Awoke early to high clouds and bits of blue sky splattered between them, it was in the 60's but very windy which made it quite comfortable. This was going to be a great day. Johnnie, Bobby and I ate breakfast and geared up for our long day ahead. We hiked up to the area we called 'The Pass' last year because it was a natural funnel between two high peaks and it also provided a ramp to the next mountain range. The goats frequented this area to move between the two mountains and escape predators. This is the same area where Johnnie and I had stalked a 300lb nanny goat last year but passed her up when her kid appeared.
Immediately we spotted goats in the distance and began identifying their sex. Like last year, my goal was a nice billy - no major trophy - just a nice one. I would take a dry nanny if she was big but only if the conditions were right. Besides, I had purchased two goat tags again this year. By mid morning, we found what looked like a goat in its bed some 400 yards away, it was in a tough position for a stalk so we continued on.
Video Clip of Johnnie spotting a goat bedded (360k)
As we continued on, Johnnie spotted a black Rumped billy goat beneath us in the area we called 'The Plains'. It was nearly a mile of steep grass and various streams cutting through it. We had never ventured here before because of the shear cliffs below it, but as long as the goats stayed up high, we should be able to safely shoot a goat without fear of losing it over the edge. We watched the goat closely then I gave the signal that I was starting my stalk. Johnnie and Bobby waited above in the high pass as I descended quickly down toward the goat, working the dips and valleys in my undetected approach. As I neared the area that I had mentally noted by a landmark of trees, the goat had disappeared. I scurried over to the trees in time to see the billy's dirty rump disappear into a steep drainage. Perfect.
I moved quickly across a steep side hill, cutting 300 yards in no time at all. As I approached the banks of the hillside, I spotted the goat moving along a snowbank and climbing into a snow cave. This was perfect, the wind was going uphill with the warming thermals while I moved directly at the unsuspecting goat. These snow caves provided a cool resting place for the goats to get away from the heat but more importantly, the bugs.
As I reached the banks I spotted the goat who was now out of the snow cave and crossing the stream - 15 yards away. He then dipped out of sight. I climbed up the banks to get a very close shot and removed an arrow. The adrenaline rush was kicking in as I felt my heart beating faster as the realization of my close shot became evident. Then, the billy emerged unexpectedly at 10 yards and caught me in the open. He was facing me - no shot. He then bounced across a few rocks and stood quartering away and standing still at about 18 yards but I passed the shot. I wanted something a bit closer and since the goat was already alarmed I didn't want to chance it. He didn't waste any time moving out of there and down to the steep cliffs where he was safe. I felt great about the stalk and my restraint. He was not a large billy, I guessed him at 7-8" but I would have taken the shot if it felt right. I started up the long climb back to the peaks.
While slowly working our way around the crags, we spotted several groups of goats - mostly nannies with kids but we did watch two nice billies fighting in the craggies between the two mountain ranges. Too far and too late to stalk. It was a great day!
Identifying Goat Gender
Unlike most other game animals, goats are very hard to distinguish between gender. The below guide is only a general rule, we saw many billies and nannies which had various characteristics of the other sex. Only visual identification of the Vulva or Scrotum was absolutely accurate. But there are some general guidelines to help you identify the sexes:
Basically, male goats (billies) have thicker horns with large bases, they taper gradually to a point and generally sweep back in a more uniformed arc. If you see a goat where the bases seem to touch, this is typically a billy. Nannies have more slender horns however they are oftentimes very long - sometimes much longer then billy horns. They tend to flare out when looking straight on and from the profile they seem to hook near the end.
Nannies urinate in a squatting position while an adult billy urinates by stretching. However, we were fooled once by a nice billy goat which squatted to defecate. From a distance it looked like he was urinating. Many people look for a stained rump which often indicates a billy. While this may be the rule in some places, all the goats here were filthy from dust baths and we found this trait unreliable when tying to identify gender.
Generally, a billy goat is much larger than a female. Also, billies tend to be loners and are rarely seen with kids. If you spot what you think is a billy, and there is a kid tagging close by, it is best not to shoot as it is probably a nanny. Also, billies tend to grow hair sooner than nannies and they have a more pronounced hump.
Pictures courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.