“I’m only going to touch off if he’s a monster.” I told Hazel as she drops me off on the side of the road and heads into town with my visiting mother and our one and a half year old son. This has often been the scenario on this one month hunting adventure. Drop me off and let me navigate my way through unfamiliar territory, hunt, then navigate back to a predetermined pickup point and time.
Not the ideal backcountry hunting that I’m used to, but when given the constraints, you work within the parameters. It had been a rough go at first, but I had started to catch my groove.
I had taken a small nannie goat the weekend before in desperation to put my first animal on the ground for the trip. I took me two freakin’ weeks to put an animal on the ground, but since then everything started to click. Animals were spotted and successful stalks were developed. I was getting the hang of it.
I’m now standing over a medium sized goat with the last of my tags wrapped around his leg wondering where I went wrong. A classic case of mistaken identity with an innocent bystander dead at my feet.
“Shit. I’m sorry little fella, this arrow had another goat’s name on it.” I whisper as the last of his breath leaves his lungs.
But this is putting the proverbial cart in front of the horse.
Shortly after being dropped off, I hiked into a deep valley of lava rock and long waving grass. Standard billy goat country for Hawaii. I caught a glimpse of black movement out of the corner of my eye as I crouched down to peer over the top of the grass. Just what I had hoped for, a herd of goats feeding on the hillside.
To my disbelief, they hadn’t caught my clumsy movements yet. With the way I was stumbling around the hidden lava rocks below the hip high grass, I figured I had lucked upon a school of goats for the blind. At this point, I’ll take charity however I can get it.
I found a small ravine not far from my location and used it to conceal my movements. All the while, I heard the goats chatting with one another, leading me to believe I was in a rather large herd.
When I reached the top of the ravine I sat back and watched for a little bit in order to determine the direction they were feeding, then made my way to an intersecting location.
“Slow it down big guy.” I thought to myself. “There is no rush. Enjoy the moment, but mostly just don’t blow it.”
I popped my head up to see the herd moving where I had planned, with several large billies in the group.
“Just make it to that rock outcropping twenty yards ahead, use it for concealment and you’ve got an easy shot at your pick of the group.” I remember thinking to myself. Simple as that.
I inched my way forward with my eyes on the shield shaped lava rock, black as the soul of the devil himself and perched on the side of the grassy hill.
Fifteen yards...ten yards. The distance closed in as adrenaline pulsed through my veins. I could hear the throbs in my ears quicken as my heart picked up the pace in anticipation.
At six yards out the rock came to life. The jet black body of a monster billie was indiscernible from the black rock it was hiding behind. I saw a blob of black and I saw two massive horns that reached for the heavens.
“Holy hell. He’s a monster and he’s only six yards away.” I thought to myself.
I froze in place like a kid playing “Green light, red light”. He was looking over his herd down the valley and hadn't noticed my partially hidden movements. His vitals were blocked by the same lava rock that was supposed to be hiding me, making him safe for the moment.
I had slowly bent at a ninety degree angle with my hips while on my knees and drew my bow without even realizing it. As I raised up he sensed something was wrong and took a step out of concealment to see.
A mistake he paid dearly for. Crack! My arrow smashed into his shoulder and he took off down the valley in order to disguise himself amongst his brethren.
A smart move on his part as the confusion of the herd protected him from a follow up shot.
“Sit down, breath and wait.” I told myself.
At six yards, I was blown away that he didn’t topple right there. What surprised me even more was that the arrow only seemed to penetrate about four or five inches in.
Sunscreen mixed with sweat dripped into my eyes, stinging them as I waited in the blazing sun. I let it beat down on me as I kept telling myself that it would be a short tracking job.
I waited until the heat was unbearable as well as the anticipation. I needed to get moving to get some air flowing over my body or I was going to freak out.
I found the turned up ground from the herd making a hasty exit. Straight up a small cliff band and all I could could think to myself was how sure footed and agile these little beasts were.
“Sticky rubber feet.” I thought to myself.
