I gingerly made my way up the vertical stretch of rock, I glanced three
feet to my right?grimacing as I thought about the 1,800 foot drop, about
not letting go, about pushing and pulling, about air and about space and
about thick-horned goats. I leaned toward the flat rock face and pushed
upward, with no thought of turning back.
Ascending the mountain, it
seemed like we went down as much as we went up. Goats are content in these
steep, treacherous cliffs and benches. They are confident and find security
from predators here.
?Many old billies have never
seen man,? I heard my guide say.
The coastal mountains of
British Columbia are noted for having the highest concentration of Rocky
Mountain goats in North America. Generally speaking, goats in this area
have heavier bases and can reach record book class at a younger age, due
to milder winters and abundant feed.
After extensive research
and background checking, I had narrowed my choice to Harry McCowan of McCowan?s
Sporting Adventures. Harry?s hunt area is approximately 4,700 square
miles located between Terrace and Bella Coola. The 782,000-acre Kitlope
Valley includes the world?s largest protected tract of old growth temperate
rain forest. With the Pacific on the west, and the coast mountains on the
east, few animals have ever see humans, let alone hunters.
8-7-00 – First entry in hunt notebook.
I arrived in Terrace, British Columbia as scheduled. Unfortunately,
my gear and bow did not. Customs said it was the airline?s fault?the airlines
said it was Customs? fault. My outfitter Harry and I waited around for
the next flight, when my clothes and gear came, but no bow. I feared my
bow was bound for Japan, or maybe even back home to Iowa.
We spent the night in Terrace, B.C. and met another hunter Harry would
be hosting. A call to Customs and another to the airlines assured me that
my equipment would be on the next morning?s flight.
Thankfully, as promised, my bow arrived at the airport at 9:30 a.m.
We loaded everything into Harry?s Cessna and headed to his main camp at
Lake Caroline where we unpacked and organized gear. A thick fog prevented
any further flying, so we planned for the next day?s trip to spike camp.
After an early breakfast with Harry and my guide, Wayne, we loaded
the float plane and flew to my hunting area spike camp, located on a pristine
alpine lake. I was happy to finally be hunting after days of travel.
Wayne and I spent the balance of the day scouting and spotting goats.
We located a pair of nannies and a large kid goat on a mountain top about
three air miles to the south. We also spotted a large billy on our mountain,
but it was too late to begin a stalk, given the terrain and distance. We
would try him tomorrow.
While taking a break and snacking on our way back to camp, a nanny and
her kid grazed nearby at less than 30 yards. I took several pictures. We
also saw fresh wolf tracks and bear sign?and lots of bugs.
After my first day afield, I looked forward to supper and a good night?s
sleep. I crawled into my warm sleeping bag and thought about the adventure
I was experiencing. I thanked God for this wilderness and British Columbia.
I was a long way from home.
After a healthy breakfast, a boat ride across the lake probably saved
us an hour of walking. We worked our way up one mountain, glassed, then
worked down, then up another mountain. I quickly learned that this is what
goat hunting is all about?going up and down in precisely equal physically
As we neared the mountain where we?d seen the nice billy the previous
afternoon, I hoped he was still there. Wayne asked me how I was faring.
?Only one more mountain to go, but let?s glass for awhile from that
ridge,? he said. We?d been there a few minutes when a nice billy strolled
out from a glacier-covered cliff.
Suddenly, the four strenuous miles of up and down didn?t seem so bad.
Wayne and I perked-up, and began glassing and strategizing. We considered
every conceivable option and alternative to get closer to the goat without
being detected or winded. The big billy definitely had a great vantage
point. As we sat and glassed, a second goat bounded out of the same glacier-covered
crevice. This guy was so big and old that he walked like he had arthritis.
?He?s a Booner and the other definitely a good Pope,? Wayne surmised
of the newcomer. ?Let?s get up there!? I hustled my steps to keep up with
Wayne, and 45 minutes later we were within 200 yards of where we?d last
seen the billies. The younger of the two goats was still bedded on the
ice pack, while the big boy had vanished?he?d moved out of sight or off
the mountain. I was interested in pursuing the smaller goat if a shot presented
itself?size was not a limiting factor in my mind. We felt like we had a
good chance for a shot if I could move around behind him and stalk in.
