|News and Updates
News and Updates
|When you think of an Idaho Dream Hunt you probably conjure up images of a huge 7x7 bull elk or a 30 inch mule deer.
Although; my Idaho Dream Hunt would have much smaller horns and carry a coat as white as snow and would be an
equal trophy to any elk or mule deer. If you guessed an Idaho Mountain Goat you would be correct. I was one of the
very lucky hunters who had the good fortune of drawing one of only 48 coveted 2007 Idaho Mountain Goat tags. So
begins the tale of my Idaho Dream Hunt.
During the winter of 2006, my friend Matt and I were making plans on taking a trip to Alaska for a seven day
hunting/fishing rafting trip with our sons. Unfortunately; shortly after making these plans, I fell ill, and had to have
surgery. In March of 2007; while recuperating from surgery, I had to break the news to Matt and we had to postpone the
trip indefinitely. I told him that the medical bills had pretty much eat up the funds I had set side for our Alaska trip.
With the bad news given to my friend, it was time to come up with a new game plan for the coming hunting season.
What to do? After a considerable amount of deliberating, I finally decided on trying my luck at applying for an Idaho
Mountain Goat control hunt tag in a unit that was only offering three tags. I have wanted to hunt mountain goats for
many years, so I thought, why not, what harm could there be since they refund your money if you don't draw a tag.
The way I saw it, it would probably take me many years to draw a tag for this hunt; that is if I ever drew a tag. At 43
years of age time definitely wasn't in my favor, but I was definitely willing to give it a try anyway.
Idaho Fish & Game publishes the draw results on their website. The day came to go online and check the results of the
draw. Can you imagine my excitement when I found my name listed on the website? To find I was successful in drawing
one of three coveted Idaho Mountain Goat tags; the very first time I ever applied! I actually checked the website three
times to make sure that it was correct and every time I plugged my license number in, it said I was successful in drawing
a Mountain Goat tag.
After the initial shock wore off and I quit jumping up and down in celebration, I realized I had much planning and
preparation to do if I was ever going to be successful at stalking an animal that lives comfortably at dizzying heights of
more than 10,000 feet. The very first thing I did was to start working out in earnest at my local Gold's Gym to be sure
that I was in shape enough to hike the steep terrain that these agile animals live in. For the next five months it was
treadmills, elliptical machines, and weightlifting for 4 to 5 days a week. In addition, I bought a new rifle, boots, backpack,
and had some reloads made up just for this hunt.
I also made three separate trips during the summer to my hunting unit in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA)
to scout for mountain goats. The first trip we saw 9 mountain goats in two separate groups. The second trip was a day
hike with my wife, daughter, and son to an alpine lake to scout for mountain goats and do some fishing. We stayed at
the lake for four hours and watched a herd of 14 mountain goats graze on the cliffs over the alpine lake. In addition, my
son caught a couple beautiful cutthroat trout. My family describes this trip as the perfect day! The third and final
scouting trip was to the same alpine lake, but this time, with my friend Matt and his son Devin, and my son Clay. This
trip we glassed 6 Mountain Goats.
Back at work, I felt really good knowing where the Goats were located. I set my vacation for the first week in October for
my goat hunt to begin. I contacted Matt, letting him know the dates I had scheduled to take off for this hunt. Matt
acknowledged the dates, and agreed to go with me on the hunt.
Unfortunately, circumstances changed at work. It was now required that I reschedule my hunt time off in September
rather than in October. Due to this change in my hunting schedule, Matt would no longer be unable to accompany me
on the hunt. This change forced me to have to switch gears again.
The next day I contacted another dear friend, church mate, and hunting mentor, Bill Dobson. Bill and I have hunted
together for many years. He was with me when I took my first whitetail buck, black bear, and pronghorn antelope. He
also accompanied me on a 7 day guided Canadian Moose hunt that we returned from without a moose. By the way, Bill
is 66 years old and retired. I called Bill and laid out the scenario with the change in my hunting schedule and he said he
would be willing to go along and help. We decided that we would load up and leave on Saturday, September 15, 2007.
Even though it was only a few days before the hunt was to begin that I called Bill and asked if he could join me on this
hunt, the time would not pass fast enough.
