The Definition of Tough

By Bob Potter
Idaho, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Bob Potter - The Definition of ToughOctober/November 2012 EHJ (Issue 133) - At first it sounded like a rock rolling down a cliff. Still half asleep, I tried to focus on the sound. When it crashed again, I recognized the rumble… thunder! I poked my head out of my sleeping bag and noticed that the stars overhead were hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. As the raindrops began to fall, I jumped up from my makeshift bed and stuffed everything I could reach into my backpack. In an attempt to save weight, I had left my tent miles below at the trailhead! Stumbling to get into my rain gear, I mumbled some choice words for trusting the weatherman. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find a spot where I could hunker down next to a large boulder, offering partial protection from the increasing rainstorm. There was still an hour until first light, so I pulled my hood down tight over my head and tried to close my eyes.

It had only been three months earlier when my good buddy, Nate Blanchard, presented a convincing sales pitch about a trophy mountain goat unit he was applying for. Thinking it would take twenty years to draw, I followed suit and put in for the tag. You can imagine my astonishment when I checked the Idaho draw results a few weeks later and found that I was successful! Now, here I was in July on my first goat scouting expedition. Even though I was soaking wet in the dark, life was good!

As the sun came up and the rain subsided, the towering cliffs and avalanche chutes began to show life. I located a dozen goats on that first trip, including two decent billies. Having never hunted these mountains before, I decided to focus on a different area on each scouting trip until I found the perfect spot. Committed to harvesting a mature billy, I researched every mountain goat book, magazine article and DVD I could get my hands on. With each passing day, my obsession increased and my mind became consumed with visions of big billies.

I returned to my hunting unit in August and hiked into a different drainage. After two days of glassing, none of the goats in the area stood out as shooters, so I decided to pack up and head home to regroup. Just before leaving my ridge-top perch, I wanted to check a distant peak to look for other potential areas to scout. As I scanned the mountainside, a lone white dot caught my eye. When I zoomed in, I found myself looking at the biggest-bodied goat I had seen. He was two miles away and I couldn’t see how big his horns were, but I could tell he had huge shoulders and a pot belly. He was definitely worth a closer look. I marked his location on the topo map and my next scouting excursion was instantly planned.

A week later, I was parked at a new trailhead, ready to tackle another massive climb into goat country. From this approach, I thought I could cut the distance to less than a mile from where I had last seen the big-bodied goat. Like clockwork, he showed up two hundred yards from where he had been a week earlier. Although I don’t claim to be an expert field judge of mountain goats, it was obvious this was a mature billy. In addition to his huge body, his horns carried great mass and his length looked sufficient. It didn’t take long through the spotting scope to make up my mind. This was a shooter, I had found my spot. He lived near the top of a steep, timbered slope that was almost completely surrounded by cliffs. It would be difficult to get in on him in his current location. Luckily, I’m a glutton for punishment and I relished in the challenge.

Bob Potter - The Definition of Tough

For a full account of Bob's adventure, go to page 42 in the October/November 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.