Shooting can be an incredibly rewarding hobby. Refining your marksmanship skills and learning more about firearms can support other goals (like hunting or home defense). Still, no matter how you choose to employ your skills, shooting is an activity that consistently offers new challenges in fun environments.
Not sure where to start shooting as a hobby? This guide is here to help. Whether you’re looking to build up to hunting or simply incorporate a range day into your routine, we’re here to help you get started.
1. Get familiar with the basics
If you aren’t familiar with firearms or have never shot before, start by learning the basics. Today’s new shooters can employ one or more of the following methods to get their bearings in the world of firearms:
Finding a community at a local range – We’ll explore more benefits of finding a local range in the next section.
Taking a course – Consider signing up for an Intro to Shooting, Concealed Carry Permit, or Hunters’ Safety course to learn more about shooting, firearms, and safety.
Finding information online – Doing online research can help you learn more about the basics, find an in-person community in your area, or prepare for an organized course.
2. Find a shooting range near you
The best way to practice shooting as a newcomer is to visit a local range: a facility where shooters can discharge their weapons in a safe, supervised setting.
But a range serves a few different purposes: You can visit to practice your skills, meet people with similar interests, and learn more about local resources for shooters in your area.
Meeting other hobbyists is an excellent way to learn more and get feedback and support as you develop shooting knowledge and skills. Perhaps the best part of learning to shoot is getting to know other shooters: people who can connect you with resources, provide tips, or even let you try out their firearms.
3. Source a firearm
If you’re interested in shooting, you’ll need access to a firearm.
Every year as fall rolls around, a new hunting season begins. The early season can be a mix of hot, warm, and cool temperatures but eventually, as the calendar flips into November winter and snow are inevitably on their way. This will give many hunters challenges that they haven’t had to face yet this season. There are even many hunters that opt to stay home instead of braving the colder weather.
Here are our six top tips for hunting in the snow.
1. Research Ahead of Time
You do not want to wake up the morning of a big hunt just to discover it has snowed several inches overnight. This will lead to panic, and you are sure to forget something essential.
If you have checked the weather forecast ahead of time and know the snow is coming, you can get all your essential gear gathered up and ready to go.
2. Dress to Stay Warm
Dress in layers. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but this is so important that it cannot be overstressed. Having the versatility to add or remove a layer can make the difference between spending all day in the field or coming in hours ahead of time to get comfortable.
Wear a hood. I always make sure my mid-layer or jacket has a hood of some type on it. There is nothing worse than having snow down your neck. On really cold or extra windy days, I opt to wear a balaclava. By covering my head, neck, and face, the warmth is kept against my body.
3. Break Out the Blind
Many times, when it is snowing, the wind is also blowing. Being in an open, elevated stand may not be the warmest option. Being in the cover of a blind will likely extend your bow hunting session. The blind will block out the snowfall and wind, helping to shield you from the elements.
A small, portable heater may also be used to aid in staying warm.
4. Pack Extra Food and Snacks
It is always important to keep your body fueled but never more than when hunting in the snow. Consuming the extra calories will help your body stay warm. I am sure we all have our favorite hunting snacks but mine are jerky, trail mix, nuts, and snack cakes.
Another food hack is taking some hot soup in a thermos. It is amazing how a cup full of warm chicken noodles can make you feel. It can really knock the shivers off.
5. Hand Warmers
Are you noticing a pattern here? Anything you can do to stay warm and comfortable is a plus when it comes to snow hunting.
I have used both the hot hands and the newer rechargeable style, as well. Both have their applications. I like the disposable ones for my boots while the rechargeables work well in my pockets and hand muff.
It is important to moderate these if you can. If you plan to stay out all day, you don’t want to use up all your hand warmers in the first two hours of your sitting.
6. Still Hunting
This is one of my favorite things to do in the snow. You can dress lightly and still be pretty comfortable while walking.
