Paying the Mountain Goat Dues

By Clinton Smith
Colorado, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Clinton Smith - Paying the Mountain Goat DuesJuly/August 2012 EBJ (Issue 72) - Could it be done? This is the question I asked myself as I began thinking about applying for an archery mountain goat tag. After checking the harvest statistics, I realized that it definitely could be done. I would worry about that if I were fortunate enough to draw. I went ahead and applied and much to my surprise I drew!

I sat down with my wife and a calendar and highlighted various weekends throughout the summer as scouting trips. One of the deciding factors in my decision to apply for this unit was its proximity to my house. I could be glassing for goats within an hour of leaving my house. The summer flew by and despite my using any excuse to set foot in goat country, several of my highlighted weekends were spent attending to many of life’s different responsibilities.

On the scouting trips, I managed to pull off seeing a few goats and more importantly, I learned quite a lot about the area. When I was at home most of my time was spent reading anything I could find, as well as scouring over maps and studying Google Earth. I was also able to contact several local guys who had hunted this area in the past and the information they shared with me greatly helped to reduce my learning curve.

Now as the season was upon me, I wrestled with myself concerning a muzzleloader deer tag I had also drawn in a different part of the state. A large part of me (and my wife) told me to turn it back in and concentrate solely on goats. I finally reasoned, and since a large part of trophy goats is their beautiful coat, I should go ahead and give the goats one more week for them to grow longer hair. I would allow myself three days to hunt deer and then commit totally to goat.

The deer hunt was a lot of fun and I passed up many small bucks. I did have two blown opportunities at bucks I would’ve been happy with, but it seemed like lady luck was giving me the cold shoulder to a serious degree. Getting to go goat hunting, though, helped to soothe the sting of the unfruitful prior weekend pretty well.

With an unsuccessful deer hunt in the rearview mirror, I hiked in to the lake where I would be camping in a drizzling rain. After setting up camp I hiked to a good vantage point, but visibility was poor with low hanging clouds and fog moving in and out. I sat in the rain and snow for the rest of the evening and despite the bad weather, I still felt like I was able to glass the area fairly well with nothing to show for it. I returned to camp and after a pretty restless night, awoke to much of the same weather as the previous evening.

With a new coat of snow on the surrounding peaks, I did not carry very high hopes with me as I left camp but I figured if the weather cleared up it would be much to my advantage to be in position to see all I could when the opportunity arose. The recent precipitation on the rocks and steep hillsides made the climbing slow and miserable. I hit the ground several times and though none of the falls were serious, I was having a hard time keeping up my usual positive attitude.

Once at my destination, I simply hunkered against a big rock and watched the snowfall. After a few hours there was a small break in the weather. The sun even made a short appearance and I took this opportunity to shed all my wet clothes and absorb any heat I could in what must have looked like some kind of ancient sun worshipping ceremony.

Clinton Smith - Paying the Mountain Goat Dues

For a full account of Clinton's adventure, go to page 42 in the July/August 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.