On Saturday, Bill and I bought groceries, loaded up our gear and headed for the SNRA. Driving into the SNRA is an
experience like none other. It is one of the most bone jarring, teeth rattling roads you will ever traverse. The drive is
definitely worth it when you see some of the most amazing scenery this country has to offer. We arrived at the end of
the road in the early evening and set up camp next to a dried up lake bed. As we were pitching camp, we could see a
herd of mountain goats grazing in an open meadow on the side of one of the mountains about a mile from camp. We
hurriedly threw up our tents, put on our hunting boots and clothes and headed for the goats. A short distance from our
camp was a split in the road, and it headed to the top of this bench that was right below where we saw the goats. Having
never been up this road before, we inadvertently spooked the goats up the mountain as we came up the road. We
parked the truck and started a stalk of the goats up shale and alpine forbs slope. We climbed up to a small group of
pine trees with the intent of trying to get a shot. The goats were between 200-300 yards head of us and close to
topping the ridge above. I fought to get my breathing under control, I struggled to get a solid rest for a shot, I did just as
they topped the ridge, I didn't get a shot. I gathered up my backpack and gear and we started up the mountain.
As we reached the top, we didn't know what to expect from our quarry. We followed a goat trail that weaved its way
through some high alpines and shrubs, and then suddenly, not more than 50 yards in front of us through some trees
were the goats. There were nannies, Billies, and kids, all mixed together. I was never able to get a clear shot at any of
them. As the goats moved down the ridge, we followed, but after a short distance we spooked them and they took off.
We clambered our way back to the truck from our lofty perch of 10,000 feet through the dark with the moon shining
down on us. The view was absolutely breathtaking!
The next morning, we returned to the place we were the night before. I headed up the steep grade to the top at 10,300
feet. Once on top I followed the ridge to where we lost the goats the night before, and I didn't see them any where. That
was until I looked all the way down the mountain on the other side and there they were grazing at the very bottom. I sat
there at the top of the mountain pondering my next move. Either; climb down a very steep mountain with shale slides
and shear cliffs, or wait them out and hope they come up the mountain higher. Bill had stayed at the pickup so I was
solo at the top of the world. I pulled out my spotting scope and glassed them for a while watching them graze up the
mountain. There were approximately 14 mountain goats in this herd, and several were pretty impressive. I decided for
safety sake to turn around and head back to the truck. As I started down the mountain, I saw Bill a short ways from the
top heading for me. He got concerned about me and wanted to make sure I didn't fall down the other side. We headed
back up to the top to let Bill have a look at the goats and see if his idea was the same as mine as far as not going down
the other side of a very rugged mountain. He agreed that we should not pursue our quarry down the mountain, but that
we should head to the other side of the mountain and try to catch up with them. We climbed back down to the truck and
headed for the other side of the mountain.
It took us a little over two hours from the time we reached the truck to drive out of our camp area, up the highway, and
then all the way to the end of another road. At the end of that road, we still had another half a mile on foot to reach the
area where we saw the goats from above. After the half a mile hike, we finally got a glimpse of the goats. They had
moved halfway up the mountain into some shear rocky cliffs and laid down. We found a rocky outcropping below them
with some trees and we decided to wait them out and hope they come back down the mountain so I could get a shot.
After a little while, they stood up and starting grazing, not down, but up. If we would have stayed on top, we probably
would be within shooting range in no time. Such is hunting.
Bill and I decided to head back to the truck and make our arduous journey all the way back to our camp. We arrived at
camp with very little day light left to try another stalk. We decided to eat dinner and try again tomorrow. However, Bill
said he wanted to take a ride up on top of the bench we were at this morning and glass and prepare for tomorrow.
Once we reached the top of the bench, 10 of the 14 goats had grazed over the top mountain and were on our side of
the mountain again. We watched them for a little while and then headed back to camp, and we prayed the goats would
still be there tomorrow.
Sleep didn't come easy that night. I was kicking myself for not getting a shot the first day, and for running all over the
country after the goats when I should have just stayed on top of the mountain. Nobody ever said hunting is easy. I was
also worried about making sure that I didn't kill a nanny with a kid. When the herd is all bunched up it makes it hard to
determine whose kid goes with what goat. I kept telling myself to just shoot a billy and you don't have to worry about it -
easier said than done. I think of all the species I have hunted, mountain goats are the most difficult to tell a male from a
female. That night, in my prayer, I asked God to give me another chance to take my once in a lifetime Mountain Goat.
