A Great Goat!!!
Finding a better spot to drop off the ridge we began working our way slowly across to the next draw several hundred yards away. My heart rate quickly accelerated when we peeked over the rock bluff to see the two Billie’s grazing, completely unaware of our presence. The wind was in our face and we were in no hurry. It wasn’t difficult to determine which the whooper was and with pounding heart placed my rifle across my pack on the rocky ridge which made an excellent rest.
Chris set up the video camera, hit record and signaled I could fire when I was ready. She had ranged it at 240 yards and my rifle was zeroed in at 200 yards with a 9” drop at 300 yards. Slowly releasing my breath I squeezed the trigger. Bang!!! The goat fell on the steep slope and began to roll downhill slowly gaining momentum. I was ecstatic and a little emotional as a long time goal had just been achieved. My enthusiasm waned a little and I voiced a few choice words as the goat continued to roll and bounce down the mountain. He continued tumbling over boulders passing through juniper bushes and eventually disappeared from sight.
I met Chris Franke of Mountain Spirit Outfitters Inc. at the annual SCI Lake Superior Chapter held in Hinckley, MN April 2013. Again that year she had donated a goat hunt for the Saturday night banquet and after spending time with her decided to bid on her hunt. With excitement I won the hunt which was for September of 2014 giving me 1 ½ years to prepare myself.
September 1, 2014 finally arrived and Chris picked me up in Williams Lake where we drove to her camp, Cameron Ridge, arriving well before dark. This allowed me time to unpack and sight in my rifle once more. The next few days brought low hanging clouds and fog. We would hunt from Cameron Ridge until the weather improved in order for us to get to our hunting location. On the third day the hunting gods were on our side as the clouds finally lifted and Chris spotted two billies laying on the side of a steep grassy slope. One was a whooper.
The excitement on her face and voice was contagious and with eagerness I got my first view of a British Columbia mountain goat. With much enthusiasm we headed back to camp to prepare for the following day pursuit. The plan was simple. Drive the ATV to the end of the logging road, hike up the mountain, shoot the goat and return to the quad where we would spend the night. Simple…
That night I dreamed of big goats and easy mountains to climb until daybreak arrived. After a hardy breakfast we loaded the gear in the trailer and headed out. Driving around the corner ten minutes from camp brought us face to face with a huge grizzly bear. He quickly darted off the road and disappeared into the undergrowth. Three miles further as we rounded another corner we saw a monster bull moose trotting down the road. Chris estimated him to be close to 5o”. We continued on our way towards Ghost Lake and soon found ourselves bouncing along an old logging road. The farther we drove the worse the road became with the willows almost entirely across the road. Time to change the mode of transportation so we unloaded the quad and packed up the trailer with our supplies. It appeared to me that the trail hadn’t been used for some time as it was completely overgrown with 8-10’ willows. Ducking, dodging, cussing and crying out in pain as willows lashed across my face was the norm during the drive up. Some sections were precarious and it was a bit hairy winching the quad and trailer up the trail. Regardless of the pain and discomfort it was still much better than hiking that same distance on foot.
The end of the road finally arrived and I was very happy to see the end of the willows. We grabbed our packs travelling as light as possible. Along the way we ate huckleberries, only stopping long enough to catch our breath and pick ourselves up out of the tangle foot. (Another horrible willow type shrub which entangles your feet causing many face plants and much cussing) Breaking out of tree line we stopped for a quick bite to eat and Chris pointed out our destination was just a couple of draws over. We continued our climb towards the ridgeline as we wanted to get above the goats. The ridgeline turned out to be an expanse of about 4’ wide and Chris was almost crawling along. I was laughing as here’s my goat guide afraid of heights trying not to glance at the thousand foot drop, which fortunately was the opposite side of the goat. But instead she was concentrating and focusing on making it along the ridge. Unfortunately for her we had to turn back as we ran into a cliff which offered no way to continue. As we were looking for a safe spot to drop down we glassed across the valley and spotted a couple of white specks which turned out to be a nanny and kid. I learned that glassing for goats requires patience and one could sit for hours until a goat decides to move.
As we continued to watch the goat tumble down the mountain and disappear from sight a small fear overcame me as I figured we would have little hope of finding the horns intact let alone finding the goat. Quickly packing up we began slowly making our way down to the last spot we had seen him. After descending about 1000’ we began to question ourselves whether we may have walked past until suddenly we saw blood spatters and white hair clinging to the rocks.
Following the blood trail we dropped another 500’ and suddenly there he lay. Although he was beat up around the eyes I was especially happy to see both horns fully intact. I gazed at my goat with great elation and gave Chris a hug for fulfilling a long time dream. As it was still steep we braced the goat with rocks so he wouldn’t roll down into the valley below. As time was of the essence we quickly took pictures and began skinning. I stuffed the goat hide with head and feet intact into my pack as I was determined to carry it myself. I wasn’t sure whether my previous training prepared me for going up a 65 degree mountain with a pack full of billy, but I was prepared to give it my best shot. Chris already had a route picked out for us as we needed to climb back up to the quad. It wasn’t the same way back as there was few vegetation for handholds. I had suggested dropping into the valley below but Chris referred it as ‘Hell Valley’ as it’s covered with 30’ willows.
