Hunting Mountain Goats – Part II
For many of us hunting season is in full swing, including Mountain Goat Hunts in Alaska and British Columbia, which makes this article so much harder to write as my brain and my body want to be off on another grand adventure. However, if I can’t be off on an adventure, writing about them is probably the next best thing.
Welcome to Part 2 in our series on Hunting Mountain Goats. In this installment we will talk about preparing for your Mountain Goat hunt.
I know Dall sheep, Stone Sheep, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Sheep and sheep hunting tend to get all the glory when it comes to mountain hunting, which I totally understand. There is something raw, visceral and addicting about sheep hunting.
You just can’t explain what it’s like the moment a giant ram crests the ridgeline in front of you, just as the sun breaks over the horizon. The sky is burning with colors that are almost exploding, they are so vibrant that you can’t doubt that God exists; and as you seek to take it all in, it really hits home that you are in some of the most remote and pristine country left on this planet. I mean what’s not to love and dream about, when it comes to hunting like that.
Some of my most vivid and powerful memories are from the most challenging Mountain Hunts I have been blessed to experience. The feeling of knowing that you are standing in a place that very few other people ever have, or will ever see, experience or appreciate is very humbling.
Well guess what, hunting wild and wooly Mountain Goats, aka the Kings of the Crags, is actually much the same, but in most cases it can be done for a lot less than a sheep hunt. Mountain Goat’s live in gnarly, wild and steep terrain. Mountain Goats are absolutely awe inspiring as they dance with death, leaping with reckless abandon across the crags and cliffs they call home. Not to mention the breath taking mountain views, amazing colors, smells and the sounds of the wilderness that stir the mountain man and dare I say the predator in all of us.
On a Mountain Goat hunt you will push yourself and your equipment to the limit and beyond pursuing these amazing and iconic animals. You better be prepared and have your A game on: physically, mentally and emotionally, and your gear better be dialed in, as the mountains they call home are unforgiving, the weather is fickle and often the opportunities are few. In the world of mountain hunting one wrong move can put even the most skilled of hunters in a life or death situation.
My goal in this article is to give all of you some useful information to help you be as prepared as possible for your Mountain Goat hunt and keep your dream hunt from turning into a nightmare.
Preparing for the hunt:
You are one of the lucky ones, either you hit the lottery and pulled on of the few tags or you have been able to book an Outfitted hunt with a reputable Outfitter. At this point you have done a lot of work either researching states and units, speaking with game biologists and other hunters, to figure out where to put in or you have gone the other route and been researching outfitters, the areas they hunt, speaking with past clients and hopefully using a reputable hunting consultant. But, the work is just beginning, now that you have the Mountain Goat of a lifetime in front of you what do you do next?
In my experience, you start to focus on the three things you have direct control over:
- Your physical & mental fitness,
- your proficiency with your weapon of choice, and
- the quality of your gear.
I have found over the years that the more physically and mentally prepared you are, the more confident you are in not only your abilities but also in your equipment’s ability to perform. But, lets step back for a second and talk about Mental Toughness. One of my buddies who is an Outfitter in Alaska were just talking this morning about how we would prefer to have someone who is slightly out of shape but mentally tough over a hunter who is physically strong but mentally weak. The stronger you are mentally, the more you can deal with the hardships of a Mountain Hunts. These hunts are emotional roller coasters. You have to deal with weather, winds, physical exhaustion, lack of comfort and that’s not even accounting for the challenge of locating and stalking a trophy Mountain Goat.
It is vitally important to be as mentally prepared as possible, as you will be grinding day in and day out knowing in the back of your mind, you might not even get a shot. So the more prepared you can be mentally, physically and skill wise, the more likely you are to make the most of it when you do get your chance. So lets start off with Mental toughness.
Mental toughness is really a mindset, you either choose to embrace the suck or you don’t, you either choose to ignore the voice in your head that says its too hard or you don’t. Being mentally strong comes down to visualizing what you are going after and telling yourself that nothing will stop you. Stop and think about anything and everything that can go wrong on your hunt, and then think through how you will respond to each one of those incidents. Do this over and over, so that your mindset is such that no matter how crappy the weather, how steep the climb, how far the hike, you have already imagined worse and know deep down that you will push on. I know it sounds simplistic, but I don’t know how else a person develops mental toughness, other than experiencing real challenges and overcoming them.
Now, on to Physical Fitness. Being in great shape, will help you be mentally strong, as your body will be better able to handle the rigors of the hunt, which means your brain is less likely to start screaming at you to stop and give up. Hands down the best thing you can do to prepare for a Mountain Hunt is spend time in the mountains with a heavy pack. I am lucky to live in an area with an abundance of steep mountains to climb and descend, so its not hard for me to turn my legs to jello and light my lungs on fire. For those of you who don’t have ready access to big steep mountains, I asked Nick the Trainer Dude to educate us on making fitness and more specifically on being hunt fit a part of our everyday lives.