As the new day began, I climbed out of my tent and put on my hunting clothes, I looked down the ridgeline where we
saw the goats last night and there they were. They had actually moved closer toward us in the night and were almost in
the same location we saw them the night we arrived.
We hurriedly ate breakfast and headed out for the bench area that has become very familiar. This time as we came up
the bench road we parked further back from the mountain than we previously did so we wouldn't spook the goats like
the first time. We headed away from the goats at the base of the mountain for a couple hundred yards, and then
headed up the mountain. Even though we moved away from the goats we could still see them as we kept moving up the
steep grade. The goats were continuing to move up the mountain and were getting closer to the top. Bill and I pushed
on until we reached the top. Once on top, we stayed on the opposite side of the ridge from the goats and stalked closer
to the goat's position. We weaved through some high alpine trees and shrubs and spotted a rocky outcropping beyond
where the goats were. Once we reached the outcropping, I saw the herd, 10 goats was grazing right at top of mountain
in a saddle at about hundred yards in front of us. Two goats were trailing behind; I focused my attention on the furthest
one from the herd. Looking at the goat through my binoculars, I was pretty confident that he was a billy. I laid my
backpack down on the rocky ledge, Bill handed me the laser range finder and the lagging goat was 138 yards away. As
I was ranging them, the goats noticed us and all 20 goat eyes were on us. I knew time was going to be a factor. Decisive
action was needed. I laid my Savage Weather Warrior Model 116 chambered in the 30-06 caliber loaded with 150 gr.
Hornady SST bullets on my pack, took aim and squeezed the trigger. The Mountain Goat dropped in his tracks, but
continued to struggle so I put an insurance shot into him to anchor him permanently. I jumped up triumphantly and gave
Bill a big hug. I'm not sure Bill knew what to do, but I didn't care. I had just taken a once in a lifetime Idaho Mountain
Goat! God does answer prayer!
As I approached the Mountain Goat, I looked to be sure that he was a billy. Once I realized he had the right anatomical
parts I felt better that I hadn't harvested a nanny. Even though you can kill a nanny without kids, the Idaho Fish and
Game encourages hunters to try and select Billies over nannies. The nannies are the life givers and life sustainer's of
the herd so they need to be harvested sparingly. I felt much better knowing that I did my small part to help keep the
Idaho Mountain Goat population healthy.
As we set the billy up for pictures, I pulled my 35mm camera out of my pack and hit the on switch only to find the camera
did not have any film. The film was in my truck straight down the mountain about a half a mile. We decided to field dress
the goat and haul him whole down the mountain and take pictures at the bottom. Oh well, the best laid plans you know
At the Idaho Fish and Game mandatory check in at the Jerome Regional Office, I found out my billy Mountain Goat was
approximately 4 years old with 8 inch horns. The only record book this goat will make is mine, but he will look great on
my wall. The Fish and Game also took a small sample of meat and of the reproductive organ. The reproductive organ
sample was going to a graduate student in British Columbia for a study on Mountain Goats.
This was a great hunt that I will not soon forget. In fact, I can see myself telling my grandchildren this story - there goes
Grandpa again telling his Mountain Goat story. I was very proud that I accomplished this as a "Do It Yourself?" (DIY)
hunt. However, as you might imagine a hunt like this doesn't happen without help. I want to thank first and foremost my
family, my wife, Nikki, my daughter, Carissa, and my son, Clay for being totally supportive through my mountain goat
obsession leading up to my hunt and for their earnest prayers that I would be successful. Also, Nate Helm, Executive
Director of the Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, helped me pinpoint a location in the Pole Creek/4th of July Creek
drainages where he always saw Mountain Goats. His information was invaluable. In addition, I want to thank Matt Beed
for helping me scout for Mountain Goats preseason. I also want to thank my hunting mentor and partner Bill Dobson.
Without his help on this hunt, it would have never happened. As well, I can?t forget Dwight Tucker who hand loaded my
ammo and let me borrow his Bushnell laser range finder. Last and certainly not least, I want to thank God for allowing
me to hunt and take one of his magnificent creatures.
An Idaho Dream Hunt
BY: Mike Mathews
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