Jack and I were in pretty good spirits for our last day. While he didn't show it, I really think he was feeling far more pressure than I was. A hunt this difficult was not what he expected. It is probably surprising to the many Bowsiters who have hunted with Babine as well. For the last couple years just about every bowhunter had a relatively easy hunt, many of them tagging out their first day. The rifle hunts are not even worth mentioning, most of the gun guys don't even overnight on the mountain. So it's natural that Jack and Lloyd were very confident about my hunt. But here we were on Day 13, without so much as a stalk to show for this effort, and it was hard for them to believe.
I was tired. I am pushing 50 and in decent shape but I was ready to go back to Char fishing and Halibut lasagna. I have a saying about goat and sheep hunts; you hate every minute of them while you are there - and curse yourself for ever booking the hunt, and as soon as you are back on level ground you're handing the deposit over for the next one. There is something really cool about expending this much effort to bowhunt an animal and that gets in your blood. This was my fourth and longest goat hunt by far. It won't be my last.
Our only option was to hike right back to the basin and see if the seven goats may have moved somewhere we could kill one. When we reached it we found nothing. Not a single goat. We searched the entire top of the mountain, back toward the peak where we sat two days ago, and even glassing the south slope in hopes they may have moved back to the easier, south range once again. It was clear nothing was in this drainage. I was also spent - so the far drainage was not an option. We decided to climb back to camp and then up to the peak for our last day. It was then that something caught Jack's eye. A billy was bedded on the ridge, past where we climbed yesterday. He was in the trees.
A lone billy bedded in the trees gave us one last hope for our final day.
There he was. All by himself. A giant white blob in the middle of dark evergreens. The angle was just perfect for us to see him but if you moved ten yards in either direction we'd have missed it. We studied the goat and his position for 30 minutes. The goat was splayed out like lazy dog on the front porch. For the first time all hunt I felt like this could be 'it.'
The goat was in a stalkable position, alone, and we could get the wind. There was a risk however. The area would take at least 3 hours of hiking to reach. And all experienced hunters know that an animal in the trees is a lot harder to find when you are in those trees than when you are watching him from 2 miles away. Still, this was our last hope. And I was confident we could pull this off. We just needed to get there quickly and the goat needed to stay put. With a little luck we could be packing out a nice billy by late afternoon.
We headed down the valley (past the shale slide we hiked yesterday) and into a lush, green valley filled with trees and mountain meadows. Jack had carefully identified landmarks and knew where we should start climbing. It meant ascending through the trees - but that should be easier than the shale slide - right?
Wrong. The climb up was by far the worst yet. It was actually steeper than our climb yesterday and we had to navigate around blow downs, tangle foot, and weeds. For the first time in three days Jack and I had to stop and try to sit down to catch our breath. Just finding a spot to sit was difficult due to the angle. Prior to this we would just keep standing during the many breaks. Sweat poured off me and ran into my mouth. It was pure salt - a sign of dehydration. We kept pushing it however, we needed to get to that goat before he moved. It was difficult to move fast in these tangles.
It's been two hours since we spotted the goat and we were finally at the ridge. But we weren't done yet. Jack wanted to get on the peak of that last mountain. It made sense. Getting to the top gave us a pivot on that goat. There was also a good chance he may have fed up and if he already moved in that direction we could get on him from there. But that meant more climbing and more time. I completely agreed with the decision, but I could feel my energy levels draining. We hadn't eaten much yesterday and the amount of water I had consumed was far less than my body needed. It was my last push, and I could pull it off.
Three hours of hiking and we were at the precipice of that last mountain.
I snapped this photo to show you what it looked like if you were dumb enough to look down while walking that ridge.
The terrain was nothing like the cliffs we experienced yesterday. I was getting more comfortable with the heights. We carefully ran the ridge top which was like a tightrope between two 50 degree slopes. Jack was concerned for me after yesterday but having solid footing made a huge difference from yesterday's nightmare. I even took out my video camera and filmed a little while carefully placing each foot along the top. The view from up here was spectacular. I knew this was the last time I would see it for a while.
The ridge ascended to the north, peaked out, then descended back to the south. On the way down it got a little hairy in spots but within my comfort zone. If the goat had fed up we could see him from here. We could only assume he was still in the trees. We dropped 500 feet down the ridge until we came upon fresh tracks. They led into the trees. It had to be our goat. This was a great find. We were onto him. We could even pick our way down using his exact route. We discussed options: go after him now in his bed; or wait for him to move out of the trees. The latter was risky, he may not come up. We opted to go right after him.
The stalk down was extremely steep and that made it difficult to move quietly. But we pulled it off and were now within 50 yards of the small clearing where the goat was laying. Another twenty yards and we had a clear view. Unfortunately, the goat was gone. We could see his tracks and followed them for a short distance deeper into the trees. Few goats like to live in timber. This one did. It figured. Our very last throw of the dice was on a goat that thinks he's an elk. Our hunt was over.
This is the bench where the goat had been bedded almost four hours earlier. He had vanished into the trees. Our hunt was over.
I was totally spent. I had almost nothing left. Jack reminded me that my plane didn't leave until late tomorrow night? He threw it out - we could hunt one more morning. I loved his enthusiasm and effort. He has gone so far above and beyond my expectations that I would recommend him to anyone! But I was done. I told him I had just enough energy to pack up camp and go back to the lodge - tonight. He understood. It took us several hours to hike out of that drainage, pack up camp, and then head off the mountain. I had mapped 13 miles that day including two brutal climbs. We reached the truck at 10pm with most of the hike down in the dark. My body was wrecked, my legs and back ached, and I was happy that this hunt was now over.
The next day Jack asked me if I would be interested in trying this again? "Absolutely" - I said without hesitation.
Babine Guide Outfitters / Tukii Lodge
For me, the mark of a truly great outfitter is determined not in success rates or trophy animals, but in the enthusiasm, effort and ability to lead you on an epic hunting adventure. I have hunted with tons of outfitters, some great ones and some not so great ones. Jack and Lloyd are near the top of that list.
I loved hunting with Jack. His enthusiasm was second only to his positive attitude. He absolutely loves what he does and it showed. He loves to guide people of all skill levels and physical abilities. As usual I had done my research prior to this hunt and not one person had a single negative thing to say about their entire operation. It is the reason I chose this hunt for Kent's once in a lifetime gift, and I know that Kent would agree with everything I say. Babine was outstanding in every way.
This hunt was tough for me, but all of that was out of Babine's control. I really didn't even hunt the first week - Kent was the priority. When Kent killed his goat and we ventured on our own the weather wrecked almost three more days. In essence, I had 4-5 days of hunting and the rest was just bad luck. That's hunting and I always go into my hunts with the attitude that a kill is icing on the cake.
I would be remiss without saying a few things about the entire hunting experience at Babine - beyond the goat hunting. These guys bend over backward to do whatever you want to do. If you want to go bear hunting they work their butts off to find you a bear, same with a wolf, a moose, or even fishing. The lodge was awesome too! I lost 8 pounds on this trip but it would have been 12 if I didn't pig out on the incredible cooking! I loved the options too and that made this hunt a lot more fun than a typical goat hunt. I will be back.
Babine Guide Outfitters
Smithers, British Columbia
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Our Goat hunt takes place in British Columbia with Babine Outfitters