Grocery Shopping: A Mountain
Goat Hunting Adventure
by Chris Tobias
September, 2018 Issue
Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Silver Creek Idaho
Christopher and his wife, Hillery, own Roe Hard Guide Service, LLC. They are based out of
Wasilla, Alaska, where they are raising their two young boys, Grayson and Gavin. Roe Hard
Guide Service, LLC, operates on the Susitna River Drainage.
I had gone in the Sunday prior to the opener to scout the area for the goat tag I was fortunate enough to draw. It was
an easy five mile hike to the hunt area boundary, with little to no elevation gain. The trail was heavily used and well
maintained, so I knew getting in there wouldn’t be the problem. From what I had heard, from buddies who had been
back there, finding goats wouldn’t be a problem either. As always, it was getting to one that was recoverable would be
Luckily I had a good friend, along with one of his friends that said they would help with the pack out, if I harvested a
goat. The weather all week was sunny and cloud free, and it was supposed to last through the weekend.
I had spotted a bunch of goats on my scouting trip, so I had an idea of how I wanted to hunt the area. I would be
headed in with enough rations for four days, and a pack raft to take me to a point that was three miles from the parking
Friday finally rolled around, and the season had already been underway for four days. Thinking about your upcoming
hunt and trying to work are not a good combination. I kept watching the clock and counting down the minutes until I
could make the short drive up the highway to start the hike in.
The time eventually came and I was ready to go. I quickly changed and made my way to the parking lot and sent my
wife a message from my InReach that I was headed in. I made my way inside the park office to pay my parking fee and
let the ladies at the counter know what my plans were. Just in case.
The trail I would be heading in on is part of the Historic Iditarod Trail, and everyone from weekend adventurers to
serious hunters are back in the area at any given point. I looked around at the vehicles, but there was no way to
discern if any other hunters were already back in there. I loaded up and headed out for the five mile trek.
The hike in was uneventful, except for the good looking bull moose I came across and got fired up with some calling
and brush thrashing. After my brush thrasing and calling, I realized how close he had worked towards the trail and was
second guessing my decision. But, I guess he figured I wasn’t another bull once he saw the bright yellow paddles
sticking out of my pack and he headed back into the woods with the cow he had swooned.
I had gotten on the trail later than I wanted to, mostly because some people at work wanted to talk about hunting and
fishing instead of letting me get on my way, but I was not in any rush and didn’t plan to hunt that evening anyways. I
eventually made it to the area on the river where I wanted to cross and got the pack raft ready to go. This was my first
time using a pack raft, but I was not new to being on the water by any means. Either way, I knew it would be a learning
I got the raft loaded up with my gear and made it across the river without incident. Well, besides getting my sleeves a
little wet when I went to hop out of the raft. I found a decent area to camp and dropped my pack along with the pack
raft. As I took a look around at the river bank I noticed bear tracks all over. They were smaller black bear tracks, but
none the less they were still bear tracks.
As I set up camp I took a look at the surrounding mountains and spotted a lone Billy feeding along a small area. I
started coming up with a game plan as I finished setting up and sat down on the raft to watch him as I ate dinner. I sent
another message to my wife and buddy that I was in position from the InReach. The Billy I spotted was accessible and
recoverable, but it would be some work to get to him. As the light started to fade I noticed another Billy pop out of some
brush and feed in an area directly above my camp. He was very accessible and recoverable. He slipped out of sight as
the light disappeared behind the mountains and I figured I should probably get a good fire going just in case. If not for
just a piece of mind. I set my alarm and settled into my EE quilt to get some sleep before the morning light crept over
I still hadn't received a response from my wife or my buddy, and I was beginning to worry that my InReach wasn't
5:30am came quick, and I was lazy. So, I shut off my alarm and went back to bed. When I woke up it was 6:30 and the
sun was already starting to warm my tent. I unzipped the tent and glassed the mountain side. I didn’t see the Billy to the
left that I had put to bed. Where could he be??!! I scanned back over to the right and saw the Billy that had slipped out
of sight as the light faded. Game on.
I made breakfast and ate while watching him slowly feed through an area. I took a look at the terrain I would have to go
through to get to him and came up with a plan. I only had to cross a shallow braid of the river, or so I thought.
