Alaska Mountain Goat: A Magical High-Country Hunt pt. 1

“You’re up if you wanna go,” a text read one late Thursday night around 8:45p.m. It was an offer to be part of a hunt I have had on my bucket list for some time. It came in a little over 24 hours before the planned departure time. What my friend Dillon Tomaro didn’t know was that I had been packed since Tuesday waiting for that message. I answered his text confirming my intention to make the trip all the same. With that done, it was set. Come Saturday morning we were off to hunt mountain goats in the glacial valleys and high country a few miles Southwest from the Canada border. Stoke level was at an all-time high.

No alarm clock was needed to make my 6 a.m. roll call come Saturday morning. I can’t be sure I slept either. I was fully outfitted, packed, and shedding layers in Dillon’s driveway at 5:45 a.m. as my heart rate steadily increased with anticipation of the weekend’s plans. A brief and groggy “Hello” was shared between Dillon, his Father, Paul, and myself. By 6:15 we were at the Douglas Harbor launch ramp, boat already warm and awaiting enough nautical light to push off. By 7 a.m. we were slowly heading down Gastineau Channel on radar, coffee in hand. Sometime later we were within spitting distance of prime mountain goat hunting territory. With most of Saturday still available to hunt and six hours on Sunday it was time to put 110% focus on finding our animal. With that, we pulled out the binoculars and started glassing up the mountain sides.

I’ll be the first to admit I was not 100% prepared for the amount of climbing and shear verticalness of our ascents. Nonetheless, when we found that first billy inside of our first hour of glassing, we were on the shoreline and on our way up within minutes. A classic battle with alders taller than Andrea The Giant and the thickness of my wrist ensued for roughly three hours on our first hump up to roughly 2,100 feet. There we were met by a fog layer that laid over the top of the outcropping where we had spotted our billy a few hours earlier. After 45 minutes, we decided that we had no choice but to head down in order to avoid coming out in the dark. Little did we know, our billy had traversed across the cliff face into the same ridge laden with alder that we had come up and had passed us on his way down. Dillon’s father, Paul, would later let us know that he had our billy in his sights from the shore at 150 yards but decided not to put the hammer down as he thought we may already be on him.

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Shortly after getting back to the boat within the hour, we had another billy in our sights about 1,000 feet up a shear rock face. We sat and attempted to find routes up to a shooting platform within distance of the billy with no success. It was my first of many inaccessible billies spotted with many more to come. After looking over four or five billies we could not find a way to reach, we found a billy and nanny up on a low cliff band just 750 feet above the water line. (Now is a good time to note that Dillon and I had each taken one good tumble by this time and had knocked our scopes just hard enough for major concern.) It took us about 20 minutes to work our way through the alders and up the ridge to a knoll we had assessed as the spot to shoot from. I was roughly 15 yards behind Dillon as he crested the knoll. The goats had moved down and directly across the ravine from the top of the knoll Dillon had come over, which spooked both of them. I watched as Dillon dropped down and lobbed a shot across the ravine that rang out across the submerged valley. A quick movement and slide of the action from Dillon and a second shot rang out. The smoke cleared, and to our amazement both goats had disappeared into the brush unscathed. Dillon could only shake his head in disgust. He had missed. With little talk, we made our way back to the boat, humbled by the day we had experienced but ecstatic to go to bed in anticipation of what tomorrow could bring.

To be continued… in Part 2

Jack Grummett

Jack is an outdoorsman born and raised in the Tongas National Forest of Southeast Alaska. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at the young age of 6 and hasn’t looked back since. His greatest peace of mind can only be found in the high mountains and open waters of his home in Alaska. He hopes to share both his stories and the harvest that may accompany them.

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