3 | Tyson scans the slopes for signs of the goats.
Hunting mountain goats requires tactics. It begins with a reconnaissance of the area in question, identifying your intended target before carefully planning of your approach.
My guide Tyson Musil and I left the lodge at around 2.00pm and headed up the Bull River Road to a vantage point that offered views of the four high peaks around us.
Although a youthful 28 years old at the time, Tyson is an experienced mountain guide, specializing in extreme hunts including moose, goats and sheep. He knows the mountains like the back of his hand and had already spent many weeks climbing their familiar slopes that season.
4 | Our plan was to ride up to the edge of the tree line and then climb in foot
We traversed the frozen river and began the four-hour trek through the pine forest towards the tree line. Each summer the guys form a work party to clear the horse trails through the forest, but in the pitch black, only the horses know where to go.
You must have complete trust in your mount. After a while your mind drifts to thoughts of emerging triumphantly at the top of the mountain and claiming your prize, but it seems so far away – almost unattainable. The gentle rhythm of the hooves and swaying motion of the horses gait lull you into an almost trancelike state.
5 | This is the ridge we needed to reach. We were sure our goat is on the other side
As the morning progressed, the light began to filter through the pine trees, but the snow continued to fall. The wind was bitterly cold and offered little sign of abating. The constant snowfall had left a thick blanket of white powdery snow on both myself and my horse. I’d already lost feeling in my toes.
It’s always a trade-off between being protected from the elements, or overheating – one that I’ve never quite managed to find the correct balance. As we climbed ever higher, the rock face became steeper and more treacherous. Each time I’d made ten yards, I’d slide down another five. I was becoming tired and disheartened.
I became acutely aware of the sounds of cracking snow. This meant that a shelf of snow was about to dislodge itself and descend in our direction. We were hit by at least three of these mini-avalanches, but managed to keep my grip on the mountain – just. My hands and knees were rubbed raw by the icy rocks as I scrambled my way ever closer to the ridge above. I knew we couldn’t be far.
7 | The weather closed in once more and it was time to get suited up
Now at least I had an idea of our progress and we were doing well. Despite the severity of the storm, we’d kept climbing with only very occasional rest. We were now level with the ridge on which our mountain goats were sure to be sheltering from the storm.
We hugged close to a rock face that dropped precariously into a ravine below, the bottom of which was hidden by clouds. I suddenly recognized the ridge ahead and could see Tyson taking off his pack. “Are you ready?” he asked. “You bet!” was the only appropriate answer.
For the first time that day I finally had sight of our prize. The goats were in the same area as we’d spied the day before and were not aware of our presence.
“The billy we’re looking for is stood behind a nanny” whispered Tyson. I checked through my Zeiss Victory 10×45 Range finding binoculars and could immediately see the difference.
8 | My beautiful British Columbia Mountain Goat already resplendant in it’s thick winter coat
The male had much wider bases to its horns and pronounced scent glands at the bases. “You’ll need to be ready for the show as soon as the nanny moves” Tyson instructed. I removed my glove and waited for what felt like an eternity.
“BOOM” the report of the .300 winmag shattered the silence, taking me totally by surprise. “You missed!” came the rather obvious, but clearly frustrated declaration from Tyson. But I wasn’t surprised.
I was expecting the mountain to be a flurry of activity, as the goats would surely flee in all directions? I was wrong. The big billy simply looked back over its shoulder towards us, giving me a vital second chance. I didn’t need a third.
A split second of elation was replaced by sheer horror as the goat tumbled backwards off the cliff face and into the ravine below. I held my breath as we peered over the edge. Fortuitously, a lone pine tree that had sprouted from the rock face had caught the goat, saving it from a 1,000 feet drop to the forest below.
After one of the most incredible experiences of my life it was time to head back to camp. The journey back down the mountain wasn't easy, but wilderness hunting just doesn’t get any better than this.