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September 2021
Story by Scott Countryman
State: Montana
Species: Mtn Goat, Sheep - Rocky Mtn

My story is a bit unique. In May, I learned that I drew a Montana mountain goat tag and a Montana sheep tag, both within 125 miles of my home in Kalispell, Montana. I fired up memberships everywhere, including the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance, The Sheep Foundation,, and Huntin’ Fool (recommended to me on HuntTalk as a place to speak to previous tag holders). The sheep tag had a 0.57% chance of drawing, and the goat tag had a 0.25% chance. I didn’t hold out much hope that I would be able to find many previous tag holders. Still, I called Huntin’ Fool, but as expected, they didn’t have any known tag holders on file. However, they did have a Hunt Advisor, Eric, who had hunted the sheep district several years ago, so they let me talk directly to him. That guy was a difference maker for me, and he has become a good friend.

Eric not only helped me see that the size and age of the sheep were declining in my sheep district, but he also provided me advice on goats for which he had harvested a toad with his bow several years ago. Truth is, I didn’t expressly follow his advice on the goat, and I should have with regard to habits and harvesting. I didn’t make that mistake with the sheep. Both once-in-a-lifetime hunts offered highs and lows, and the combination of having two O.I.L. tags in one season created a lot of stress. I was super excited for the season’s opportunity to hunt game that wouldn’t be as on edge as the deer and elk to which I’ve become accustomed, but I needed confidence that I could do all this in one season. Eric helped me build a feasible game plan that broke down the season into digestible chunks.

The high for the goat hunt was the scouting process, camping out in the high country with good friends, and seeing country that I hadn’t seen before. Scouting the goats started over the 4th of July weekend and didn’t really end until the harvest in early October. I invested a lot of time learning the animal and getting in shape for the hunt. It was amazing to watch them move around in their habitat. They are truly incredible animals. The low was harvesting a young nanny when I thought it was a young billy. The shot, in large part, reflected my slipping tolerance for a trophy caused by pressure to move on to the sheep and the limited draw bull elk tag. I’m still proud of the goat, I just wish I had harvested a billy.

With the goat tag punched on October 4th, I elected to scout the sheep while also preparing for an opening weekend rifle hunt with a group of dads and their sons in a limited draw elk district. Even though neither my stepson nor I punched our tags, we were able to experience the thrill and the work of an amazing harvest through a dad and his two sons in our group. The youngest shot a stud 6x6 bull, while the dad shot a 5x5 from the same group. All this happened on October 25th during the coldest, snowiest opener I’ve ever experienced in Montana. While the conditions were miserable, it was those same conditions that caused those bulls to be moving and eating at 2:30 in the afternoon.

The sheep hunting got into full swing in early November, and it had its share of highs and lows. The low was having a gun mishap on a really nice mid-180" ram. The high was harvesting a low 170" ram with only five days to spare in the season. Over the 20 or so days I spent hunting sheep, I had several stalks on some quality rams. Unfortunately, the end of the season was fast approaching, so I talked to Eric about harvest data in my unit in late November and what to expect. He was positive but also expressed urgency. He let me know that my rut window was closing fast. The big rams would be leaving the ewes to recover in the dark timber soon, making them hard, if not impossible, to find.

On Tuesday, November 24th, I made a stalk that was unlike any of the other ones I had been on this season. In this case, we didn’t initially see the ram, rather, we heard him butting heads with another ram. We subsequently got to within 200 yards of two rams fighting with a reluctant ewe backed up to the cliffs about 20 yards away. The rams clearly saw us despite having decent cover, but the tail end of the rut served as the distraction needed to pull off a good shot. With Eric’s help and a bunch of scouting, I knew this ram was considered average for this unit, so I confidently took the shot. Honestly, the high for this trip was the stalk and the harvest. With so few days left in the season, I was thinking I would have to settle for less than average. In that situation, average size coupled with some really cool video footage of the ram battling the other one made my ram feel like a trophy- of-a-lifetime.

I can’t say enough good things about Eric’s knowledge, research, availability, and investment in my hunts. These were all self-guided hunts on public land. When I needed guide level knowledge to offset my “I don’t know what I’m doing on these hunts I’ve never done” experience, Eric was right there with gear recommendations, harvest data, moral support, and more. Now I just have to figure out how to thank him.