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2013 Sitka Gear Catalog
Karsten Hart: Hunter, Freestyle Skier
Kissed by an Elk
The Last Go Round
Author: Ron Thomas
Dec 14, 2010
Looks like I'll be off the mountain for awhile, weather turned warm and the goats moved out of the canyon. Almost looks like this now, but more winter is on it's way. Wind, rain and SNOW is in the weather report starting Sunday. With anything like luck, that will bring my furry white friends back to the canyon. I feel like the deal closer is at hand. John says, "we'll be packing Thursday"... I'm thinking Saturday.
Whatever the case, we'll be up there. More sights to be seen, more pictures to be taken, and more tale to be told. I feel it's winding to a finish. Steve, Bart, Pete, Les, Gordon, Mike and all of you... I wish you were here, it's just to good too not share. I'll do my best to report what's happening, say a prayer for John and I and we'll do our best to close the deal.
See ya on the mountain.
... The last go-round
The last part of a hunt is always the hardest part to tell... main reason... it means it's over. And when it's a mountain goat tag and your 67, you know you'll never get another one, but let me tell you how we got there, how we got to the end of the hunt.
My hunting partner John and I were last out on November the fourth. We had been seeing lots of goats as I had reported to you, but it had warmed up a lot and we witnessed the last of the goats head-in up and out of the canyon for cooler haunts on top of the mountain. The long range weather reports looked promising, but our work schedule did not, it looked like a long week of hoping for more snow in the high country to bring them back to the canyon, but no time to hunt them. The week went slow! The weather was doing everything we were wanting it to do up top, lots of snow, but John was tied up the whole week, no chance to get out until Saturday the 13th. However, on Wednesday, I stopped to talk to my friend Dave who had just finished two weeks of guiding friends of his from Minnesota on an elk hunt. He said, give me a day to get squared away and lets hit it on Friday. So Friday it was.
Friday morning, about dark-0-30, I walked out to load the rig and was greeted to our first good snow of the year. Hey... this should be interesting, looking for white mountain goats up in the snow covered cliffs... well nobody said it was going to be easy. Dave and I hit the trail head just before first light, things looked good, the only thing that was missing was John, but he would join me the next morning for another hunt. We hiked up the canyon and got to our first vantage point to see goats... nobody home... just white cliffs and snow, with clouds coming down the canyon from the top. Looked like a repeat of our hunt up at Rock Lake, only this time we had a driving snow to add to the taking away of our visibility. The further up the canyon we hiked the more socked in it became. By the time we got to our last good vantage point at the top of the canyon, the clouds were so thick you couldn't even tell you were in a canyon. Well okay, let's just wait it out and hope the snow lets up and the clouds burn off. I hiked up a trail a little ways and cut a fresh moose track, so we decided to follow them, while we were waiting for things to clear. About an hour later nothing had changed and it looked like that's what we were in for the rest of the day. Reluctantly we decided to bag it for the day and hit it again in the morning. On the way down I was a little concerned, though we were clouded in at the top, we had had good enough visibility down below to see goats. We'd had snow all week, they should be back to their winter range, where the heck are they, they should be here.
As we worked our way down we seemed to be getting under the clouds a little, we could start to see the cliffs a little more on the side of the canyon. The visibility was "iffy" at best and it was snowing enough to make getting a clear focus in our binoculars pretty hard. But we could now see the cliffs and decided to stay for awhile to give them a good glassing. We dropped our packs and went to work glassing the cliffs. It didn't look promising. I decided to take a break, there was an apple in my pack that was calling my name and my eyes were getting tired anyway. I cut the first peace of apple and Dave said, "I got a goat!" Game on... out comes the spotting scope and lets get a good look at this bugger. In came the clouds, he was gone, but we knew he was there. He'd be there when the clouds cleared again... so we wait. We played hide and seek in the clouds with him for two hours. "Ron, what do you think, he looked pretty good didn't ya think?" "Ya he did, but I want to get a better look at his face, I want to see that long old horse face, the horns look okay, but at this distance the face will tell us more about how adult he is." The clouds started to lift again, we were ready, lets get a good look at this old boy. We finally got him in our scope and oh ya, he looked good. I have my eye to the glass and Dave said, "Hey Ron, look what's coming!" I looked up to see a big patch of blue sky opening up, looked like the gods were with us. It was finally clear enough to get a range finder to work, it read 587 yards. Okay, lets head back up the canyon, we'll get more level with him and it will cut the distance by a bunch, so up we went. We found just the opening we were looking for and the goat now ranged at 327 yards, that's out of my recruve bow range so it was time for the 300 magnum.
But now it was time to do some real studying. If I shoot him, can we get to him? It was going to be a real nasty trip up a boulder field that was also covered with alder and buck horn brush, snow and ice and that would get you to the base of the cliffs below the water fall, then it would really get interesting. We would have to climb up along the water fall, find a place to cross it and then do some cliff hugging to get to a chute that would take us up to the next two layer's the goat would be on. "I think we can do it!" I KNOW John can do it. Let's make it happen.
I put my pack on the roots of an up turned tree, put my rifle on the pack and snuggled in behind it for a look. The goat was there, in the cross hairs, it was a solid hold, a couple of deep breaths and start the squeeze. " You nailed him Ron, it's down!" Dave was all smiles and pumping my hand, "congratulations, we did it!" What a feeling, what a mixed emotion I was feeling, we did what we set out to do, but now it was over, part of me wished we had walked away and left that magnificent creature, but I hadn't and it was over... well not quite over yet.
We headed down the canyon to the rig, dropped off our packs and rifle, grabbed our pack frames and the gear we would need to get to the goat and get the job done. Soon we were back and started bush-whacking our way up the mountain, it was harder than we thought. I checked my watch, it was 3:30, there was no way we could get to the goat, dress it out and get off the cliffs before dark. Tomorrow we could hit it early and have the whole day if need be to get the job done. It was cold, the goat would be fine, more importantly... we would have John.
John was at my door at the given hour, now we would pick up Dave, have a little hike up the mountain, climb the boulder field, ease up the cliffs and pick up our goat. NOTHING TO IT. The nothing to it part seemed to fade away quickly when we reached the cliffs. Now mind you, by the time Dave and I made it to the cliffs, John was already up them, been to the goat and had some less than encouraging words for us. "This could be a little interesting," John said. Let me tell you... something interesting to John, is of no interest to Dave or me. (Youth, you gotta love it) Well we got through the interesting parts (and it was) got to the goat, got some pictures, dressed it out and started back off the face and hopefully off the cliffs and back to that wonderful boulder field. (After the cliff's the boulder field seemed wonderful)
Well it was over, the head and cape was in my pack, the meat was in John and Dave's pack, we were on the trail heading back to the rig and the end of the hunt was at hand. It was a very quiet walk, each of us having our own thoughts about what the past seven trips into goat country meant to each of us. I don't know what all their thoughts were, but I knew what mine were. I am so very thankful and blessed for the opportunity to discover "Goat Country" and what it's all about. To have friends that would give up their own hunting time to accompany me on my hunting trip of a lifetime, just to help me, just to be part of a trip into the most beautiful country you can imagine. My tag was more full than I could of ever imagined.
Beautiful imagery and awesome story! Thank you for sharing.
Luke Johnson Posted At 3/09/2013 12:49 AM
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