By Joe Risi
In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell, Boy Scout Founder, articulated that "Be Prepared" means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”
These two words have been a subtle reminder for me. Make no mistake, I am not born or come from long lineages in the rugged mountain West, thus the definition of preparedness over landscapes has evolved for me. The simple tenant from my childhood Scouting days back East has helped me and my journey to become a better outdoorsman. This was my mindset coming into my fall mountain goat hunt in Colorado.
GMU G12 is known for its steepness, lack of oxygen, and depending on the season, a tourist hotspot. From the center of the unit, Maroon Bells, North and South, dominates the skyline and blankets its shadow upon the valley and tourists snapping social media-worthy photos in the valley below. Those tourists are now limited and throttled through a reservation system due to the popularity of the area in the media - not unlike the licensing and preference point system hunters have been accustomed to for years. This allows for an experience that has improved for those who seek to go further.
"Be Prepared - the simple tenant from my childhood Scouting days has helped me and my journey to become a better outdoorsman."
Although my nanny tag was for rifle, this zone was a place that, if warranted, could be bow-worthy. Thus in the ethos of "Be Prepared," both my Tikka and Matthews were coming along for the journey. Not dissimilar to a previous caribou hunt with Maven’s own Craig Okraska.
From lush high alpine forest and lakes to steeper terrain, the trail morphed as I passed a multitude of tourists ferried by their shuttle ride awaiting the sunrise. September in the Elk Range is unpredictable with storms shifting, wind rising, and snow storms as you gain elevation. Eventually, the “trail” to the 14ers can only be defined by you, once the soil is in the distance. Much of the knowledge for this hunt was passed on to me from Iron Will’s, Eric Whiting, as we have crossing career paths, similar hunting ambitions, and both call the Roaring Fork Valley home.
He’s the person who gave me the confidence to lug both my rifle and my bow up steeper and less defined scree. I blamed and cursed him aloud as I gained elevation solo. Aside from growing up at nearly sea level, oxygen was not on my side, and neither was my bow hunting ability, unlike Eric.
"...At an extreme angle skewed nearly skyward, I tossed between my rifle, my binos, and my rangefinder. Still the conditions...sun, angle, and next to no real estate to land if the animal was shot, were up against me. Higher, higher, and higher I went."
Armed with Maven B.2 11x45 binocular, RS.1 2.5-15x44 riflescope on my Tikka T3X, and most importantly the RF.1 5-4500 YD rangefinder, ridge lines came into view. With basins below and only tourists in sight (three Scotsmen donning climbing helmets), steeper questionable climbs lie ahead as I began glassing distant ridges I highlighted on onX.
My tag was for a nanny goat. I researched, stared at mounts, got close to as many goats I could that summer, and tried as hard as I could to understand the slight differences in sex. I referenced diagrams back and forth as I spotted my first goat of the morning through my binoculars. Sexing the difference at over 550 yds away was next to impossible, especially at 11,000 feet. Closer I go.
-Alaska Department of Fish & Game / Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Eventually reaching 242 yards and at an extreme angle skewed nearly skyward, I tossed between my rifle, my binos, and my rangefinder. Still the conditions...sun, angle, and next to no real estate to land if the animal was shot, were up against me. Higher, higher, and higher I went.
Reaching a saddle at 12,997 ft and within sight of closer, distance summits, the steepness did not let up - thankfully neither did the abundance of animals. It was then obvious that I’d be putting down the gunpowder and reaching for the strings.
It was then at 13,145 feet at 24 yards I was able to take a single shot above a 800 ft cliff to one side and a 1200 ft to the other. As lineman-sized rocks tumbled beside me, she went down. 3:30 pm left me a few hours to quarter her and descend just shy of five Empire State buildings to the lakes below.
As I stumbled between scree, I felt prepared for the storm that came, the snow that fell upon me, the boots I tied tighter and tighter (never mind the two toenails I lost), and the pack that weighed me down as I struggled to stay upright. I trudged past the empty alpine lake in the misty night.
For me, I have the adventure, the reward, and the experience. I had everything I needed then, and I have everything I need now.
You just have to be prepared.
About the author: Joe Risi is the Senior Communications and Event Marketing Manager at onX Maps as is based out of Roaring Fork Valley, CO. You can find him on Instagram at @woodsurfsnow