August -C and I continued scouting for goats. By the time the season started on Aug 30, over 100 miles had been hiked, 10 miles spent on a boat, and 11 goats had been spotted. We targeted an area where we had seen the biggest billy, one of two solid goats C and his dad found in mid-August. C and I were unable to locate him on the Saturday and Sunday before the Monday opener. We carried a rifle, but opted to leave that Sunday and save our vacation days and hit it again on Labor Day weekend when our buddy J could join us. Quick history on this hunt…J, C, and I have been putting in for goats for seven years (21 apps) and we finally drew a tag. We knew we only needed one for a grand adventure.
I didn't spend time scouting for moose. They were timbered up this time of year and I knew the area well from bear hunting it several years in a row, as well as moose hunting it once. My wife got hers mid-September, but usually they don't start showing up until beginning of October. She was prego at the time so we were wanting to fill her tag sooner than later.
Both the goat and moose seasons go from end of August to well into November. C couldn't care less about fur, and the unit he picked would be impossible in many areas with any snow. Moose hunting, however, would get better later...first the rut beginning of October, then the leaves falling off later into the season.
Below are photos of two solid goats. Bottom is target billy.
September (part 1) – J, C and I hiked in nine miles to the territory of the target billy.
We found him on the Saturday afternoon of Labor Day weekend and my buddy killed him at 230 yards in his bed. I got a neat video. We camped near the kill-site and feasted on goat heart and tenderloin cooked in tinfoil with some spices I’d brought along.
We decided around the fire that the only thing that would make the hunt better is if we crested the little rise between us and the kill-site in the morning and found a pack of wolves feeding on the carcass, of which we each shoot one. The next day, we woke up and crested the hill…no wolves…dang…we started hiking out.
J had brought his bow in case we saw a good mule deer. He actually had on the way up, and he had detoured off from C and I between glassing locations, but the stalk failed. On the hike out, we saw a brood of Spruce grouse. We talked J into letting us use his bow. With J’s bow, we each got a bird. It was a new species for me, which was cool. In the process, however, we ruined two of J’s arrows and he decided we were done using his bow. There was another grouse, so I grabbed a rock and chucked it at. To everyone’s surprise (including myself) it smashed into the grouse, killing it instantly. I walked over to the bird, picked it up, and then casually walked back to my buddies, trophy in hand, as if I kill grouse with rocks all the time. (This is legal in the state we were in.) I joked with my buddies that the kill was almost on par with the goat itself, and by the time we reached C’s truck at the bottom of the mountain, my ego was so big from my Randy Johnson-style bird-killing throw, my head barely fit through the truck door.
We drove back home and slept two or three hours. Then my daughter, H and I, met up with C and headed to her moose unit for Labor Day.
September (part 2) We drove back home and slept two or three hours. Then my daughter, H and I, met up with C and headed to her moose unit for Labor Day. Her mom killed a bull there eight years prior when H was two-years-old (H was in camp with my buddy’s wife when we actually killed the bull, but H was there for the butchering and kill photos).
(8 years ago...this hunt story is in a recent Sporting Classics issue)
It is a neat area. I had a general deer tag and had bought the archery elk tag for that zone, knowing I’d be spending my September there anyway. We drove around, glassing and looking for moose, mostly, but weren’t going to pass up elk or bucks.
We commented on the abrupt change of pace. About 24 hours prior we’d woken up ten miles into the wilderness with a mountain goat to pack out on what I’d say was a fairly extreme backpacking hunt. Now we were cruising around in my truck sipping gas station coffee looking for a moose. While we prefer the tough ones because they make the best memories, we decided that there was beauty in the variety.
At 1pm my buddy glassed up a herd of elk feeding in the open (which was kind of weird for that time of year). The three of us made a stalk and closed to 60 yards, got ranged and drawn, but I couldn’t quite get a shot. H missed a coyote that we made a stalk on that moved right when she pulled the trigger. We hunted the rest of the day with no moose sightings. This wasn’t a surprise as moose hunting is generally slow in early September.
