Fathers And Sons, Billies And Bucks On Kodiak

The following appears in the June issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

Author Brian Watkins (front), his dad Tom (top left), close friend Mark (middle) and his father Mo (right) enjoyed an epic Kodiak Island hunting adventure. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF BRIAN WATKINS)


Goat hunting is not for the faint of heart. It takes determination, stamina, focus and endurance.

I often hear the saying, “I’m too old to goat hunt,” but I disagree with that assertion. Age knows no limits. That’s apparent in my father’s determination to keep in stride with the “the young guys.”

My dad Tom’s goal for his 60th birthday was to harvest a mountain goat in Alaska. That’s right: Sixty years old and ready to hike thousands of vertical feet to get into goat country. Some say insane; those who understand say, right on.

WE FLEW TO KODIAK for our father-son hunt that included my buddy Mark and I, plus my father Tom and Mark’s dad Mo. We took a Beaver to the southern end of Kodiak to fulfill our dads’ dreams of taking a mountain goat. We chose to be dropped off in a lake cove at 450 feet in elevation.

After we landed on the lake, we set up camp and glassed goats that were up around 2,900 feet. I’ll never forget that morning. We watched goats for hours, planning how to get up into the heights to hunt them the next day.

As I picked a route to take, I noticed four billies running along the top of the mountain. I wondered what was happening and then noticed a grizzly sow and two cubs in hot pursuit. The goats crested the ridge and we could only imagine the outcome.

The following morning we noticed eagles circling the area, so our best guess is the bears won. As we began the route we picked out the day before, we found bear scat with goat hair in it. The bears were doing a number on the population.

We followed our game plan and climbed all morning to close the distance on the goats. My dad was the leader of the pack. He kept us going and pushed us along. Dad’s determination was a driving factor in our ability to move quickly.

We closed the distance to within 400 yards of the goats. As we set up the spotting scope to check out where the animals were, we heard rustling in the brush. Immediately everyone jumped on guard and grabbed their rifles.

An adolescent brown bear popped out a mere 75 yards away. He was overly curious of us and kept coming closer. We tried to act big with our hands in the air and standing together in a line. It may have been the first time this bear saw a human.

As the bruin came to within 20 yards, I had to shoot in front of it to scare it back. He didn’t budge and gave me the look of, “This is my habitat,” by staring me down and slowly walking away. It was a close encounter and the outcome was that my gunshot pushed the goats to the peak of the mountain.

Our hunt had just become a lot more challenging.

Dads Tom (left) and Mo with a Kodiak mountain goat.
Father and son success story.

AS THE DAY MOVED along, our pace slowed. We were forced into acrobatics in trying to summit the mountain. Goat country is dangerous territory, but we kept going.

Pulling and pushing each other up ledges, we were one slip away from catastrophe.

We jumped a couple of goats and made our way into an area where we could glass the tops of the mountain. We found a group of goats that were in a stalkable area, made our way over and set up for the shot.

At 200 yards, we were able to all set up and each take a goat. Four guys on a father-son hunt, and four goats worth of harvests!

The real work was about to begin, as we had an animal each to pack back to camp. It took two days to pack the animals back, but we accomplished what we had set out to do.

We had our transporter come pick up the meat, but we weren’t done hunting, as we also had deer tags to fill. I knew of a spot with decent deer hunting and asked the pilot to move us there. We packed camp and set out.

The weather was set to turn into the standard Kodiak 60-plus-mph winds and rain. But since we had time to hunt, we went! Over two days we found deer and were able to harvest three in one drainage. It was a hunt that will live forever in our minds.

Four goats and three deer among our dads and us. This father-son trip deepened our family hunting bonds forever. Happy Father’s Day!