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Home | Feature Articles | If It Was Easy...
 
http://www.3riversarchery.com


If It Was Easy...

By Shana Lewis
Printer-Friendly Format

"If it was easy, women and children would be doing it…"

A phrase an old coworker and good friend of mine, Tim Williams, would mutter to me every time we were doing something difficult and strenuous on the job site. I guess the phrase could sound a little derogatory if you wanted or needed it to, but between us it was always used in a way that was quite the opposite and was always complimentary. This was a phrase which would repeat itself over and over in my mind during our adventures pursuing the almighty mountain goat.

So, the time came and off to the backcountry we walked; Billy, myself and our little trooper/packer, Colter the cow dog. To sum up the nine plus mile hike in, I was pretty much broken by the time we neared our final destination and simply could not go any farther. We (and by that I mean I) opted to camp at the base of a giant rock slide in a dried out little pond a few hundred yards from our planned destination. If it was easy…

The next morning was opening morning and I was a little relieved to wake up and find us completely socked in with heavy fog and opted to stay in my bag for a bit longer. While still waiting for the fog to lift, Billy and Colter were off starting a small fire for morning coffee while I was getting myself and my bow all ready. I just finished putting my arrows in my quiver and tightening up my arm guard when I saw a flash of white out of the corner of my eye through the thick fog. Seconds later, a big ole billy goat appeared and just stood there about 40 yards away then obliviously started towards us, upwind nonetheless. The big white ghost was so mystical in that thick fog that it was truly a little hard to believe it was even real. My reaction to the situation was a quiet whistle towards Billy so that he would stop snapping twigs and realize what was going on. Typical of many of my choices, it turned out to be a bad one. Colter, being very attentive to such calls, turned and instantly saw the reason for my whistle and was quick to make sure with all of his cow dog might that there shall be absolutely no such intruders in our camp. Up and over the top of the ridge goes the ol' billy goat. If it was easy…

We eventually moved our camp up to the last watering hole at the base of the ridge, where we could glass the interior of our basin and hike another 1,000 feet or more up to the top of the ridge and glass into two other drainages. From that vantage point, we spotted several goats on numerous occasions, a few single billies scattered about and a small group of nannies/sub-adults and kids. It sure seemed those billies never really went anywhere, but I believe it was because they were too afraid to get down from where they were. To all that know my husband and his predatory intensity, he was eager to get me over to any one of those locations, hoping one of those scared critters would make a mistake in my conservative bow range. I, on the other hand, being a bit more reserved and generally crippled by my fear of heights, fear of loose footing, fear of falling, etc. and my newly appreciated bouts of altitude sickness, was much less enthusiastic. Coupled with a few good panic attacks here and there, the situation wasn't getting any better for me as I tried to clamber around in that country. My poor cheerleading husband had to deal with several meltdowns and after a while, he only started counting the number of "tear free" days I had (total 2, both of which I believe occurred on days we were hiking out). If it was easy…

With all that, we did manage to make a stalk on a small group of nannies and sub-adults on that first trip. They fed along the face until they finally disappeared into a ravine allowing us to make our move. As I closed in on the edge of the ravine, I peeked over the top and could see a nanny with a kid on the opposite side. Thinking that the opposite side of the ravine was a little too far of a shot for me, I opted to expose myself (not literally), hoping the remainder of the group was underneath me and out of sight. As soon as I stood up, a surge of heat, nausea and dizziness overcame me and I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. I heard a few of them laugh at me while they made their retreat and swore one even made a snide remark about me being up there. I sat on a rock and started to cry, for no reason other than I just didn't feel good, or even right for that matter. Billy made it over to me and confirmed that I looked like hell and should probably get off the hill and back to camp. If it was easy…

We returned home to solid flat land several days later for some much needed recuperation. At that point, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go back but I did tell myself I'd try at least one more time. While home, I downloaded all of the pictures we both took, and while yes, it is undoubtedly spectacular country, just looking at some of the pictures made me feel like I was going to throw up. We ended up spending 17 days in the backcountry bow hunting goats, and amazingly so in my mind, both lived to tell about it. The remaining days we spent in goat land all proved to be about the same for me. I had a tough time, pretty much the entire time, and can say that kids like me just don't belong up there above 10,000 feet. I can also say the hunt was about the hardest thing I've ever done, physically and especially mentally, but I guess if it was easy, women and children would be doing it all the time -- right, Timmy?

