I returned to Elmendorf AFB after my remote tour at Galena during the summer of ’76 and continued my pursuit for both dall sheep and mountain goat. I still used a bow to make it more of a challenge while looking for those record book animals. I upgraded my bow to a PSE compound. Those old compounds were nothing like the new ones but I was still amazed how flat it shot. My rule was if the animal wasn’t bigger than my best I wouldn’t even make a stalk.
My friends and I ended up taking nineteen goats out of the Gulch Creek area and the largest taken was only a 9 1/8th inch billy so I knew I had to find a different area if I was going to take a bigger goat.
After doing some research I discovered that the farther south you go on the Kenai Peninsula the better chance you have of taking one of those big 10” billies. During my spring black bear hunts in the Kenai Mountains I spotted goats on numerous hillsides but felt they were too accessible and if I could see them, so could all the other hunters. I needed to find an area that was difficult to reach. In Alaska like most places that takes away most of the competition. While hunting black bears down the railroad tracks around Grandview in the spring I usually spotted goats on the front face of the mountain next to Trail Glacier. I felt that was far enough off the road system to eliminate most of the competition and it was just over the pass from Prince William Sound which was farther south.
I knew the goats would be in a different area during the fall hunting season so I asked Don Dietz, a close friend who had a Taylor Craft, to make a flight around that area to locate them. We picked a good weather day in early August and did a recon flight. We found that the goats had moved back closer to the glacier which was about two miles off of the railroad tracks. The flight was a great success but for some reason all of the circling around the goats made me airsick. I ended up using the pocket of my jacket as a barf bag. That was the first and last time that I got airsick.
We made plans to hunt the third weekend in September, 1978. I hunted with Charles James, Lyle Thompson, and Don Dietz, all good friends. We left Anchorage very early Friday morning and drove down to the southwest shore of Upper Trail Lake. We used Don’s Grumman Freighter canoe and my Folboat to cross the lake and paddle up the creek a couple of miles. The total water trip was four miles. We hide the canoes and started our ten and a half mile walk down the railroad tracks. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Walking on the railroad tracks is much easier than fighting brush and some trails but it gets old fast so we varied from walking on the railroad ties to the side of the tracks if there was room. Your feet get really hot especially on those sunny days.
Once we got on the far side of the Trail Glacier valley we dropped off the tracks and busted brush for two miles before we stopped to make our camp. We discovered the best patch of high bush blueberries that I had ever seen. They were the size of commercial berries. Some over a half inch round. The patch went for over a half mile. We found a great camping spot about 800 yards from the glacier. That evening we glassed and studied the surrounding mountains. We found a large herd of goats high on a grass slope above an alder choked mountain side. I knew more than likely, because of the large number, they were nannies and kids with maybe a couple of young billies. Up towards the glacier we could see a few singles and some small groups scattered above the lower cliffs. They were the “billies” that we were after. Many of the cliffs reached all the way to the valley floor or to the glacier itself. Much to my dismay there was also a lot of thick alder intermingled in the cliffs. I could see that it was going to be a difficult climb but we had to access the mountain that way.
The next morning we were greeted by another beautiful Alaska day and after a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and coffee/hot chocolate we were on our way. We passed a couple of chutes that looked like we could make our way up but they were so steep on the sides I never could see how to get out of them. So, we continued up the glacier. As the glacier rose in elevation, I could see that it might be possible to get above the lower cliffs and climb into a small grassy slope. Within a mile, a small side glacier hit the main glacier which allowed us to grab hold of some hanging alder and pull ourselves around the cliffs onto some grass. Once we were up there I really wasn’t sure how we were going to get back down but we would cross that bridge later.