September (part 3) We continued hunting on weekends, now with out C, but with my seven-year-old daughter, K. We had no luck on moose, but another early afternoon stalk on a herd of elk that yielded a solid “almost.”
The three of us finally found a bull moose the last weekend of September about a mile from the trailhead. H, K and I made a stalk and were able to get 280 yards from the bull. H made a good shot with my 6.5cm and she was elated with her moose…as was I. By the time we packed out the bull and headed home, I realized I hadn’t eaten all day, but was not hungry. By the time we got home, my wife and her sister were able to help with packing the boned-out moose. I did the trimming, and they packed and we had the thing done by the late evening.
I felt bad throughout Sunday, kind of ached a bit, the sort of thing you’d think one would have after packing an entire moose out with the “help” of a 7 and 10-year old kid. At work on Monday, I drank a lovely peppermint tea first thing in the morning. At 10am I grabbed another teabag, but oddly couldn’t smell it…like even putting it under my nose it smelled like nothing. I grabbed another teabag and unwrapped it and couldn’t smell it either. I made the tea anyway, and tasted like nothing, even with my customary giant glob of honey stirred into it. I felt like I may have heard of this ailment.
I went right away to get tested and obviously it was COVID (when it was still a thing people cared about). I was out for the week, along with my wife and four kids who also got sick. By Friday, we all still felt pretty bad, but it is the opening of our WY antelope doe tags that my party drew (C, my wife, my dad and I).
October (part 1) We had a family meeting on Friday morning. We decided that we could feel bad at home, or feel bad hunting, so we packed up the mini van with our packs, rifle and some extra gas, and an orange army of six of us hit the road to WY. J struck first, dropping a doe that we got into our coolers as quickly as possible, and I got mine later in the evening before we headed home.
November - C and I headed to NV for my elk tag. I was looking for a mature bull that fit my definition of a nasty NV bull. We were afield four days, and had a ball. I shot an elk right before dark across a canyon but weren’t able to recover him until the next morning. Upon approaching the bull, I was very pleased with him. He was definitely nasty, with seven of his twelve tines broken to some extent. He’d had a busy rut, apparently.
Once we found the bull, immediately a weight lifted from my shoulders that I’d been carrying since May. I will never complain about having too many great tags, but the pressure I’d felt was real. I wanted my daughter to get her moose more than anything. Helping C get his goat was the culmination of literally 21 applications between he, J and I over a seven-year period to finally get a tag between us. The elk had been the last chapter, totally unexpected with NV’s bonus-squared system and only 14 points.
As we sat next to my bull, we recounted that hunt. Then we started reminiscing over our season, most of which we’d spent together. We hadn’t really thought about it, but when we started discussing other hunts in 2021, we realized that we had been together for 25 big game kills in the 2021 season that included hunts in five different states of ten different species. We weren’t the killers in all of those, and Hawaii’s unlimited quotas helped pad the stats, but with every kill we had experienced, we learned something that would help us be more effective hunters.
Besides the kills we shared together, we had been involved in several other big game kills without one another. Good hunting buddies are tough to come by, especially ones that will freeze and hike their butt off in late November to hopefully be able to pack out an elk.
Side note 1: C is a beast…an absolute quadzilla…while I was butchering, he told me he wanted to take a trip up to the ATV with some meat which was parked above us at the top of the mountain. He started putting game bags in the loadout area of his pack and then puts it on. I started looking around and realized something.
“You just put half a boned-out elk in your pack,” I said.
“Yeah its fine, I know your back has been bothering you.” Then he takes off up the mountain. By the time he gets back, I have the other half boned out and bagged, and I had just gotten the skull skinned for a euro. He then insists on taking all of the meat (the other half) while leaving me the skull and horns. Nice guy and tougher than woodpecker lips.
Side note 2: We found out it is possible to fit a 190-pound man, a 210-pound man, an entire boned out elk, two packs, a rifle, and a 6x6 elk rack on a Kawasaki Bayou 250 and travel five miles down the mountain in one trip. Thankfully, we didn’t pass anyone because whenever C and I get on that 4-wheeler, people do tend to giggle when we drive by. It is pretty small and two grown men look hilarious on that little thing.