Category Archives: 2014 Scouting

Billy Atlantis

I got a fairly early start on Saturday August 2 for my second Goat scouting trip, which put me at the trailhead around 9 AM. I was going in on a trail I’ve never been on before and really didn’t know what to expect. The trail was well used and there was fresh horse manure along the way to keep me company for the first half of the journey. On the way in I came across some Sask berry bush’s that had the biggest Sask berries on them I had ever seen. This can suggest that the soil in that particular area is better than the surrounding areas. If it’s good enough to grow bigger berries then it is probably good enough to grow bigger antlers too. I will be revisiting this area in the future.

Big Sask Berries!

The rest of the hike in was mostly uneventful, it was hot and consisted of mile after mile of trail hiking. I eventually came to a water crossing and lost the trail momentarily. The water wasn’t all that deep, but I still like to cross on logs when I get the chance. I’m still young and ignorant enough for this to be fun.

Crossing the creek

Eventually finding my way back to the trail on the other side of the creek, I forged on. I reached my turn off point by mid afternoon and started the hike up into a basin. The hike up started out pretty good, then quickly got vertical. I stopped to take a break and have a late lunch.

Eating Lunch

I continued climbing higher and higher towards the bottom of the basin. I found sections of well used Elk trail and it made it a little bit easier. On the benches there was fresh evidence of heavy browsing and also some of the biggest mushrooms I’ve seen in a while.

Big Bolette (pretty sure), but not 100% so I didn’t eat it!

I finally hit the bottom end of the basin and there was a great bench for a camp setup, but I decided to go a little higher. I ran out of water hiking up to the next bench, so I headed down to the creek and refilled. The creek was a mess with downed trees everywhere from this years snow slides.

Looks like a big snowslide happened this past spring. The Elk love this kind of stuff.

I decided not to camp anywhere around there, things were just to unstable and the mosquitoes were worse. I hiked up even higher on a bare rocky knob and set camp.

Camp is finally set.

After setting camp for the night, I headed uphill to glass. I quickly realized that I was on the wrong side of the canyon. The shade was nice on this side, but I needed to be on the other side where I would be able to glass into the shady side of the basin. So back down and across I went to the other side of the basin. This side was mostly talus, wide open, and sunny. I didn’t like the idea of walking and sitting out in the open, but I was looking for Goats up high, not Deer in the basin. I got set up and the sun disappeared behind the mountain about 20 minutes later. Nearly the whole basin was in the shade now and I heard a funny noise in the bottom below me. It finally occurred to me that it was a calf Elk calling. They appeared in the meadow about 100 yards below me shortly after.

Cow with twin calves are the first of the herd to come out and feed for the afternoon.

I scanned the scree slope below the cliffs at the head of the basin and immediately spotted a big bodied Goat. My first thought was mature Billy, but I second guessed myself after seeing his horns. They lacked mass and there was a noticeable gap between the bases.  However there was no doubt he was a Billy when he lifted his rear leg to scratch his head. Male Goats have a scrotum the size of an infants head, you can’t miss it this time of year when the fur is short. I scanned around to see if there were more Goats and didn’t spot any. So far it looked like he was by himself in this basin, which is a good sign. Goats have a hierarchy and the dominant Goats get the best bedding, feeding, and dusting locations. I originally picked out this basin because it looked  like it would provide the best feed and thermal regulation, and thing were starting to add up. There were still a few snow drifts present and a lot of shade, some shrubs, trees, and cliffs. Everything a Goat needs for the summer. I was confident he was 8+” and maybe even close to 9″. The Goats in the area don’t get much bigger than 9″ due to the soil quality so this was a big Goat for this unit.

He was in a great location for a stalk and recovery, which is a big bonus when Goat hunting. He was feeding on a scree slope below the cliffs and there was a spine that would allow me to get pretty close. I was relieved to have finally found a bigger mature Billy, which was my goal up to this point. There’s a lot that could happen in the next 2 months though, so I don’t want to get to confident. I watched him feed down then back up and disappear behind the spine. I never did see any other Goats in the basin the rest of the evening. The rest of the Elk herd came out to feed and I got to listen to that for a while. Eventually my movement and camera noises pushed them back into the trees.

The next morning I started to glass the head of the basin from near camp. It immediately started raining hard when I got set up. I hadn’t seen anything yet so I tried to pack up camp before my shelter got to wet and heavy. It didn’t work and it seemed like my shelter gained about 3 pounds of water. My new plan was to cross over into the next basin and check it out while I still had a little time. I had a long hike ahead of me to get out and so I needed to be on my way out by about 9:30 AM. The hike over was easier than I had though it would be. I only had to cross through scree and cliffs for about 200 yards, before I hit the trees again on the bottom end of the basin. This is great to already know when it comes time to hunt. I can effectively hunt 2 basins from the same camp.

