2014 Utah Mt Goat hunt, Beaver Ut.
The story of this hunt started 17 years ago, when my wife chose to apply for a Mountain Goat tag. We knew it would take a long time to draw, but it would be worth it. Each unsuccessful year of drawing gains a "bonus" point that helps increase the odds of drawing. The system is set up to guarantee a person a tag if they put in long enough. I thought she would have a better chance at getting that than Bison or Moose in Utah. As it turned out, this certainly was the right decision!
In the spring of 2014, we got the drawing results that stated she finally drew her Mt goat tag for the early season hunt, in the Beaver Utah unit. We immediately started making plans, getting vacation time approved, Googling up gear ideas. We even decided it was finally time to upgrade the old spotting scope I've used for 20 years, I figured it would save us alot of hiking come hunting time to be able to glass canyons from a greater distance.
We decided to head down to this mountain range around the 4th of July, to camp and scout a bit. We arrived in the town of Beaver, ready to head up the canyon. We still had over 1/4 tank of fuel in the truck which I decided was enough, but my wife wanted me to stop and fill up. I said we were fine, she said she really thought we should stop, so I decided "ok fine, we'll get gas". At that point we pulled off in a small gas station / mechanic store and started pumping fuel. It was an incredible stroke of luck that we stopped there! A very friendly older man was filling up paper towels and asked where we were going camping, my wife said we were headed up to look for Mt Goats as she drew a fall tag. He stopped and said "That's neat, the guy I work with actually guides for Mt Goats up there". I immediately asked if this guy was around and if we could talk to him. Sure enough, he was there and we had a great time chatting. Sometimes in life you meet people you just "click" with, Kasey Yardley was certainly one of those. He seemed very knowledgeable about goats and had alot of experience hunting them. He talked about taking Karl Malone up for a nice goat, and he took Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner up last year for a nice goat.
We continued to chat and I asked him his prices. He quoted me a reasonable "working mans price" and said "We'll go in on horses, have alot of fun and get her (my wife) a nice goat. It will be alot of fun". I said that sounds fantastic. I told him I'd call him later in the week when we got done with our trip and let him know our decision.
The road up from Beaver was steep, halfway up we turned off onto a dirt road which was even steeper. It was in good condition, just steep. I used 4x4 low range to drag our camp trailer up it. The main flat everyone camps at is called Big John Flat and is located at 9,950ft elevation. Unfortunately, we didn't know the Forest Service gates off the road at different elevations in the spring to keep trucks from tearing up the muddy roads. As the snow melts off lower elevations and the roads dry, they unlock a gate allowing traffic up to the next gated section. It was July 3rd and the top most gates were still locked because of a few snow drifts that hadn't melted yet, one of which was still 17ft deep.
Limited by the few roads up there, we made some short hikes and glassed with the new spotting scope into various valleys and up on ridges. The new spotting scope was just incredible, such a difference over the cheap 20 year old Bushnell spotter that had been dropped or fallen off an ATV more times than I could ever count. We saw many deer, lots of elk but no Mt Goats. Finally on the last day we were camping, we drove up to the locked gate, and hiked up a to a flat spot and glassed again. We were rewarded with a view of 30-40 Mt Goats feeding up the ridge a mile away. Pretty stoked to see goats, knowing we'd be hunting them in a few months.
After we returned from the camp, we made the decision to hire Kasey and his group to get us into the goats. Going in on Horses and Mules sounded like a much better deal than trying to do this solo on foot. We called him up and worked out a deal to hunt. There was one hiccup though, we received a letter from the DWR stating they would begin a helicopter transplant a few days before her hunt was to start. They stated they didn't think it would affect the hunt as Billies should be in a different area, as it turned out, the billies did move into different areas but it worked in our favor.
As we got close to the season, we finally locked down the day we would hunt and a time to meet up. Sunday morning, we met up with Kasey and his partner, Kurt Wood at 5am, then trailered the horses up to 11,000ft and unloaded. We saddled up and headed up across the mountain tops and enjoyed the rising sun.
Beautiful sun rise touching Mt Baldy in the Tusher mountain range.
The tops of the Tushar mountains are rolling terrain, with big cliffs dropping off the east sides. Along the top, its relatively easy going terrain that certainly doesn't look like its at 12,000ft!
As we were enroute to the spot we were going to hunt, we spotted a herd bedded down ahead of us on the trail. Barely visible in this picture on the right side on the ridge.