Many times, game will hunker down in the snow. They will also be easier to spot with snow on the ground. A good tactic is to slowly walk old trails or roads while scanning out ahead for spooked or bedded game.
I have two particular favorite spots for this type of hunting. One is where I can sneak along and watch the hillside below me. Many times, I have snuck up on a bedded herd of deer that had no idea I was there. The second is a lower trail where I can not only watch out ahead of me but also on both sides of the hollow. This allows me to cover more area at one time, but many times it will involve jumping the deer and hoping they stop at some point to offer a shot opportunity.
Take What Nature Throws at You
I hope some of these tips will help you to be successful the next time you have the hunt in the snow. Anything you can do to not only get out in the snow but also stay out there will help increase your chances of having a successful hunt and season. Being able to take what nature throws at you will make you a better hunter and improve your chances of success.
Airguns are exploding in popularity around the country. From the gun’s precision to its relatively muted sound when fired, it’s the perfect alternative to a traditional rifle.
The best part? You can use airguns as a hunting weapon. In fact, airguns are the ideal option for small game hunting because they are slightly less powerful and have lower recoil than traditional rifles. This not only means you’ll have better accuracy, but it also increases the likelihood the animal will remain intact after you’ve taken it down.
If you’re planning on taking an airgun out on your next hunt, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Understand Airgun Hunting Laws in your State
Before doing anything else, be sure to check your state’s laws for airgun hunting.
While it’s true they are a bit less powerful than conventional firearms, many modern, technologically-advanced airguns can pack a major punch. Laws and regulations vary from state-to-state, with different species of animals typically having different caliber requirements.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of resources available detailing state airgun laws. As you plan your hunt, check your state laws and make sure your gun meets various caliber requirements.
2. Choose your Pellets Wisely
Believe it or not, you can hunt big game with airguns. If you’re planning to challenge yourself with hunting deer, though, you need to make sure you have the right ammo.
There are three broad categories of ammunition: pellets, round balls, and cast bullets. If you’re planning to hunt small game, you should almost certainly use pellets. Pellets are generally more accurate and fly faster, which makes them a solid choice for small game hunting. Pellets come in four shapes, including:
Round balls and cast bullets, on the other hand, are intended for big game hunting. They need to be at least 30 caliber in diameter and weigh at least 150 grains. Unlike pellets, round balls and cast bullets slow down much less slowly than pellets when fired from a powerful airgun. The higher velocity (at least 800 fps) increases the chances you’ll bring down the bigger animal.
3. Consider your Distance
In many ways, airgun hunting is a refresher in one of the most basic laws of physics: force equals mass times acceleration. As time passes, acceleration (and force) gradually decrease.
If you’re a veteran crossbow hunter, you have probably had days out in the woods you didn’t want to end. With backpack hunting, they don’t have to.
Here are a few must-haves for any crossbow hunter planning a backpack trip.
1. First-Aid Supplies
“Safety first” is a phrase you’ve likely heard many times before. But it’s true.
There’s no predicting what can happen on an overnight hunting trip. From cuts to sprains to breaks — and even sunburn — there are a number of risks every hunter faces while out in the wilderness. Make sure you bring along an emergency first-aid kit capable of addressing some of the most common injuries.
2. Extra Clothes — and an Airtight Container to Store them in
Temperatures can drop quickly when the sun goes down. And, you can’t ignore the possibility of rain or snow dampening your hunting trip. Make sure you’re ready.
As you’re packing your camo hunting gear, include at least one pair of pants and a shirt for each day of your hunt. Bring along two pairs of socks for each day since they are more likely to get wet than any other article of clothing. Be sure to also bring along clothes for both warm and cold weather. After they’re worn, store dirty clothes in airtight containers to prevent bears and deer from catching your scent.
3. Storage Case for Your Crossbow
The elements damage your crossbow if it isn’t properly stored. Be sure to choose the right storage solution before leaving for your hunt.
