Chasing Grass Chute Goats
The following appears in the December issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRIAN WATKINS
Everyone has been affected in some way or another by COVID-19. It’s a troublesome year, but as with everything in life, you need to find the silver linings.
My buddy Trevor and I had planned a goat hunt in Southeast Alaska in August. The plan was to go for two mature billies – bow in tow. Planning the early- season hunt was our way of escaping the COVID world a little early. As it turns out, my best friend from college, Dave
who is not a hunter, was laid off due to a decrease in workload. His silver lining was leaving California and coming with us to experience what hunting in Alaska is all about: adventure.
OUR GOOD FRIEND JON Geary took us out onto the saltwater via boat, the best route of travel in Southeast, and dropped us off on a beach that we had decided on by going over maps.
We headed up the mountain on a typical goat hunt path: thick brush and elevation gain. We spent the first day climbing the mountain and getting to the area that we had gone over.
Opening morning was one we will never forget. We headed out onto the tops of the mountains amidst the slopes and cliffs. We spotted several inaccessible goats and ventured into uncharted territory.
Our plan was to slowly walk the ridgelines and glass each grass chute as we went along. Trevor would cover one side of the mountain as Dave and I would go the other way. The terrain is comprised of grass chutes that lead into cliff edges of shale rock. The goats tend to live in the shale rock for safety from predators. The area where they reside is often dangerous and deadly.
Moving along the ridge, Trevor spotted a mature billy. The goat was only 120 yards away, but in the aforementioned terrain. Trevor moved down a grass chute as Dave and I watched from above. As Trevor progressed, he slipped, sliding straight down towards the billy, which stood at the base of a 40-foot vertical drop.
As Trevor gained speed, we gasped in fear thinking he was going to fly off the cliff and be in serious trouble. Somehow Trevor dug his feet in and stopped a couple feet short of death. He trembled as adrenaline shot through his body. I’m still not sure quite how he did it, but he was able to compose himself and make a great shot on the goat below.
WHILE TREVOR AND DAVE went down to find his goat, I spotted another animal across the valley. It looked to be a nice billy, so I went out to put a stalk on. It’s always best to get above mountain goats and stalk down to them. The animals rarely look up for danger and it gives a better vantage point to stalk them.
I made my way above the billy, which was now accompanied by a smaller goat. As I moved into the area, I lost track of where the animals were. I used my binoculars to look back at Trevor and Dave, who watched as I got into position. Trevor gave predetermined hand signals to let me know where the goats were, as I was blind to their position. We have hunted together enough now that we can use signals almost as well as voice commands. I got positioned directly above the goats.
I knew the goats would feed up towards me as the day progressed. The first to come up was the small 2-year- old billy. He saw me lying above, but the wind was in my favor, leaving him unable to determine if I was a danger or not.
As I waited for the bigger goat to appear, this billy found me interesting. He walked to within 5 feet of me. I thought he was going to lick my bow! He finally spooked off and ran back down the hill to about 30 yards out.
As he looked back at me, the bigger billy finally came up. I ranged him at 35 yards and sent an arrow flying. The shot drove through both lungs and the goat headed straight down the mountain. I’m not sure how they stay completely sure- footed in that terrain, but he made it all the way down to the base of the cliff. Even being mortally wounded the goat still cruised through the mountain with ease.
TWO GOATS DOWN, WITHIN 30 minutes of each other! It was a morning we will never forget, and Dave was spoiled with what turned out to be an easy bow hunt.
The weather turned that evening and we had sideways rain for the next three days of packing out the goats. It was truly Southeast Alaska weather – a downpour of rain and heavy winds.
Goat hunting is strenuous, but it makes you feel alive. Especially chasing them in their natural habitat in the sketchiest environment Alaska has to offer. We will be back next year. ASJ