The Storms of Life

Big Fin

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Bozeman, MT
My admiration of the beauty is disrupted as the dirty billy starts pushing a nanny through the rocks about ten yards above where I missed yesterday. He is obscured. The nanny stands there for what seems like forever. Two younger billies are at her elevation, seemingly contemplating if it is worth the risk to approach her. She approaches them. One comes forward to test her interest. Out of the rocks comes the dirty boy, scattering the younger fellas into the trees to our left. The nanny bounds uphill and he follows.

They stand broadside for a few minutes. 384 yards. Nope, not taking that one. I practice a bunch of dry fires and focus on my horizontal plane. Eventually the nanny leads them to the trees where the younger billies just flushed to. They are out of sight. More goats cross the face and follow them east.

We look to have lost our chance. There is one slanting rock face that runs through the middle of those trees. It goes down slope from NE to SW, with about a 60' face for the entire 200 yards where it interrupts the steep face of timber.

I see a couple goats emerge from the timber, right above that rock cut. I start taking ranges; 300 to 310 yards. We see white objects moving west to east. Nearly impossible to make them out in the timber with light getting lower. I get ready, just in case.

As we focus on the goats emerging from the timber, Jonathan says he sees the dirty goat. I get ready. Unknown to me, he has seen the dirty billy heading back west, across the cliff face and going the opposite direction of where these goats have emerged from the timber to our east. A few expletives as I reposition and try to get a focus on the white hump of fur extending above a rock pocket. I range it - 337 yards.

Alright, I'm ready for this. A strong feeling of de ja vu. Come on buddy. Take a couple steps west (left). He complies. We go through the pre-shot checklist. Crew confirms all is good. Dale's camera is wide right behind me. Jonathan's is tight and to my left about ten yards. Adam is on the spotter next to Jonathan marking any shots.

I breath and settle in. Nope, too much heart beat. Breath again. Better, but too much. The goat takes a few steps higher, then turns broadside, face west. I check the reticle for horizontal. Good. I remind myself to watch the impact through the scope, my best form of follow through.
 

Big Fin

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As my breathing and heart slow, I near that microsecond where I feel perfect. The gun goes off and the recoil pushes me down at this steep angle. All three of the crew report I was right over him, with perfect windage. Damn it. How the hell can this be?

Next round. I steady. Through my scope, the billy, as is often the case with high shots, seems unfazed. Breath again. Hold slightly lower, even though my dial says I should be at 340. Check reticle horizontal. Squeeze. Gun fires. Crew gives the same report, just a bit lower than the first shot. More expletives. Lots of adult language.

The billy decides to go west a few steps, putting him directly behind a tree. It gives me a minute to ask the crew just how high I am hitting. They tell me to hold at the bottom of his chest hair. With his long hair, that will put my point of aim completely off body by 10-12". These steep angles are messing with me in a big way.

A few minutes later, the billy steps from the tree, leaving one limb over his vitals. Come on buddy. Move forward a foot and I have my shot. It takes a while, but he eventually complies.

I go through the entire process. Check everything. Go to my normal point of aim, then drop to the bottom of his fur, right behind the front leg. As the recoil pushes me back from the rest, the shot feels great, but I've felt the same thing too many times the last two days. The crew says it was a perfect hit. Instead of standing around, the billy starts walking straight uphill and behind the big lone tree.

He stands there for a minute. Then, he changes direction and starts downhill and east, looking as if he wants to join the rest of the group that have emerged above the rock cut a few hundreds yards from where I first shot. Most those goats are now down into that small rock cut, some at the top looking down and a few mid-way down the face.

He crosses a flat spot in the cliff face, not stopping to provide a shot opportunity and showing no sign of a hit. He is now in the mixed trees and when I get a glimpse I see no blood, no limp, nothing. Adam assures me he is hit.

A few seconds after as he disappears into the last batch of trees he reappears next to a nanny. I have no shot. The trees in front of me are obscuring a shot that is so far right.

I have to get up and reposition about 15' to my left. I am now next to Jonathan. The billy is standing there looking down this rock face, giving me a "quartering to" shot at 310. I try to make a shooting position from the end of a dead tree, kneeling down as far as I can to get my sight picture through this tight window and this steep angle. I dial down my range and hold low again.

When I shoot, the recoil has really moved me off target thanks to this discombobulated position I had to manufacture. The crew quickly tells me he is hit again. They explain he is now sliding down that rock face, trying to control his slide. I catch a glimpse of him as he comes to rest about 1/3 the way down the face.

I move even further left where I can make him out through the trees. He is laying in a dead old snag that fell across one of these chutes. He is struggling to hold his head up. Eventually he drops his head, kicks his one back leg that is not under the tree, and that is the last of his movement.

We keep an eye on him and he isn't moving. As my adrenaline lessens, I start getting really pissed at myself. There is something about shooting at these steep angles that I have not yet learned to account for and this billy paid the price for my lack of practice and skill under such conditions. I grab my stuff and start toward the cliff face. We are losing light fast and when I am pissed at myself my natural reaction is to start hiking.