Modern crossbows are made up of many different parts that can easily get damaged if exposed to the rain, heat, or cold. Arrows and broadheads are also susceptible to weather damage. Luckily, there are cases available for each component. Find the right ones for your crossbow and bring them along with you on the hunt.
4. Replacement Parts for Your Crossbow
As durable as today’s high-tech crossbows are, their components can wear out and break over time. Don’t let a minor malfunction ruin your hunt.
Before hitting the road for your back hunting trip, don’t forget to pack an extra set of crossbow strings and cables. While they will certainly add some bulk to your backpack or case, you’ll be happy you were prepared if you run into any technical difficulties along the way.
5. A Water Filter
Dehydration can put a damper on any backpack hunt. Rather than carrying along packs of water bottles, try using a water filter.
With a water filter, you can source your water from creeks and rivers that would otherwise be unsafe to drink from. Water filters also come in a range of sizes, with some designed to allow the user to drink directly out of a stream and others for drawing larger amounts of water into a tank for storage. Find a filter that is light enough to carry but functional enough for any environment.
With so many crossbow options out there, it can be challenging to find the right bow for your needs. Check out this guide to learn more about the differences between recurve and compound crossbows to make a better choice!
Basics of a Recurve Crossbow
A recurve crossbow is the simplest style of crossbow. They have two horizontal limbs on a basic stock and barrel. Their name comes from the shape of the limbs, as they curve away from the front of the bow before curving back in an “s” shape.
Most recurve crossbows are on the larger side with incredibly high speeds that can reach over 300 fps – with minimal mechanical add-ons like cables or cams.
Pros of the Recurve
Most people who hunt with a recurve crossbow prefer it because of its reliability, light weight, and straightforward design.
Because the mechanics of this type of bow are so simple, there’s not much that can go wrong. Even with wear and tear over thousands of shots, a recurve crossbow is much less likely to break down in the field. If it does break, they’re super easy to fix. From restringing to basic maintenance, you can do it all yourself; you almost never need to take it to a specialty shop.
Even though they’re physically bigger, recurves are lighter than their compound counterparts. They’re just the limbs and the bowstring, which means less material to carry over long, multi-day hunts.
And, for hunters on a budget, recurve crossbows tend to be less expensive due to their simple design. More premium options with more features will obviously increase the price, but you can get basic models far below the prices of compound crossbows.
Group hunting trips can be a great bonding experience, but there’s no feeling that compares to the solitude of a solo hunting trip. It’s just you, the woods, and your instincts as a hunter.
Going on a solo hunting trip does, however, require a bit of additional planning if you want to get the most out of the experience. Careful planning can prevent mishaps while also promoting a successful hunt.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re planning your next solo hunting trip.
1. Make sure you have the right gear
Very few hunters ever anticipate getting lost in the woods. But you should always prepare as if it’s a possibility.
What you should pack largely depends on the environment in which you’re planning to hunt. That said, there are some items you’ll want to bring along regardless of whether you’re hunting in the woods or the tundra.
Waterproof matches, for one, are a must-have. Starting a fire should be an imperative when you are lost and it begins to get dark. You should also have a hatchet to cut wood and potentially build a lean-to for shelter, as well as the proper sleeping bag for the climate.
While there are certainly other supplies you’ll want to bring along, it’s critical to consider your clothing. In addition to the camo you typically wear during your hunt, you’ll also need extra socks, sweatshirts, and a hat in the event your clothing gets wet.
2. Test out your equipment
When you’re hunting in a group, you can usually borrow someone else’s extra gun or scope if yours isn’t working correctly. That’s not the case when you’re out on your own.
Before heading out into the woods, make sure all of your equipment is functional. Go to a nearby shooting range to test out your gun. While you’re there, test out any supplemental equipment you have, including any scopes and laser sights you plan to use to ensure they are calibrated. And, if you’re planning on bringing extra equipment such as a flashlight or GPS, check to make sure they are functioning properly, as well.
