The Storms of Life

Big Fin

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15,359
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Bozeman, MT
It's been a crazy six weeks. I've spent most of it in Minnesota, except for a quick trip to New Mexico to help a sweepstakes winner shoot his first bull.

I've been waiting for the next two weeks of hunting since 2018 when I saw this billy while chasing elk. It required finally drawing the tag, which happened this year with a ton of points to do so. Having lucked out, and I mean lucky in every way, to shoot a mountain goat in 1995, I really didn't expect to ever draw again.

The 1995 experience was one of those instances where the tag holder, me, really had no business being on a challenging mountain hunt. I didn't know what I didn't know. And I was lucky to not have found myself in a bad situation. My confidence far exceeded my talent and preparation. Fortunately for me, a good friend, Scott, came along and was immense help in helping me extract a goat that I think had tired of brutal winters and decided to make himself irresistible while we were on a stalk for a similar sized billy in a much worse location. So, I was happy to oblige.

He is on my wall as a reminder. Not a reminder of an amazing experience, rather as a reminder of how green I was when it came to mountain hunting and how the storm that hammered us as we descended down to camp could have been "one of those stories" had Scott not used good discretion and suggest we hike out by headlamp rather than spend a night in this blizzard with fresh goat meat hanging around all these grizzly bears.

Back to when I saw this billy in 2018. He was far bigger than the other goats we saw. He was filthy, either with dirt or urine or both. When Karrson first asked me what was on the ridge, I couldn't tell for sure, thanks to the blowing snow. Having just passed some fresh grizzly tracks headed that way, I told him it might be a bear. I went back to tending the fire, hoping the weather would clear and an elk might be located. When the skies cleared I put the spotter back up the ridge. It wasn't a bear, rather a mountain goat who was brown and yellow from his midpoint back. And he was very large bodied as far as goats go. We saw no elk, but it surely got my mind wandering about possibly drawing this tag.

Amazingly, my moose tag was in the same unit as the goat hunt. There were three tags issued this year, one more than prior years, thanks to the continued summer survey work done by the volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance. I wondered if this billy would still be alive three years later. I also contemplated if I should go early and not risk one of the the other two tag holders taking him if he was still alive.

I had always said that if I drew another goat tag, I would risk deferring the hunt to November, knowing full well the risks that entails with November weather in Montana. If a fully body mount does justice to any animal, my eye would give that vote to a late season mountain goat in the northern latitudes. So, even with the risk that the other two tag holders might be in the same area, chasing this same goat, I decided to chase elk when season opened in early September. And I chased moose most of the later parts of September and a few days of early October. I was committed to filling this tag in November or not at all.

During my moose hunt I relocated this billy four times. The temptation to go after him was huge, but I kept thinking of my commitment to November. He was within a half mile of where we saw him in 2018. But, he was far more visible without snow and happy to graze out on open faces where you could see him at times without the aid of optics. Any other tag holder who saw him and could compare him to the smaller billies whose presence he tolerated would surely shoot him.

In late September I got word my mom has small cell lung cancer and an aggressive treatment plan was likely needed. Within a week we got the report that it was a 4cm tumor with presence in the nearby lymph node. Super bad news, given how fast small cell progresses and how hard it is to get ahead of. That news put a quick end to the moose hunting, something I planned to do for three weeks in October. Once we knew the treatment schedule and regimen, I changed plans to be in Minnesota immediately. In typical fashion for my Mom, she fussed that I shouldn't come back until I filled my moose tag. The next morning I called in a young bull and shot him within archery range. Three days later I was in Minnesota.

With my siblings, a younger sister and younger brother, a plan was put together as to how we would rotate and who would be the caregivers during this four month treatment plan. I could turn back or eat my other tags, but my siblings understand the uniqueness of a mountain goat tag, so amongst their family and work obligations we worked the calendar so that I could return to Montana for the last two weeks of goat season. I will admit that I worried that this billy would be gone by the time I could get back.

