Outdoors

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Editors Note: This is a continuation of an article which ran last week.

Brown Mt. Goat Hunt 8/11-8/17/01

8/11/01 Saturday

We set up camp in the sunshine at approximately 12 noon and slung rifles for a walk down the shoreline to the salmon stream. It took us about an hour to reach the beach where we found pink salmon in large quantities fighting thorough the shallow water at the end of their journey. We also saw plenty of bear sign in the form of half-eaten fish and bear scat.

John also had backpacking rod and reel, which we used to catch a few of the pinks. We hiked back to camp with the idea of returning to hopefully ambush a bear later in the week. We settled in for our first night in camp, thankful that we had remembered to bring bug nets for our faces. Large varieties of biting flies appeared drawn to our presence and were very persistent.

8/12/01 Sunday

We woke to sunshine and plans for a hike into goat country. After a meal of oatmeal we prepared our packs and rifles headed into into nearby forest for a trip that would last nearly 30 hours. It was approximately 745am. I estimate the time taken to reach tree line took 3 hours.

We foraged on a variety of berries along the way. Huckleberries, crow berries and some very large salmon berries were fairly plentiful. The sunshine and effort left me out of breath and in need of a rest.

Upon reaching tree line I saw movement approximately 1000 yards ahead and on a high, open slope. A large black bear was running across the open vegetation on the slope and paused in time for me to point it out to John. The bear soon ran from right to left in front of us, quickly out of sight. I stopped to fill water bottles as John continued up the mountain in the hopes of finding the bear still in the area.

After catching up with John and finding no bear, we paused for an hour to rest and glass the surrounding mountains. John spotted a solitary goat on a mountain across the bay. We continued up the mountain to the crest. I had just cleared the top when I spotted two goats on a joining ridge over a 1000 yards ahead and turned to John pointing them out.

The goats were ahead and on a higher elevation than our present spot with a large valley separating us. We quickly discussed several options for a stalk and eventually agreed that John would stay with the packs as I took my rifle and began working my way towards the goats.

It quickly became apparent that I would have little cover and would need to walk in plain view of the goats in my attempt to reach shooting range. One goat was bedded facing away approximately 50 feet higher on the mountain than the other, which faced my direction. We had guessed that the larger of the two goats rested at the higher elevation and I had determined to try for that one, God willing.

I reached higher elevation and found a goat trail leading towards the two, pausing occasionally to rest in the shadows behind rocky outcroppings. Although I was fairly certain the goats would become alarmed at my open country approach, no other choice was available.

As I drew nearer to the goats I observed that the opposite face of the mountain fell away almost vertically for several hundred feet to a rocky slope. No chance for an alternate path there.

While still far out of rifle range the goat facing in my direction turned and walked up the mountain and out of sight. I was now below the goats and could no longer see the other, bedded goat. John was nowhere to be seen amidst the rocks in the distance and I was somewhat unsure of whether either goat still remained on the mountain.

I continued up the trail finding myself somewhat unnerved as the goat trail led me on a line parallel to a sheer drop off and up a fairly steep incline. After several deep breaths (my hands seem to have suddenly gotten sweaty) I slung the rifle over my back and went on all fours up the path.

The mountaintop was becoming very small as I was nearly at the top When looked down to see a goat standing down slope approximately 100 yards. I placed the crosshairs on him but hesitated thinking that this was the smaller of the two goats seen earlier. He seemed unconcerned so I decided to peer over one of the few remaining mounds of rock left in front of me. I rose up and was surprised to see a billy goat bedded less than 30 yards in front and just down from where I was perched.

He was looking back over his shoulder towards me as I brought the Remington .338 magnum to shoulder and aimed at his neck/shoulder. The rifle boomed and the goat's head dropped sharply. The shot had luckily broken his neck because any exaggerated movement would likely have sent him for a long tumble.

I shouted and stood up to wave in John's direction. I could now see John in the distance as he began to make his way towards me. We skinned and quartered the billy after some pictures and congratulations, guessing that it weighed about 2501bs. That trip off the mountain was thrilling, to say the least. With heavy packs a misstep could have easily led to disaster. That night we made a makeshift camp near a snowdrift above tree line and slept in our rain ponchos.

