EXTREME HUNTRESS MOUNTAIN GOAT HUNT by Rebecca Francis
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.
My first morning in British Columbia I met up with my outfitter Brad Park of Calamity Creek Outfitters. As we headed to our camp, I was in awe of the jagged snow covered peaks with billowy clouds that settled around them. The rays of the morning sun were just peaking through . I couldn’t help but be thankful for this incredible opportunity. We hadn’t been driving 30 minutes when we spotted a nanny and kid goat grazing right off the side of the road. My excitement soared, and I became even more anxious to don my camo and strap on my pack for the extreme hunt ahead.
When we arrived at camp we were shown to our quaint little cabins equipped with a wood burning stove, several bunks, and an occasional mouse. Oddly, I noticed all the windows were boarded up tightly, and I was curious why. The forests of the Kootenay mountains are inhabited by A LOT of grizzly bears. One of the local grizzly bears decided to make himself right at home in the Calamity Creek cabins, as well as the mess house. It took no effort for him to break in through the doors, and then exit through the windows with no care for the glass that stood in his way. After eating all the peanut butter and oil in the kitchen, it apparently didn’t settle well in his stomach and left behind the pleasant remains for the patient cook to clean up. I was shocked to find an enormous paw print left behind right on the wall by the food shelves. The cook didn’t wipe off the print so she could always remember her hungry visitor. After the old grizzly had been visiting their camp for several months, Brad finally caught him on the porch of a cabin fixing to break in again. They haven’t had any problems since, but they also haven’t had time to fix all of the windows on the cabins.
The view was breathtaking from the cabins. I had never before seen pine trees that change colors in the fall. The larch tree turns brilliant yellow along with the other deciduous trees every autumn. Each hillside was splashed with every color you can imagine against the rugged blue grey cliffs that shot straight to the sky. That first night we made our way to a picturesque point to glass for goat and elk. It didn’t take long to spot the abundant wildlife. We watched a black bear sow and cub cross the hillside. A very long way up the canyon Brad picked out a bright white spot and knew right off it was a goat. Even with the Leupold spotting scope zoomed to full power we couldn’t tell if it was a billy. But Brad said he would bet his lunch money that it was, simply because it was alone. I figured if he was willing to give up his lunch money then he was serious. We kept our eyes locked on it until dark. As the sun set that evening, I was reminded of why I spend so much time in the mountains hunting. I was humbled by the magnificent splendor of my surroundings.
The next morning we spotted the same white spot on a hillside miles away. We saddled up the horses and headed up the canyon, hunting elk and goat all the way. The terrain is covered with extremely thick downfall and wall to wall trees. The horses were unable to stray from the trail. We rode the mountain bred horses as far as we could and then tied them up so we could continue on hiking up to where we had last seen the goat. It was very difficult to make our way up the steep hillside even on foot. We had to maneuver through downfall, crawl through the willows and alders, and wade through stream after stream. Thank heavens for my Kenetrek boots and gators, I didn’t suffer from wet feet one time on this trip.
We couldn’t find the goat anywhere, but there were elk screaming all around us. We temporarily changed our focus to elk. Brad bugled to the surrounding bulls. Heavy in the rut, they angrily bugled back. We started hiking toward the nearest bugle, but it was no easy feat. The mountainsides are nearly straight up and down. We passed several elk wallows, but it didn’t make sense to sit at one, due to the abundance of water. The bugling settled down toward the middle of the day, so we situated ourselves on an open hillside where we could glass, and absorb the sun rays. Brad was especially thankful for the sun, remarking that it had rained for the past 29 days straight.
Later that day, we spotted our white goat straight across from us in the perfect position. We had to get moving if we wanted to reach the goat before dark. We were out of breath when we found the goat about 400 yards in the ledges straight above us. We discussed the pros and cons of taking the goat with a rifle or a bow. When Brad got a good look at the goat he said it was not big enough for a rifle, but my husband Lee insisted that he was. We decided it was too late to try a stalk with the bow, and it was in a great position for a rifle shot on film. Brad still hesitated on the size of the goat until the billy turned the other direction. He then said, “that is a great billy, take him”. I was shooting a rugar .338 rcm with a 165 grain bullet. I knew that there would be a big drop in the bullet from that distance, so I tried to get closer to the goat. Due to the steep angle of the hillside I could only move to 325 yards before I would lose sight of the goat. I rested my rifle on my backpack for a dead rest. The camera was rolling, the goat was in my crosshairs, and I was ready for the shot. The goat was bedded down and I couldn’t see enough of his body to get a clear shot, so I waited for him to stand. It was a perfect scenario as the goat finally stood up broadside. I held my breath, squeezed the trigger, then watched the goat roll and roll down the hillside before he got caught up in some bushes. The camera swung around on me for my reaction and I could feel blood trickling down my face.
I couldn’t believe it, I scoped myself! The recoil on the .338 rcm is very strong due to the large caliber, and heavy bullet, used in a very light weight rifle. It didn’t help that my gun was angled nearly straight up due to the steepness of the hill either. In spite of the mishap, I was elated! This was my first mountain goat! When we reached the goat, I was amazed at the enormous size of the animal. His hair was so long and thick. He was beautiful! We realized upon examining the horns that the reason Brad thought he might be too small was because one of his horns and broken off. He ended up being over nine inches on the tall side with over six inch bases! What a trophy!
We didn’t finish skinning and quartering that goat until well after dark. We then had a several hour hike to the horses and horse ride back to camp. Even with headlamps we had a very difficult time locating where we had tied them. We backtracked several times and fought our way through the downfall until we found the horses. As I mounted my horse I knew the real fun was about to begin. We had come through some treacherous terrain, and we now had to put complete trust in these animals to get us back. It was a dark overcast night with no moon. We were deep into the thick forest and it was so black that I could not see my hand inches in front of my face. It didn’t do any good to rein the horse because I couldn’t see the trail. We couldn’t use the headlamps because that makes it hard for the horses to see. I have ridden out of the mountains many times on my own horses that I know and trust, but it was a bit uneasy to be on strange horses in an unfamiliar forest, full of grizzly bears. My legs tightened around the belly of my horse, as I held one arm in front of my face to protect it from all the branches that were continually hitting us. There were a few very steep spots that the horses had to jump down near vertical rocks. All I could do was just hold on to the saddle and hope I didn’t fall off. It was a long ride out, but I was as content as could be. I was doing what I love to do, with the person I love the most, my husband. I had harvested a trophy goat, and made new lifetime friends.
In the end, we didn’t find a legal elk, but I had a great time hunting for them. On the last day, Brad took us to a natural hot spring that is the hottest in all of North America. There was a crystal clear pool that had ice cold river water running into it, making it 108 degrees year round. There was no way I was going pass up soaking in that beautiful pool. It was a great end to a great hunting trip that added one more unforgettable memory I will treasure forever.