August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - After hunting elk and mule deer in the mountains of Idaho for almost 20 years, I decided to put in for a mountain goat tag in the spring of 2010. I did not draw that year and was quite certain I wouldn’t draw the next year either, as there were only four tags available. My pessimistic outlook on drawing the tag did not stop me, however, from checking the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website daily to see if the results were posted. "Congratulations” jumped off the screen in front of me and I immediately called my husband at work to share the good news.
My husband, Mike, has taught me everything I know about hunting. I used to tag along on all of his deer and elk hunts, putting in the same sweat and miles he did to get on top of the high ridges and the same sweat and miles to pack the meat out. The only thing I hadn’t tried was pulling the trigger. When I expressed interest in shooting he promptly took me to the gun range, showed me the ins and outs of a rifle and taught me how to shoot safely and accurately. Soon enough I was harvesting my own deer and contributing to the full freezer in the garage. Without my husband sharing his knowledge and having confidence in me, I never would have even put in for something like an Idaho mountain goat tag, yet there I was holding that once-in-a-lifetime tag in my hand with my name on it.
As word on my successful draw spread in our small community, I received all kinds of advice on how to hunt mountain goats…some solicited, some not. One experienced goat hunter and friend recommended I wait until the end of the season when the goat’s hair would be much thicker and longer, but being a stay-at-home mother of three busy kids with a husband who works full time out of the home did not leave me the luxury of waiting until the goats were ready. I needed to hunt when I was ready. September 1 was going to have to be it.
Mike and I headed up to a place north of town at 4:30 in the morning. Mike and our 12-year-old son, Nathan, had gone backpacking the weekend before to a high mountain lake and had seen eight mountain goats, but they moved off when Mike and Nathan got to 800 yards, so I thought for sure I had my work cut out for me. I have pretty much no confidence in my long shots, preferring to shoot nothing over 300 yards.
We hiked in the dark for an hour and a half, switched off our headlamps, then hiked for another hour up into the end of the canyon. We were almost at the end of the bowl when Mike spotted a goat up in the rocks in front of us about 1,000 yards away and heading our way. We started to sneak to a spot where we could get set up for him but then we noticed he was moving towards a group of six goats; two billies, two nannies and two kids who were bedded down in the open shale. This group was about 800 yards away so we changed our plan and decided to put the sneak on them instead. We were able to drop down into a small ravine and quietly advance to close the distance to 400 yards without being seen. Another nanny and her kid joined up with them briefly but then moved on so we had to be careful she wouldn’t see us and alert the herd.
We left our packs in the ravine and started to sneak on the group to get into shooting range, only bringing the gun, the spotting scope, the range finder and extra bullets. We ended up crawling slowly and silently most of the 200 yards uphill, carefully keeping the scattered trees between us and the alert goats. Mike hung back with the spotting scope while I belly crawled out from under a small jack pine and tried to get a good rest for the rifle in the shale. I had rocks poking in every spot of my body that made it really uncomfortable as I waited the 45 minutes it took for the goat that I wanted to finally stand up.
For a full account of Susie's adventure, go to page 44 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.