8/13/01 Monday

Early the next morning I woke chilled and damp. After retrieving the meat and hide from the snowdrift we began our journey off the mountain and to camp.

The sun was again out along with plenty of mosquitoes, flies, and white socks. Interesting but wholly unwelcome was the constant variety of biting insects.

The descent off the mountain was anything but easy. John carried two quarters, hide, and head while I struggled with two quarters. We stopped to fill water bottles and eventually entered the tree line for a steep forest descent.

Several places required sitting and sliding while digging hands and heels into the deep moss, which covered the forest floor. We had begun our descent at approximately 6am and arrived at camp around noon.

I was exhausted and John appeared to be in similar shape. We put the meat in large, heavy plastic bags and into a nearby creek to cool. The biting flies, etc. were persistent and offered a restless attempt at a nap. Towards evening we spent time beach combing and fishing.

Pink salmon appeared in schools in the water near camp. We finished the day with hanging the meat and our food supply in a nearby tree before turning in for the evening.

8/14/01 Tuesday

Rain. We woke to the sound of rain on the tent and welcomed the cool air that with with change in in The The weren't as persistent and I was in poor shape for much activity in any case. We tended to the meat and prepared hot meals. We spent most of the day under our cooking tarp. John and I fleshed and salted the goat hide and spread it out on a makeshift rack to air dry. The day passed by quickly and I fell asleep to the sound of rain on the tent.

8/15/01 Wednesday

Rain. The sound of rain was becoming familiar as I woke to hear drops on the tent. We had planned to sit near the salmon creek in the hopes of adding a bear to our trip but were discouraged in the morning by continued rainfall.

In the afternoon John decided to walk to the salmon stream and check for signs of bears. The rain had fallen intermittently that morning and had stopped for a time before he left. I stayed in camp to keep an eye on the meat while he was gone. We continued to place it in the creek to keep it cool and it seemed to be working well. I spent time cleaning the goat skull and enjoyed rest.

John had agreed to return at 5pm and arrived back in camp at around 430pm. He reported seeing a tiny black bear cub, which soon ran out of sight. It was a wet walk due to the drenched underbrush along the way and his clothing was soaked.

I was somewhat restless after two days in camp and after a brief discussion I took backpack and rifle and headed to the salmon stream to take an evening stand. John decided to stay in camp to watch the meat and dry off. Just before leaving he gave me his flashlight and instructions on a good ambush spot.

It took an hour to reach the creek and I sat down on a small high point overlooking the stream at 6pm. The spruce trees nearby provided an excellent blind. No see ums and mesquites were out in force and the head net provided a barrier along with my rain poncho. I spent the next two hours counting seagulls and watching the salmon splash in the creek. It was raining lightly and the various noises from fish, birds, and bugs were constant.

Just before 830pm I caught movement to my right, across the creek. A black bear had emerged from the woods and walked onto the creek drainage/flats 200 yards distant. The bear wasted little time in moving directly towards the creek, which lay between the two of us. I found him in the scope while keeping an eye open for signs of cubs. The bear walked almost directly towards me and presented a broadside shot once, briefly. Several thoughts were racing through my head simultaneously including the thought of cubs, of which I saw none. I also was considering the shot, which continued to be head-on with the bear quickly closing the distance as it approached the creek.

I held the shot and followed along, concerned that the bear would enter the tall grass along the bank of the creek. The bear looked large but was difficult to judge as it came to a stop at the creek of the bank now 50 yards away and looked from side to side briefly, tattered ears now noticeable through the scope.

Its nose moved near the near the water apparently intent on grabbing a fresh salmon splashing nearby. I aimed at a point between the bear's shoulders and pulled the trigger. BOOM! ! The bear dropped instantly as the .338 slug hit just in front of it's shoulders. I observed a hind leg kicking slightly. A dead salmon rested onshore next to the bear. I ejected the spent shell and continued to watch as he stopped moving entirely.

