Blog witten by – Prois Staffer, Becky Henderson Gerritsen
If you would have told me a year ago today that I would be coming home from a 7 day Kodiak spring Mountain Goat Hunt I probably would have laughed and thrown a burp rag at you from across the room. I wouldn’t be able to get up since my arms would be cradling my freshly brewed baby girl and my body physically not able to do much than stand post-partum. Yet here we are! The human body is an amazing thing and can be pushed to such extremes if you dare to.
This was my second goat hunt and each one presents their own adventures and surprises. This one didn’t disappoint. The first couple of days the wind never seized with gusts at the top going from 40-50 mph. The icy slopes and wind made it tough to walk even with crampons and ice axes helping along the way. Guns froze, Grizzly Bears were out of their dens early, and the snow deeper than expected. All in all a normal Kodiak spring goat hunt.
With the high winds it was hard to get within a comfortable shooting range on the goats we could get to. Finally, on day 5 the winds died down and we caught up to a group we had been watching for a few days but couldn’t make it work with terrain and wind conditions. They were starting to feed higher and higher to the newly windswept peaks and we knew time was of the essence to cut them off.
With crampons on and ice axes ready we scurried up a side avalanche chute and made it to a bench that would hopefully lead us to the goats we had lost sight of. While getting some air back in our lungs after the trek up the mountain face, we looked to our left and saw a nannie poke her head over the rimrocks above us. Packs were dropped instantly and I stuck my Stubai ice ax in the ground to use as a rest. As the crosshairs on the .300 wsm came across the white shoulder I squeezed the trigger and heard that reassuring thump sound all hunters yearn to hear.
If you have never hunted Mountain Goats, they are an amazing animal that inhabit some of the harshest of places imaginable. Unlike Dall Sheep that tend to perish easily a goat has a will to live that is beyond compare, other then to that of a bear. Even with a well-placed shot they will traverse the rocky bluffs and decide to perish in the worst place imaginable. Moving in close enough to shoot a mountain goat is one thing, but being able to retrieve it is usually the true test. With this fact known, my husband Nick quickly had a great backup shot to make sure she wasn’t going to continue her hike higher into the rocks. With two well placed kill shots we watched her hit the ground in front of us in a matter of seconds and slide down in the snow. Woohoo, high fives were given and we hiked the 50 yards to where the snow skid had started. The high fives subsided very quickly……
As mentioned above, the retrieval of a goat is an adventure in itself and she had slid about 20 feet past what would have been about the perfect spot. Unfortunately for us she had found the avalanche chute to a precipice that we couldn’t even see the bottom of. As luck would have it the top of this chute had a line of willows growing into whatever rock structure it could find and it had stopped her slide to an unknown bottom. Seeing this my husband Nick and our buddy Nick who was with us all looked down and tried to see what options we had.
This wasn’t our first tough goat retrieval and we were prepared this time with 100 feet of rope for such an occasion. My husband Nick, tied off with the rope while the other Nick and myself found a patch of willows above that we looped the rope through, dug our crampons into the ice and played anchor. Meanwhile Nick creeped his way towards the edge of the chute with both ice axes and crampons dug into the icy side as much as possible. We belayed the rope down as Nick chipped away one foot hold at a time and made the slow descent to the goat.
After what seemed like an hour Nick made it to the willow bushes and was able to get the rope on the goat for us to pull up. The resistance was too great and we had to rethink our pulley system. Once we got two ropes attached and the goat gutted on the cliff side, we easily pulled her up to the flats. Nick ice axed his way out and we all breathed a sigh of relief to have that behind us. The wind was picking up so we were able to get the goat to our avalanche chute we hiked up and drug her down to a flat spot out of the wind to process.
With the three of us we were able to make good time of skinning and boning the meat out. The sun was shining and we finally had a day where we didn’t think the wind would blow us off the side of the mountain. At this location two years previous we had also been successful at getting a goat, unfortunately we lost it, but it wasn’t due to lack of trying on the retrieval. Upon shooting it, as it slid down the mountain a well-timed Grizzly bear had watched the fast-food slide by and was on it before we could be, so it was donated to Mr. Grizz. Knowing this information, we had our rifles placed close by.
As I was boning out a hindquarter I heard scratch marks on the ice. I looked down at my rain pants and figured it was them brushing against the ice, so I continued the task at hand. Instantly I heard it again. This time I looked up just in time to see a Grizzly coming up behind us, those sounds were his claws walking across the ice chute 30 yards away. As quickly as I saw him, I jumped up yelling “Bear, Bear”. Without hesitation both Nicks had rifles in hand and at full draw. Luckily for us he was as jumpy to see us as we were to him. He put on the breaks and quartered away, we watched him walk off hoping he would go sniff out the gut pile and leave us to finish our work. As our buddy Nick stood guards the knives got a little quicker and the skinning and boning out was done at a fast clip. We loaded up all of the meat and hide and headed back to camp, turning around at every sound the entire walk home.
Kodiak is a bipolar mistress of adventures. Her beauty is beyond compare and can lure you in with her promises of nice weather, breath taking views of ocean beaches to tall peaks, and the wilds of the animals that inhabit her. The adventure is unpredictable which is why we always come back for more.
Details: 6/7 year old nannie, gross horn length 10 1/4″
Gun: tikka t3 lite 300 wsm Manner stock, Spartan precision bipod
Prois in the bag
Tintri short sleeve shirt
Olann merino sports bra
Olann merino 1/2 zip
Olann merino glove liner
Tintri 1/2 zip 2.0
Tintri neck gaiter
Torai neck gaiter
Callid down beanie