As soon as I got my rain gear on it stopped raining for the day.

A short climb up had me in this really tight meadow surrounded by scree slopes and huge cliffs.

Nice little meadow in a tight Basin.

I got up a little above the meadow and glassed, but I couldn’t see much. The terrain was really broken and steep. By this time it was getting closer to 10 AM and I really needed to start heading out.

The descent out of this basin was longer than I thought it would be and I hit a wall of alders towards the bottom. This is also good to know ahead of time as I would hate discovering  this for the first time with a full load of meat, especially in the dark. I didn’t have time to find a better way so I busted brush for about the last 500 yards to the trail. I hate doing this because it is really tiring and annoying, but sometimes it’s the quickest way to make progress.

No season is complete without busting brush on at least one trip.

I survived it, found the trail, and made the long hike out. I didn’t end up getting home until about 9PM that night. These trips deep into the wilderness and then up to Goat country are hard to make in two days, and would be best for a 3 day trip.

Rolling Stone Buck Year 3

I headed out of the house the morning of July 19th for an overnight scouting trip into one of my favorite areas. Although I have a once in a lifetime Idaho mountain Goat tag, I will still be hunting this area at some point this season for Elk and Deer. It was time to set out some trail cams and scout the Elk area and see how big the Bucks are for this year. Despite the extra weight of the trail cams I still made it to my camp location in just a few hours. I jumped a Forky and a Doe on the end of the ridge heading to the camp spot, so things were looking good so far.

Camp was set up in the same spot I have been using for three seasons now. It’s a dry camp on a low saddle along a main ridge and about half a mile from water. This really cuts down on any issues with bugs.

IMG_1743After camp was set it was time to go set out the trail cams in the high park. I saw about the same amount of Elk sign as I saw last year during the summer. The Elk seem to move through here in early summer and then come back in August after the first frost hits the highest elevations. I set one camera out in the same location as last year and one on the far side of the park in some timber, both in video mode this time. By having two seasons worth of footage on the same park I can draw some more concise conclusions about the area. I’m hoping to get some rutting action and see what the herd bull quality is like in this area. I know there are some nice bulls based on last years footage, but I am not sure if they are rutting in the area or just passing through. I will also be archery hunting the area during the rut this season and so that hunt combined with trail cam footage will shed some light on the subject. The Archery hunt will probably be the first time I get to check the cams. The rest of the scouting trips for this season will be dedicated to Goats.

After setting up the cams, I explored the area a little more looking for fresh Elk sign and potential wallows. No fresh Elk sign was found but I did find this fairly fresh tore up mouse which is probably the handy work of a Pine Marten.

Pine Marten sign.


Next I hiked up to a basin I had never been to before. There was a nice little bench on the way up that had a small creek going through it. This might be where I camp during the Archery season when there is less bugs. It’s in a good strategic location to both hunt the park and glass the basin above it.

Nice little bench for a future camp spot.

The basin above this little bench looked better than it did on topo maps and Google earth. It was huge and mostly timbered. I will be watching this place for sure. I did see fresh Deer tracks going up along the side of it in the timber in the same direction I was going to glass from. This was encouraging, even if it was a Doe. Despite it being the middle of the afternoon, I still sat and glassed for a couple hours. I was interested in learning the nuances of the basin and surrounding terrain and not expecting to see any animals.

Potential Buck country

It was a challenge to not walk around through the bottom and the adjoining timbered benches and look for tracks and sign on the way out. That spine in the middle is a great place for a Buck to bed! It would also be a great place to glass from, and I just might opt to risk it in the future. I halfway wanted to watch that basin til dark, but the slope next to camp is where I know there are some Bucks to watch. I’ll come back to this basin when I have more time and can glass it in the morning. Mornings are a lot more productive, especially when it’s hot.

After stocking up on water I hiked back to my glassing spot next to camp for the evening. As usual this time of year the deer don’t come out to feed for the evening until it’s almost to dark to glass on this slope. I watched a Doe and a fawn on the upper third of the mountain feed for about five minutes before it was to dark to see.

The next morning I glassed the usual spot and didn’t see anything all morning. Finally at about 9:30 AM with the sun high in the sky, I headed back to camp to pack up and head out. On the way back to camp I saw the orange hue of either a fresh log or a velvet buck across the canyon. I quickly checked with my binos and it was a Buck! I set up and watched this Buck feed by himself and mess around for about an hour. He would get frustrated with the bugs and bolt downhill every once in a while, then continue feeding. Typical young Buck behavior. He for sure wasn’t the Rolling Stone Buck,  but he was one of the other two that were with him last July. This Buck made his way downhill and eventually disappeared in the timber in the bottom of the canyon. Odd behavior for a Buck, they are usually known to head uphill in the morning to bed for the day. Maybe he was thirsty or was going across the canyon to bed on the cool north slope.

