I had the opportunity to do a little Spanish goat hunting prior to a business meeting here on the Big Island of Hawaii.
I hunted with Patrick Fisher of Hawaii Safaris . My hunting guide was Damien, one of the permanent ranch managers.
The hunt took place on the very southern tip of the Big Island. The ranch was an active cow/calf cattle operation consisting of approximately 10,000 acres. It was very interesting to see the small, subtle; but certainly noticeable, climate changes including plant species, etc. within a half mile change of location.
The hunt consisted of stalking along the upper boundaries of an open grass flat and searching for the goats on the steep slopes of a cliff overlooking vast miles of lava flats. I can tell you now; you had better have some good boots and laced up tight when going off the edge into the cliffs!!! The goats actually seek the shelter of the cliffs during the early morning hours and move out into the lava flats where they spend all day feeding, etc. In the early evening hours, they begin their migration back to the cliffs where they stay at night.
Here is a picture of the lava flats from the upper portion of the cliff. Notice the “not so small” boat in the background cruising the Pacific Ocean.
While stalking along the upper rims, I finally spotted a buckskin colored goat already on the lava flats below probably a mile away. Careful glassing revealed another black goat blending in with the even blacker lava.
Damien knew of a trail leading down to the lava flats that would allow us access to the goats. While moving down the trail, Damien spotted more goats at the base of the cliff where the grass ended and the lava started. Standing there, we noticed another group, then another, then another, with numerous goats pouring out of the lower portions of the cliffs heading to the lava flats.
We had already spotted about 3-4 billies that would serve the criteria of a mature, old, trophy billy! Therefore, we needed to make haste and get lower as soon as possible to get into position. We knew we were going to make some noise, but the urgency of getting down and in a shooting position overrode being quite and missing an opportunity.
As we started, we ran into a herd of four billies. One was a small up and comer and the other was borderline. We couldn’t see all of them as they were standing under some trees, but we could just catch occasional glimpses. I’m not sure if they heard us or smelled us, but they knew something wasn’t “right”. They headed down the cliff out onto the lava flat and we were able to assess them in the open, which two of them were also added to the list of potential targets. They were walking straight away from us, so we needed to make another move to get an angle to take an appropriate shot.
While making the move, we were stooped over going under some trees with Damien a few steps in front of me, lower and to my left. As I looked up to keep from running into a tree limb, I noticed in the background a set of horns sticking up above the grass. I immediately squatted to my knees. I whistled to Damien to get his attention and he did the same when the young billy jumped up onto a rock. He began snorting and making a little ruckus looking in our direction. Another billy came from above him and stood to his left looking straight at us.
Damien looked back at me and mouthed the words, “Shoot the black one.”
Well, problem was the gun was strapped across my back so I could keep my balance and use my hands while traversing the steep cliff. So, I started very slowly sliding the gun off my back while holes were being burned thru our souls. Second problem was a shell was not loaded in the chamber. As I started to close the bolt, I couldn’t do it without slamming it home. When the bolt finally slammed, I thought that was it, but the goats still remained.
Problem number three arose when I couldn’t see the target billy thru the tall grass when I got into a shooting position. Problem four was I didn’t want to take a frontal chest shot. So, the stare down began. During this time, two additional billies began feeding up towards the two directly in front of us. I could see them clearly but Damien couldn’t at first. I mouthed to Damien to take a look at the two additional and tell me which one to shoot, which ended up being the original target billy.
While awaiting the billy to make a move, I studied his horn configuration. I could tell his right horn was broomed and starting to shorten. His left had a nice flare and shape to it, so he had a little character.
What seemed like hours, but actually took probably 5 minutes, the target billy finally decided we were not a threat. He began nibbling some grass and eventually turned broadside. I still couldn’t see him thru the scope. I shoulder the gun, slowly raised and fired. The billy bucked, turned uphill, quickly turning downhill, crashed into a rock and rocketed over it, disappearing into the trees just behind.
We waited, listening for the telling crash. We heard a bleat down the cliff face and waited a few minutes.
We walked over to where the goat was standing and I knew immediately we had a problem. Stomach content was sprayed all over the place, along with copious amounts of blood. We began tracking and made it all the way to the bottom of the cliff. We searched left and right looking to see if he had made a turn staying in the grass and trees along the bottom of the cliff, which we realized didn’t happen. This is where things got interesting!
Have you ever tracked blood on black lava? It sucks!!!!!
We started tracking on our hands and knees. Little spot here, a little spot there, we tracked. Then, he jumped off a lava cliff. We found a few blades of grass at the spot were we assumed he landed. Another spot of blood. Then, another.
Suddenly, I heard a snap of the fingers and a clap of the hands. I looked at Damien and he was smiling from ear to ear pointing to my left. I looked in the general direction and about 20 yards from us I saw the tip of a horn and some hair sticking up out of a lava crevasse. When he fell, he had fallen into the crevasse preventing us from seeing him at the edge of the lava/cliff interface.
My trophy Hawaiian Spanish Billy. Damien made me do the traditional Hawaiian shaka hand signal, which is a common greeting gesture.
Very nice mass on this old boy! Broomed tips, chunks missing from his horns. If he had been a white goat he would have been much easier to spot. But a black animal on black lava isn’t so easy.
I would like to say the shot was perfect but it was far from it. I thought the billy was slightly quartering from me at the shot. But, after further inspection, he was almost perfectly broadside. The bullet entered about 2-3 inches too far back from an ideal shot placement. The bullet when thru the liver and clipped the front portion of the stomach.
A picture at the base of the cliff where the lava began.
Overall, I would say this was a very fun and completely different than anything I’ve ever done before. The cliffs are steep and require some physical exertion. Shots are likely 100 yards or shorter. For the short time we hunted, we spotted somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 goats with close to a dozen being trophy billies. Damien was an A+ guide and I’d highly recommend this hunt to anyone who can make it up and down the cliffs. Patrick Fisher was very easy to work with and comes highly recommended from some of our more popular hunting TV faces, with several other species of animals available.