From a distance of 400-500ish yards we could see 2 billies worth getting a closer look at.
We left the horses and circled around a peak to get within 380 yards. Most of the goats were bedded down. From this vantage point it was clear there were 2 +9inch billies worth shooting, as well as a huge 11inch nanny
We setup packs as a rest and Heather got setup for a potential shot. As we watched the goats, they laid down and continued to sleep. After 30 minutes we decided to move closer and carefully made our way down to within 340 yards.
A better look at the two shooter billys, in the center.
From here, we continued to watch the goats... for another hour. All the while my wife laid prone looking through her rifle scope. She got pretty numb being in that uncomfortable position for so long. Eventually the bigger billy shifted position exposing the vitals and we decided to let her try a shot. Unfortunately, fatigue had taken its toll and her shot was just low on the goat.
The herd quickly reacted by jumping up and wandering uphill over the ridge. They didn't really understand what the sound was, so they seemed to calm down as they moved up and out of sight. Kurt felt they wouldn't go very far and we could quickly move up and intercept them.
As we moved up and crested the ridge, there was a "wall" of rocks that hid our approach allowing us to get within 240 yards of the goats who were then feeding in front of us. Kurt quickly got his spotting scope set up and tried to identify the bigger billies which was hard to do as they were feeding away from our position.
It became quickly apparent the bigger goat on the right was one of the two "shooter" sized billies. With the distance widening quickly, we got Heather set up on the rocks as a solid rest and waited for a clear shot. With only moments to try and get a shot off as they moved away from us, this billy on the right seemed to be the best choice for a shot.
Total stud goat, all fluffed up and looking really buff. What a bruiser with the big neck hump.
Finally he was clear of the other goats, and stopped quartering slightly away. This picture is only a few seconds from my wife's shot, it hit perfectly with a 165grn Nosler Partition right through the lungs. The goat reared up with the shot then took off, running out of sight to the left. We gave it a short time to expire as we waited for Casey to bring up the horses. He arrived, a bit worried that there was a big cliff just past where we last saw the goat.
We hurried up and looked over the edge of the steep hillside. The remainder of the herd was scrambling out the bottom, nothing appeared hit and it seemed to be a few missing.
We split up on the ridge and started looking for blood, I moved west, Heather and Casey went east. Kurt and the boys were behind us still. I worked my way a little further down the ridge to see better when suddenly 50 yards past me some rather large rocks went tumbling down the hillside. I quickly moved over and saw the head of the billy swinging around. Crud! It was still kicking a bit and sliding down the steep hillside. I carefully moved as fast as I could back over to where Heather and Casey had gone and finally found them, a big waving of arms got them headed my way.
I stayed higher on the ridge to give them room to move up on it, took a picture as it laid there, tail still flipping around.
With the goat potentially able to slip further down the steep hillside, they decided to put one more anchoring shot into it.
Done deal! After that they moved up and verified it was done. Big smiles all around! It was pretty treacherous where the goat came to a rest, we were all slipping and sliding in the rocks on the steep slope. But everyone was pretty thrilled with the harvest.
Smile says it all, very happy with this billy.
They aged it at over 6 years and +9 inch horns. A very nice trophy.
Posing and picture time. We got him up on this rock and shot a bunch of different pictures. Picture doesn't show it but we were all hanging onto the side of it to keep it upright. It had nice hair for as early of a hunt as it was, they would put on more over the next month but we were thrilled with how well his cape looked. Nice beard and "chaps" down the legs. Never realized how bushy of a tail they have either. Me, our boy Tate and Heather: Smiles all around!
Kurt, Tate, Kason and Heather.
Kurt Wood, Kasey Yardley and Heather. Great bunch of guys, very fun to hunt with.
My favorite picture, goat looks really bushy and the thick horns really stand out.
Picture looking across the canyon we were on. The purple cliffs on the left edge is where Karl Malones goat tumbled down. I am so happy this one didn't take a similar tumble.
Top of the world. Not many places you can hunt Mt Goats from a Horse. Its a very unique and cool mountain range. Google earth showed we were at 11,800 ft where the goat was killed, We were only 400ft from the top of the highest peak in the range.
Trail ride back.
My boy Tate.
Me on a Mule.
Kasey, Kason and Kurt. Made it one heck of a fun hunt.
I think I know what the family Christmas card will be this year