I finished up breakfast and threw only the essentials in my pack. I crossed the shallow braid and ducked into the timber
and made my way to the base of the mountain. I thought I was done crossing water, but then I came to a spot that was
too wide to jump across, and as I tested the depth with my trekking pole I realized I was getting wet or turning around.
Luckily I had shorts on, so only my feet would be getting wet. I began to cross and felt the immediate chill of the glacial
water. I was committed at this point. No turning back. I quickly made it across the side channel and over to the base of
the mountain to being my ascent. What I thought was a small slide area turned out to be a nice boulder field. Still
better than busting brush.
I began picking my way through the boulder field, and kept an eye on what the Billy was doing. I had been only 550
yards from him with a clear broadside shot from the start of the boulder field. It was a longer shot than I wanted to take,
and I knew I could work in closer. As I made my way up, I stopped and ranged him again. 354 yards. He was still busy
feeding, and I knew I could get even closer.
I came to a point where I had to go left or right. The left would have taken me directly at him, so I opted for the right
side to stay hidden. As luck would have it, I ran into a thick patch of brush and had to cut back over to the left and work
straight up at him. I stayed as tight to the brush as I could as I worked my way up the left boulder field and got to an
area where I could see the spot that he was feeding in. He wasn’t there. Did he hear me? Am I being that loud?
Everything went through my mind as I scanned the cliffs above. I ranged the grass he had been feeding on, and it was
only 150 yards away. I decided to wait and see if he would work back through. 10 minutes went by and I got impatient. I
needed to make a move. I was committed now and decided to work up towards the grass patch and at the very least
check out his home turf. At this point I figured he had blown out of there and headed for the top of the mountain.
I slowly made my way up and got to the area just below where he was feeding. I was hoping he would pop over the top,
but no such luck. I began scanning up the cliff side and there he was. I quickly ranged him. 89 yards. I dropped my
pack and readied my rifle. I couldn’t get in the prone due to the angle of the mountain, so I thought I could get him from
the kneeling position. I sighted down my crosshairs and steadied as best as I could. I sent one down range. Nothing. I
missed. I suck. “Get to that tree you idiot and use it as a rest”, is what I said to myself. At this point he is just staring
towards me wondering what the heck is going on. He sensed something was up and began to slowly move up the
I got against the tree and braced myself. I couldn't see. Leaves were in the way. I got them out of my sights and quickly
ranged him again. 93 yards. I fired a round and immediately reload. Hit. Now he’s panicking, but still moving. I sent
another 190 grain round his way. Hit. Now he’s really panicking, but still moving. I sent one more. Hit. I was out. I
reloaded my magazine and watched him. He laid down to die. Blood was pouring out of his nose and mouth. Lung shot.
I could see him losing breath as I watched him through my scope. Then it happened. I had heard about it, but didn’t
expect it. He thought he had enough in him to escape. He stood up to try and run and immediately expires. He fell back
and began a long tumble down the mountain and passed within 15’ of me on his way down. Damn tough son of a gun,
that's for sure.
I got down to him and marked my tag, then immediately noticed he was missing his left horn. His momentum had been
stopped by a stand of trees that littered the boulder field. On the plus side, at least I didn't have to bring him off the cliff
he was on, one piece at a time, to the bottom. I got him moved to an open area and began to get him cut up. I looked
below me and back up at the cliffs he had been on. I couldn’t believe how far he had fallen. I barely had 100 yards to
the bottom of the mountain before I had to go back through the woods and to my camp. The hike out was less than
800 yards. To say I was excited about the short pack out, and then floating to a point where I was linking up with some
packers, was a huge understatement. I kept thinking to myself that it was the easiest hunt ever. However, the work was
far from over, and I was still a few river miles from the take out.
I sent some messages out on my InReach to some buddies on the other side of the country, and let them know I had a
goat down. Then I sent some messages to my wife and my buddy who was coming to help with the pack out. Not a
word from my wife or my buddy. However, I got a message back from my friend on the other side of the country. Now I
was really starting to worry, and began trying to figure out the best way to shuttle my gear back from the take out point.
I kept a lookout for any bears that may have worked in from the smell of a fresh kill, but I didn't see any. I did hear
something rather large coming towards me from my left. It was large enough to cause boulders to fall as it walked. I
yelled and even more boulders started falling. It's amazing how much faster you start working when you suspect a bear
is working towards you. The ravens had spotted the gut pile and were letting everything within ear shot know there was
a fresh meal on the ground. I worked as fast as I could to get everything cleaned from the bones and keep the hide in
as good as a condition as I could.
