Alaska Mountain Goat: A Hunter’s Perspective
We were headed to a place unlike any other, Southeast Alaska. We flew a Super Otter out of Juneau, Alaska after waiting for the weather to lift which meant an extra day in Juneau and an opportunity to get to know our fellow mountain goat hunters and our gourmet cook on the luxury yacht, the Alaska Harvest. She was coming back in with fresh supplies or this last week of the mountain goat hunting season. After two years and an extra day of waiting, our first glimpse of the Alaskan Harvest from the window of that float plane was a sweet one, indeed!
What an incredible crew awaited us, as well! Bruce Parker, owner of the Alaskan Harvest, along with his competent and welcoming staff, cared for our every need from beginning to end. For me, that need included several extra articles of clothing! To quote a bit from the Parker Guide Service website,
“Mountain goat habitats in Alaska are harsh and unforgiving.
Much time and energy are needed to successfully negotiate the poor late-season weather conditions and rugged terrain found on hunts for the long-haired trophy Alaskan mountain goat. These goats, found only in the coastal mountains of Southeast Alaska, have incredibly beautiful long hair at this time of year. The mountain goats are in a rut during this season. Combined with snow and cold weather, this pushes them to lower altitudes where they are more accessible….”.
Evidently, I was focusing more on the “accessibility” part of that information than I was the “late season weather conditions” as I packed for the trip. We hadn’t taken into account the skiff rides each day from the Alaskan Harvest to the hunting areas, through winter conditions. We were quite stiff and cold at the end of the day and getting off the skiffs and back onto the boat was an effort. This was due in part to all the gear I had borrowed from our gracious staff!
Boarding the Luxury Yacht: Alaskan Harvest
One day, I laughingly looked at myself and realized I was 3 parts Karl, 2 Parts Ruger, and 1 part Ashley – in addition to my own clothing which was considerable. The hardships of the day were quickly forgotten when we stepped aboard the Alaskan Harvest, shared a delicious meal and enjoyed an evening of camaraderie with the other hunters and crew.
Glassing produced multiple goat sightings daily and toward the end of day two, they spotted a nice Billie mountain goat. A quick hop out of the skiff and a scramble up a rock ensued. This offered the shooting position. The first two shots were high. After digging his right tow more firmly and intensely pressing in, Steve got off a shot with his Winchester model 70. We were relieved to see that the goat down the steep slope. Its matted hair revealed what we knew the future, full-size mountain goat trophy mount would look like. The mountain goat’s horns measured 9 1/2 inches long. A beautiful mountain goat trophy with its incredibly long winter hair.
Since this was the last Alaskan mountain goat hunt of the season.
Steve was able to hunt Sitka Blacktail Deer on the way back toward the home base for the Alaskan Harvest. As we moved across the open ocean toward Baranof Island, Alaska, we were entertained by a large pod of white-sided Dall’s porpoises that seemed to be racing us as they jumped and dove alongside the boat!
Mountain Goat Hunting Detour: Sitka Blacktail Deer Hunt
Here was a much different type of terrain than that which we had left behind. Now, we saw huge Sitka spruce trees. The hunting was similar in that we still went out in skiffs and glassed, but we would also take some short walks into open muskeg type meadows. Here, we would do some calling for Sitka Blacktail Deer with a doe bleat sounding type of call. The Alaskan Sitka Blacktail Deer are in the rut during this season. It was a quest for Steve because it would complete his slam of miniature deer along Coues and Columbia Blacktail.
Though our quest was deer, we had the pleasure of viewing a variety of wildlife. A special thrill was seeing the Humpback whales. That was a “wow” moment! We saw Mallards, Pintails and Goldeneyes, but also species of ducks we don’t see in Montana like White Wing Scoters, and Old Squaws. We also delighted in seeing and hearing the bellowing sea lions hanging out on the cliffs. Smelling the Alaskan Sea Lions? Not so much of a delight!
I was ready for a warm yacht day so I chose to stay on the “mother ship”, Parker Guide Service’s beautiful luxury yacht, the Alaskan Harvest. The day turned out to be a glorious one. The sun came out and wildlife viewing was bountiful. It happened to be the day that Steve got his Sitka Blacktail Deer and the story goes like this:
They spotted a nice buck, but he slipped into the brush just as the boat touched the beach. Soon, they spotted another good buck that held. Steve made a good first shot at 150 yards. He had an adequate rest on a rock pile. The deer was a 3×3 counting his eyeguards and his symmetrical antlers were beautifully alder-stained, giving them a reddish cast.
Previously, when trying to describe the country we hunted in Alaska, I referred to it as a place of “brutal beauty” but that is inadequate to capture the heart of it. Some might refer to it as a God’s place this time of year. I refer to it as a God-bejeweled place. We were often reminded of the glass sculptures of Paul Chihuly as we studied the glaciers and ice floes. I love the quote by Alan Hovhaness that I read while waiting: “I’ve always regarded nature as the clothing of God.” That quote reminds me of another from the Scriptures: “The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty.” Psalm 93:1
The goat and deer are currently being mounted by Shawn Andres at Alpine Artistry in Arlee, Montana. We anticipate their arrival and the renewed gratitude their presence will evoke of the trip!