“Hey, isn’t that a mountain goat right there?” asked John. What was going on here? A goat was walking the ridge above us in the sunshine on the first hunting day. I was pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming as we found the goat in the 60 power Swarovski spotting scope. John, a law enforcement officer from back East had endured the first day of his hunt waiting for Alaska Airlines to deliver ALL his luggage while the second day of his hunt was spent trying to get his rifle to shoot as the TSA and Luggage goons must have conducted crash tests with his rifle case. This was the third day of his hunt, but really just the first so we were very excited to be watching the surefooted goat pick his way along the steep cliffs above us.
We took off with minimal gear and food as we had an unheard of forecast for early October in Southeast AK and we planned to take advantage of it.
Robert “Wildman” Mayville was on his first goat hunt as the packer and we were glad to have his strong back and excellent hunting skills on our team. He was sticking with John as I tried to find a good route up this steep country and when we finally emerged from the devil’s club and berry brush, we all smiled and marveled at the sunshine. A few hours later we again laughed at our good fortune as we checked out another monster billy goat in the scope. This one was bigger and in a very good place to eat lead as he was away from the cliffs and lounging around in the sun.
We stayed hidden for the next hour but eventually had to stay put and wait for him to move so we wouldn’t be detected. We found a comfortable place to hang out and then took off our boots and socks and sunbathed.
Did I mention we were on a goat hunt!? In over 100 goat hunts I have never sunbathed with my boots off! Someone pinch me.
Mr. Billy finally got up to feed with his rump to us, so when the sun went down and the shadows covered us we rocketed out of our hideout and closed the 1200 yards in just 45 minutes. John was right on my heels the whole time and as we crawled to 180 yards I noticed the goat was headed for the cliffs.
There was no time to spare when I turned to John and told him to “crawl up to that rock and kill that goat!”
He was slinging lead from his .300WSM in seconds.
“Keep shooting!” I yelled.
“Ka-Boom!” was John’s reply.
Down went the billy and up went our high-fives. We were all elated as we relived the last few moments of the full throttle stalk. John was as giddy as a law officer can get and we were enjoying the adrenaline rush.
The alders that every Alaskan hunter curses did us a big favor by catching John’s goat before he became mince-meat. Two more minutes and the goat would’ve fallen much further than the ten yards he did. It was a good thing we put the pedal down on the final stalk.
Robert gutted the goat while John and I held the rope we had tied to its horns and later we man-handled the 5 1/2 year old, 275 pound brut with 8 1/2 inch horns over to flat ground.
Perched on our rugged real estate we were happy to find two spots to spread out our tarps, bivy sacks and sleeping bags and enjoyed the flickering northern lights and clear skies.
It was another first for me as we intentionally camped under the stars on a goat hunt in Southeast AK. This was shaping up to be a dream hunt!
Robert chatted with ptarmigan at daybreak on the ridge top while I slept in, wanting better light for our photo shoot and John guarded his hairy white beast from the circling ravens.
The photos of John’s goat were unequaled and we later found ourselves stopping often under our heavy loads to snap more and more photos of this dream hunt and trying to soak in the majestic views all around us.
The fairytale hunt came to a screeching halt as darkness descended and we were perched above a 350’ cliff.
Robert volunteered to take the rope and see if we could get down while I belayed him from a stout alder bush. After lots of sweat and shaking limbs he crawled back up to report it was not worth the risk so we scratched and clawed our way back up a few hundred feet before we ditched the heavy meat pack Robert was carrying and he took John’s pack.
The rubber was meeting the road as we discussed our options.
Sleep on the side of the mountain with no water and minimum food or push onto camp about 2 hours? We voted for the later and groceries disappeared in a hurry when we finally got to camp.
The next day found us splitting up as Robert escorted John down to the head of the bay where Jim Phillips was waiting with his warm boat. I had marked the meat with my GPS and had to climb 1200 feet then get within 27 yards before I could see the heavy pack in the dense fog.
Ironman Robert made two trips up to our base camp that day shuttling loads so when we hit the beach and climbed on Jim’s boat for the ride to Sitka there were smiles all around.
Of course, the natural hot springs beckoned and we lounged in the warm waters on our way back to Sitka. They were awesome!
A fairytale ending to a dream hunt. Great job John!
Written from Eagle River, AK on Nov. 1, 2012 by Kurt Whitehead