Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dad's Old, Crazy Goat

It was nearly 10 years to the date that found Dad and I headed up the same trail in the Crazy Mountains of central Montana.  We had found success on that earlier hunt and I was able to claim a decent billy on the second day of our hunt.  Due to my recent work schedule and other obligations, we were unable to do any high-altitude scouting this summer.  While we both had done a good deal of training to get in shape, we were not sure what to expect from the Crazies a decade later.
We had only been hiking for 90 minutes when Dad spotted an obvious white spot that looked out of place against the granite backdrop.  While there was some snow remaining above the timberline, this wasn't snow.  After setting up the spotting scope, it was confirmed; it was definitely a goat and appeared to be a big, solitary billy. It's coat was slightly off-color and it was alone. Most of the nannys would have a kid still with them.  The goat was roughly 1,500 feet above us and we would ideally would like to get above him.  Complicating things even more is the land ownership arrangement in the Crazies. Within the confines of the national forest boundary, were checkerboard private and public sections.
After finalizing our game plan, we started the long climb.  We weren't sure if other hunters would spot the same goat or if the goat had a second perch that he would move to once the sun would hit him directly.  All we could do was hope that he would be patient while we sneaked uphill.  The game plan was good and bad, as were able to stay on public land and remain out of sight of our goat.  Unfortunately, we had to pick our way through large boulders and some loose talus that made it nearly impossible to hike discreetly. Finally, it was getting so noisy and precarious that I took both of our packs and decided to drop back and let Dad finish the sneak on his own. One hunter making noise was much better than two.  We figured we were already at the goat's elevation and we only needed to go another 100 yards to be comfortably above the animal.
I had only been sitting about ten minutes when I heard one muffled shot.  It sounded like a shot that hit its target.  And hearing one shot is always a sign.  Two or three reports put doubt into one's mind.  I grabbed the packs and caught up with Dad.  He gave me the nod that the hunting part of the hunt was complete. The mood was a bit tempered as goat had tumbled downhill quite a distance. Despite spending his days on a good-sized ledge and and Dad making a perfect shot with his .270, the billy still stumbled off the ledge, breaking off half of one of its horns.  Not ideal, but a pretty common part of goat hunting.
The hunt was over at 10:30AM on the first day. It took us two hours to skin and butcher the goat on site and another two hours to get the meat, hide and skull back to the truck.  Our packs were heavy and clumsy on the big boulders, but we were in good spirits.
While I have always said my Crazy mountain goat was one of my most memorable hunts, this would rival that. Dad was now 66 instead of 56. His billy was within sight of the very ledge where my billy had spent his final days.  It is unlikely that either one of us will ever hunt mountain goats again in Montana. But, if all we have are the memories of these two hunts, it will be enough.