Finally the timber thinned and we passed through a series of snowy clearings. A shed-sized boulder served as a waypoint where we stopped to ventilate and wipe sweat from our eyes. Jake pointed right, indicating our final ascent to the ridgeline that would take us to the stretch where we could start peeking over the edge, looking for goats.
I stumbled and came up looking left, and spotted a goat nearby. Though it was the first one I’d seen up close since those long-ago Colorado goats, I knew it was a billy. It had everything Reg and Jake coached me to look for—chin whiskers, massive front shoulders topped by a distinct hump, long hair that formed “chaps” on the front legs, horns that were twice as long as the space between them.
Jake and I eased prone, and while I tore the end caps off my scope and chambered a round, he glassed. “Wait, wait,” he repeated. “Wait.”
I didn’t know why we were waiting. The billy was solo, 225 yards away, standing where it couldn’t drop or roll very far. It was a perfect setup, meant to be.
I decided I was going to shoot regardless of how Jake judged its trophy status.
Finally, “Okay. Shoot.” But now the goat was walking straightaway, and then passed behind a clump of fir. So I had to wait some more.
But not for long until the billy cleared the bush, and then I hit him with a diagonal shot through the ribcage, lungs and off shoulder. He turned back toward us and I hit two more times before he fell. I was shooting a Federal Premium load with their new Trophy Copper bullet, in this case a 180-grain slug from my Kimber .300 WSM. It delivered a clean, ethical kill, but still … it had taken three hard, on-the-money hits to drop the tough old goat.
The guide and I lay still in the snow watching for movement until from behind Reg chirped, “I think you got him.”
The goat was more magnificent than I had expected. Though not real tall, he was imposingly solid and square. His dingy-white pelt was thicker than any deer, elk, sheep or bear hair I have handled and extravagantly long. The needle-like black horns, so modest compared to other trophy headgear, were menacing weapons nonetheless. Reg was right about mountain goats being underrated.
It started to snow as we photographed and dressed and quartered my kill, and for a time the air turned bitter cold. On the peak above we spotted a Stone sheep ewe with a lamb. Later we packed the meat and cape along an alternate route that took us above the secluded chute we originally intended to hunt. The band we’d spotted the previous afternoon was still there, including another big billy. We pulled out our cameras and talked about what might have been if luck hadn’t intervened.
More than once it has been my luck to find mountain goats downhill from wild sheep, and while I know that’s an anomaly, it’s also quite clear you can never really know what happens up there until you climb that mountain.