May/June 2012 EBJ (Issue 71) - I scaled across a rock chute nervously thinking, "Is this the right thing to be doing on a solo trip with 500 feet of nearly vertical loose rock below?” With a sigh of relief, I reached the other side and emerged through a line of dwarf trees that surrounded a small rock bench. Each step revealed more of the bench and a small snowfield. To my surprise a group of three goats appeared at 30 yards. One was a thick-horned billy, easily measuring nine inches in length. Instead of anchoring a bowstring to my cheek, I took pictures as it was June and I was on scouting expedition for mulies.
A half-hour later, I circled to find yet another billy at 40 yards perching on a small ledge above the rock chute I crossed below earlier. It was a beautiful sight with the high mountaintops surrounded by clear blue skies and the goat trying to figure out what I was.
The close encounter with the longhorned billies continued to kindle my growing desire to harvest a goat with an arrow. I didn’t know much about mountain goats, so over the next few years I tried to absorb as much as I could while putting in for an Idaho tag. In 2011, my kindling desire to chase a goat with my bow became a burning fire with a tag in hand.
There were numerous locations that contained goats in my unit, but I needed to narrow it down to make my limited weekend scouting trips productive. My research identified three key locations.
A cool spring and a higher than normal spring snowpack pushed my scout trips back until late July and into August. I was able to get in three scouting trips and spotted a total of 60 goats. During the first two trips, I spotted one good shooter billy on each trip. A few other distant bigger goats were questionable billies. On the third trip in late August I spotted a majority of the goats with three really good billies. However, since I wanted to take one with my archery equipment it was equally important to locate ones that were huntable.
My scouting trips revealed that huntable billies were not those hanging out on large vertical cliffs, but either on gentler ridge tops near cliff bands or on or around smaller cliff bands that would present a good shooting opportunity. Of the numerous square miles I scouted there were a few huntable goat locations that revealed themselves. Scouting was the only way these critical areas became apparent.
Goat behavior was another important factor as scouting identified critical movement patterns, dusting/bedding areas and feeding habits. Understanding goat behavior built my confidence to be patient and wait for the right goat in the right location. The high-country scouting trips also helped me refine my hunting and camping gear, as I would be going solo without the assistance of four legged critters or hunting partners. Strenuous vertical climbs of 3,000 to 4,000 feet to access goat country aided in my exercise regimen and indicated the importance of my weekly running routine.
For a full account of Louis's adventure, go to page 14 in the May/June 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.