I scrambled up the cliff cursing my clumsy human movements. We may have gained opposable thumbs and reasoning during the evolutionary process, but it was doing me little good. I was out of my league in their environment.
Immediately I saw signs of what a two and a quarter inch expandable broadhead could do to a animal. It looked like a sloppy painter who forgot to put the lid on a gallon of red paint was walking along swaying his arms carelessly. Globs of red splattered the ground.
I picked my way through the goat tunnels beaten down in the four foot tall grass, cursing every time the unseen lava rock shifted underneath me causing me to look like a drunk, staggering his way home from last call.
I was convinced that at any moment he would be lying on the trail, completely bled out. Nothing could withstand this bloodloss.
I moved on, thoughts on if I would Euro-mount or just go for it and pay for the full shoulder mount on this beautiful representation of this species.
The heat and my cockiness from the blood trail was clouding my judgement.
As I cleared a small ridge I notice my goat getting up, fully aware of my presence and taking off for higher grounds. He wasn’t distracted like I was, he fully understood that being in the present moment could be the difference between life and death.
He was wise, I was a fool.
“Shit.” I thought to myself. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’ve been burned by not chasing down an animal when I should and now I’ve been burned by not letting them lay and bleed out.
“I guess you have to experience them all to be a well rounded hunter.” I told myself, but I knew I was really just trying to console my wounded ego.
I gave him a bit and then followed pursuit on what is now a thinner blood trail. Since he was pressured, he sped along leaving less blood for me to track.
I was soaked through my merino top and well into my backpack by this point. The heat sweltered, making my thoughts cloudy. I pushed on.
I momentarily lost the blood trail and started to grid the area. A couple of minutes into my search, I looked up and saw my goat lying down on a hilltop, perfectly exposed. I imagined him severely wounded as his head is down, only leaving his body in clear view.
I creeped in closer, my objective was to get another hole in him. Just put him down and out of his misery. The part of hunting that I hate, a long drawn out kill.
I tried to suppress thoughts of him hanging on my wall. Will I let his long billie goat beard flow naturally like the Samson of his species or will I prison braid it to bring out his inner gangster? Only time will tell.
“Get back in the moment knucklehead.” I told myself in reprimand.
I snuck within thirty five yards, directly behind him. A quartering away shot, I knew this will be quick.
The arrow rifled through the air and reached its terminus with the tell tale dull thud as it entered his body.
Previously unseen heads immediately popped up as the whole tribe came to life.
“Shit.” I breathed out.
I was in the whole pack of them again. This wasn’t a solo wounded goat looking for a place to lay down and die, this was a perfectly healthy goat at the wrong place at the wrong time.
He ran a short distance and toppled over, all life drained from him.
I’m back standing over top of him. It’s hard not to feel disappointed. I was after a big, mature billie and I now stood over his medium sized brethren.
I let the disappointment fade as I realize the importance of this goat’s life.
“You’re a dick.” I chastise myself. “You took a creature’s life and here stand disappointed that he wasn’t big enough for you. Get over yourself.”
With that, I realized that my ego has always played a role in my hunting and I’m afraid it always will. I know that I am chasing the biggest and most badass of every creature I hunt. It’s what many of us hunters do. To be perfectly honest, it’s part of the thrill. To take the biggest and most often the wisest animal out there, proves that we are the smarter and wiser. It gives us a feeling of superiority and self importance.
Now this is a very simplified version of why some of us hunt. I can also say that this isn’t the only reason I hunt, but it certainly is part of it.
But killing is killing. One animal is not more important than another. If I kill something, I damn well better be grateful for that creature's life, no matter what it sports on its head.
Mistaken identity or not, this was a damn fine animal that will feed my family and I. This is the most important reason I’m out here anyway, the meat and my connection to it.
I leave the arrow in him as I start the process of breaking him down. Perhaps subconsciously this was my way of saying that yes, this arrow was meant for you; that you are good enough for it.
I call Hazel on my cell when I’ve finished.
“Let’s rendezvous a little earlier. I got meat for the table.” I say with a smile.
There’s my trophy.
// Fred Bohm