3. Monitor the weather
Inclimate weather can put a damper on any hunt. When you’re hunting alone, however, bad weather poses an even greater threat.
Flash flooding, for instance, can lead to dangerous conditions that can leave hunters stranded in the wilderness. An unanticipated ice storm can lead to a similar outcome. So, in the weeks leading up to your hunt, check the weather forecast regularly to track any potential storms.
Experienced hunters also know how crucial it is to track wind speed and direction before and during a hunt. Studies have found bucks move 65 meters per day on average when wind speeds reach 16 mph or higher. Plus, knowing what direction the wind is blowing in can help you determine how you will remain downwind from deer, thus preventing them from catching your scent.
Map out your hunt
As important as it is to know how to track whatever game you’re hunting, you need to have a general route to follow throughout your hunt. By having your hunt mapped out, you can minimize the time it takes others to find you if you get lost while also promoting a successful hunt by hitting all key spots.
While mapping your route, keep the game you’re hunting in mind. As a hunter, you’ve probably already scouted your hunting site. As a result, you likely have an idea of where the deer, bears, or any other game you’re hunting are at any time of the day. Keep this in mind as you decide where to begin and end your hunt.
It’s also important to contemplate other locations the game you’re stalking might roam. Streams and meadows, for example, are common gathering points for all animals. Make sure these are included as waypoints in your hunting route.
Once you’re finished planning your route, share them with your spouse or any other person with whom you interact often. They can make the call to local and state authorities in the event you find yourself lost in the wilderness and need help.
Stay safe and have fun
While it’s important to be cautious as a solo hunter, you also should not forget to enjoy the experience. A solo hunt is an easy way to clear your mind after a long week at work. As long as you plan carefully and take the proper precautions, you’ll have a safe and successful hunt.
There’s something about whitetail deer that has hunters flocking to the woods every year. Perhaps it’s the thrill of being so close to such an elusive animal, or maybe it’s the natural beauty of the forest and wild life they inhabit. Whatever your reason, there are numerous tactics you can use to increase your chance of success during deer season. Here are five tips to make sure you get an opportunity at the buck of a lifetime this year.
1) Step 1: Study the Land If you want to come home with a buck, you need to do more than just sit in a tree stand. If you spend hours studying your hunting property it will pay off during season. Evaluating where deer travel during various times of day and year can help you identify hot spots where you can set up a stand later on. It’s also a good idea to study other hunters’ patterns, especially if hunting public land. Studying whitetail behavior is essential as well: when are they active? What types of cover attract them? Understanding their daily routines will help you pinpoint their most likely routes—and thus increase your chances of success.
2) Step 2: Choose a Pattern There are a variety of different tactics you can use when hunting whitetail deer, but first it’s important to choose a pattern that is safe and effective. The best way to do so is by setting up several different blinds within 200 yards of each other and testing each out for effectiveness and safety. Although sitting still may sound easy, it requires patience and practice in order to get good at it. Remember: if you move too much, you will scare away your prey before they have time to come close enough for an accurate shot. Don’t forget to bring snacks and water with you!
In late 1964, while stationed with the US Army in Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany, I decided to complete the requirements for getting a German hunting license. In my job as German American Coordinator for the Armerican troops in Schwaebisch Gmuend, I met many of the German city and county officials in the area. One of these county officials was the head of the local Forestry office with the title Oberforestmeister. I told him that I hunted deer in Texas and wanted to find out more about hunting in Germany. I had brought my 30-30 Savage Model 99 saddle rifle with me to hunt. He informed me that a 30-30 rifle could not be used to hunt in Germany. He referred me to the Army Rod and Gun Club to get the necessary training and testing for the license. After I got my license, he told me to contact him, and he would take me on my first Rehbock hunt.
