Death Stalks The Skyline—Part 2

Rocky Mountain goats thrive where others fear to tread. A mature billy will challenge your skill, stamina, determination, and courage.
Death Stalks The Skyline—Part 2

Previously: Opening Day

High Mountain Stalk

When one of the “spots” moved, the two men grabbed their binoculars, dialed in, and discovered two males with 9-inch horns, about as good as the unit grew. Best of all, the animals were feeding and appeared to be accessible. Should they go straight at the animals or circle and come in from below? “We disagreed about the approach and eventually resorted to Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide,” laughs Nelson.

Dropping below the horizon, the men spent the next three and a half hours closing to within 400 yards of the goat’s last known position. Cresting a ridge above the goats, Tounsley set up the spotting scope and found the animals bedded in a small patch of trees. Nelson glassed the approach area carefully and believed he could get within 40 yards. Tounsley would watch and give hand signals to guide the stalk.

Nelson worked his way down a rockslide, moving slowly and carefully in full view of the animals, relying on his camouflage and stealth to defer detection. Once out of sight, he moved quickly toward a saddle where he planned to drop his pack and gators, and become a silent hunter.

A 3-foot ledge with a 100-foot drop extended just below the goats, and Nelson moved slowly along the shale slope. Glancing back, he saw Jason waving frantically, but couldn’t decipher the signals. Later he’d learn that one of the goats had become alert and was standing just 5 yards away.

“I realized by Jason’s actions that something was happening and stepped across a crack in the rocks for a better vantage point. Suddenly, the larger of the goats stepped into the open at 13 yards. Although I had an arrow nocked, I expected the animal to run at any second. Luckily, the second goat came up behind it, allowing me to draw, anchor, and release.

The billy whirled and ran uphill. By the time I climbed up the chute, I could see it lying 50 yards away and the second goat 100 yards further. I put my bow down, looked back at Jason, and suddenly my goat was gone. Racing to the spot, I found it on the edge of a precipice, seconds from falling off the mountain. Luckily, I grabbed it just in time.”

A Race Against Time

Tounsley soon joined his buddy, triggering a celebration that only extreme bowhunters can understand. After the adrenalin rush subsided and the photos were finished, reality set in. “It would be dark in two hours and we were racing light,” says Nelson. “We had a lot of work to do.”

Caping and de-boning the meat consumed precious daylight, so the men began the process together. Nelson pulled the cape onto his lap and hastily began skinning and boning. Suddenly, he sank the knife about three inches into his thigh. “Jason saw what happened and we both said, ‘Uh-Oh!’”

“Are you OK?” Tounsley asked with great concern.

“I think we should take a look,” Nelson said as he stood and lowered his pants, half expecting to see an arterial spurt that would signal impending death. “The stab wound of the knife was clearly evident, yet blood loss was minimal.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, the men patched the gash with tissue, wrapped the leg with electrical tape, and got back to work, no doubt with greater care.

Another Deadly Option

Nelson’s billy was the size of a large mule deer. By the time the men boned out the meat, cape, and horns, plus their hunting and climbing gear, each had a 100-pound pack. They knew the path back, but it would require at least four hours just to reach the summit, clearly not an option.

Instead, the duo chose the risky path of dropping directly down the mountain. Descending is much more difficult than climbing with a heavy pack. If you lose your balance, slide on lose rocks, or just fall, the top-heavy pack becomes a gravity toboggan that accelerates with each tumble. Secondly, goat country is a mass of cliffs and trails that can dead-end and force the men to spend a night on the freezing mountain.

Luckily, in the moonlight, the men descended the mountain safely and hiked out to the trailhead where they found a dozen college girls having an impromptu kegger. An unlikely celebration, the two men shared a beverage with the girls, who thought the goat was very cool, and then headed home.

The next morning Nelson was treated in emergency care for the knife wound. “Goat blood on the knife has a high risk of infection, but I got a massive dose of antibiotics,” says Nelson who learned how lucky he was: He had missed his femoral artery by just two inches.

Next: Make Dream Hunts Happen


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