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The Last Goat of Squaw Peak

January 2023
Story by Kayden Hemsher
State: Wyoming
Species: Mtn Goat

It was an ordinary day in May, and I was getting ready to take care of my animals and go to school. All of a sudden, my dad started yelling. Everyone in the house paused and stared speechlessly at him, wondering what was going on. He finally said, “Kayden, you drew the mountain goat tag!” I was in disbelief and thought he was teasing me. At 14, I was going to have the hunt-of-a-lifetime.

This adventure started with searching for a guide. My dad had growing conversations with a guide service, and then out of nowhere, there was no communication and we were completely ghosted. My heart was broken. We thought we might not get the chance to go for the once-in-a-lifetime tag. Thankfully, one of my dad’s friends referred us to Shoshone Lodge Outfitters. We were able to make a solid plan, and they scheduled us to go hunt this amazing animal on September 5, 2022.

The day before the hunt, we left our hometown of Laramie, Wyoming and headed for Cody, Wyoming. We met up with our guides, Jake and Dusty, and they were super nice and helpful, and they made us feel like we were in the best hands possible for this adventure. The next morning, we headed to Sunlight Basin and set up camp. That evening, we went out and glassed some canyons, looking for anything. We found a small billy on a nearby hillside. We stopped and watched him for a bit. Jake and Dusty said that it was a big enough billy to harvest, but that wasn’t the adventure I was looking for. It was a hard decision, but I decided to pass on this billy.

The next morning, we headed out to scout for goats. We hiked about two miles to a good glassing point where we saw a lot of bighorn sheep and a grizzly bear, which was a cool surprise! Finally, we made it to the spot where we would glass for the rest of the day. We didn’t see anything at all. Nothing was moving or even wanting to come out. I think this was due to the smoky conditions and extreme heat for September. At the end of the day, we came down from a glassing point.

On the third day, we toured the area close to Yellowstone National Park. We looked around the cool little town of Cooke City. We happened to find a mini mountain goat statue that I took a picture with, which gave us luck to find a life-size goat. We took off from Cooke City, and we were at a pull out, glassing for goats and eating cookies when Jake spotted a mountain goat from miles away with his spotting scope. By this time, it was almost noon. We hurried back to camp, gathered our gear, and started what would be a crazy 14 hours. This was when everything kicked in and game mode started. We got to the spot where we could no longer take the four-wheeler and started walking in the blaring 90-degree heat. We started on a two-track trail, walked for about a mile and a half, and then had to cross the river. We started up the mountain, and it was the most brutal hiking experience I have had so far. The terrain was basically a vertical climb every step we took.

We finally made it to the first ridge of many where I was able to take a drink of water. This is where I began to push harder and harder. We sidehilled for about half a mile and then made it to the top of another ridge. We had to keep going on the peak of the mountain, which was only a path about 10 feet wide. We continued to push and grind so that we wouldn’t miss shooting light. I was sweating so bad that my hat bill had sweat pouring off of it and my clothes were completely drenched. The final leg to get the mountain goat was just a pure grueling climb. We sat down for a little break and some peanut butter crackers. Those crackers saved me from almost not making it. I was wanting to give up at this point and say I’m done, but that fire in me to push for my bucket list animal was driving me more than pain and hunger.

After a couple more ridges, we finally made it to where we thought the goat was. It was a 3,000-foot incline and four miles to find nothing. I was so sad. We were all looking frantically for the mountain goat. Finally, Jake found the billy on a little ledge just below us. I grabbed my rifle, and we snuck up and watched him feed. I took my Christensen Arms .300 short mag and dry fired until the goat was broadside and I was calmed down enough to fire. When I was ready,

I set up on the mountain goat, leaned against a rock outcropping, and waited a few seconds for him to turn broadside. It was a little angled downhill but not too bad. I took a deep breath, let half out, and squeezed the trigger. Bang! All I could see was the animal that I had always dreamed of lying dead in my scope.

I was almost in disbelief. I never thought this moment was going to happen. I proved to myself that you can do anything you put your mind to. What was even better was that it only took one shot. The billy didn’t go anywhere, which I was thankful for because there was a 40-foot drop-off right behind him.

The real work was just beginning. We hiked down to where I shot the billy and took pictures. Dusty and Jake started skinning it for a full-body mount. They were about three-quarters of the way done skinning and quartering him when a massive storm rolled through. There was lightning and thunder everywhere! All I could hear were trees snapping, and there was so much rain. I could feel the electricity from the lighting in the rocks under my boots. Jake had me crouch down and hug my knees to my chest to avoid being struck by lightning. Once the storm passed, we started our descent back down the mountain. There was so much downed timber everywhere that we had to crawl over and under. On the way out, we had a scare. We thought we saw a bear’s eyes in our headlamps, but it was just the night stars looking like grizzly eyes. After that little bit of a scare, we finally made it to a creek where we filtered water in our bottles because we had run out halfway up to get the goat. We were all so relieved to get water after not having any for almost five hours. This was the best water I had ever tasted. To Dusty, this was a lifesaver because he had been carrying the whole goat out on his back. After our refreshing drink, we only had half a mile left to make it back to the four-wheelers. It was around 3 in the morning when we arrived at camp. I was exhausted but still in disbelief that I had achieved my once-in-lifetime hunt and had one heck of a story to go along with it.

When we returned to Laramie to have my mountain goat checked in at the Game and Fish Department, I was told that I was the last person to shoot a mountain goat off of Squaw Peak because the name had been changed to Kuchunteka`a Toyavi at midnight while we were still packing it out.

This experience showed me that a little bit of pain and struggle is worth the reward. I will take this experience and when I have a situation that I think is too hard I will look back on this day and know I can do anything. Thank you to Jake, Dusty, and my dad, Scott. I wouldn’t have been able to complete this amazing adventure without them, and I would not have learned that you should not let limits hold you back.