The good news is that a friend helped one of the tag holders fill his tag and it was far from this area where I have seen the dirty old boy. Another friend tells me the second tag holder filled their tag earlier on the other side of the unit. Neither of these would be anywhere close to the pocket where this old billy lives. Looks like I'm the last tag still unpunched. Unless he died between now and when I last saw him on October 4th, he should still be there. Last time he was within a mile of two groups of nannies and kids. With the rut now unfolding, I would expect he would be close to the nannies and hopefully active enough to make himself visible in the whiteness of snow-covered cliffs.

So, I fly home tomorrow, get a month of deferred business tasks done on Monday, and head in with a trail of llamas on Tuesday. That gives me the 17th-28th to find this grubby old billy and hopefully put my tag on him before coming back to Minnesota for much of December. If I don't find him, such is how it goes. If this tag goes unpunched, I am sure I will have regrets for not shooting him in September and October when he all but volunteered to come home with me.

If there is one adventure I was hoping to salvage from the craziness this season has turned into, it is this hunt. Five weeks in a low elevation/no incline location, and mostly tied down at clinics or house bound due to the compromised nature of my mom's chemo-abused immune system have done nothing for my physical condition. Oh well, no time like a goat hunt to try get back in shape.

Not quite the season I had expected when we drew some exciting tags and allocated a lot of our season planning to these hunts. But, this thing called LIFE gets in the way of the best laid plans of man.

I'll post updates here if we have coverage on the mountain. If no coverage, following this hunt I will have lots of down time to write a play-by-play and get it posted here.
 

Southern Elk

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Joined
Nov 3, 2015
Messages
3,542
Location
Montana
Good luck, Randy. I hope your mother’s treatment is effective in stopping the cancer. Prayers for her and your family.
 

huntandfly

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Apr 30, 2020
Messages
270
Location
Las Vegas, NV
Sorry to hear about your mom, I hope she can be strong in the fight and recover quickly. Praying for her health and looking forward to hearing about a goat tag filled on an old warrior
 

justdada

Active member
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Oct 5, 2005
Messages
962
Location
Colorado
Chemo is hard to describe to people who haven't been involved in it... All our prayers to your mother! I don't need to tell you how much your mom appreciates you being there with her.
I know you will make the most of your opportunity with the goat tag, the stars will align!!
 

Dsnow9

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Joined
Oct 29, 2019
Messages
1,551
Location
Colorado
Good luck! Enjoy every minute of it! My goat hunt this year was an amazing experience and waiting for it to be “my” hunt, the one I wanted, was well worth it, in the goat and experience!
 

elkduds

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Joined
Jan 22, 2016
Messages
2,569
Location
CO Springs.
One day @ a time, unless 1 hour @ a time works better. Its good to have the billy to focus on!
Sending prayers for your mother and your family.
 

EKYHunter

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Joined
Dec 13, 2020
Messages
657
Praying for your mom Randy. As a cancer/chemo survivor, I understand a little bit of what you all are going through.
 

Dave N

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Feb 20, 2013
Messages
4,620
Location
Illinois
Good luck with the hunt and hope your mom kicks that thing in the ass. We're all rooting for you and her!
 

rtraverdavis

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Joined
Oct 20, 2016
Messages
2,893
Location
OREGON
Very much respect your family-first attitude and wish your mom all the best. Good luck finding and killing that billy.
 

kansasdad

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Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Messages
5,301
Location
Wichita
It is a wonderful thing when a whole family rallies together in aid of one another.

I am thankful that your mom is being well looked after, and that your siblings and their spouses/families have helped you to get a chance at “ol’ muddy”.

I am glad that your whole crew has been able to continue to produce its customary excellent content, seemingly uninterrupted even in the face of the Boss being out of town on emergency leave status.
 

Wallydeuce

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
801
Location
NV
Most importantly, prayers for your mom.

Good luck on your hunt and thanks for the write up.
 
Yeti

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