Congrats. I love the Frank Church. It always makes you work for it.November rolled around and it had been nearly a month since I had been to “Church” chasing goats. I got one more hall pass from my wife and left Coeur d’Alene early Wednesday morning for one last solo trip. I drove as far as the road would take me up toward Middle Fork Peak before I had to park due to the depth of the snow. I donned my pack and headed the rest of the way up. Deer and wolf tracks were scattered along my hike as I crossed into the wilderness boundary.
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Lakes, in a basin I had glassed on my second trip in, were now frozen over for their winter slumber. I sat in the sun glassing and spotted a mule deer buck chasing a doe. The air was clear and crisp and, aside from the occasional gust of wind in the trees, produced complete silence and solitude. The sun moved further to the west and I began my decent back to the truck.
On my drive back down the mountain, I stopped at a switch back to glass across the Yellowjacket drainage and where I hoped to hunt the following day. I pulled up my binoculars and “Holy Crap, a goat!” Standing on a rock outcropping on a distant ridgeline stood a lone billy. I quickly scrambled to get my gun, get a range, and then find a rest to shoot from. I laid my pack and duffle bag out to make a rest and settled in behind the gun. I worked on controlling by breathing, settled the crosshairs, and felt the trigger break clean.
At the shot I heard the bullet hit home and, as I was recovering from the recoil, watched the goat stumble over the top of the precipice and out of sight. I sat back in near disbelief and verbalized out loud, “I just shot a goat!” I quickly gathered my belongings and put my gun back in its case, I grabbed my pack and scanned through my binoculars in the direction of the goat to get my bearings before making the hike over. Suddenly a patch of white appeared from the off side of the ridge where the goat had disappeared. By its gait I could tell it was hurt and scrambled to get my rifle out and laid across my pack for a second shot. I made the mistake of taking three quick shots verses just one good follow up shot as the goat slowly walked a few yards up the ridge and out of view. Dang adrenaline!
I strapped my gun to my pack, grabbed my trekking poles, and headed up and around to get on the ridge where I last saw the goat. 20 minutes later I was able to crest the ridge above the goat and spotted him standing broadside a couple hundred yards below me. I found a tree to lean against for a rest and sent a 160 grain AccuBond on its way. I again heard the bullet hit and watched the goat jump forward and again disappear out of sight down a chute. I picked my way down the rocky ridge to where the goat had disappeared over the side. I looked down and there he was somehow bedded in the near vertical chute. He rose to his feet and began slowly climbing up and away from me.
I shouldered my rifle but didn’t dare shoot him as he would surely tumble down the chute through the rocks. He made his way up to a mostly flat rock the size of a kitchen table and I tried to put one more round in his spine to anchor him where he stood. He dropped, gave one last kick, and as if in slow motion tumbled backwards and down the steep chute. I watched helplessly as he tumbled through the rocks rolling downhill until he came to a dead stop against a large fir tree approximately 150 yards down slope.
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I was in both shock and awe. Over twenty years of dreaming of how my goat hunt would unfold and now it was over. I had just spent 12 days, over 4 different trips, in three months, under various weather conditions, mostly alone, hiking my ass off in some of the most beautiful and unforgiving country in the lower 48 looking for a Mountain goat. One, that I ironically spotted from my truck on one of the few roads that leads into “Church.” How crazy is that! Just below where my goat lay was the road that I would be driving out on. I shouldered my pack and headed back up the ridge and to my truck.
By the time I made it down to the road below where the goat was lying, it was pitch black. I opted to wait until morning before recovering it as it was going to be clear and cold that night, and I hoped to get a few pictures of it in the daylight. Early the next morning I woke, ate a pop tart, and made the 10-minute hike up through the rock slide to my goat.
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That’s right only 10 minutes from the road! Better lucky than good!
As expected, he was a bit broke up. Half of his right horn and the tip of his left were missing. A bit disappointing but nothing a little taxidermy magic can’t fix. A long face of a mature billy with wooly hair and a perfect coat. Rigor mortis had set in making it difficult to position him on the steep hillside for pictures.
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I was able to prop him up against the tree he had died against and it almost looks like I’m sitting next to my pet goat. I skinned him out and broke him down. The pack out was brief and the ol’ Stone Glacier pack functioned perfectly!
View attachment 121159 No barley pop or pale ales harmed but I did crush a celebratory fruit punch Gatorade.
“Church” did not disappoint! The experience was everything I could have hoped for and more. I was tested to my limits but renewed by my time having been spent there. I was buoyed up by friends and family along the way with their support and encouragement of my near obsession of the outdoors and wild places. Experiences that I hope never fade. This is why I go to “Church.”
When people call those things going into the Idaho wilderness a road, I’m always a little unsure. There’s always boulders and creeks in the “road”. They beat the heck out of your truck whatever they are.^This. What an awesome series of adventures and great write up. It’s pretty amazing how the goat hunt turned out, I don’t imagine there are many mountain goats taken near roads. Pretty cool. Congratulations!