Off we went, me doing the crawling and clinging this time, not out of fear but of exhaustion to keep from sliding back down and ending up the same way as the goat.
It wasn’t much farther up when we exchanged our loads with Chris taking the goat and I took some of her things. It felt like I was floating for my pack now was far lighter. We continued around the mountain as there was good vegetation for handholds. It was starting to get dusk and I suggested we find a place to spend the night, however Chris was determined to get off the mountain. We continued on with the terrain getting worse with each step. One spot we came to looked especially difficult to cross. Chris went first with her pack and slipped but managed to grab a rock outcropping to prevent herself from falling farther. Because of her position she was unable to dig her rope out and all I had was a 50’ para cord. With my heart in my mouth I scrambled to get the rope out and tossed the end to her and digging my feet into the ground to hold her weight. She wrapped the rope around her wrist several times and was able to pull herself back to a spot regaining good footing. After we both took time to steady our pounding hearts it was mutually agreed we needed to find a suitable spot to spend the night on the mountain. I had enough excitement for that day!
Finding a goat was far easier than finding a flat spot on the side of a mountain. We did manage to find a ledge large enough for the two of us and our packs but it wasn’t flat. Changing into something dry was very important as our base layers were wet.
Chris managed to find a narrow spot and dug out a small depression in order to sleep. I commented that with one roll she would be a goner to which she just laughed. I decided to remain in a seated position and Chris gave me ½ a foam pad to sit on. We also each had an emergency sleeping bag. This combination kept us relatively warm throughout the night.
It was a clear night with no wind and crisp air. The stars were shining and twinkling like sparkling diamonds against the black sky. The moon was a bright sliver and I watched it slowly ascend high into the sky. Regardless of the cramps in my calves or the discomfort of a slow drip of water landing on my head all night I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this experience and adventure. Laying there with only my thoughts for company I looked back on the day and was filled with pleasure and a deep contentment. How many others could have accomplished what I had today? The wonders of the night sky, the images of the goat dropping on my first shot, the excitement and joy on Chris’s face upon finding the goat with the horns intact. It was all worth the exhaustion of the climb back up, the cramps and discomfort of sleeping on the side of the mountain. I fell asleep for a few hours with a smile on my face only to wake up shivering before sunrise. It was good to see the sky lighten in the east as this meant I would warm up and we would get off the mountain today.
As the sky began to brighten we looked at each other in wonderment as to how we had managed to climb up to the ledge. As the first rays began to crest over the peaks I began to warm up and I gazed with uneasiness at the route down and across to the ridge where yesterday we had lunch. Was it only yesterday? Expressing my anxiety of free climbing, Chris convinced me that we had the strength and ability to make it. Checking the distance with her range finder to yesterday’s lunch spot eased my worries as it was only 280 yards away as the crow flies. The only problem was we were not flying and the path to our goal was filled with some very steep rough rocky ravines.
It would be about 500 yards by the time we went up and down the draws. This flatlander from the prairie had never experienced hiking in this type of environment and all the training I did over the past 1 ½ years never compared to what we had travelled and what was still to follow. Chris pulled out her rope and taught me a few knots. It was slow going but each time I trekked the length of the rope it gave me a much more relaxed feeling. A few times she would point out the path we would be taking and most times I looked at her as if she were crazy. But it never was as bad as it looked once you began to work your way up or across.
The strength of the low growing mountain laurel was astounding and really helped a great deal. Chris also had some screw in corks for our boots which helped us dig in better while side hilling. She also wore gloves with rubber pads which enabled her to grip everything much better. I would highly recommend them.
3 ½ hours later found us back on our previous days lunch spot, relieved and exhausted. The hard part was over and although we still had a 2 ½ hour hike through dead falls and tangle foot I was actually looking forward to it! On the way down we again switched packs and I only fell about 10 times. Soon the quad was in sight and I was so ready to dump the pack and ride for a while even though it meant face slapping willows. Several hours later we reached Cameron Ridge and weighed our packs. Chris’s with the goat weighed 68lbs and my pack was 40lbs. My goat measured 9 3/4” with 6” bases. A fantastic goat!
It’s a tough job Chris chose and it astonished me how deep she reached within to carry that pack, never losing her positivity and humor as well as getting me off the mountain. Helen Keller’s quote on the bottom of her emails ‘life is a daring adventure…or nothing’ says it all. Many thanks to Chris for her encouragement, strength and tenacity during the most exciting hunt of my life!