you so much about the terrain and potential obstacles that you might encounter on a “simple scouting mission”. After crossing the creek we began the gain some elevation on our venture “just 1 mile from camp”. Little did we know that the north-facing hillside we must walk through to the finger ridge was the definition of grizzly bear heaven. Berry bushes were perfectly ripe and loaded with fruit, endless green grass patches, and patches of dark timber with run-off ditches and small avalanche chutes every 50 yards which provided perfect cover and “bedrooms” for these beasts. We did not take any pictures of the fresh beds as we were too on edge, however, the size of both the beds and the scat alerted us to the potential size of at least one bear. The Glock 20s loaded with 190-grain Buffalo Bore were kept close at hand.


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Hot and sweaty, I can finally begin to see the location of both billys that we located during our morning glassing session. Also relieved that we traversed grizzly bear paradise without an encounter.


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The upper bowl that contained the goats we are interested in on the day 2 scouting walk-about. Our elevation here is 8800 ft.

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Not a great picture but you can see the two white dots which are the billys we are interested in for the opening day. I will have to get the digiscope pics and video from Tim of the older billy to post in this story.

After making our way to the finger ridge we ate lunch and hydrated while setting up the spotter and picking apart the rock above and around these two billys. Another nanny and kid were located high up on the mountain. It was neat to watch this pair move about way up high between patches of green forage and finally find an impressive ledge to bed down for the day. As soon as the sun began to cast a shadow on the ledge system both billys were on during the morning hours both of the billys began to walk back out to their ledges for the afternoon/evening. We spent a few hours studying topography below while keeping tabs on the goats to plan an approach for opening day. The older billy was located in a shootable position that would provide a ~ 200-yard shot. If the billy got anchored on his rock ledge by a 180-grain bullet out of my .300 Win Mag we would still be able to retrieve him. If he rolled off the ledge, the fall would be small and we would be stopped by some trees below after a short roll across a gravel patch.

We soon made our we down off the finger ridge, scouting for a somewhat easy approach for opening day to get into shooting position. There is no easy approach to goat hunting in this terrain. We dropped 800 vertical feet, traversing endless deadfall in the process, to meet back up with the main creek and trail. Before making our way back to camp, we hydrated again at the creek, shot back a couple of electrolyte packets, had a snack, and tightened up the boots.


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An example of the endless deadfall that we traversed on our way down off the finger ridge we glassed from on day 2.

We made it back to camp at last light and enjoyed another gourmet Peak Refuel meal or poor-mans pad-Thai (Beef ramen with a Justin’s PB packet, absolutely delicious if I might say so). An airplane bottle of Wild Turkey was cracked open after dinner before calling it a night by Tim and me in our excitement that huntable billys were in our drainage. Game on!

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samuel_284Win

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Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Messages
113
Location
Bozeman, MT
Day 3 of Scouting (Aug 31)

After another restful night in the tipi, we awoke to watch the two billys from day 2 to determine if they would follow their same pattern from the day prior.

Side note: I sleep much better in my sleeping bag in the dirt than I do in my bed at home so every night in the tipi is enjoyed.

The billys followed their pattern from day 2, which was encouraging to us. After watching both billys return to their usual mid-day shade about 30-40 yards from their rock ledge hangout, which they moved to for a couple of hours during mid-day, we decided that the best decision would be to find a suitable spot in this sea of blowdown to hang meat and rest for the remainder of the day. After finding a prime spot over a small creek to hang meat we ventured down to the primary stream/creek in the drainage to wash clothes (as we completely sweated up every inch of our pants and base layers during our day 2 scouting hike), hydrate, rest, nap, and just hang out in the natural air conditioning. The rest was enjoyed by all and we made the 1 mile walk back up to camp during the last hour of light. A day well spent by the water before the opening day as we discussed our movement to contact for the morning of Sept 1 on the two billys we located on day 2.

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samuel_284Win

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Messages
113
Location
Bozeman, MT
Day 1 of Hunting, Day 4 of Trip (Sept 1)

We woke hopeful to make a careful and calculated on the two billys that we had watched for the past two days. When we were able to see after first light the two billys were not visible on their rock ledge as they had done the past two days. We made some coffee and continued to glass and make our way through our breakfast bars. Regena noticed a new nanny and kid pair directly across from camp on the north-facing ridge system, the same ridge system the two billys were on but about 1.5 miles down the ridge system from this new nanny and kid. A couple of minutes later I pan my binos right about 100 yards away from the nanny and kid and what do I see, both of the billys we have been watching the last two days!!!

The billys are happy and there is a reason they are there. The most we can make out is that there is a water seep or mineral lick in this specific avalanche chute that they like. To our disadvantage though, all four of these goats are in a spot on the ridge that might as well be on the moon. The four goats slowly worked their way up and up and up the chute until both billys followed the nanny/kid to the top and dropped over the other side. Dammit! Now there are not any billys on this side of the ridge system that we know about.


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The goats slowly moved up the crease to the left of where this goat is.


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Now it is decision time. We walk over to some shade next to our water source by the camp to contemplate the destruction of our perfectly planned opening-day hopes. We could stay here and hope that both billys return to our drainage or we could hike back up to Wolverine pass and make our way into Lost Creek (which is where the four goats went). We decided that to maximize our trip that we would pack up camp 1 and move all our gear to Wolverine Pass. Even though the pack up to the pass was not that long, it sure was depressing after spending two full days sitting on two billys till opening day, only to have our hopes dashed.


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The walk of despair

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We arrived at Wolverine pass and found a suitable campsite for the night to set up the floorless tipi. After noticing multiple items of redundancy that each of us carried in our packs, we decided to strip certain items out of our packs to lighten up our kits (which we were sure glad we did). We spent the last two hours of legal shooting light glassing the Miller Mtn / Wolverine Mtn north slopes to see if by chance there were some “easier” goats we could go after before committing to dropping into Lost Creek. Sadly, no “easy” goats were found. We returned to camp and had another choice of Peak Refuel meal before retiring to the tipi to get some rest.

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Camp 2 up on Wolverine Pass
 
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