The crew stops me and forces me to give a piece to the camera. I'm in no mood for it. I feel like a complete dumbass. They insist that we need something for transition. I give a few lines to explain how it is getting dark and I am more concerned about locating this billy up in these cliffs than I am producing TV. I suspect it is the one time my crew has decided to not push the issue as we all start our trek up the face. Before we get too high, we see the headlamps of Beau and Jeremy coming from the glassing location and up the canyon bottom.

It takes some time, but we finally get to where we can see him in our headlamps. He is hung up on that dead snag. This seems rather precarious, with about a 30' drop to his east, a cliff above him and to the west, and a really steep chute we have to scramble up as we approach from the south. I worry if he or the dead tree work loose, he's coming down this chute and taking some of us with him.

We finally make it and determine the dead tree is going to hold him. We look for bullet holes and cannot find any. Maybe he died of a heart attack or just old age. We have only one safe place to sit while taking a few photos. Not what I would prefer, but such is the mess I created.

I tell everyone to get out of the way, as I am going to let him free and I will deal with what breakage happens as he rolls down to flatter ground. Dale and Adam insist they can hold his horns and scoot him down this chute in a controlled slide. I protest. They insist. So, with the other guys holding all our packs, I free him from the tree and watch as Dale and Adam engage in a true "goat rodeo" to make a controlled roll of this billy to a flatter break in the slope.

It is here where he will have to be skinned. It is all we can do to keep our footing. While I retrieve knives, game bags, and headlamps, Adam digs out more dirt and uses some flat rocks to create a narrow cut that might keep the goat from rolling further.

To do a fully body mount, this becomes a time-consuming process. Everyone is pitching in and a huge help. If I were all alone, I would have had to roll this guy down these rocks and chutes and hope for the best when he came to rest in the darkness below.

We are still looking for bullet wounds. I find one in lower neck that comes out the back of the neck, just under the spine. We conclude that was the last shot. It isn't until we start skinning when we find the first shot. A perfect low chest hit, not far behind the front shoulder, exiting much higher and just back of the opposite shoulder blade. Took out one lung completely and grazed the other. Yet, he still traveled almost 400 yards before the second shot sent him down this rock ledge. Hard to believe how tough they are. The internal damage from the first shot was complete and fatal, just not apparent.

Finally, after a few hours of work, we are done. We load the packs and Beau leads the team down the face as we relay and wait, relay and wait, making sure not to roll rocks down the face to others below. One big rock came down that Beau was able to avoid, thank God. You never know what is under the snow and is likely to break free. It seems like forever, but we are finally at the canyon bottom and nobody is hurt. Now, we have to trek a half mile down this canyon, turn south and gain 600' to the lip, where we can then sidehill to the switchback that will take us to the truck.

With the sidehilling behind us, the mood lightens and I begin to relax. We should get to the trailhead with no injuries, lest someone loses footing on the main trail downhill.

On the hike out I am in the back, listening to the chatter of a crew fulfilled in every respect. I look at the moon and its illumination of the snow-covered slopes. It strikes me how unique it is to have places like this to do these sort of things.

I can't quite explain the mixture of so many different feelings all at one time; satisfaction, awe, camaraderie, exhaustion, and the sense of accomplishment. As some say these days, "If you know, you know." For those who have been there, you know.

Thanks so much to so many who have made this possible. I am in debt to so many; too many to name here. Thank you all for your kind thoughts for me and my family.
 

rtraverdavis

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Oct 20, 2016
Messages
2,893
Location
OREGON
Hell of a story—felt like I was there for the highs, lows, lessons learned, and grateful relief—thank you for sharing it with us.
 

andrew11

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Joined
Dec 3, 2017
Messages
203
Location
Montana
Been waiting for this. Congrats again on an awesome goat and a great adventure to go along with it. Got a kick out of Foss’s comment to ya. Good stuff
 

Gerald Martin

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Joined
Jul 3, 2009
Messages
6,461
Just …. Wow!
Looking forward to seeing the grimy one mounted!
Like someone said earlier, don’t let the taxidermist talk you into bleaching the hide pure white.

I love seeing the ivory color of their hair. Once all the dirt is washed out he’s going to look amazing.
 

David658

Active member
Joined
Oct 15, 2021
Messages
148
Location
Northern NM
Your gratitude for what you get to do, and the appreciation of those that support you near and far, are why so many follow you and your exploits. Blessings!
 

reallyoldman

Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2021
Messages
32
No body said it was going to be easy......BUT...that was extreme! Very good write up, can't wait for the 12 part videos ..Ha. Good to hear Beau is up and out doing what he does so well.
 

Philthyphil

Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2020
Messages
56
Location
Montana
Amazing write up! A video can make you feel like you are there, a good write up can make you feel like you are the shooter. Thanks again. Golf clap…

Congrats, and prayers for your mom.
 
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mtnrunner260

Active member
Joined
May 26, 2015
Messages
205
Randy you deserve to be commended, for the incredible hunt and specimen of a goat of course but more so for the concern you have for others during a moment that many would be of the me me me mindset.
 

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