I finished up and loaded the SG with my Billy. The weight wasn't terrible. Then again I had nothing in my pack to begin
with. I slowly picked my way down the boulder field and busted brush for a short distance before coming to the first
water crossing. I was crossing at a different point and checked the depth. Much deeper than the first spot and full of
soft mud. In I went up to my hips. It was cold and my legs almost instantly went numb. I didn't mind it, since it made
walking through the prickers much easier with shorts on. I made it out of the woods and crossed the shallow braid near
my camp. I dropped my pack and looked back at the mountain from where I had just come from. I reached down and
checked my InReach. No messages from anyone within 30 miles of me. Only messages from people over 4,000 miles
away. I began to prepare mentally for the meat and gear shuttle I was going to have to do.
I got camp broken down and packed up. Took some time to take some pictures of the beautiful country around me,
and began wondering if anyone else was even out here hunting. I knew there were hikers, I had heard a couple yelling
for bears as I cleaned up my camp.
I put on my pack, a little heavier, and much more of what I had expected it to feel like. I was still excited I didn't have to
carry it on my back the whole way out. Even if my buddy and his friend didn't make it. I dropped my pack next to the
river and went back for the raft and my life jacket. I began to wonder if this tiny pack raft would hold me, my gear, and a
goat. The guy told me it would. Then again, maybe he just wanted my money for the rental.
I got the pack on the raft and the back end shot up in the air as I moved the pack around to shift the weight as close to
center as possible. It didn't look right, or safe, or stable. Well, maybe it will be ok once I get in it. I strapped my pack
down as tight as I could and moved the raft into the moving current. I hopped in and hopped right back out. Water was
coming in over the front and the raft was bending from the weight of my pack. I debated shuttling pieces of my gear to
the other side and then hiking out the whole way. This can't be. He said it would hold. I decided to empty some weight
out of my pack and strap it to the back of the raft. The head and hide were the easiest to access and it seemed to
balance the boat a little better.
I hopped in and began to float down river. Barely. There was hardly any free tube sticking out of the water, and I knew I
had it overloaded. But, she was floating, and I wasn't walking. The first few river miles were uneventful. The raft
responded like a teenager buried in their cell phone when you're trying to get their attention, with all the weight in it. I
would get out and walk it through stretches that needed a quick and nimble raft. I'd rather be wet than dump my gear
and possibly lose something.
I was looking at the mountains around me trying to judge how much further I had to go. I was getting close to the take
out and spotted some people standing on a rock that I recognized. Weird. They're waving their arms at me and looking
at me with binoculars. It was my friend and his buddy up for a moose hunt!!! I was ecstatic. I knew he would not let me
down, but was wondering if he figured I didn't need help since my InReach messages didn't seem to be going through
to anyone in Alaska. I pulled over the raft and went over to the edge of the rock.
We chatted a bit and he said he hadn't received a single message, and that his wife wasn't responding to his InReach
texts as well. He introduced me to his buddy who was up for his moose hunt, and I thanked both of them graciously
again for helping me with the pack out. I let them know I had another mile or so to go before getting to Echo Bend, and
I would probably meet them as they got there. They headed back down the trail to the take out and I headed over to
the raft, elated that I was not going to be packing a full load out solo. But, I still wasn't at the take out and had at least a
mile to a mile and a half of river to get down.
I pushed my raft back out into the current and began floating down, thinking about how this had been one heck of a
hunt. I made my way through some sketchy areas, and walked the raft where I needed to. I came to a spot that looked
bad. A big log jam with the current pushing hard up against it and then hard to the left against the bank. I knew it would
be deep with how the channel narrowed down. There was no walking the raft. I would have to try and stay tight to the
log jam so I didn't get pushed into the bank loaded with timber, and then paddle hard to get into the slack water on the
right side. I dropped into the chute and paddled hard. The raft was sluggish and I was getting sucked closer and closer
to the bank. My efforts were worthless as the raft was bogged down past it's capacity with the load I had. I braced
myself for the impact in hopes I would just bounce off and quickly recover. Yeah right. Into the drink I went and the
wrong side of the raft was pointed towards the sky. Luckily I had made it through the deep section and was able to
stand up. I worked to grab the raft and get the right side up, before it got pinned against some logs. I got it away from
the logs, but didn't see the sweeper in front of me.
