I awoke to sore muscles but the weather had improved a bit so that made getting out of my comfy sleeping bag a little easier. Jack made coffee for he and Kent, and a hot cocoa for me. I can't stand oatmeal so in lieu of that we had pepperoni bread for breakfast. Jack's wife Crystal had made them for us when she learned that I consider oatmeal about as appetizing as goat vomit. A nice gesture but unnecessary, I could eat goat vomit if I really needed to.
We glassed up the cliffs for the billy we saw last evening. We didn't find him. The cliffs were incredibly steep and formed an amphitheatre of rock which allowed us good visibility to any goats up the valley. There were none in sight.
CAN YOU FIND THE GOATS?
There are two goats in this photo, see if you can find them both. Click on the photo for a larger more detailed pic.
We were hunting a new basin on one of Jack's bowhunting-only mountains. Jack had never hunted it before but had scouted there prior to our arrival and it looked promising. There appeared to be good goat sign from the small portion of the mountain we explored last evening.
Jack reminded me of Wes Atkinson - my elk guide for the last three years. Like Wes, Jack should have his Swarovski SLC's permanently attached to his eyebrows. I really admire a guide that is constantly glassing. Some do it more than others and Jack is probably second only to Wes in the amount of time he spends checking out every inch of the landscape. It wasn't long after breakfast that Jack noticed two goats were bedded behind us - literally less than 200 yards above our tent. We never thought to look there because it was so close, who would have imagined that?
The spotter came out and Jack confirmed, they were two nice billy goats - one of them was outstanding. Getting to them undetected was already out of the question. They were watching us from their perch since we emerged from the tent. This was certainly a great sign, but the more we glassed the rocky cliffs the more we realized this area may have lots of goats, but it was not the friendliest area to bowhunt. A rifle hunter could have dropped that billy and roll it right down to the tent! But getting a bow shot on them was a real longshot.
They had no intention of leaving. They were pretty safe up there on those ledges until our next move - which was to climb up a steep shale slide and get a better look at them. When we did that, the goats slowly got up and moved further up the mountain and out of sight - exactly what we wanted them to do. We gave them some time to settle down and our strategy was to climb to the top and find them again - hopefully in an area that was accessible. Like last night, we brought the entire camp with us and that made the climb up with our heavy packs simply dreadful.
It took us 2 hours to reach the top of the shale slide. Kent and I were wiped. Jack was unfazed by the climb and rested only on our behalf. We made a lunch on the top of the ridge and glassed the rest of the mountain.. Everything looks closer and less steep than it really is in the mountains. We made a plan and decided to climb to the top of the mountain and find those goats. Thankfully, no packs were needed this time. Just our bows and a camera were all. Good thing too, the climb up was a real lung-burner for sure.
The climb up to this level was rough with the packs, but we made it. That little dark spot on the ridge is Jack glassing to find the goats. They are still 500' higher than where we were standing.
As we approached the very top the terrain took on a more jagged and radical look to it. I glanced at Kent and reminded him how much I had matured since my earlier goat hunts. For those of you who may remember, nearly ten years ago I got myself in a predicament where I was literally hanging from a ledge over a cliff in Alaska. I grasped two tiny evergreens and pulled myself out of danger onto a. ledge but my treasured homemade recurve slipped off the ledge and plunged 500' to the gorge below. I never saw that bow again - not even a splinter of it was ever found.. The only solace was I lived to tell about it.
That event changed my perspective. Where once was a younger rock climber running around cliffs recklessly, now stood a more cautious and methodical hunter less interested in killing a goat than putting anyone's life in danger - especially mine.. It was remarkable how changed I was on this hunt. I have developed a healthy fear of falling, something I never had before, and certainly not the best trait for a goat hunter.
Climbing up this rock face was no picnic for Jack, and not an option for us. Jack climbed down and told us no way we could make it. We agreed.
Jack had a similar assessment of the cliff. There was a small bridge that led from where we were standing to where the goats were bedded. Crossing it was risky. The bridge was not flat, it was angled on both sides and very narrow, I would say 5 feet wide. If you slipped, it was a straight drop on either side for 300 feet.. We could probably make it across, but it would be terrifying. Neither Kent nor I were comfortable and Jack was OK with that. He was very respectful of our personal comfort zone no matter how much it differed from his. He opted to go ahead and cross the little bridge alone in an attempt to find the goats. We cringed as we watched him carefully inch his way across the bridge to the other side. Once there, we could tell by the way he was moving that the terrain got worse.
Jack found the goats. They had winded him and vanished in a direction of cliffs more ridiculously steep than the one we were on. These goats were gone and Jack knew it. We painfully watched Jack climb back to us and across that small bridge. He immediately told us there was no way we could make it. It was far too dangerous. We already figured that out just by watching him.
At the top we were able to glass the entire valley to the south. That was supposed to be our ace in the hole but after hours of glassing we never spotted a single goat. They were all in our basin, and our basin was mostly inaccessible. We decided to sleep on it and give the area one more day before heading somewhere else. The Hooper's have a huge territory with seven different mountain ranges.
We set up the tent 80 yards from the top of the scree pile on the side of a steep hillside.
There was just no reason to stay here if the goats were unhuntable. We enjoyed a nice meal on the mountain and set up our tent just below the cliffs. Whatever we see tomorrow will determine our next step.
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