/  Other Species

What in the heck am I thinking? I must be crazy! Those were the exact thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the trophy antelope put a half mile of sagebrush covered desert between him and I in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, after several days of spot and stalk hunting, the sight of antelope disappearing over the ridge in a cloud of dust was becoming an all too familiar sight. This spot and stalk antelope gig was evidently going to be a little tougher than I had originally thought!

It is very common to hear grumblings and restlessness from avid big game hunters during the winter months. The countdown to fall never quite goes fast enough. Many will utilize the off season to evaluate their supplies, purchase new gear, practice shooting skills, and hit the gym for physical preparation. Those activities alone might be enough to pull through the snowy months that keep us in a constant state of anticipation. For others, like me, it is necessary to continue hitting the outdoors to fill the time with activities only the snow-filled months can offer. There are many popular hunting opportunities during winter that provide not only time in the sun for much needed vitamin D, but also the time with nature that we all crave. Aside from the more obvious winter interests like coyote, rabbit, and mountain lion hunting, I also intensely enjoy bobcat trapping. The art of learning a bobcat’s territory and habits intrigues me almost as much as the craft of the trap set up.

Usually, when bowhunters dream of early season archery hunting in remote, above-timberline basins, most immediately envision the mule deer high on their summer range of the Rocky Mountain West. While I’ve often viewed this same mental portrait over the years, I’ve also discovered a different species of deer that reside in similar terrain type features that also offer the bowhunter a true wilderness adventure. While not as large as the mule deer, this species’ ability to adapt and survive in these remote areas of the far West is truly remarkable and will definitely challenge the sanity of any bowhunter who pursues them.

I picked up the water bottles and left the fragile security of our camp, to retrieve some much needed fresh water. I followed the winding path down through the alders to the small stream which emptied into the secluded ocean bay. The air was crisp and cold, and you could smell the heavy fragrance of the bear tracked beach below.  I waded into the small stream, which spilled off  the mountain. As I bent down to fill the water bottles, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.  I suddenly felt clammy.  I was on full alert.  I could feel the presence of something watching me in the darkness. Was it just my imagination?  Then I realized I had left my gun over on a boulder thirty feet away. 

Winning the Extreme Huntress contest was one of my most amazing experiences.  The grand prize was a hunt to British Columbia for Mountain Goat and Elk to be filmed on Eye Of The Hunter TV.  I had never been to BC before so I was anxiously counting the days from the moment I won.  I began preparing myself physically from the moment I learned I won so I would be ready for the rugged terrain of mountain goat country. Mountain goats typically live high in the ledges to protect themselves from predators.  I had to pinch myself when the time finally arrived to leave on the hunt.

I expect to do this as a three part series, it was inspired by a blog post I recently did over at Outdoors International. Working as a hunting/adventure consultant I speak to a lot of hunters. More specifically I speak to a lot of hunters who say they want to go on a mountain goat hunt. For those of you who have hunted Mountain Goats, you know the challenges, physical, mental, weather and don’t forget the goats. But for those who have yet to experience the rigors of mountain hunting, I have found that many are enthralled by the picturesque ideal of hunting mountain goats as compared to the grueling reality of what it really takes to hunt goats. The reality is that Mountain Hunting is flat out tough! Even “easy” goat hunts are extremely tough when compared to the hunting that most of us have generally available to us.

The recoil from my 7mm sent a jolt through my body and my head bounced up just in time to see the flames fly from my barrel. Despite being precariously positioned high on a cliff-face, I frantically worked the action of my gun, loading another round into the chamber. In the dimming evening light, I squinted through my rifle scope and continued searching through the boulders that scattered the river-bottom below me, hoping to see the huge black bear once again. As the shadows faded into the blackness, I could only hope that my first shot had hit home.

Like most others who have drawn once-in-a-lifetime type tags, the notification of my Mountain Goat drawing success struck me as a surprise after many years applying.  This was it! --The final “difficult” species to draw in my Colorado Archery Big 8 quest. The dominant terrain feature within the unit is Mt. Antero, a peak reaching the heavens above 14,000 feet.   All my research, training, scouting, and preparation for the hunt were certainly worthwhile, but none of it prepared me for the mental and physical challenges I would find on the lofty granite peaks if the Colorado high country.  Mountain Goats are tough animals for good reason; they live in the most inhospitable places in North America.  The places they call home are like a nightmare for us two-legged, non-wild creatures.