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Sitka in the Khalarhi
Black and White
Athlete Insider: Donnie Vincent
Worth the Wait.
Author: Ron Thomas
Nov 30, 2010
This has been an incredible journey so far, I know 67 is not the best year in your life to start goat hunting, but it works for me. I've already had an unbelievable goat hunt/season. If it ended tonight I would feel my tag is FULL. I've been in goats on every hunt, seen as few as three and as many as twenty on a hunt. Each one was special. I've never been in goat country, because I never thought I had a reason to go. Well I know two things. One, I will never draw another goat tag. And two, I will never quit going to goat country, it's incredibly special, I love it so.
First Report from the Field:
Just an update on the goat hunt. About 10 days ago we started getting rain, which turned to snow in the high country. I'd been hunting about 6600 ft to 7500 feet (our highest peaks are about 8000) but the snow drove me (and the goats) down. I was told that when winter sets in, the goats move off the two mountains I had been hunting and drop down into "Rock Lake" to get out of the weather and fine easier food.
I'd been wanting to hunt the rock creek drainage so this was a good time to give it a look. I'd been up rock creek, which is about 3 miles to the last water crossing before you start the last hike to the lake. That last climb, is about three quarters of a mile and a thousand foot gain to the lake. It's a tough hike, but a half way decent trail will get you up there. My concern was, you get in that far, kill a goat and your not getting the goat and all your gear out in one trip. Extra trips into this country with snow is a real hump to say the least. My hunt-in partner John had the answer, "Horses"! It seemed his dad had a bunch. So at dark-0-thirty last Saturday, John, my friend and hunting partner and Les, my friend from Bozeman and I were saddled up and heading up the Rock Creek trail, in the dark, in a rainy mist and a pretty crappy foggy inversion, not quite what we were hoping for. But up the trail we went, and made it to the last water crossing about good light, and headed up the switch backs that would take us to Rock Lake. About half way up all of us were mighty thankful for those horses, it's a steep hard climb when your packing your gear, rifle, recruve bow, spotting scope and such. Nothing we couldn't have done, but the horses sure made it sweet and easy. We were almost to the top when we broke out of the inversion/fog. It was pretty cool looking back down in the valley we'd just come up and seeing the foggy cloud cover, we were now in blue sky's, sun and SNOW! We made the final climb and crested right at Rock Lake. What a picture! The lake sit's at 5000ft in a huge basin, with mountains on three sides that shoot up to 7500feet.
There was 6 to 8 inches of snow there, but you didn't have to climb far and you were knee deep and getting deeper the further up you went. It was incredible! We set up the spotting scope, got out our bino's and started glassing. The lake is about a mile long with a pass at the far end of the lake, that was where we were expecting to spot some goats. We hadn't been there 15 minutes and the wind started blowing the fog from down below into our basin. In about another 15 minutes you couldn't see 50 yards in any direction. Ok, this will burn off or blow out the way it came, we'll just have to wait it out. Well the wind did just that, blew the fog right out...almost...then changed directions and blew it right back in. This went on for hours, we were sure it would clear, but about two that afternoon, I said let's bag it, this is what we're going to have all day. So we loaded our gear, packed the horses and started down the switch back, a little discouraged, but still enjoying the incredible country. By the time we got off the switch back we were out of snow and starting the long trip back down the canyon. The canyon sides are super steep and cliff'y , but completely bare of snow. As we rode along I was looking at the cliffs and said, you know if I were a goat, this is where I'd be, not up at the lake in the snow. We didn't go another 200 yards and I spotted what looked to be a goat. We tied off the horses and started glassing. Sure enough, there was a goat, then another and then another. We watched the cliffs as we worked our way on foot on down the trail. We were starting to see more and more goats, yep, this is where they were wintering. We checked the terrain out for how we could get up into the cliffs and made note of where we were seeing the goats. Then John said, "hey Ron, I think you need to look at this one". John had been checking out some of the goats with our spotting scope. I took one look and knew I'd found my Goat. "My old, horse faced, long horned Billy of a Lifetime Goat".
He was way up the mountain, where he should be. He was looking regal and out of reach, also like he should be.Our last sighting was at a pretty good goat at about 300 yards, but he was not "The Goat", tempting, but not the old horse face Billy that I wanted. As the day was starting to get on, we decided to move on out. I was sure we would find them where we left them the next day. We did.
Ron Thomas is a member of the Sitka Family. He recently completed his first Goat Hunt. Stay tuned for three more reports from the field to hear how his hunt ended.
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