Nick happens to work out with Cameron Hanes who as many of you know is probably one of the most fit hunters on the planet. Nick and Cameron undertake workouts that most of us mere mortals would crumble under, but you can’t argue with the success Cameron has had as a result of his insane level of fitness. You don’t have to be a Cameron Hanes to be successful, but as Nick will tell you fitness is one of the key tools for consistently successful hunters. If there is one thing you take away from this article, I hope it is that being hunt fit not only helps us be better hunters, but it can help us be better role models, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. So out of everything in this article I would really pay attention to this, as Nick is an incredible trainer, a hardcore hunter and a truly inspirational person who is committed to creating positive change in all of our lives.
Physical Preparation with Nick “The Trainer Dude”
Thank you, Shad for your kind words, I appreciate it man!
When it comes to mountain hunting, Cardio Endurance is vital. The most effective way to achieve great Cardio Endurance to tackle the mountains is to make sure you start interval training at least 90 days before your hunt to ensure that you have enough time to get yourself prepared. The biggest benefit of interval training is that it’s a high-intensity workout, so it requires less time to burn more fat and to achieve more overall progress.
Easy running or jogging is good to do on the days you aren’t interval training because rest and recovery are just as important as training. Easy running or jogging unlike interval training, keeps your heart rate at the same level for the extent of the run. However, our primary goal is to mimic what we experience as we hike up steep mountains and ridges. For most of us as we climb a mountain our my heart rate spikes and our breathing gets heavy as we progress through the climb. What better way to prepare for the mountains than to create our own heart rate and breathing spikes by way of intervals. Intervals give us a great way of training and practicing for our hunts.
*Make sure to warm up for 5-10 minutes and then get 5-10 minutes of stretching in prior to starting your intervals*
For these intervals you can use any of the following: Sprints, Cycling, Rowing Machines, Stair Climbers, Stadiums etc. The goal is you want to have a period of 80% exertion, followed by a period of 25-30% exertion.
Day 1-15: 30 seconds ON/2 minutes OFF/Repeat 10X (This gives you a total of 5 minutes of high-intensity)
Day 15-30: 1 minute ON/2 minutes OFF/Repeat 7-10X (7-10 minutes of high-intensity)
Day 30-45: 1 minute ON/1 minute OFF/ Repeat 10-15X (10-15 minutes of high-intensity)
Day 45-60: (Incorporate Hills) 2 minutes ON/1 minute OFF/Repeat 10-15X (20-30 minutes of high-intensity)
Day 60-75: (Incorporate Hills) 3 minutes ON/90 seconds OFF, 2 minutes ON/1 minute OFF, 1 minute ON/30 seconds OFF/Repeat 4X (24 minutes high-intensity) (Rest 3 minutes in between each set)
Day 75-90: (Incorporate Hills) 3 minutes ON/90 seconds OFF, 2 minutes ON/1 minute OFF, 1 minute ON/30 seconds OFF/Repeat 4X with 6X OF 30 seconds ON/30 seconds OFF on the last set. (30 minutes of high-intensity training) (Rest 3 minutes in between each set)
A couple of things to remember when interval training:
- Intervals are high-intensity and should consist of 80% effort during the “ON” times. Keeping in mind that we have high-intensity days that will also mean we have low-intensity days where we take a day off, or go for a light jog. Interval training should not exceed 3 times per week.
- Intervals can be done anywhere, even in the gym on different types of cardio equipment. Intervals can be done around a track, on a bike, on an elliptical, treadmill, stair-stepper, etc. You don’t ever have to feel like you are limited by the equipment you do or do not have.
- Lastly, don’t jump ahead, stick with the training schedule. It is hard for some people to look at a 90-day plan and not try to jump ahead on days that they feel good or strong, but keep in mind this is a progressive Its designed to keep you injury free and help your body adjust to the changes it will be going through.
I just want to say thanks to Nick for taking the time to layout that plan for us. He didn’t have time to get into it, but if your schedule allows make sure to incorporate weight training as well. I am not one that is concerned with how big and buff I can get, so I am more interested in functional strength and stability. So there are lots of different programs available, a good one to check out is Train to Hunt if you want to have daily work outs laid out for you.
Following up after Nick is kind of tough, especially since the stuff I am sharing isn’t ground breaking. I am sure many of you have read what I am going to share before or even know this information from first-hand experience. So if you already know all of this feel free to stop reading here, but for those of you who haven’t had the chance to do much mountain hunting I hope the following will help you be better prepared.
Shooting: No matter what weapon you choose to use for your Mountain Goat hunt – be it a bow, a rifle, a muzzleloader or even a handgun I recommend the following:
- Practice, Practice, Practice then practice some more – Shooting needs to be second nature to you. There are so many variables on these mountain hunts, you just can’s afford to pick up your weapon of choice a couple of weeks prior to the hunt and only spend a few hours shooting and think its all good. When your heart is pounding, breath is heaving, adrenaline is pumping, wind blowing and you are trying to find purchase on a 45 degree slope, you don’t want to have the slightest worry about whether or not you can make the shot, you want to have absolute confidence that you have the skills to make that shot!
