What Was I Thinking?

 We crawled like lizards along the knife-like ridge. Jagged rocks punished my body. I slowly peeked over the edge and spotted 15 or more mountain goats feeding in our direction. They were over 200 yards away, slowly working toward us.

As I eased the backpack in position, Paul Chervanek of Kodiak Outdoor Adventures was peering through the rangefinder. The goats kept feeding leisurely in our direction. Carefully, I placed the revolver on the pack. Paul whispered the distance of several locations where the goats were likely to feed. There were at least three billies in the group.

 The goats continued slowly toward us. My heart rate accelerated. When one of the mature billies stepped inside of 100 yards, I slowly cocked the hammer. He worked his way closer and eventually climbed upon a pinnacle 61 yards slightly above us. The crosshairs of the Leupold scope settled on his shoulder as I gently tugged the trigger. When the shot echoed across the canyon, all hell broke loose.

The adventure of life itself is intriguing. You wake up some morning and realize the brutal reality that there are more days behind you than what lies ahead. Sobering as it may be, it often realigns our priorities. There are some personal goals I would like to accomplish before the checkered flag halts the race.

Don’t ask me why a man of my age wants to go after mountain goats with a revolver, especially after I have already taken two goats previously with single-shot handguns. Perhaps it confirms what my wife has suspected after 41 years of marriage — mental instability! Well, for some strange and bizarre reason, I wanted to take a mountain goat with a revolver while there was still time on the clock, and I was able to climb.

The mountain goat, in my opinion, is one of North America’s most unappreciated, over-looked game animals. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have much in the horn department or just maybe it’s due to the fact they don’t live on flat ground and hunting them can be downright difficult. They often live their lives in precipitous terrain and just getting to their back door can be physically challenging.

At this point in life, I have experienced three goat hunts and none of them have been easy, nor did I expect them to be. Our North American mountain goat is a magnificent game animal and worthy of any adventurous hunter’s consideration.

I spoke with Paul Chervanek while strolling along the isles of the SCI Convention. Paul had come highly recommended by a good friend. It wasn’t long before a plan was discussed and Paul thought it was possible to get within revolver range, if I was able to endure the challenge. Game on!

Kodiak Island is best known for its huge brown bear, and rightly so. Mountain goats and Sitka blacktail deer also inhabit the island, which has world-class fishing opportunities. It’s truly a sportsman’s paradise. Paul hunts all species and has a two-goat area on the island.

The southern portion of the island supports a healthy population of mountain goats and the Fish & Game Department wants to reduce the numbers. Only one billy is allowed, and the second goat must be a nanny without kids. Since I was crazy enough to climb the mountains for one goat, I might as well go all out.

Paul, his guide Stig and I set up our tent camp near a crystal-clear alpine lake. It was a beautiful location providing a picturesque backdrop of mountain scenery. Early the first morning we began the arduous climb up the mountain in hopes there would be goats somewhere on top. After three hours or so we spotted our first mountain dwellers.

Both Paul and Stig wanted to explore other areas and come back later if we didn’t locate any others. After hours of hiking all over the mountain, late in the afternoon we spotted the herd of 15 or more goats. Using the razor-sharp ridgeline, we methodically worked our way toward them. I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in Hades we’d get within rifle-shooting range, much less inside a football field. It’s surprising sometimes how things work out.

At the shot, goats bounded in all directions. They really didn’t know where the loud noise came from and momentarily stopped to look about. The billy shot from 61 yards was down and moments later, the herd of goats was within a few feet of us.

If only we could have captured this on video. It was an awesome sight, having mountain goats a few steps away. The goats soon meandered out of sight, and we had time to celebrate the moment. I was elated at the opportunity to take a mountain goat with the Freedom Arms revolver, even though he rolled down the mountainside 400 yards or so.

By the time we took hero photos and climbed off the mountain, it was getting dark. Fourteen-hour days are not uncommon on some mountain hunts, and my legs were letting me know it had been a long day.

Under normal circumstances, the hunt would have been over. We could have been catching up on some well-needed rest in camp, but no — I had to go after another goat. This next round would have us looking for a nanny. The second day secured another climb up and around the mountains in search of a nanny without kids. We located a couple of different herds, but they all had females with young ones by their sides.

Late in the afternoon we spotted a herd of 12, with a couple of billies and several females and kids. One particular nanny stood out, but we couldn’t see if she had a young one. Unfortunately, it was getting late in the day, so we pulled the plug and hiked back to camp.

The third morning my legs were lethargic and so was the rest of my body. The psychological yearning for caffeine was almost as strong as the physical need. Wanting two goats with a revolver — what was I thinking? After serious consumption of caffeine, up the mountain we climbed.

Three hours or so later, we started our search from the top. Shortly after noon we located the same herd of goats we left the evening before. Paul and Stig watched and studied the animals for quite some time and finally determined the lone nanny was without any kids. Regrettably they were in a basin where no approach was remotely possible.

We watched the group from above most of the day. Late in the afternoon I thought we’d be hiking back to camp again. To my disbelief, four of the goats started working their way up the mountain, directly in our path.  Paul, Stig and I hunkered down and worked our way to a jagged pinnacle.

Directly below, 30 yards, was another pointed outcropping boulder. Paul whispered, “Get ready. When the nanny appears on that ledge you can shoot.”

The four goats were out of sight below us but working their way up.

As the goat hopped up on the pointed ledge, I cocked the hammer. Paul jabbed me and said, “Don’t shoot, it’s a billy!” I couldn’t believe it! Thirty yards away, standing broadside, was a beautiful mountain goat. Just below this goat, I noticed movement. It was the nanny climbing up to rest on another ledge.

We laid there motionless for at least 20 minutes, which seemed like 20 hours. The billy finally dropped down off the ledge and headed out of sight. I repositioned myself and got to where I could see the nanny lying down on the ledge. She was now partially exposed at 58 yards.

By now, my arms were fatigued from being in the ready position for so long. I placed the crosshairs on the goat and waited, hoping she would stand up. She did, and she offered a quartering-away shot opportunity.

The Hornady XTP angled through the vitals to the opposite front shoulder as we watched the goat tumble down in the sliding shale rock. The goat rolled down the steep mountainside 300 or more yards. We worked our way carefully off the loose shale mountainside and took care of skinning and deboning chores. It had been a great experience getting so close to these magnificent animals and spending quality time on Kodiak Island.

Taking two mountain goats with a revolver exceeded my wildest expectations. Alaska is truly a mecca for outdoor sportsmen and women. Now, for some world-class fishing…Mark Hampton

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