The most amazing part of the whole experience was simply just to sit and watch these goats, especially when they were doing their gravity defying stunts. I swore several times one of them was going to fall to their death while we watched and all I would have to do is make it over there and put my tag on one. I spotted one standing on a sheer face and could not fathom how she could have even gotten there. After watching her for awhile, she did eventually show me how she got down, which I still can't believe is possible. I loved to watch a goat we termed Ol' Lazy, who had himself on the top of this huge isolated rock outcropping that wasn't much wider than him, with 360 degree views and several hundred feet elevation advantage above an open scree field. He really wasn't all that exciting to watch as he never really moved from there much, but I think he knew nothing in the world could bother him on his perch other than maybe some lightning from above. As I sat and peered through my binoculars at him on his perch for what seemed like the 100th time, I thought of how sad I would be if somebody came along with a rifle and shot him off of the top of there. Somebody sure could have I guess, but from no closer than at least 500 yards away.

On the last day of what turned out to be our last trip, I was finally able to muster up some courage and get myself all the way across the top of Evil Ridge, down one side and up another and ended up making a great long stalk on a small group of goats. It didn't pan out, maybe because I was shaking so bad or maybe because my arrow succumbed to gravity. The sound of my arrow smashing against the rock the goat was standing on didn't seem to bother her or any of them much at all. They just picked up the pace for 10 yards or so and went about their goat business. They never even knew I was there, only that a stick almost just hit one of them. I was thrilled to be so in their world, to have such a close encounter and to have not bothered them at all after my arrow didn't quite make it. That's the coolest thing about bowhunting.

After we came home from the first trip, everybody sure seemed to have a lot of opinions and free advice about my goat tag: "What the hell is wrong with you? Just walk up there and blast one", "Shoot your next goat with your bow," to "You will ruin my hunting season if you eat your tag." I began to wonder (and still do) why so many cared so much about what I was doing and even more so why they seemed to care so much about the white goat being dead, and to many, dead by any means possible. Last I heard, goats are not even the greatest of table fare. None of these overly opinionated folks seemed to have anything to say about my ewe sheep hunts, my cow moose hunt, my turkey hunts, deer hunts, etc. but apparently there is something much more special to them about a dead white goat. I just don't get it and none of them were able, or took the time maybe, to explain to me why it was so important to them that I bring home a dead goat. For that matter, none of them seemed to care about the experiences the hunt had brought to me thus far. Thankfully, I also had support from close friends and family to counteract idiot commentary. One of my favorites offered up by Benji Hill (and only slightly modified for your ears): "We all know this ain't about feeling good too often. It is better to be scared, tired, hurt and frustrated than to feel nothing at all. Laugh at that and go hunt." If it was easy…

Finally finding some courage and being able to conquer some of my fears was the greatest achievement I could have hoped for, and that was much more than I wanted or asked for. I tried really hard at what I was trying to accomplish and I guess certain folks just couldn't understand that. For me, the hunt quickly turned into something more of a personal achievement than wanting to see a dead goat in my lap. I achieved that and walked out of the backcountry proud, and it was all brought about by a little piece of paper that said I have been given a chance to go hunt some goats if and however I wanted.

After the first trip in, I did contemplate on bringing my rifle. However, I quickly realized that if I was going to carry an extra seven pounds all the way back in there that it was going to be my favorite beer, not a rifle. I would say I'm kidding, but… At the same time, I also realized that the only reason I thought about bringing my rifle was so that I could shoot one and get the hunt over with and not have to struggle with myself anymore. In my heart I knew that killing a goat with my rifle simply just to relieve my own personal discomfort would be the worst of reasons. I had close encounters with my bow and knew it was achievable. Such closeness provided me with an intimate experience with the goats and an even deeper appreciation for them. Intimacy I wanted to keep.

Thank you very much to all of those that offered their support and words of encouragement; it meant a great deal to me and really helped get my butt across the top of Evil Ridge and even farther than I would have ever imagined. A special thank you to my husband, for I couldn't have done it without you and all of your efforts. And for all of those who think I wasted the tag by eating it, I have something for you to eat as well.


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