After a few more minutes and no movement I began collecting my backpack and with heart racing made my way towards the downed bear. I walked upstream and crossed the creek on rocks, keeping gun and eyes on the bear. After circling around the backside of the bear I picked up a fist-sized rock and threw it onto the bear from about 10 yards away. No signs of life.

The bear was larger than I had expected. I approached (safety off) to jab the bear several times in the ribs with the gun's barrel. After finding him lifeless I let out several breaths and placed gun on pack nearby with plans to pull him onto higher ground and out of the creek bed knowing that the tide would soon cause the creek to rise.

I grabbed a front leg near the paw and was amazed to find that my hands did not touch in the grip I held. It was definitely a big bear. I attempted to pull him uphill with little to show for a great deal of effort. After struggling with him on both ends I managed to get him up the bank and onto higher ground. The effort left me breathless as I took out my knife and began skinning the large boar.

John and I had arranged earlier that upon hearing a shot, the person in camp would walk back to the creek to help the hunter bring the bear in I had assumed that John had heard my first shot and was anticipating his arrival. After over an hour of wrestling with the skinning job I began to wonder about John and fired another shot over the mountain above camp. I later learned that John had not heard the first shot but definitely heard the second.

The skinning job was talking longer than expected and it was disconcerting to see both the water level rising dramatically in the creek and darkness approaching quickly as rain began to fall more steadily. At about 1030pm I heard a shot from what I assumed was John's .44 magnum. I dropped the skinning knife and picked up the rifle to again fire in the air. Water was now creeping past the bank of the creek and I tied a rope to the bear's hind legs to drag him a short space to higher ground. The water was no longer escapable and it now stood an inch deep around the bear and me.

John arrived sometime after 11pm and took off boots and socks to wade into the now waist deep water I had crossed on rocks a low hours earlier. He had made his way through the woods in near darkness in order to reach me, not knowing that my flashlight was in the tent instead of my pack.

We measured the bear and found him to be approximately six feet from nose to tail and guessed his weight at around 400 lbs. We finished the skinning job waded into the water to reach dry ground in the direction of camp. Pink salmon raced between our legs in the beam of the flashlight as we waded the swollen creek in bare feet. We loaded the bear hide and head into the backpack and began an arduous journey in the dark to camp.

The high water left us with no option but to navigate in the woods along the shoreline. It was somewhat treacherous with steep banks occasionally ending in sheer rock outcroppings. After carrying the pack for a short distance I began getting muscle cramps and John took over the job of packing the wet hide. We struggled through devil's club thickets and over downed trees attempting to find our way with only one flashlight between us. We eventually arrived back in camp at 4am soaked and weary. After hanging the hide I crawled into the tent after another successful but trying venture.

8/16/01 Thursday

Rain. Continuing rain with little letup. John and I each slept late and after a hot meal went back to the tent for several more hours of sleep. The rain continued throughout the day and we did little aside from taking care of the meat and hides in an attempt to keep them cool. We had few dry clothes remaining and were hoping for a break in the weather in order to allow a morning bear hunt for John and flying weather for our ride home. No such luck it seemed. 8/17/01 Friday

Rain. More rain and just about everything was wet now. Our one respite and relatively dry area was the tent and even that was damp along with sleeping bags. I had spent Thursday in wet socks and boots and was looking forward to a ride home at 11am. The clouds were between 100-500 feet allowing what I expected to be a dismal chance for a hot shower at home. We moved our gear close to our arrival beach and prayed for flying weather and a ride home. After 4 days of rain the enjoyable part of being in the woods was quickly disappearing. 1lam came and passed. At noon John got into the tent to warm up as I sat under our tarp shelter. At 12:30pm a wonderful sound came to my ears as John Berryman and his Beaver

floatplane buzzed our camp just above tree level. He came in along the bay and dipped a wing as he turned to check our camp. I gladly waved from underneath a sodden rain poncho and then ran to gather our gear for the ride home. A short while later I was watching whitecaps on the water a few hundred feet below as we made our way towards home and eventually a hot shower. It had been a physically grueling trip at times but also very rewarding. It was one of the best hunting experiences of my life.



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