The Setup & The Shot
My mind and my heart raced as I closed the distance. I thought to myself:
the wind is good, there?s reasonable cover, watch your step, arrow nocked,
don?t worry about the bugs?everything appeared to be working in my favor.
As I moved into range at about 70 yards, I wanted to make sure my goat
was where I had last spotted him. As I slowly raised up from my belly and
looked?he was gone! I dropped back down and took a deep breath. Seven and
a half hours from camp and my hopes had been vanquished. What happened?
Had he caught my movement or my scent? I mentally reviewed the things that
should have put me on top of the billy.
After what seemed like an hour of retrospect, I stood up and started
to think: if I was a goat, what would be on my mind? Was I hungry? Was
I going to look for nanny or for a buddy? Or maybe it was those relentless
bugs that had moved him off the glacier. But where did he go? The sun was
fading behind the distant mountains, and the air was turning to a foggy
I visually panned the flat, boulder-covered mountaintop and motioned
Wayne to my location. We whispered a few words and Wayne said the billy
shouldn?t have moved too far. I nodded halfheartedly. Wayne moved toward
the area where we had last seen him, on the moonscape, slowly creeping
about 100 yards in a semi-circle toward a large boulder. The he stopped,
grinned and motioned for me to join him. There, maybe 30 feet below us
on a rocky bench, was the bedded billy. He appeared to be surveying his
world below, completely unaware of our presence.
I slowly eased forward beside the boulder and intuitively picked a spot
behind his shoulder. The mass of white hair filled all my sight pins. I
took a deep breath and released my arrow.
The goat jumped to his feet and just stood there wondering what had
happened. It was a well placed shot and soon his legs started to fail.
And like that, it was over.
After a few pictures, Wayne caped and loaded the goat onto his pack
frame and we started our long journey back toward spike camp.
The thought of sleeping in the bush with my goat and meat and potentially
hungry bears, instead of our spike tent, put a little more spring into
my step as we navigated the terrain. As Wayne and I motored across the
lake, we noticed Harry?s Cessna docked at the camp.
He congratulated us on our success and asked if we wanted to fly back
to base camp. Wayne and I looked at each other and smiled?agreeing a hot
shower would feel real good. In 40 minutes we were back at Lake Caroline.
It was quite a day!
Final entry in notebook. Departed Terrace to Vancouver for an evening
stay in the big city before an early departure to Fort Dodge, Iowa. My
dream of harvesting trophy Rocky Mountain goat was starting to sink in.
Mountain goats are tough
My Mathews Q-2 set at 70 lbs.
and equipped with an Archer?s Choice sight proved lethal.
I used Zeiss 10 x 40 binoculars
and a Bushnell Yardage Pro Compact Laser rangefinder to determine exact
My Nat Gear camouflage was a
perfect choice and helped me move-in close.
Boots in this country must be
water-repellent and ankle-supporting with a hard sole to ward off heel
and foot bruising. My Cabela?s Winter 800 hunting boots have proved to
be a top mountain terrain boot.
A bow sling is a must, you?ll
need both hands for secure climbing and balance.
I really learned to appreciate
my Suunto Vector wrist top computer which had digital compass, altimeter,
barometer and watch, especially when the fog and clouds covered us up.
Harry McCowan?s operation
is one of the finest in North America. He guides and outfits for Rocky
Mountain goat, black bear and grizzly. He has been professionally guiding
more than two decades with nearly a 100 percent success rate annually.
McCowan’s a seasoned pilot
and knows his territory. He has a great sense of humor and is fun to hunt
with. His guides are goat-smart and top-notch outdoorsmen. Lodging is excellent
and the food is incredible. Allow yourself an extra day each way for travel, inclement weather or airline delays.
For cutting-edge how-to information, bowhunting gear know-how, and exciting adventure, look to
Bowhunting World magazine for the best and most reliable articles in the industry.
Editor Mike Strandlund and Managing Editor Mark Melotik are professional, award-winning journalists with passion for bowhunting and nearly 50 years combined experience in the sport. Field editors Chuck Adams, Norb Mullaney, Richard Combs and Jeff Murray are among the most respected in the bowhunting writing field.
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