Solo Brolo Yolo
Last year I found a primo goat hunting spot. This spot however, was incredibly difficult to access. I typically hunt with a partner and especially love introducing them to species they’ve never personally harvested. Last year resulted in the hard earned harvest of two big Billy’s and two happy hunters therefore I knew that I wanted to return to this special spot this season in pursuit of my own mountain goat. Only this year, I elected to go solo. Letting go of a good hunting spot is hard to do. Being a selfless hunter is also difficult. I neglected both these things for this year’s hunt.
Every hunt becomes a story and adds perspective on life. Hunting solo provides nourishment for my soul and time to really self reflect. On this adventure I had thoughts of turning back and going home to my wife and newborn son. I contemplated what’s really important to me in life; another dead mountain goat? Time spent with my family? Producing content? I asked myself, why am I doing this? Why did I wake up at dark and pursue this wild animal in arduous terrain? Why am I clinging to the cliffs and climbing up with no support from a hunting partner? I’m still trying to answer some of these questions but I did come away with a few answers.
I’m feeding my family.
I’m feeding my soul.
I’m renewing my identity amongst God’s country.
I’m finding out what I’m really made of.
Solo hunting isn’t for everyone and after this hunt, I understand why. In my mind I had many questions I was trying to answer and decisions I was trying to make. Both in regards to the hunt and in life. The only person I had to bounce those questions off of was myself. The thought of turning back was prevalent. I kept thinking that I would have to come back down “all this stuff” with a very heavy pack. I knew there would only be one trip in and one trip out. With that in mind, I kept thinking of the possibility of failure. Failure could be an unsuccessful hunt with no harvest of goat. Failure could also be choosing the wrong route up or down, resulting in serious injury, or even fatality. Once I spotted goat, all questions and thoughts of turning back ended abruptly. I knew I could close the distance.
Making it above tree line in goat country is tough. Maneuvering through the mess of alders makes every step of the climb difficult. Mountain goats like wind swept faces where they are high above the bugs and secure in perfect escape terrain. From my past experience in this area, I had an idea of where these goats would be but I knew that getting there would not be easy. I planned out the stalk in my mind and executed that game plan when I got above tree line. Everything was going exactly as planned, no goats in sight but I knew where they would be hiding. Attempting to gain a vantage point is difficult in this country due to prominent boulder fields that can easily hide a goat. I decided to put on my “Winchester Whites” and close the distance to a flat bench below a china walled basin. The bleach white trade-show dress shirt was a little too white, I stood out on the side of the mountain like a road flare at night. I rounded a boulder field and then spotted a goat laying down on the ledge below the basin.
Goats have incredible eye sight and a great sense of smell. This goat was facing away with his back to the wind and face up toward the valley. I dropped in from above and angled toward the wind. The billy was quickly coming into shooting range. I donned the whites as a fail safe in case he spotted me. I slid down a grass chute on my rear and went from 500 yards away to 400 yards away in a hurry. Ten minutes later a bleach white nanny squirted out of nowhere, about 200 yards below me. She carefully and deliberately walked toward the gnarliest rocks she could find to serve has her escape route. Did she see me? Did she smell me? It didn’t matter at that point. The billy then stood up at 400 yards, spun around and looked directly at me. He took several steps toward the nanny, who had joined up with another goat that appeared suddenly, almost like a magic trick. They all looked directly at me like they knew I was there the whole time. I wondered how many hunters those eyes have seen. I dropped my pack and slowly unbuckled my 300WSM XPR.
I crawled to boulder as the goat took several steps and stopped to stare right at me. I rested the rifle on a rock and negotiated a prone position facing almost straight down the mountain. Curiosity of the billy got the best of him and I was able to take a shot. The 190 grain bullet hit right behind his elbow before he took several steps on the flat bench and collapsed. He was in the perfect place for recovery; a flat bench at the bottom of a large gulch. I’ve heard from many goat hunters that shooting a goat isn’t the tough part, it’s waiting for the goat to be in a recoverable location that won’t damage the animal from the fall. This billy was in the perfect place and I’m thankful for his life. What a truly magnificent animal – the “Mountain Goat.”
Breaking him down took what seemed like forever. I had to nearly flesh the cape to keep him light as possible to hike back over the mountain where I came from. One rule in goat country I find crucial – no blind descents, meaning always go down the same place you came up. That being said I had to hike up over the mountain to get back to where I started from. Deboning the billy and trimming as much fat as possible took time but more time trimming meant less weight to pack out. I arranged my pack with clothes at the bottom, meat in the middle, and the hide at the top. I strapped my rifle, sleeping bag and bivy sack on the exterior of the pack. Shouldering the nearly 200 pound pack took the breath right out of me. I hiked well into dark before I set up camp at the top of the mountain. The following morning I hiked down to my Alpacka pack raft and floated back to my ATV. I was happy to be in the home stretch.