I signed up for the hunting class at the local American recreation center, took the test, and received my German hunting license. The American Hunting office then issued me a U S hunting license. This license allowed me to kill 6 rehbocks and several other game animals each year. Checking with the Rod and Gun Club, I was able to checkout a 30-06 rifle. To familiarize myself with the rifle, I took it to a rifle range and sighted it in. I was now ready to go hunting,
In early 1965, I contacted the Oberforestmeister and told him I had my license and wanted to take him up on a hunt for rehbock. He agreed to set up an evening hunt for me and would call me when he had it set up. A few days later, the Oberforestermeister called me that the hunt was set up. He would be my hunting guide and would pick me up at the American Hunting office at 3 PM the next day.
After a 15-minute ride we arrived at the hunting site. He parked his car at a farm haus, and we walked quietly about 300 meters to the edge of an alfalfa field. There we quietly climbed into a covered tree stand called a Hochsitz (high seat). My guide told me that it was most important to remain very quiet because the reh deer have an especially keen sense of hearing and would not come out of the woods if they heard unusual noises and voices. He talked to me in a whisper to preclude being heard by the animals. He told me that the bock we were hunting for would generally come to the alfalfa field to graze at about one hour before dark. A mature rehbock stands about 18 inches tall at the shoulder with a live weight of about 30 lbs. The alfalfa in the field was about 9 inches tall which meant that we should be able to see the buck standing in the alfalfa.
In previous articles about big game hunting in the United States, which were posted on the Texas Outdoors Network website, I discussed my successful hunts for Bull Elk, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram and Ewe and Rocky Mountain Goat. All of these hunts took place in Colorado.
In this article I will discuss my successful hunt for a Fallow Deer (Damhirsch) In Germany. Since the Fallow Deer hunt took place on November 14, 1978, while I was stationed with the US Army in Germany, I decided to write an article for our American daily newspaper, THE STARS AND STRIPES. The following is a reprint of the article as published in the April 27, 1979, edition of THE STARS AND STRIPES.
Friday April 27, 1979
THE STARS AND STRIPES Page 25
OUTDOORS With Brian McWilliams
(By LTC Clarence A Scheel of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Systems and Automation, at Headquarters, USAREUR in Heidelberg.)
HUNTING FOR AND BAGGING A TROPHY DAMHIRSCH (Fallow deer) in November 1978 was the most thrilling hunting experience I have had in more than 30 years of big game hunting. Although I have successfully hunted antelope and mule deer in Colorado, red deer and roe deer in Germany, and white-tailed deer in Texas, Washington, Oklahoma, Kansas and New York, none of these hunts compared to the excitement I experienced when I saw the big buck with the large palmated antlers drop after a carefully placed shot.
You can probably say that the anticipation for the hunt began last June when I registered with the USAREUR Hunting and Fishing office for the annual lottery drawing for the trophy hunt. Of the more than 2,000 American military, civilian and dependent hunters in Germany who entered the lottery for mouflon, fallow deer, red deer and chamois trophies, I was one of the five lucky hunters drawn to hunt for the fallow deer. Since five allocations consisted of two Class I and three Class IIB trophies and since my name was drawn fifth for this species, I was authorized to bag a Class IIB Damhirsch. A Class I buck must be at least 10 years old and have fully developed “shovels” on both sides. A Class IIB, although still a desirable trophy, may not have a fully developed shovel on more than one side. In October, Herr Schuster at the Heidelberg Hunting and Fishing Office booked my hunt for Nov. 14 with the Hassloch Forestry office at Moerfelden, near Rhein Main International Airport.
LTC Clarence A Scheel with prize trophy
Before daybreak on the 14th, I met my guide, Forester Antes, at the Hassloch Foresthaus. After the customary greeting and exchange of pleasantries, he explained that rather than still hunt on a stand, as is normally done for roe and red deer, we would be stalking. At daybreak, we started walking. For the next two and one-half hours, we must have walked 8 to 10 kilometers. During that time, we saw several Class I bucks with massive antlers, numerous Class II and Class III and several females. Every time we saw a group, the anticipation built up, but in every case, there was no IIB. Since it was by now mid-morning and deer were beginning to bed down, we decided to walk back to the Foresthaus and plan a different strategy for the next morning. On the way back, we saw several more, but still no IIB.
