One Little Goat

This scouting trip was a bit of a benchmark for me. First, I finally made the trip into a basin I have been checking out on Google earth for a few years now. Second, 7-10 mile hikes one way, with 3000 feet of elevation gain are becoming the norm. It’s one thing to backpack in this far with a couple days worth of gear, but getting meat and gear back out by yourself is going to be the real challenge.

I started down the trail at about 9AM again on August 16, 2014 and it was a lot cooler in the mornings finally. There was a hint of that hunting season breeze in the air. It didn’t last very long however before it heated up and reminded me it was still summer time. Around 10:30 AM the air gets still and stagnant this time of year. This seems like the hottest part of the day sometimes.

The recent rain storm had washed out large sections of the trail and created massive landslides in some areas. I was starting to get concerned if any goats had possibly bit the dust because they tend to like inhabiting landslide prone areas. It was encouraging to see this Garter snake had survived  all this.

Garter snake up in the mountains.

On my last trip I had thought I found a very large mushroom, well this one topped that by a lot. It was as big as my head and looked very out of place in the forest.

Biggest Mushroom I’ve ever seen!

Since I knew the trail now, I was making better time. Even with the washouts along the trail I got to my turn off point earlier in the afternoon this time. I found a game trail and followed it up to the first bench. It was a great looking spot for Deer but lacked fresh sign. Farther up the mountain above the bench I spooked a Doe. She was not too concerned and walked off.

Mule deer Doe

In my opinion seeing a Doe is almost as good as seeing a Buck. This indicated that there is in fact a family of Deer living in this immediate area. The older Bucks will usually be in the adjacent more rugged terrain, and higher on the mountain. Hunting this bench later in the season when the high elevations get a lot of snow could probably be very productive.

I had a little trouble finding the lake that was on the uppermost bench. It was really tucked into the landscape.

High country lake

I loaded up on water when I found it and kept going up. There was a saddle that I wanted to set camp on. Another hour of hiking from the lake got me to a good spot on the saddle.

Camp for the night

From there I could climb the rest of the way to the top of the mountain that evening and glass in all directions. My focus however was the Goat country. After setting camp I climbed the rest of the way up, this took another hour and by then it was time for the end of the day glassing. Even with these long summer days, they go by fast doing these longer expeditions.

Mountain Goat Habitat! Notice the permanent snow banks again.

It didn’t take long until I found a goat. It was in one of the places that you would expect to find a Goat or big old Buck. I watched the Goat feed for a while until it disappeared in the rugged landscape.

Young Billy or Nanny.

It was definitely a young Goat, and I suspect it was a young Billy that had dispersed from the core area near the trailhead. This was the only thing I saw the rest of the evening. I could have easily spent 2 days on top of that mountain glassing the surrounding area for Bucks and Bulls, but that wasn’t on the agenda. It had taken a long time to get all the way up to that spot and the next morning I had to get an early start to get out. I heard an Elk bugle at first light down in the basin. It was getting to be that time of year already. There was some great looking mountain goat habitat in that area, but it just lacked goats.

Looks good for Goats.


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.