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Goat-Hunting Bug – A B&C Audio Adventure

By David K. Mueller
23rd Big Game Awards Program | From Legendary Hunts

After moving to southeast Alaska almost 10 years ago, it didn’t take me long to learn I was living in some of the best trophy mountain goat territory in North America. I knew someday I would hunt for a trophy goat, but at the time, I was hunting Dall’s sheep each year, and that was using up most of my hunting time and money. 

I am a trophy hunter and have been for many years. To take just any billy, just to have one, didn’t really interest me. If I were to go after a goat, I wanted to find an area with no hunting pressure, where a billy could grow to trophy size. So for years I kept my ears open and talked to everyone I knew who had hunted goats gathering tips on where I could find a trophy. 

I also spent many hours reading Boone and Crockett Club’s Records of North American Big Game to see where the big goats had been taken in southeast Alaska. I was in Ketchikan, Alaska, in the late fall of 1996 when I stopped by the Alaska Fish and Game office and talked to the goat biologist. I asked him about an area on the Cleveland Peninsula I had heard about. The biologist said the Cleveland Peninsula has produced some of the biggest goats from Alaska, but they were few and far between. He also said the area was not hunted because of very difficult terrain and this also accounted for the area having some large billies. That was all I needed to hear. Now I had the area to hunt I had been waiting for. Big goats and no hunting pressure! 

I live in Craig, Alaska, which is a small town on Prince of Wales Island. To get to the Cleveland Peninsula, I would travel by boat across Clarence Strait, which is about 10 miles wide. 

August 1, 1997, was the opening day of goat season. The weather was raining and windy, but by the 4th the weather was starting to clear. On the morning of the 5th, I pulled my boat 30 miles on a dirt road to Thorne Bay, on the east side of Prince of Wales Island. There I launched the boat and started across the strait to Cleveland Peninsula. It was a calm morning and the water in Clarence Strait was as smooth as glass, making for an easy trip. In less than two hours I was in a small protected bay. I anchored the boat out in the bay so the out-going tide would not leave the boat high and dry. After making sure the anchor would hold, I started up the mountain to where I thought some billies might be. 

It wasn’t going to be an easy hike. The mountain has an elevation of 2,800 feet and I was starting from sea level. It was definitely going to be a tough test! 

As I left the boat, the sky was clear, but three hours later I could see a storm brewing in the distance. One thing about Alaska weather, it can change in a heartbeat! Within another hour it was pouring rain, but I wasn’t going to turn back. I learned a long time ago if the weather upsets you, Alaska wasn’t the state to live in, so I just kept plodding up the mountainside. After an hour, the rain stopped and fog moved in, limiting my visibility to 50 yards. I was thinking I would get to the top where I would set up my tent and hunker down to wait for the fog to lift. After eight hours of hiking, I knew I had to be close to the top. I could see the sun trying to break through the fog. I hiked up another 200 yards and the rays of the sun came shining through the fog, as if our Creator sent them from heaven, just for me. I could see the top only 100 yards above me. 

Once on top, I sat down and dropped my pack. I was burned out from the long, steep hike through the rain, fog, brush, and broken-up terrain. But after a sandwich and candy bar I was ready to look for a trophy goat. The first impression I had when I looked around was this was not goat habitat. I hiked north and soon started getting into an area with cliffs and rocky ravines. This was more of what I had in mind. I put down my pack and starting hunting along the edge of a cliff. I slowly worked my way along the edge, glassing down the rock ravines and cliffs below me. I didn’t get too far before I spotted a bed in the grass a few yards from the edge of the cliff. It was too big for a deer and after a closer look I found tracks that were definitely made by a goat, and they were huge! They also looked to have been made that morning, so I carefully eased up to the edge and looked below. Instantly I saw a goat 200 yards away, feeding on a grassy bench at the end of a rocky ravine. I pulled up my 10x40 Zeiss binoculars and could tell by the yellow, off-white color it was a billy and his horns looked big! 

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The wind was blowing up the ravine right into my face so the billy didn’t have a clue I was watching him. I slowly started down a ridge to the right from the ravine in which the billy was feeding. I stalked to within 50 yards of him and laid my .300 Weatherby across a large rock. I took one more look through the binoculars even though I was so close I could hear him eating grass. He was definitely a trophy mountain goat. His horns were very long with heavy bases, and with the sun shining down on him, he was a beautiful sight. I maneuvered my shoulder behind my .300 Magnum, put the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. After the recoil, I looked up and was shocked to see the billy running up the grassy slope to the base of the rock cliff! 

I knew goats were tough, but I was shooting a .300 Weatherby with 180-grain Barnes X bullets. He should have at least acted like he was hit. I knew I couldn’t have missed at 50 yards! I quickly chambered another round and threw the rifle up to my shoulder, putting the crosshairs on his shoulders. Just as I was beginning to squeeze the trigger, through the scope I saw the goat’s hind legs bend and start to shake. It was now obvious that he was hit hard. The billy then fell over backwards and rolled down the grassy slope to his final resting place. I carefully made my way down to him and could not believe how big his body was and his horns looked very impressive. I knew I had a trophy goat and one that would qualify for the records book. 

He was magnificent, and for a long time I just sat there beside him on that mountain thinking how lucky and thankful I was to get such a beautiful animal. There were more storm clouds coming, so I quickly took some pictures. In two hours I had the billy caped, the meat boned out and in my pack. I made it halfway down the mountain that night before it was too dark to go on. I stayed right there on the mountainside, and the next morning headed down the rest of the way to the boat. After an hour and half boat ride, I was back at Thorne Bay. I couldn’t wait to show the trophy to my wife, Rhonda, and my three kids, Ashley, Kyle, and Wyatt. I knew they would be excited too! 

Once I got home, I green-scored my billy at 55-7/8 points. After the 60-day drying period, he was officially scored at 55 points. I knew some day I would hunt for a trophy mountain goat, but I never dreamed I would get a trophy billy that would rank that high in the records book. I have had the sheep-hunting bug for years. Is there such a thing as a goat-hunting bug? I know I’ve got one! 

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