Hunting wild hogs has become a mainstream sport in Texas due to the proliferation and destructive nature of this invasive species. Being a non-game animal, there are very few restrictions on how they may be hunted. They may be pursued year-round by almost any means necessary. So, what makes a good hog hunting rifle?
The answer to that question is dependent upon your intent. If you are a professional intent on eradication you have different needs than the weekend warrior who simply wants to have a good time and harvest some free-range pork along the way. In this article we will discuss hunting pigs for sport, not high-volume eradication.
First of all, despite all the hype and hysteria, most wild hogs are not all that difficult to kill. For decades, deer hunters have harvested plenty of hogs with whatever rifle they took to the stand that morning. I think much of this misinformation comes from people who come across a pig and blast away with 55gr FMJ ammo out of their AR-15. Bad ammo choice along with faulty bullet placement will lead to poor results every time. To be sure, a mean, old, full-grown boar is a formidable beast! However, proper bullet selection and accurate shot placement will drop most wild hogs dead in their tracks. I’ve done it many times. Dead Right There, as we say.
The perfect hog hunting rifle for me is a lightweight, easy to carry, accurate, suppressor-ready, 6.8 SPC short barrel AR-15. Mine is a premium build using the best components I could find:
Wilson Combat 11.3″ match-grade stainless barrel
Samson Evolution 10″ handguard
Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced trigger
PRI Combat Latch
FailZero Bolt Carrier Group
Crux Ark30 titanium suppressor
Magpul single-point QD sling
For optics, I run a Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6 Circle-Cross during the day and a FLIR ThermoSight PTS233 at night – both on QD mounts. My preferred method of hunting pigs usually results in shots of less than 50 yards to I don’t have any problems with accuracy swapping between scopes. The Trijicon AccuPoint 1-6 Circle-Cross allows for super-fast sight acquisition (put the hog’s head in the circle and squeeze the trigger) and excels in low-light conditions.
In earlier articles I discussed my hunts for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram and Ewe on Pikes Peak. I mentioned that it is normally difficult to get drawn for a Ram license. After my successful sheep hunts, I decided to try my luck in the drawing for a Rocky Mountain Goat license, which was even more difficult than the sheep drawing. Lady luck was again on my side, and I was successful on my second application. My Goat management unit was on Gladstone Ridge, elevation about 12,500 feet along the Continental Divide mountains more or less west of Buena Vista, Colorado, about 4 miles south of Mount Yale, elevation 14,196 feet.
In my research and in discussion with Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife or CPW) personnel, I was able to determine where the goats lived within my hunting unit. The nearest public road was about three miles from the primary goat habitat. The public road would take me to timberline. I decided to make a scouting trip to determine exactly where the goats lived and the easiest way to get there.
On a Saturday in early July 1992, my friend, Dick Duncan, and I camped out in my pickup topper near timberline on the nearest public road to the goat habitat. Dick and I had met while we attended graduate school at Stanford University and had served in Vietnam at the same time where we visited each other. Dick had recently retired from the Army and he and his wife Betsy settled in Monument, Colorado near Colorado Springs where my wife Jean and I lived.
Heading to Timberline on Public Road toward Gladstone Ridge.
Early that Sunday morning we began our 3-mile hike to the area where the goats lived. It was a fairly easy hike because the ridge we were on was more or less level and we did not have to climb any hills or other obstacles.
Three Goats on Nearby Hillside.
We were able to find where the goats lived and observed several goats in the area. We carefully inspected the area and found a good observation point for my planned hunting spot.
Four Adult Goats and one Kid near our Observation Point.
We determined that this was a good area to conduct my actual hunt provided we could find a better way to access the area. After spending about two hours of observing the goats and getting a good lay of the land, we began our return 3-mile hike to my truck. We were blessed with good weather all day with no lightening which is always a threat when hiking above timberline.