Going on an adventure like this is a bit selfish, I must admit. I realized this upon returning and fleshing out the experience in my mind. Mountain hunting is my addiction. The adrenalin flooding through my system is the high. Summiting that mountain on my own two feet and harvesting my target animal was an immense moment for me. I am grateful for the time spent solo in the mountains. The hike was painful and pushed me to my limits which is what I was looking for. I felt my heart pounding in my chest and felt the sweat drip from my brow. I was surrounded in gorgeous scenery. I felt truly alive. As I sat on a moss covered log at the base of the mountain, I experienced that mountain epiphany, that…”yeaaah” this is why I do this. I couldn’t wait to return home to my wife and newborn son to share the story with them. I also look forward to the day where I get to share this primo spot with my son. #MAK #missionalaska
“Nowhere to climb, but he climbs.” I sit and watch in amazement as this nearly bleach white animal climbs up and over a knife ridge that seems nearly impossible for humans. Climbing harness, loads of rope, and skills I do not have would be the only way to bring him home.”
This seems like a common story amongst hunters who chase after that once in a lifetime Rocky Mountain Goat. These gifted climbers are found sparsely across the western Americas with strong holds in Coastal Canada and Southern Alaska. I’m an Alaska resident and have the opportunity to chase them unguided in my home state, although I have been fortunate enough to join other hunters in British Columbia for a different but equally dangerous goat hunt. These hunts are dangerous, no other way to describe them. On that British Columbia goat hunt, shortly after I left camp, I received a Facebook Message that one of the guides in camp had fatally fallen. A serious wake up call in my life.
This year, I took a new approach to goat hunting, a safer more mature angle. My take on hunting in general is that the whole adventure has to feel safe, be ethical, and make everyone on the hunt feels good at the end wether you harvest or not. This approach has served me well and when applied to my goat hunts this year, I found great success both personally and as a group. My Kestrel knife blade touched 5 goats this year, totaling 25 days in the field. A year of firsts for sure! Firstly my wife connected on a beautiful billy on a river hunt in South Central Alaska on a 7 year old 9.5inch Billy.
An old high school friend and football teammate took his first goat, a 12 Year old Ancient nanny in Prince William Sound from a boat hunt. Two of my friends missed goats on weekend trips there after, cleanly and unscaved the only thing hurt on those brief hunts were egos. One friend even notched his tag as he grazed the long hair off a mature Billy’s back and didn’t feel right after leaving, he did the ethical thing to do. After those adventures I took and filmed my hunting partner Brian on a 6 year old B&C 10.25 Inch Billy goat (his first) from a grueling backpack winter hunt in my sacred secret honey hole. Lastly I took a mature Billy Goat in a different portion of Prince William Sound via permit from Fish and Game for a coveted tag for a mature 6 year old 9.25 inch Billy.
After this season, I think I’m actually becoming a bit of a mountain goat. Seems I was infatuated with them this year. The meat, regardless of what anyone tells you…..In my opinion is some of the most delectable and delicious wild game meat in the state. Burger, steaks, crock pots, oven cooked, smoked on the Traeger, braised, etc. Just tasty. With a dismal moose season in the books and the majority of seasons closing locally for freezer filling animals like moose and caribou, it was time to shift into goat mode. Weekend warrior status from the end of September until the middle of November provided all sorts of mountain opportunity for these albino whookies.
Alaska’s goat populations are managed by drawing permits and registration permits, there is no over-the-counter harvest tags. Although you can register for goats online and in person at the ADFG offices. Once you finish the hunt you have to submit your hunt report regardless of successes or failures. This is how the State of Alaska and the conservation of these majestic animals works. Non-residents need a guide for these animals while residents of the state who live here year round can hunt them DIY. Easy enough to get the opportunity to hunt them, the difficult part is to take a mature billy in retrievable non-destructive terrain for both you and the goat. The first step in the battle of the billies is to firstly locate the animals in the permit area, easy enough. I go by the 90%-10% rule of terrain, I look for the gnarliest terrain 90% looks the same. The 10% percent of the gnarly terrain in wind swept country is what I look for.