We worked our way up and back to the area where we had spotted the scattered goats the night before. Above the grass there were more scattered cliffs and above the cliffs old snow left from the previous winter. As we came around below the upper cliffs we spotted goats right at the base of them. I told everyone to select one of the larger goats and to take their best shot. After three or four shots Charles, Lyle and Don all had their first mountain goat, two billies and a 10” nanny lying within 100 yards of each other. Not bad for their first goats. After pictures, skinning and deboning we now had to find a way off the mountain without dying. We all shared the heavy loads of meat and hides. Before we shouldered our backs we walked over to the closest big chute that we had passed coming up the glacier to see if it was possible to drop into it. Climbing up a little higher, I found a goat trail that went down and across the chute. We went back and put on our packs and dropped into the chute and worked our way down the mountain. It was a long way down but it was way safer and there were many places to rest. I used this chute to access the mountain on my next four hunts.
The following morning we loaded our packs and fought our way back to the tracks. After a good long break, we headed back down the tracks. Many breaks later we made it to the canoes. It felt great to let our feet and backs rest as we paddled across the lake to our vehicles. It was a great first trip to a new goat area. I couldn’t wait to get back and try to find one of those 10” billies.
That winter my friend Bryan Copper gave me a call and asked if I would take his son who was turning sixteen on a goat hunt. Bryan had killed a goat with me three or four years earlier in Gulch Creek. He wasn’t interested in going himself but wanted his son to have a successful first Alaska hunt. What could I say, Bryan was a great kid, so the fall of ’79 found us headed down the tracks to get him a mountain goat.
I was thirty–five at the time and it felt good having a young in-shape sixteen year old hunting with me. Bryan did great walking in but he didn’t care for the climbing, especially the steep areas. We used the same chute to access the mountain that we had used coming down the year before. It worked out really well going up and coming down. It was a far better way to access the top of the mountain. The weather wasn’t quite as nice with some moving rain showers but it could have been worse. After getting out of the chute we found a really nice billy and Bryan made a great shot. It was a 9 ¼ incher, the largest goat that we had ever taken. We had a good trip out and what a way to start off his hunting career.
During the late seventies many of my old hunting partners had rotated out of Alaska and I was hunting with a younger crowd. One of those guys was a young airman named Scottie Bailey. He ended up taking a caribou, black bear, sheep and a goat with me. His first goat hunt was in 1980 in our new goat area. We left Anchorage early on a Friday morning. When we arrived at the parking area at Upper Trail Lake and was loading the Folboat, Scottie sheepishly said to me, “You know those very few critical items you always say you must have for your hunt?” I said, “I guess, what did you forget?” Scottie said with a sly smile, “My shells.” I said, “You have got to be kidding!” He wasn’t and of course there was no place to purchase any so I said, “You can just use my pistol.” When I was hunting with my bow I always carried my Colt Python .357 Magnum. I told him I thought we could get close enough and the .357 Magnum would be fine. So we loaded up and headed across the lake.
We had a normal trip in and set up our camp in the same area that I had used the previous years. The next morning we climbed the chute to access the mountain. As we climbed out of the chute right below the upper cliffs we spotted a nice billy feeding below us. We slipped over to within 40 or so yards from the goat. We were both wearing our white coveralls that I always wore when hunting sheep and goat. We sat right in the open above him as he continued to feed up the slope. The wind was blowing up slope and away from the goat but somewhere around twenty yards from us he looked up and spotted us. We sat perfectly still and after a couple of minutes of staring he put his head back down and started feeding again. He kept getting closer and closer and somewhere around ten yards I slipped Scottie the pistol. When the goat was eight yards and broadsided Scottie made a perfect shot. The goat reared up on his hind legs and rolled about fifty yards down the slope. For me that was almost as exciting as me shooting my sheep or goat with my bow. Scottie was so thrilled; he just couldn’t believe he had taken his first goat with a pistol. It was a beautiful 8 ¾” billy. What a rush. We took care of pictures, skinning and deboning then checked the remainder of the mountain over for a giant goat for me. With no luck we worked our way down the mountain to camp.
The next morning we made the long trip out and headed back to Anchorage as happy campers. God is good! The new goat area was tough to get into but was producing some really nice goats. I couldn’t wait to really explore the area more.