Nathan my youngest grandchild of 7 grandchildren is quite a young man, a jokester and really fun to be around. While I think Nathan liked hunting in general he especially enjoyed our family hunting trips. Nathan and his big brother Jared have always had a special bond. On our hunting trips, Nathan was always by Jared’s side. After everyone left for collage, however, he was on his own. In 2013, (Nathan had just turned 14), he ended up taking a super 386 point B&C caribou and his first moose, a 46 incher. He was also drawn for a mountain goat permit in an area on the Kenai Peninsula. It was an area that I had hunted in the late 70’s. I was excited since I knew the area so well and was looking forward to hunting it again. I hoped Nathan was as excited as I was. We made plans for a mid to late September hunt.
It looked like we were going to have a good weather week-end if the current low pressure system moved out of the area as predicted by the weather service. As we were driving down the Seward highway through Turnagain Pass the clouds were starting to lift with only an occasional shower. That was good news but it still meant all of the vegetation was going to be wet unless the sun came out and turned hot quickly. But we knew no matter how hot it got we were still going to get a little wet.
As we were preparing to climb the 2000 foot slope full of wet alder, devils club and you name it, we debated whether to wear our rain coats. It had stopped raining and the sun was out. The steep climb through the wet brush was going to be tough so we knew we were going to sweat and get wet one way or another. Under those conditions I chose to wear a long underwear shirt with my ¾ length light rain coat over it. That’s how we started out but about half way up Nathan took his undershirt off and just left his rain coat on. When we got to the top we were wet but not soaked.
At the top of the slope there was a pass where we needed to hike another three miles to get to the headwaters of a creek that ran in the opposite direction. I had done this same trip five or six times in the past so I knew the area well. Once we hit the headwaters we set up camp and got ready for a good night’s rest.
I was up first the following morning getting the water boiling for breakfast when I just happened to turn and look toward the valley that we were going to hunt and spotted movement. The next thing I knew there was a pack of six wolves coming our way. I got down by the tent and whispered to Sagen to slip me the gun through the vestibule. The wolves were moving in some rolling terrain getting closer. The wind was perfect. I was set-up and waiting for them to come into view. I could see three of them at about 75 yards moving at a fair pace. I picked out the largest and squeezed the trigger of my .257 Roberts Ackley Improved. He rolled and all the rest high tailed it under cover of the rolling hills. I jumped up and took off in their direction hoping to get another shot but never spotted them again. I went back and picked up my wolf. He was a young guy and since he was the largest in the pack it was evident that they were a family hunting without the alfa male.
Later that day we found nothing but numerous piles of wolf dung with bits of white hair and even pieces of hoofs. We never spotted a single goat or sheep. Back in the day, we would have spotted no less than five or six goats and at least twenty ewes and lambs along with at least three to five rams. It was a great hunting area back then. It was hard to believe the difference. I assumed the wolves had something to do with the absence of the other animals. The next day we hunted our way out and spotted one lone black bear. Once we made it back to the highway we spotted about twenty different goats on the main face of the mountain, all were nannies and kids. This was the norm. I knew if there were kids with the nannies, somewhere there had to be billies. We would come again since we still had a couple weeks before the snows locked things up for the winter.
Later that week Karen and I came back down the highway to winterize our cabin just off the Kenai River. It had snowed that night so when I stopped to spot I didn’t see anything. I stopped again when we returned the next afternoon. I could see the nannies and kids and a few ewes but no billies. Sagan and I were planning on coming back down the following weekend to pick-up their family trailer and take it back to Anchorage to winterize and store it. We would bring Nathan back down with us hoping to find a billy.
Saturday morning we pulled over off the highway and started glassing our mountain. I spotted three large single goats in a small saddle at the far end of the mountain. We drove a little closer and looked them over with my 45 power Bausch and Lomb spotting scope. We determined they were all billies. The plan was to go down to Soldotna and pick-up their trailer and come back to a good pull off and camp for the night. That way we could get an early start to climb the mountain the next morning.
After bringing back the trailer and getting a good night’s rest we were up early and ready to go. While Sagen was cooking I was glassing the mountain and could only find two of the billies. They were in the same location so we were good. We drove up the road to get as close to the mountain as possible, parked the truck and got ready for the climb. From the bottom I studied the way I wanted to climb up the mountain and then we took off. The bottom of the mountain was choked full of devils club. I despise devils club!! After about a half mile of getting pricked and jabbed with thorns we got into some big spruce. Relief!! Then we hit the alder on the really steep slope. It took us a little over two hours to get above most of the brush. It was fairly steep climbing but that was fine because we were gaining elevation fast. I could see the first cliff that I thought we could get around to get a shot at one of the billies. We took a break at the base of the small cliff. We got the camera out and then had Nathan get the gun ready. Once our breathing was under control Nathan and I moved up and around the cliff and there he was 150 yards above us, below the main cliffs feeding in the grass. Nathan got set up on my pack and we got the camera ready. It was now up to Nathan. He was shooting at a 45% angle and the .257 Roberts Ackley Improved was sighted in 3” high at 100 yards so this was going to be a pretty dead on shot. He took his time, squeezed the trigger and “plop,” he hit him the first time. The goat stood still and Nathan hit him again with the 120 grain Nolser Partition bullet and down he went rolling down the mountain just like goats always do. We let out a bunch of howls and jumped up just in time to see the goat rolling slowly by. Sagen was ahead and got in front of him and got him stopped before he went over a steep cliff. Nathan was close behind and I was last. Now for congratulations, photos and skinning. It was a really nice 8 5/8” Billy which was a great start for his first goat. It was also the first goat taken by any of my grandkids.
After getting the meat and skin taken care of we loaded our packs and made our way off the mountain. From start to finish it took us about six hours. Not bad for a day hunt. As they say, “it just doesn’t get any better than this” and especially with my grandson. God is good!
If you would like to see the kill shot check out the video “A Goat for Nate” in the hunting videos on the blog.