Crampons, climbing axes, mountaineering boots, rope, and great glass will help you in goat country. The single most important aspect is confidence in that gear, and little to no fear of heights. You don’t want to misstep in goat terrain. Now once we located these goats the logistcally sound option is to understand if you can go up and come back down in one day, if not more gear and heavier packs are necessary…. Or you can just cowboy up and sleep in all your layers over night. Both options are tough, unless you can get up and down in one day. Well actually all options are tough.
Possibly the most difficult part of the hunt is determining the sex of the goat. ADF&G provide all sorts of information to help determine the sex of the animal, one of there tips helped me the most. “Patience is key. The longer you watch a goat the better your chances for gathering enough clues to determine its sex. Mountain goats use cliffs as escape cover much like a deer running into thick brush when they are spooked. A hasty decision to shoot may result in wounding or losing an animal because you cannot retrieve it from the bottom of a crevasse.”
There are many aspects helping you determine the sex between billies and nannies, targeting males versus females is detrimental to the sustainability to goat poplutions. ADFG encourages the take of males because female goats have long gestation period and takes them around 5 years to reach breeding maturity. Taking one nanny ripples across the entire population. That being said, shooting dry nannies is encouraged in places such as Kodiak. Generally speaking nannies live is less difficult terrain, while the billies live in the nasty cliffs that are difficult to hunt. With enough patience goats will move and find them selves generally in retrievable “safer” country. You certainly don’t want to be in a position of not being able to retrieve your hard earned trophy.
My wifes goat did the standard death jump, when she shot him in favorable terrain he decided to do one final leap for all of goat-kind. He rolled almost 1,000 feet and came to a stop, remarkable he had both horns still on his head. She wanted a should mount, the taxidermist said that would be difficult because of the “shave” marks on his muzzle. Well that only meant one thing to me, be the husband I am……I decided to go and get her a new cape for her half-shoulder mount while reducing freezer space in our home. I would tan her hide and make a rug for our new childs bedrooms, go and harvest my personal goat (since all my buddies wanted to mount theirs), and put my cape on her horns. Seemed like a win win, other than all the weekends I was spending away from home. With my “excuses” in hand, I was off for the final goat hunt of 2018.
My hunting partner and super cub pilot Brian said he would help me with my last goat hunt of the season since I had helped everyone else get theirs including his B&C giant. We made a plan after a few hour conversation with the Palmer Fish and Game Office Biologist and took off. We knew the routine and it wasn’t long before we were sweating, huffing and puffing, and marching up a mountain. Finding the flattest spot we could out of the wind, we settled in for a cold night. Waking up the next morning we glassed the knife ridge and made a game plan for the stock. The 50mph gust nearly blew us off the mountain literally, with the gusts in our favor the goats couldn’t hear us coming. Cresting the ridge we spotted a lone billy marching hard up mountain toward the 90% of unforgivable terrain. 10 minutes later we spotted another billy hunkered down with his group of Nannies.
He was mature, beautiful, and everything I wanted and more. Self filming this adventure added one more layer of complexity to the journey, I set the camera up on the tripod and readied for the shot. Getting into position with the windy conditions I knew a 400 yard shot was out of the question. We waited for the group of goats to meander towards us on the knife ridge. After a cold seemingly endless wait the target billy crested on the favorable side of the bowl with gentle retrievable country, the first shot had to anchor him or him could have done a perilous death jump to un-safe terrain. The first quartering to broke his shoulder and from the angle went through his spine dropping him instantly. He fell sliding down in the perfect position for pictures and a safe recovery. Patience was the key and I was rewarded, a happy hunter with a picture perfect end to an unforgettable goat season.
“One Round. One Rifle. One Alaska Hunting Season.” I set out with Winchester’s 300WSM XPR and Expedition Big Game Long Range across Alaska over the 2017-2018 hunting season. Moose, Sheep, Mountain Goat, Blacktail Deer, Black Bear, and Caribou all fall to this lethal combination. Alaska tested, Alaska tough. Here’s a link to my review on Winchester’s Expedition Big Game and EXBGLR ammunition. ->READ MORE
Late season mountain goat hunting is a dangerous endeavor. Wind blown knife ridges attract the hardest of critters, high risk…high reward. Why are we drawn towards risky behaviors? In some circumstances they can be healthy, well sort of. On this adventure, Austin and Brian climb towards the goal of notching a late season goat tag.
Before and after any hunt you should aways ask yourself a significant question. What’s really important? What’s the purpose of this hunt? As you become more enthralled with the legacy of hunting and the heritage that follows, you should always be cognicent of the reality of your decisions. Jordan’s first mountain goat hunt attempts to answers these personal questions and signify’s what is Important to our family.