Caribou Gear

The Unforeseen

BeartoothFront

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
247
Location
Montana
Every year I pay my fees and throw my name in the hat just to see unsuccessful, state after state, again and again. I had become used to it and didn't hold much hope for 2021. I didn't grow up hunting and have only been building points for a few years so I knew I was playing the long game, or so I thought... When I checked MyFWP there was Mountain Goat under "Successful." I wouldn't believe it til it showed in the mail.

Well the tag eventually showed and the reality and pressure set in, I'd be hunting mountain goats in a mountain range I spent exploring as a child. I am lucky to have a friend like Isaac, who many on this forum know. He enjoys spending time in the high country of my area more than anyone I've every come across and is friends countless sheep hunters who frequent the area. We scoured over maps and gear lists during countless lunches to hammer out a plan. Due to my sentimental nature I decided to try and turn up a goat in the north end of the unit(even though the biologist warned the population to the south was much higher). Scouting trips were, unfortunately, few and far between and when I could get up visibility was limited with smoke. Fortunately sheep hunters seemed to give us new sightings what seemed like weekly. With every new report I considered switching the plan.

Having a newborn(feb 2021) the planning was essential. We'd travel for an out of state wedding in September, my wife would stay with her mother for infant help, and I'd get 2 1/2 weeks uninterrupted to hunt the wild billy goat. Isaac, @YoungGun, and I were to hike in Sept 30 to a drainage some sheep hunters told us held 2 stud billies. I drove over to the unit the day before, as I unloaded and went to organizing my gear I took a side step over my backpack. Immediately I felt shooting pain down my right leg and butt. I couldn't stand straight or sit with any comfort. My old L4-5 bulging disc was back to rear its ugly head once again. Isaac and @YoungGun even offered to carry my gear for a day hunt on the south end of the unit. "I wish, I'm having a hard time getting to the bathroom let along chasing goats." Everyone needs friends like these guys.

The next week was full of pain meds, muscle relaxers, massages, physical therapy, and books and videos of Mountain Goats. I messaged with @elkfishing about his goat hunt and back issues the year prior. He helped keep my hopes alive more than he knows. By the time any sort of relief was coming, my time was up. Another out of state wedding...
 

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BeartoothFront

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
247
Location
Montana
What else could go wrong? A step father-in-law's major cancer surgery and canceled flights. Surgery went well for him but he's now into Chemo and radiation daily.

After the canceled flight and a night in our connecting city, Minneapolis, with a worn-down wife, wild baby, and almost no baby supplies(1 diaper left, thank god the airport has some behind a desk we got the next day) we arrived back in Montana. Great, I can finally chase the goat! Think again. The baby proceeded to throw up and diarrhea for a week, right into hand, foot, and mouth for another week. By the time I could set foot back in my unit it was November 10th, confidence was slipping and moral was low.

I started with a day trip up a popular trail to see if the goats had dropped off of the plateau, nothing. A few days later, bush whacking up what some call "the elevator shaft," nothing. Drove to the south end of the unit to glass from the road, "Service transmission" and low clouds pushed my back to town quickly. Fires starting in Nov and closing roads. Whole family getting COVID tested. Everything was going wrong.

Or so I thought until my mother-in-law called me, which rarely happens. We have a great relationship just don't talk casually often. She wanted me to break the news to my wife that my wife's brother had swollen lymph nodes and was flying stateside for more tests(they live in Italy). A few days later, at 33, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. He has been very upbeat and positive since his diagnosis. He's in the best shape of his life and is taking it head on, full steam ahead. My wife would travel solo with our baby to visit him and her parents. I offered many times to forget about the goat and come with her because sometimes there are more important things than adventures in the high country. She insisted I stay and keep searching.

Isaac, Jake @YoungGun , and my schedules eventually lined up. We rented a SxS ran to the south end of the unit to drive in and glass. Contrary to many reports, we should have rented a few snowmobiles. We parked after about 2 miles on the road and started to hike in.