My pack pinned against the sweeper and the current did a great job of wedging the log further and further under my
pack. I threw the paddle on the small gravel bar to my right and shook and pulled the pack as hard as I could. My
adrenaline kicked in, as all I could think about was losing all my gear and the goat to the river. I got the raft and all my
gear free. I pulled the raft over to the small gravel bar and flipped it over. I needed a breather. Not because I was tired,
but to calm my nerves. All that went through my mind was the individual who had drowned on this river the summer
I double checked my gear and tightened my straps back down. Then I pulled out my phone and opened my OnX maps
to check and see how far I had to go. I was almost there, and this was turning out to be the sketchiest part of the whole
hunt. I pulled the raft over the small gravel bar and into the other channel that looked easier to navigate. I hopped in
and headed back down river, but not before I came to another sketchy area. I got out and started walking the raft. It
wasn't deep, only about knee high. As I kept walking it got deeper, and then the bottom fell out from under me. The
water was cold and I instinctively tried to pull myself up onto the raft. Bad idea. I flipped the raft and floated down with it
until I finally hit bottom again. I righted the raft and checked my gear again. A friend had told me to make sure I washed
the blood out of the hide in the river, but I don't think he meant to wash it like this.
I got back in the raft and made my way down river, and then I came to a stretch with a log jam on either side that
necked down to about a 4' opening. I knew this would be deep because of how narrow it got and the amount of current
running through it. I would have to get out and portage the raft anyway, since there was tree laid across the river below
the log jams. I opted to just go for a swim. This time when the bottom fell out, I let my life jacket do the work and float
me down. The glacial water was cold, and being up to my chest, it took my breath away. I told myself to relax and I
would be touching bottom soon, as I could see the riffles ahead of me. I found bottom and pulled the raft around the
I knew I had to be really close. I could see the mountains and the slide where I had seen the four rams on Sunday. I got
back in the raft and headed towards the take out, keeping a sharp eye on river right to see where the take out was.
Then I saw it. The small patch of grass with the log that is used for a nice seat. I was relieved and paddled over to the
bank and pulled the raft, my gear, and the goat on to the bank. I was also soaked, but I figured the hike out would
warm me up.
I began to break down the raft and strip my gear from it. A few hikers passed by and said hi. They had no idea what I
had just experienced. They just knew there was a camo clad individual in front of them with a raft, pack, rifle, and some
white nylon bags with blood all over them.
My buddy and his friend showed up before I even got the raft completely stripped. They sat down to eat something
before we headed back to the lot and I continued to break down the raft. I told them about what had happened, but I
think they thought I was exaggerating a bit. After all, it couldn't have been that bad. I was standing in front of them
having a conversation.
They finished their meals and I got the loads broken down and the raft and remaining meat packed up in my SG. The
hide was about 30lbs before it got wet, then quickly turned into about 50lbs. My buddies friend would pack out the hide
and I gave my buddy a bag of meat to haul out. Three miles to go over a very easy trail. Before we headed out, three
pack rafters came by in the exact same raft I had just used. Their rafts looked like they were floating a little better, as
they had only a couple inches hanging down in the water. Then again, they didn't quite have the load I had.
We made it to the lot without incident, and I never did warm up after getting into that glacial water. We unloaded our
packs and I thanked them again for their help. I didn't leave them empty handed and wished them luck on their
upcoming moose hunt.
Once I got to an area with cell service I called my wife. She hadn't gotten a single message from my InReach and she
figured at least she would get a life insurance payout if she didn't hear from me by Sunday night. I told her I came out
early because I hadn't heard from her and was worried. Then I told her the real reason I came out.
After a short drive I was home and everything was unloaded and drying out. I went through my gear and the only thing
I had lost was my havalon that I had lazily stuck in the top of my bino pack. I could deal with it after all that had
Fish and Game aged the Billy at 7 years old and his one remaining horn was 7 7/8" long with a 5 1/16" base.
What a trip. I was thankful to have a great hunting buddy who also had a great hunting buddy. It's hard to truly express
how happy I was knowing I didn't have to pack the whole load out solo. I checked with Garmin and apparently InReach
messages aren't reaching anyone who uses AT&T as a carrier. Go figure.
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