On Top Of The World
By Jason Hatch
CO, Mtn Goat
I was settled in for a 20-year wait when I got a huge surprise. After only six years, I had drawn a mountain goat tag in one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. My first step was to stand out like a sore thumb at my gym. I was the guy in the corner with my athletic shorts, t-shirt, high-top camo boots, and a backpack with a 50 lb. bag of corn as I walked on the treadmill at maximum incline. I got a lot of funny looks!
I spent the summer getting in shape, talking to some really helpful people from Huntin’ Fool, and getting to know maps of the area. It was a fun summer prepping for what I was treating as the hunt-of-a-lifetime. A good friend of mine is an avid hunter and professional wildlife photographer. I convinced him to come take pictures on the trip and help me pack out a goat. Austin and I headed to Colorado with so much excitement I could hardly sleep.
The season started on Wednesday. We parked the truck and hit the trail after lunch on Monday. Our goal was to pack about three miles in, set up camp, and figure out what the goats were doing before opening morning. On our way in, we ran into two dudes from Colorado. One was goat hunting, and the other was accompanying him. We talked for a bit and decided we liked each other. On a hunt like this, it’s always a little frustrating to run into someone else hunting the same thing you are, but we loved these guys, really hit it off, and decided to stick together. We ended up camping, scouting, and even hunting together. This was an unexpected blessing in the mountains.
We packed into a drainage that had a lot of goats in it. Our camp was in a beautiful place down by a small seep that gave us water and we could glass goats from camp. This was the stuff of my dreams! I love hunting in the West. I crave a physical challenge, goats are incredible animals, the weather was perfect, and the company was enjoyable.
We camped at a little over 10,000 feet. The night before the season, Austin and I found a really nice billy not far from camp and he was in an accessible spot. I was under the impression that goats didn’t move much during the night, so our well-laid plan was to put that goat to bed and then be lying down in shooting distance when it got light the next morning. Everything was playing to our script. We snuck in below him and lay on the ground for a few hours until it got dark. My heart was pounding as the light slowly faded away on a nice billy 400 yards up the mountain.
It was a long night, but surprisingly, I was able to sleep. The exhaustion of the hike and elevation offset the excitement. Early morning found all four of us up and ready. Our two new buddies headed north to a goat they had found the night before, and we took off to shoot our billy. We were silent as we snuck up the mountain in the dark. I lay down 250 yards below where the billy bedded down. As the sun came up, he was nowhere to be seen! A bit frustrated and disappointed, we pulled out the spotter and began looking at goats up and down the drainage. We could see 15 goats, including quite a few billies. Most of them were in horrible places that we could not get to safely, but we found one nice billy bedded high on a shelf. He was one and a half miles away on the other side, so we got our packs ready and took off.
Three hours later, we were getting close. We had covered over a mile of distance and moved from 10,000 feet to just about 13,000 feet. Since my legs and lungs were burning, we lay on the mountain a few minutes to rest. I then belly crawled the last few hundred yards to a place where I could see the goat above me. I got a solid rest on my pack. As I was getting ready, I heard a shot ring out across the mountain. It was our buddies who had finally got on their goat and had him down. Although they were a mile away, I watched their goat tumble down the mountain in my binos and celebrated for them. I then tucked back in on my goat.
I waited a minute until he was in a notch in the rocks that might catch him and sent my shot. My Nosler partition hit him right in the shoulder, and he only tumbled about 40 yards or so. There was a mix of excitement and complete disbelief that I had actually shot a goat.
About 100 yards from where the goat had fallen, there was a spring coming straight out of the side of the mountain. Before we began the brutal pack back to the truck, we took some time to soak it all in – sitting on top of the world with a mountain goat in our packs, a Mountain House in our hands, yellow aspens in the background, snow beginning to fall, and fresh water coming out of the mountain. That scene will be etched in my mind forever. What a blessing to hunt in God’s country, meet some new friends, and enjoy one of the most incredible hunts our country has to offer.