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April 2024
Story by Nate Creek
State: Montana
Species: Moose - Shiras, Mtn Goat

Last April as we checked the New Mexico draw results, Kelly Lopez, owner of Hi Lo Country Outfitters, called me about guiding oryx/elk hunters for him in early October. I told him to sign me up! I had already committed to guiding moose hunters in Western Alaska for two weeks in September, so my fall was pretty full, just the way I like ‘em. Fall goes by fast and sadly only comes once a year. A couple nights later as I talked to my buddy, Patrick, about which Montana moose, goat, and sheep units we would apply for, I thought I better change up a few units. If I was to draw the mountain goat tag I had been after for the past 25 years or a moose tag, I just wasn’t going to have the time I wanted to do it right. I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to hunt for myself this fall, or so I thought.

A few weeks later, I got a text from my friend, Edwin, “Draw results are out. Goat?” He knew I had max points for goat and that I had been waiting for that tag for a long time. As I logged into my account, there it was. Mountain Goat – Successful! Right below that was Moose – Successful! I’ve always called it a curse, drawing more than one tag in a year in two different units. I have seen a lot of guys eat one or both of those tags. If it’s not a snowstorm or bad timing, maybe it’s the dreaded four-letter word “work” that gets in the way. It’s never easy to harvest two trophies in the same year, then add two weeks guiding in Alaska and another trip to New Mexico, but go big or go home, right? I laid out a calendar, asked my wife to forgive me, and planned out one of the best seasons of my life.

Guiding in Alaska came and went as seamless as 10 days in the wilds of Alaska could. We flew 125 airmiles to a pristine lake surrounded by a glacier-filled valley. It was quite possibly the most surreal place I had ever been. The solitude, the quiet, and the friends I was with, but still my mind drifted to the next task. Each night before I turned off my inReach, I was texting friends in Montana about weather and moose and goat sightings. With a 69" B&C monster and a 55" bull, I was on a plane back to Montana before I knew it.

After a couple days of work and a weekend ahead of me, I had moose marked on my calendar. I met up with my friend, Patrick, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Where you wanna go?”

Truth be told, I had spent a handful of days at 10,000 feet watching big billies, but I had not seen a moose on my only scouting trip that summer. A flip of a coin and we were hiking up a trail in the pouring rain. I wanted to check out two different meadows that over the years I had seen some moose in. Meadow number one was a swing and a miss. Not a single track had been through it in weeks. We headed up to the next meadow, and as we hugged the trees to stay hidden, Patrick gave me a soft whistle and pointed. Moose! A nice bull and a cow were feeding across the meadow. I got the wind right, nocked an arrow, and used the willows as cover as I snuck toward them. I could see his horns above the willows as I got within 50 yards. I waited for him to give me a broadside shot before letting my arrow fly from 44 yards. A 42" Montana bull moose on day one. Check!

Three weeks later, the weatherman started talking about a big storm brewing for early the following week with heavy winds, 10-12 inches of snow in the upper elevations, and low visibility. All good things when you are chasing mountain goats at 10,000 feet. Not! Looking at my calendar, it said, “WORK.” However, as one of my favorite quotes goes, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

I packed my hunting bag, loaded the truck, and headed to the mountains. I had turned up several huge goats over the summer, so this time when Patrick asked, “Where we gonna go?” I had no doubt in my mind. It was a heck of a hike, about seven miles in. A buddy had given me some intel that he had seen two billies while archery hunting. I had been in the area late that summer and had seen a few goats worth a look. Hiking up, we were in high spirits, optimistic about what the day would hold for us. We located both billies, put the Vortex spotting scope on them, and figured them both to be about 9" billies. Hoping for a goat that was closer to 10", we started our walk off the mountain. The 14+ mile day was a tough one, and Patrick said he didn’t think he could do that again the next day. “Wimp!”

The next morning, our good friend, Dalton, met us at 5 a.m. at the trailhead. Packs loaded and with high hopes, we took off up the trail. As the sun rose against the mountain range, we picked out a goat. “Solid billy,” Dalton said as he looked through our Vortex spotter. We all took turns looking at him and had our opinions, but we agreed he wasn’t the one. Twenty minutes later, we found two big-bodied goats laying off the east side of a huge ridge. The moment I laid eyes on them through the spotting scope, I grabbed my pack and said, “Two giants. Let’s go!”

Patrick stayed, and Dalton and I descended 1,200 feet into the drainage below and then climbed up the other side. Most of the climb, we were both on all fours. We approached the crest of the ridge and dropped our packs. Quietly chambering a bullet, we eased over the top to relocate the billies. Nothing, no goats in sight. Did they hear us? Was the wind in our faces? What happened? I took one more small step forward to look over a little rock, and they were laying 45 yards below us out of the wind. I had left my bow in the truck that morning, so after kicking myself for that, we spent the next hour watching two of the biggest old goats I had ever seen. Both goats seemed to be at the magical 10" mark, but one had a bigger body with a big, long horse head. Sitting and watching both goats with them having no idea we were there was an amazing experience.

After a well-placed bullet from a 7mm, the high fives began. Boone and Crockett goat – check! Patrick got to watch the whole thing develop from across the drainage. I could see him across the valley doing the goat dance. Heavy packs don’t seem so heavy when you are on cloud 9. As the sun set again the mountain range, I thanked my friends for the miles and never- ending support.