“This is going to hurt,” was not an overly pleasant thought running through my mind. I stared through the spotting scope at a goat that was too big to turn away from, and in a downright nasty spot for a stalk to boot. I watched the big billy chasing around a nanny, who was obviously in a romantic mood, and then collapsed the scope tripod. Yup, definitely had to make a try for this one!
It was the end of October 2017, in southeastern British Columbia. I had spent the last few weeks guiding goat hunters, and was definitely feeling a little exhausted from all the miles I put on the mountains. We had great success, and took some dandy goats, but now I was on the hunt for one myself. I drew a tag within a road closure area, one of my favorite types of hunts, and was stoked to be back out in the mountains once again. I got up at 3:30 AM to try and be at the trailhead by first light, and to be honest the first couple kilometers seemed to be a blur, probably because I was half sleep walking. It was about a seven kilometer hike along the valley floor until I came to a spot I wanted to glass.
There was some decent snowfall the week before, which built up surprisingly fast in the backcountry until there was about 2-3 feet of the fluffy white stuff. I pulled out my binoculars and started glassing. Ten minutes later I glassed what looked to be a lone goat right near the top of the mountain. The spotting scope revealed it to be a nanny, almost to my relief, as it was in a terrible spot! As I confirmed just how nasty a spot it was, out walked Romeo the goat, who apparently was looking for his furry Juliet. Definitely one of the biggest bodied goats I had ever seen, and his winter coat made him look all the more magnificent. As he chased his lady friend around on the cliffs, it took me all of about three seconds to convince myself to go after him, I took a quick photo of the goats through the spotting scope and it was go time!
It was about 10 AM, and on the bright side it was looking like it was going to be a gorgeous day. The unfortunate part was I wasn’t sure how to sneak up on this goat. He was situated on very stereotypical goat terrain; steep cliffs with a fairly mature stand of timber right below them. In fact, I wasn’t even sure If I’d be able to see him when I got to the base of the cliffs, let alone get a shot. It seemed to be a big gamble, but I had to try. As I started my way up a slide, I couldn’t help but notice the fresh grizzly tracks in the snow. It doesn’t matter where you are or how tough you’re feeling; bear tracks always make you keep an eye on your backtrail.
As I ventured further up the mountainside I maneuvered through several small cliffy sections, and waded in deeper and deeper snow. A couple hours later, I arrived at the edge of the timber that was close to where I had seen the goats. By this time whatever part of me wasn’t wet from snow, was soaked by sweat. Slowly I worked my way through the woods, closer and closer to the target location until all of a sudden, I caught movement directly above me about 70 yards away. As I peered through the canopy of all the fir trees, I eventually made out a goat staring down at me. Dropping to the snow I loaded my rifle and tried to find a shooting lane in case it was the billy. For about 15 cold and wet minutes of lying in the snow the goat and I stared each other down without me being able to confirm whether it was the billy or the nanny. I can only imagine what the goat was thinking. Probably along the lines of, “what the heck is that thing? Looks kinda ugly! My beard looks way better!” Eventually the goat turned around and strolled out of sight. Darn it! I worked my way around the base of the cliffs trying to spot it again and eventually came to a large opening in the timber. Just as I reached it, a giant head popped over the ledge above me and this time there was no doubt it was the big guy! I flopped down in the snow once more and my .270 boomed. Another two shots and he disappeared into the cliffs where he had originally been spotted. Half an hour later, I worked my way up to where I had seen him last and found a darn right beautiful goat in his final resting place.
As I approached the fallen animal I marveled at where he had come to rest. Not only was the view spectacular, but he was a foot away from going over an 80-foot drop into the rocks below! This was definitely a goat haven, there were tracks, scat and beds everywhere. It was truly a privilege to hang out where these goats called home. Under the sketchy conditions the photos turned out great but the skinning process was a little difficult considering that it constantly wanted to roll off the cliff edge. I took frequent breaks from processing this amazing goat to view the scenery in awe. Goats sure know how to pick out spectacular views for their bedroom.
Every step on the way down was half sliding and half falling. My pack seemed to gain more weight on the way down, probably partially to it getting soaked, and my constant loss of energy. The wet snow and steepness of the terrain made the hike down fairly treacherous, especially with the weight of the goat and all my gear on my back. After many stops to catch my breath and stretch my back into its normal shape (I was starting to feel like a human accordion), I finally made it back to the truck around 8 PM. It was at this point I realized in the excitement of the day I hadn’t had a meal for almost 12 hours! A quick stop at a local pub for some greasy take out food and karaoke (just kidding) remedied that, and I hit the highway once more. I stunk like the goat, and was soaking wet, so I figured it wouldn’t be very polite to stick around. Another three-and-a-half hours driving home, and I finished one hell of a good day!
It’s hunts like these that really show us what kind of people we really are. You don’t really know what you can put yourself through, both physically and mentally, until you push it to the max. Since that hunt, I’ve been very thankful to have been able to hunt such a majestic animal, and also have the ability to go out into the backcountry that constantly calls me home. May these opportunities be open to all for generations to come.