The trail behind the cabin takes us past a marten with its head seized in a trap that hangs dead from a tree awaiting the man who will come to collect it. With legs weary from two days of climbing I think that if we’re successful any goat I shoot will not be left on the mountain to be collected tomorrow because I don’t want to make this trek again. When the trail ends we push uphill through alders as thick as hair on a dog’s back. I slip often and realize I’m sapping strength needed for the climb ahead. The distance between Brody and I grows greater and I curse, “Damn I’m old.” But with my guide’s encouragement finally I settle beside him atop our outpost and we see both goats still stand where we last saw them.
The billy to our east is a dandy but it’s another couple hours away judging by our progress thus far. The one above us probably tapes no more than 9 inches, but it’s right there, attainable before dark. If we can slink off this ridge and creep up a drainage below us concealed by brush I should be able to shoot it from 300 yards.
A half-hour later I settle in behind the Remington stretched across my pack. I stretch my legs ramrod straight, flatten my heels, grip the rear sling swivel with my weak hand and begin to breathe steadily as I watch the billy survey his domain. When the shot rings across the mountainside the goat disappears and Brody slaps me on the back: “Great shot!” I work the bolt and stare through the scope prepared for a follow-up but there is no sign of the beautiful white, wooly creature that stood atop a rock only an instant ago.
Everything felt good when the trigger broke, but as we climb we note the nannies have not retreated far uphill—a fact Brody doesn’t like. Thirty minutes later, as we climb the last few feet, the animal rises. I scramble to drop my pack and unleash the Remington then fire two finishers.
The sun is low and I’m sopping wet with sweat; approaching darkness and the lack of clothing in my pack don’t add up to a good thing. But I smile for the camera. I wish I’d taken more pictures during this adventure. Then I take in the view—I’m on top of the world. I take stock of the last couple days and admit silently I’m not sure I ever want to do this again. So I acknowledge that this trophy, the few snapshots I have and my memories will sustain me. My smile broadens.
Later as we load my pack for the hike down my fingers burn. I can’t wiggle the toes of my right foot; in fact the whole foot feels like a block of ice. I know it must be at least a mild case of frostbite. (In fact it takes months after my return before I regain all feeling.) The fleece glomitts and half-finger gloves I brought didn’t cut it for the climbs, so on ascents I wore my leather-and-nylon Carhartts. Previously soaked from grabbing ice-covered rocks and brush and now frozen stiff, they provide little insulation. But I must pull them on again for our descent. I step off with my load 30 minutes ahead of Brody, and after he catches up we make it back to the cabin under moonlight at 9 o’clock.
The next morning the motor on the boat doesn’t start no matter how many times Brody pulls on the cord or how many words he slings at it. We figure we can row out; if it took an hour to travel upstream with jet power, maybe we can make it downstream in three with “arm-strong” power. We take turns rowing, and it looks as if our plan will work.
“Aim right, Brody,” I say as we approach ice. “Looks like it’s open over there.”
But it isn’t. A shore-to-shore ice dam blocks our route. The stuff is too thin to walk on and too thick to break. After we smash an oar it takes several tries before we successfully push off against the current and feebly row to shore. Unfortunately it is the wrong shore. Even if we walk out we still must ford the stream.
I contemplate a night in the bush. We have sleeping bags and plenty of fuel to start a great big fire, and we have plenty of food. I have no doubt we’d live through the night, but I don’t like the thought of it. Neither does Brody, who calls a rescue helo. An hour later we leave everything in the boat but my gun and gear, and the goat, and fly away. The last I saw of that boat it was tied to the south shore of the Kitsumkalum River.
For more information on Coast Mountain Outfitters, go to coastmountainoutfitters.com.
Thanks to Scott at American Hunter for this article. Scott is writing up his African safari now, follow him here http://www.americanhunter.org.