I had purchased a topographical map of the area and was able to mark the goat habitat on the map. Now I had the task to locate a shorter way to get to the goats’ home rather than making the 6-mile round trip hike from the public road.
I purchased additional topographical maps of the area surrounding the goat habitat. Studying the maps, I discovered an abandoned mine about 2000 feet directly below the goats’ home. Access to the mine was a narrow road cut along the side of the mountain from the public road. The access road was about one foot wider than my full-size GMC short bed 4 x 4 pickup. On the downhill side of the road was a sheer drop off of several hundred feet.
Two weeks after our first scouting trip, Dick and I decided to access the goats’ home from the mine. Dick walked in front of my truck, removed loose rocks from the road and guided me around the side of the mountain, ensuring that my truck and I would not fall off the side of the road. Dick told me that he felt much safer walking on the road than riding in the pickup with me. We made it to the abandoned mine where we were able to park my truck with enough room to turn the truck around.
We then climbed up, (sometimes on our hands and knees,) the side of the mountain to where I had marked the goat habitat on my topographical map. It was a very steep climb, but we had no sheer cliffs. Since the area was wooded, we were able to pull ourselves up between trees in the steepest portion of the climb. We saw some goats in the area just as we had our first scouting trip. It was decided that that this was the route we would take for the actual hunt.
On our way back down to the truck, we found a relatively level area about 300 feet below the goat habitat. We decided that this was an ideal spot to set up our camp for the actual hunt.
Now that I had a plan for the actual hunt, I located an experienced taxidermist who would shoulder mount my trophy. His studio was in Woodland Park, Colorado located up the mountain west of Colorado Springs, about 100 miles from my hunting area. The taxidermist told me that it would be critical that I cool out the cape and get the cape of the goat to him as soon as possible, preferably within 12 hours after the kill, or else the hair would begin falling out of the cape. Since we did not have cell phones in those days, I located a pay telephone In Buena Vista, Colorado which was on my route back to Woodland Park. I estimated that it was about a two-hour drive from Buena Vista to Woodland Park.
Now that I had everything planned, I was ready to implement my plan.
One week before my hunt, Dick and I made another trip to the old mine to pack in as much of our camp as we could. We took a 3-day supply of food–Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), several gallons of water, a two-man tent, propane lantern, propane gas cylinders and a one burner propane stove. We also took a small pick and shovel to dig a hole to bury our supplies in plastic bags. Once we got to the camp site, we buried our equipment, food and water in plastic bags and covered it with dirt to protect it from varmints and bears.
Dick Duncan with Loaded Backpack and Bottles of Water Ready to Climb to our Camp Site.
On the day before the hunt, we made our final trip to the old mine. We back packed the rest of our equipment (Remington 700 BDL 30.06 rifle, binoculars, spotting scope, butchering equipment, sleeping bags and warm clothes) and headed up the side of the mountain. Once at the camp site, we uncovered our buried supplies and set up our tent. After a good hot supper, we got into our sleeping bags and settled down early to be ready for the big day.
Preparing our Camp Site.
During the night we could hear animals making noises close by, but we did not investigate. It might have been a black bear who are known to be in this area. We got up early, had a good breakfast, and then completed the 30-minute hike up to the place where the goats lived. Shortly before daylight, we were in my ground blind I had selected on my first trip to the area several weeks earlier.
Shortly after daylight, the beautiful sunrise began a bright sunny day. Because their solid white coats make them stand out in the rocky areas around us, we spotted goats, some near, some far. We observed two especially large Billie goats about 1/2 mile away on the next ridge. There was a very deep canyon between us and those goats. We decided that it was impossible to get to them safely. It was nearly impossible to retrieve one should I kill it on that ridge.
We then concentrated on several goats that were more readily accessible. After studying those goats with my spotting scope, I decided to take the largest one in the group. Getting into a good shooting position with a solid rest, I squeezed the trigger on my Remington 700 BDL 30.06 and let the Nossler Partition 180 grain bullet do its job. The goat dropped in its tracks.