Nice 150 class Idaho Buck.

I can’t really tell for sure which Buck this was. He seems kind of small to be “Sleepy”, but the tall antler configuration is similar. The forks are not deep so it could be the 3 point from last year who would now be a young 4 point.

On the way back to the trailhead I took the same Elk trail I had took on the way up, stopping along the way to snack on some currant berries that where ripe. I then decided to pick up the pace in the steep loose sections and do some foot sliding. I wasn’t being very sneaky at this point and I was almost to the bottom when I slowed down and hit another section of Elk trail. As I took a rest in the shade of a tree I saw the white face of a Buck at about 40 yards starring at me through the trees. I slowly brought up my binoculars and could see pieces of decent sized antler. He was a mature Buck, but I couldn’t tell which one.

Buck staring back at me from his bed. He is the red blotch with the white face in the left center of the pic.

I slowly traded my binos for my camera and got a picture. The stare off lasted another 30 seconds and he turned around. When he did, I got a glimpse of another Buck trotting away behind him that could only have been the Rolling Stone Buck. The body was very large and  the parts of antler I saw had mass. I hustled to my left maintaining my elevation hoping to get a good look at them, but all I saw was dust when I got to where it opened up 50 yards to my left. I didn’t expect this at all, especially being near the bottom of the mountain. This was a new area for me to see Bucks in as well. I hope they stay on this ridge because I’ve been up and down this ridge every which way and know it well. Also it’s half the size of the mountain they are usually on, so it will not take me 6 hours to get to them after I spot them.

The empty bed of a big buck.

This encounter for sure changes my Elk hunting plans for the area. Now I will probably glass that ridge first during the Archery season, then go for Elk in the park.

Bull Moose

I was able to get away for a 2 day scouting trip on the weekend of June 28th, 2014. This was the first Mountain Goat scouting trip and I was going into an area I had lightly penetrated a couple years prior. This time I was planning on going twice as far and focusing more on distance for this trip rather than elevation gain. I wanted to get familiar with the trail and the terrain. I’m not going to give mileage, but I will say I got a lot further than I thought I would. I now have a good idea of what spots I can reasonably scout and hunt in a given amount of time. One thing about Goat scouting in this area is that you can be effective by just hiking up the bottom of the drainage and glassing the cliffy areas. However I will still be making some hikes into the more remote and inaccessible areas when I get a chance, it’s just in my nature!


I started out of the trailhead late morning and it was sunny with patches of cloud cover. The sun was hot, but I still jumped a Doe out of a meadow a couple miles in despite the Wolf tracks in the trail. About a mile after that I took a break and glassed some likely looking Goat habitat. The parts of the mountain I had visible to me were fairly exposed and sunny and it didn’t surprise me to not see Goats this late in the morning. Several miles down the trail, I came over a rise and saw the back end of a what looked like a bear about 20 yards away.


When it took a step forward, I saw a hump on it’s back, which momentarily froze me in my tracks. I then saw that it was a Moose and not a Grizzly! I don’t see many Moose in this part of Idaho, so this was a treat.




This explained the monster Elk tracks I had seen earlier, it was really a young Bull Moose.

Another mile down the trail, I saw a glimpse of dark fur across the river. This turned out to indeed be a nice big Black bear. I couldn’t get very good footage of it before it disappeared into thick brush, but I did get a few pics and video.








Another mile or so after the Bear, I came across a nice sized Buck track in a the trail.









It was in a very Bucky location. The ground was moist, the forbs were waist high and the shrubs where thick. Notice the difference in flora between this pic and the Bear/Moose pics. I will be giving this place a closer look when I Deer hunt this area.









Another mile or so after this, I was finally where I initially wanted to climb out of the canyon to check out some cliffs. It was late in the day but I headed uphill along a creek anyway. I came across another set of nice Buck tracks on a timbered bench and continued up the drainage. When I got to the next bench I was still in heavy timber and started to encounter more and more snow drifts. It was getting late and there were no flat places to set camp, nor was there anywhere I could easily glass from. I had already missed some glassing time and I still had another 1000 feet to climb to get into the basin. Even then I still didn’t know what the visibility would be like. I didn’t want to risk missing any more glassing time with such a short trip so I opted to hike back down where it opened up and glass across the canyon for a while. Then hike the rest of the way down and drop camp in the bottom for the night where I could glass both sides of the canyon in the morning.

