With Phil Mendoza & Nathan Kimball
Last fall our good friend Phil Mendoza drew a coveted Colorado mountain goat tag. When he invited us to join him and his hunting companion Nathan Kimball on the hunt it was an easy invite to accept! Especially when considering that not only is Phil a great guy, he's what we consider to be a Maven - a trusted expert who has knowledge based on an accumulation of experience in hunting and as an archer. In short, he's THE guy you want to talk to when it comes to preparing for a once in a lifetime hunt. And that's why we asked him to field some questions about his mountain goat hunt.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THIS HUNT (SCOUTING, FITNESS, PRACTICE, ETC.)?
"Having never set foot in the unit my tag was for, I started out looking into the previous year's harvest information from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. I was able to get some general information there, but nothing too specific. Then I moved to Google Earth and OnX to show me what info I was able to get looked like on a map. After that I looked for possible access points and areas that looked to get a lot of foot traffic as this unit had 3 of Colorado's 14ers in it. The next step, and probably most valuable part to the process, involved calling friends that lived in or around the area and ask if they knew anyone with real life first-hand, boots on the ground, info about this unit. After about 2 weeks of chasing down possible leads I found a recently retired Parks and Wildlife officer who had worked in the area for over a decade. During the half hour phone call I also found out he had harvested 2 mountain goats in this same unit and was able to confirm some of my early assumptions and rule out some low potential reward areas. Having hunted high country mule deer and bighorn sheep I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a physical demand standpoint as well as a shooting competency standpoint. Lets just say that I flirted with the obsession line in these two categories a bit as I wasn't going to leave any controllable factors to chance."
MOUNTAIN GOATS ARE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE SEX. HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR LEARNING TO IDENTIFY/DIFFERENTIATE A BILLY FROM A NANNY?
"Having drawn an either sex tag it was definitely a bit of a relief since mountain goats can be difficult to identify. I will say that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife has some pretty good Youtube videos to help hunters identify sex. I probably watched their info videos at least a half a dozen times as well as a few other videos on youtube that covered the same topic. This was one area that ended up throwing me a bit of a curve ball as I had misjudged my goat for a young billy, approximately 3 to 4 years old. She ended up being a 4 year old nanny."
"I was happy to be so well prepared.., but ended up not needing 95% of it - I was lucky enough to have just about everything go right on the first stalk."
WHAT GEAR WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR HIGH COUNTRY MOUNTAIN GOAT HUNTS?
"Gear for this trip included everything but the kitchen sink in some ways. I was prepared to drive to approximately 12,700 feet as there was a road that was about 2-3 miles from where I had spotted the most goat activity, and set up a nice base camp around my vehicle. I also had the necessary lightweight gear to head out for a multi-day trip if that was what it was going to take. I was happy to be so well prepared for any type of high country adventure that we might face, but ended up not needing 95% of it - I was lucky enough to have just about everything go right on the first stalk. I have to give credit to my Maven optics because we were able to spot a lone goat, about a mile and a half away as a crow flies, on a ridge on the opposite side of the basin we were in. We were able to watch her for about 10 minutes as she walked along the ridge to her bedding spot. Because of the layout of the basin and the chosen approach route, we lost sight of the goat until we were about 200 yards away, but I had already decided when we first spotted her that she looked to be a mature goat and if I could get close enough for a shot, I would take it. I also recommend top quality boots for these types of hunts due to the rough terrain, steep hillsides, and jagged scree. I wore Hanwag Alverstone's for this hunt and couldn't have been happier. My equipment was as follows: Hoyt RX1, 80#, 28.5 inch, Black Gold Ascent sight, Hamskea Trinity Rest, Easton Axis 300 arrows, Kifaru 22 mag pack, and a Marsupial Bino Harness. My go-to optics were a set of Maven B.1 10x42 and a S1.A spotter. We also used the B.2 9x45, B.5 18x56, and S.2 compact spotting scope on this hunt."
ANY ADDITIONAL TIPS YOU HAVE FOR TACKLING A HUNT LIKE THIS?
"This type of hunt can bring added pressure, especially in states that require a large number of preference points to draw. My best advice for someone looking to go on a mountain goat hunt is to set realistic expectations that won't overwhelm you. If your goal is to kill the biggest animal on the mountain and you have never been on this type of hunt before, you are probably biting off more than you can chew. Gather as much knowledge of the area as possible and reach out to local game and fish biologists. This proved to be my best start as the first officer I spoke with referred me to a retired officer that had 30 plus years experience in that area. He was very helpful in my success."
HAVE YOU FOUND A GOOD MOUNTAIN GOAT RECIPE?
"I am usually pretty simple with how I prepare my game meat - lightly seasoned and grilled to medium or slow cooked in the crock pot. My Mountain goat had very good flavors that seemed to be more pronounced after being slow cooked for 6 to 8 hours. I have especially enjoyed preparing osso buco with my goat."
________________________________________________________________________Phil MendozaNathan Kimball