After about an hour Isaac reached down to to fix his gaiter. PPSSSHHHH. Why is Isaac dry heaving and what is that taste and why are my eyes burning? Crap.... Bear spray. Jake was standing in front of me and I'll always wonder how he was fine and I couldn't see for 20 min. After suffering through that we continued our search but turned up nothing but snow, rock, and ice...
 

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BeartoothFront

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
247
Location
Montana
On Nov 21, I was given a few days off of family duty. I could go help my non-resident brother find an elk, or I could try to turn up a goat. Sorry Max but I'm going goat hunting. I headed in the 22nd to try it all again and maybe this time I'd even lay eyes on a goat...maybe.

I hiked in solo to check some more basins off of the list. This was my first real mountain hunt and didn't expect to still be at it Nov 22. Well, that night I quickly found out my MSR tent's best use is summer camping/scouting. It was expected to be even colder the next night. After a cold and very windy night, I headed further up the mountains. It was slow and careful going through a big basin boulder field. I glassed basins and the plateau as I went, until I rolled a boulder that easily could have crushed anything on my body. It is amazing how things make you think twice after you have a baby. I decided I'd like to be around for Thanksgiving with my family so I headed back, packed up camp and headed out. After a few days of family time and great food I was re-energized and eager to push hard on the last weekend when I'd have help...
 

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BeartoothFront

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
247
Location
Montana
The last weekend Isaac and his friend Bryan had a few days off. The plan was for me to hit the trail a few hours early, hike 6 miles and glass cliffs where people have seen goats before. If I turned up goats we would camp there, if not we'd hike up another few hours in the dark and set up camp.

After about an hour of glassing I saw 2 white critters. One pushing the other across an open shoot. This must be a Billy rutting and pushing his nannies around. I sat for another 40 min and kept watching them as it got colder and darker until Isaac and Bryan showed up and I shared the news. The wild billy goat has finally been found. Who knew the first goat I'd see is 2 days before the season ended. I do not recommend this!

After setting up camp, having dinner, and a little fun with the local mice we headed off to bed. We woke the next day and turned up the goats close to where I had seen them before and headed up for what would turn out to be a bushwhack from hell.

After wading the river in crocks and underwear we headed into an old burn from about 10 years ago. Pine trees conveniently all the same size and 1.5 feet apart made it slow going but we pushed on. Eventually we ended up in a rock shoot trying to climb level with where we had seen them last.

We bailed out of the shoot heading diagonal towards a saddle. Out of no where Bryan's whistle made us look to our right. On top of a large rock spire stood a beast as white as snow with arching black blades out of head staring down at us. You couldn't draw a better image of a mountain goat. I quickly saw it was a billy, swung my pack off, unclipped the gun, and the perfect rock rest was to my left.

He came down to a saddle where I got one shot off with a solid rest. He bailed off the other side and no one saw any reaction. Needless to say I wasn't feeling that great and imagined a cliff on the other side of the saddle. I come through the saddle first and didn't see anything, Isaac come behind me but up hill of me.

"There he is."

Not 20 yards down the hill lay a mound of white fur. It was unimaginable but there lay my goat. We pulled him up to the saddle for a bunch of photos, caped, and quartered him. The long, dark pack out to camp began with Isaac and Sherpa Duff, as he's known in the mountains.

That night, I slept with the cape in the tent vestibule with rifle by my side. Any critter who tried to take that would be in for a hell of a fight!
 

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Schism

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 6, 2016
Messages
374
Location
ND
Talk about overcoming life's storms! Great job sticking with it and you are blessed to have some great friends to help you out along the way. Congratulations on a beautiful goat.
 

elkfishing

Active member
Joined
May 13, 2020
Messages
31
Location
Montana
Anything that comes hard is inherently more sweet than those that are easily achieved. What a great hunt in some of the best country anywhere. You did great and were highly inspirational in digging deep to achieve your successful hunt. Way to go!
 

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