The day before Thanksgiving, I trekked out solo after a goat. The air was cold, -1 degree, as I broke trail through waist deep snow, high on the mountain. I'd already taken four Mt. Goats with a bow, and this was one of the toughest late-season goat hunts I'd ever been on. And it was about to get a whole lot tougher.
Somewhere above a cliff that drops hundreds of feet into the drainage below, I got on a great white billy. Daylight was fading and the snow was quiet. I stalked to within bow range and let loose the arrow. The goat kept his composure despite the hole in his chest, and he stepped carefully down the vertical face until finding a thin ledge where he laid down and expired.
There was no getting to him without ropes and tools, and certainly no getting him out that night.
I made a call to my good buddy Jason Bunch, a great guide and hunter who also serves as a Search and Rescue swimmer with the U.S. Coastguard. He realized the severity of the situation and shared my eagerness to retrieve the goat as soon as possible. Within seconds he assembled an A Team of his Coast Guard buddies, experienced Search and Rescue Swimmers and Mountaineers to head out the next morning. I felt horrible asking such a tall order on Thanksgiving, a time these men should be relaxing with their families, but these were not ordinary men.
When Jason asked Magrath and Emley if they wanted to help, there was excitement in the air and they both agreed without hesitation.
We woke at 4 am and put an assaulted on the mountain with importance in our strides. The mission: Safely get the billy out and get these guys home in time for turkey dinner so as to avoid certain divorce and family disownment.
As I hiked, I kept feeling guilty to be putting the guys through this what some might call hell, but they seemed to be having a great time on a crisp 10 degree morning exploring a new mountain. I could tell these guys had the same disease or desire as I do.
We arrived at the goat in good time, assessed the situation and decided that rappelling down would be the best way to reach the billy. After a short time, the guys had snow anchors buried and a back-up rope attached to an alder bush. Magrath, the most experienced climber of the group, rappelled first, and when he was safely to the ledge I followed.
There was barely enough room for the two of us on the ledge. We took a couple pictures of the billy and measured his horns, because the only way we'd be getting him down was to push him off the ledge. After four full seconds of free fall, the goat, to our amazement, had no damage.
When Magrath and I made our way back to the top, we looked and the time. Our efforts had taken longer than we had hoped. It was approaching the time that the guys had promised to be home, so after my thanks to Emley and Magrath, they flew off the mountain.
Jason was able to get an extension and wanted to stay with me to help take photos and pack out my billy. I kept telling him to leave and that I didn’t want him to get in any more trouble, but he would have no part of it. He's a great friend, and he was as excited about the whole thing as if it were his own trophy.
Jason and I finally made it home, only a little after his third extension...
That night as I sat down at my Aunt's table to an amazing reheated Thanksgiving dinner, exhausted from all the events of the day, I gave thanks to God for truly great friends, their tolerant wives, and for watching over us and bringing us home safely.