I set up and almost immediately saw a lone goat across and down the canyon about a mile away. It was on the move and I never got a good look at it. I decided to head over that direction and get into a good position to glass that area the next morning. I set up camp on a small bench in the bottom of the canyon where I could see the slope he was on the next morning. I was basically on a flat rock where stakes wouldn’t work so I had to tie off my shelter.

IMG_1704It worked and the next morning I sat against that rock my pack is on and glassed for a while. I didn’t see anything so I packed up and glassed my out of the canyon.

IMG_1707As soon as the sun hit the bottom of the canyon it heated up quick. I stopped and glassed the few remaining areas that were in the shade as I headed back, but didn’t spot anything. Next time I will focus more on high elevation north slopes if it’s still really hot weather. I now feel I know the area good enough to effectively hunt it for both Deer and Goats, so progress was made despite only seeing one Goat. The fact that the Goat was alone suggests it was a billy, but it’s body size just didn’t strike me as big. It still has my curiosity though, so we will see what happens in the next few months.

Trail Camera Collection and a Goat Tag!

I made two trips in May of 2014 to collect my three trail cameras that have been out since last year. My first trip was to a location that is just above 7000 feet on a bench that Elk like to hang out on. The snow was still deep, but firm enough to stay afloat in the morning.


I finally made it to the trailcam, if I had decided to try this a week earlier I probably wouldn’t have found it.


The second trailcam in this area was down closer to the road on what I suspected to be a minor migration trail. I was hoping to get some pics of the Rolling Stone Buck and whatever herd Bulls were in the area as they headed for the wintering ground. I did get some Elk migration action, but no Bucks.



I made the second trip in late May to the hell hole where I harvested my 2013 Bull. This camera was about 7 miles in so I picked up a Bear tag and stretched the trip out into 2 days. Maybe the Bear I saw last season would be there again. It was a hot hike with a lot of Ticks again, but seemed easier this season. On the way in along a narrow rocky section of the trail was evidence of a recent Mountain Lion kill. Mountain Lions pluck the fur off the deer they kill and it leaves a big pile of fur. I could even make out remnants of fur from the carcass being drug up the mountain. I wanted to follow the trail and possibly see if the carcass was a buck or doe, but I just didn’t have the time to spend on it this trip. When I got into the hell hole I set up camp in the same spot as last year, this time using my 2 man enclosed bivy. Flat spots are hard to find in here and a hammock would work perfect for this type of trip.


I wouldn’t trust this shelter in a heavy storm, but for summer scouting it’s just fine and has enough room.

IMG_1595After getting my shelter setup and stocking up on water I decided to do some recon. I headed up the feeder creek that goes up the canyon I was in to look for Bear sign.


All I found was last years droppings, nothing fresh from this year, so I decided to go up the ridge to get the trailcam with the last few hours of light that was left. When I got up on the ridge I glassed back to the other side a little bit mainly just checking out the terrain.


In the other direction, the Elk where in the same place on the slope as they had been the previous year and just below where I harvested my Bull in 2013. The recruitment was decent, but not as good as last year. I carefully continued climbing up the ridge so as to not spook the Elk. The camera had been knocked out of position and was facing directly across the trail and up in the air, but had a lot of video on it still. I later found out this had been done by a cow Elk about 20 days after I set it out. On the way back down the ridge I got busted by a Cow across the canyon and was serenaded with barks most of the way back. The next morning I crawled out of the shelter and saw a doe with 2 fawns on the hillside across the creek from my camp.


That morning I hiked up the canyon even farther doing some more recon. I don’t plan to hunt Elk in this location this season, but I would like to make a trip for Deer. I know there is some decent Bucks in there somewhere. The upper end of the canyon looked great for Deer, there was some open sage covered southerly slopes, quakies, timber pockets, water, and rocks. It looked so good I didn’t want to go any farther up and risk spooking a deer, so I crossed the creek to get out of the prime areas and set up on a snowbank to glass for a while. It was too late in the day to really see any Bucks, but I got familiar with the potential pockets and made a plan for next time.

IMG_1613    On the way back to camp I came across a nice blocky Deer track that was probably made by a decent 3 or 4 year old Buck. For reference my headlight is 2.25″ wide. This track is not wide or long enough to have come from a monster Buck, but he might be a shooter.


It was a hot hike out and so I strapped my gun to the back of my pack and took my time, enjoying every bit of it.




 Mountain Goat Tag!

A couple days after returning from this trip, I found out that I drew the unit 39 Mountain Goat tag that was available for the 2014 season. This is a once in a lifetime tag here in the lower 48 and I will probably be dedicating most all of my scouting time to Goats this season, so stay tuned!