A Proud Hunter with his Rocky Mountain Goat Trophy.
Of course, we had to take time to get a few photos of the kill. I field dressed the goat and carefully removed the cape, leaving it attached to the head ready for the taxidermist. I then butchered it in place. We put the meat into plastic bags and placed it into our back packs, leaving the carcass for the predators. We did take time to hang up the cape inside out to allow it to cool out.
Cooling Down the Cape.
I then put the soft white cape around my neck, and we headed down to our camp site. There we took as much of our equipment as we could and headed down the slippery slope to my truck at the old mine. We unloaded the meat and other equipment into the truck. I was not feeling well that day and felt that I could not make another trip up the mountain that day to retrieve the rest of our camping equipment. One person could retrieve all of the rest of the equipment so Dick said he would make the trip alone and I would remain with the truck.
After a little rest Dick began the climb back up to our camp site to retrieve the rest of our equipment. Since Dick was in excellent condition it did not take him long to return. By late afternoon Dick was safely back at the old mine and we had all our equipment and the goat loaded in my truck.
Heading for Home after a Successful Rocky Mountain Goat Hunting Adventure.
Dick then once again guided me and my truck down the treacherous narrow road from the mine to the public road.
We got to the nearest payphone in Buena Vista by about 6 PM and called the taxidermist. He agreed to meet us at his shop in Woodland Park at 9 PM. After the cape and head were safely in the hands of the taxidermist, we got home at about 11 PM.
Mission accomplished. I now had my three alpine trophies– my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram, my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ewe and finally my Rocky Mountain Goat. Three greats, but entirely different, adventures were now completed.
My Goat, Flanked by my Bighorn Ram and Ewe, in my Rec Room in Colorado Springs.
I am deeply indebted to my hunting partner, Dick Duncan, Colonel, US Army, Retired, who assisted me during all of my trips related to my goat hunt. Without his help, I could not have accomplished the successful goat hunt adventure. Thanks, Dick!
Thanks also go to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for giving me the opportunity to hunt the three majestic alpine animals in their native habitats. I was very lucky in the drawings for the licenses. Many of my Colorado hunting buddies were not as fortunate in their attempts to obtain licenses and did not experience the joys of successfully hunting these animals as I did.
Dick and Betsy have continued to live in Colorado after Jean and I moved in 1998 from Colorado to our native Texas, where most of our families live. We built our retirement home in Garden Ridge near San Antonio, Texas. I continued to come to Colorado to hunt elk for the next 21 years. In two earlier articles on this website, I discussed some of my memorable Colorado elk hunts.
Dick volunteers for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, conducting surveys and other tasks related to wildlife management throughout Colorado. He visited the area where we had conducted my Rocky Mountain Goat hunt and noted that the goats no longer live in that area–they have moved further north. The goat hunt I had in 1992 can no longer take place in 2021. Their new home might be even more difficult to access than their home was when I hunted them.
After Jean passed away in 2018, I moved to the city of New Braunfels, Texas, about twenty miles north of Garden Ridge. In 2021, all three trophies of my alpine animals are proudly displayed, with many of my other mounted trophies, in my living room in New Braunfels.
Admiring my Rocky Mountain Goat in my New Braunfels. Texas Home. Note the Table Lamp with the Front Legs of the Goat.
In the photo with the three trophies, note the remainder of the cape, including the tail, on the chair next to me. This part was not used on the shoulder mount and makes a wonderful throw rug. With the shoulder mount, the table lamp and the throw rug, very little of the cape was wasted. Today, looking at these items from the goat helps me to re-live my Rocky Mountain Goat Hunt almost 30 years after my encounter with the goat on Gladstone Ridge in the beautiful mountains on the Continental Divide high above Buena Vista, Colorado.
My Three Colorado Alpine Trophies in my New Braunfels, Texas Home in 2021.