- Stretch your distance – practice is just that practice. Don’t worry about bad shots or missing, practice is our time to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone. So make sure that once you are dialed in to shoot at distances outside of your comfort zone. It will help you become a better shot, it will show you where you may have a breakdown in form, it will help you get to know your weapon better, and most importantly it will give you a ton of confidence when you have a shot within your normal comfort zone. So if you are a rifle hunter and you normally shoot out to 300 yards, force yourself to practice at 400 and 500 yards; if you’re a bowhunter and are comfortable out to 45, practice at 70, 80, 90 and even 100 and you will start to find that you don’t even have to think when you are taking a 50 or 60 yard shot, as all the practice you have put in will just take over and have you working on auto pilot. When mountain hunting, sometimes no matter what you do you just can’t close the distance for the ideal 200 yard rifle shot or 40 yard bow shot, so the more comfortable you are with longer distances the higher your odds of success.
- Its all about the Angles – hunting in steep terrain has caused many a good shot to miss. Make sure to practice shooting steep uphill and downhill shots so you get comfortable with not only your shooting position, but also where to hold. If you can invest in a range finder that will help you compensate for the angle and distance.
- Don’t live and die by your range finder, practice guessing shot yardage versus line of site because you may not always have time to use your range finder and the reality is things break.
- Be uncomfortable – practice shooting from awkward positions, crouched, lying on a steep hillside, the more you can get used to shooting from unorthodox positions the more confident, comfortable and successful you will be when the moment of truth shows up.
What Gear Do I Need?
Gear can make or break a hunt. Invest in the best quality gear you can. Good quality gear is not cheap, but it works, it lasts and in some instances can make the difference between life and death. When it comes to Mountain Hunting, you have to think about not just performance, but versatility and weight as well. Here are some thoughts I have on gear to help get you started:
- Buy the Best Boots you can! – Your feet are hands down your most important tool, they are your best friend and can be your worst enemy. Mountain hunting is tough on feet and ankles, so invest in the absolute best boots you can afford. You will thank me later. Make sure to try on as many boots as you can and find ones that fit you well. Then spend as much time as possible prior to your hunt walking, hiking and carrying loads in them. This isn’t so much to break your boots in, but to get your feet broke in to your boots. I am fortunate as I am not prone to getting blisters, but I had one time where I got blisters so bad that my boots were literally full of blood. I vividly remember the agony and pain of each step, it turned what should have been about a 2 hour hike back to the truck into about a 3 ½ hour death march. This wouldn’t have happened if I had taken these boots for a test run, I was confident because they fit well at the store that I could get to hunting like it was business as usual. Here are some boots that work for me: Lathrop and Sons Mountain Hunter, Keneterek Mountain Hunter, Lowa Sheep Hunter, Lowa GTX, Cabelas Alaskan Hunter and Scarpas.
- Layering – Invest in a good layering system, as it will keep weight down, while allowing you to dress up or down to suit the weather. I personally like Kuiu and Sitka (I know they are the big guys, but the stuff they make works), but there are other great ones like First Lite and Kryptek as well. A full layering system allows you to tackle all kinds of weather with the least amount of overall clothing. I know I have already said this but you need to think of your gear as an investment and a life insurance policy. It can make the difference between life and death if you end up caught in nasty weather and having to overnight on the Mountain.
- Optics – If budget allows you wont go wrong with Swarovski or Leica, but not matter buy the best you can afford. These days Vortex is making some pretty good optics for the price. You will spend a lot of time behind your glass and cheap optics not only make it difficult to spot animals but they will give you headaches. I don’t think you can go wrong with Swarovski, Leica or Vortex.
- Packs – Packs are a very personal thing because it really comes down to finding a pack that fits you and your body. That is what’s great about Stone Glacier packs, their frame system is fully customizable, so you can truly dial in the fit and have a pack that is light, strong and comfortable. I have been running Stone Glacier packs because they allows me to comfortably and securely carry a heavy load yet I can wear it all day without fatigue or soreness and most importantly it doesn’t impair my ability to shoot. I very rarely take my pack off when I am hunting, so I practice shooting in all kinds of positions with my pack on, that way if something happens fast I am not scrambling trying to get my pack off just so I can shoot.
In closing, practice shooting with the gear you will be using on your hunt, hike with the load you will be carrying on your hunt, and if you are doing a backpack hunt be it DIY or Guided, pay attention to weight and focus on what you really need as every ounce counts. I would like to thank Nick the Trainer Dude again for his willingness to help out on this article.
I have 3 beautiful daughters, a son and grandchild. My true passions are fitness and bow hunting because I love the challenges that come with each. I worked as a personal trainer for many years and now train professional bow hunter Cameron Hanes, and recently was able to open up my own personal training studio in Springfield, Oregon. I love working with bow hunters all over the world to help them achieve their fitness goals.
I am married to my beautiful wife Sydne, a dad to three incredible girls and one rough and tumble boy, a hopelessly addicted bowhunter, Professional Guide, and Founder of Specialty Adventure Services. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to hunt all over the Western United States, Alaska, Canada, Africa and Asia and experience adventures of a lifetime. If you have any questions on hunts, gear or booking a trip email me firstname.lastname@example.org