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Archer tags potential world-record billy

10/27/2005

  • For more big-game stories, check out The Trophy Room.

    On a late summer day in the breezy high country of British Columbia's coastal mountains, Allen Bolen stood on top of the world.

    And that's not just because the Provo, Utah, archer was high up in the craggy peaks nestled against the Pacific Ocean coastline, mind you.

    It's also because of Bolen's Aug. 8 arrowing of what could be the biggest mountain goat ever taken by an archer.

    That mountain goat, which sports massive bases of 6 3/8 inches to go with horn length measurements just a shade under 10 inches, has received a 60-day entry score of 52 6/8 inches, according to Bolen.

    Should those numbers be verified by future Pope & Young Club panel measuring efforts, the Bolen mountain goat seems poised to ascend to the archery record book's throne.

    If it does, the Bolen goat will overtake the world record mark of 52 4/8 inches, a standard established in 1988, when Lyle K. Willmarth arrowed the billy in Colorado's Park County.

    "It's just a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Bolen, who is a partner with his guide, Spike Lewis, in the B.C. outfitting business Bolen Lewis Trophy Guiding Co.

    "Really, it's more than a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Not everybody gets to experience such a thing."

    Bolen certainly never thought he would.

    "I never ever thought in a million years that I would get to see, let alone harvest a world-record animal."

    Of course, hunting in the coastal crags of British Columbia can certainly help increase those odds.

    That's because the Canadian province dominates both the Pope & Young Club and Boone & Crockett Club record books when it comes to the alpine species.

    That's especially true near Terrace, British Columbia, says Bolen.

    "Last year was our first year outfitting the area," Bolen said. "We saw five different goats that would have broken the Pope & Young Club's world-record goat mark."

    That led to the year-long germination of a bowhunting dream.

    "I told my partner that I wanted to come up and try to kill the world-record goat," Bolen said.

    Improbable as such visions usually are, the region's track record — not to mention the guiding abilities of Spike Lewis — made Bolen's hunting fantasy seem like it had an outside chance of being realized.

    "Our rifle hunters the last two years, they were 100 percent on killing B&C record-book goats," Bolen said of a feat that requires horn measurements of 50 inches or greater to accomplish.

    "It's partly that we're hard workers and all of that, but it's also partly that the genetics (for mountain goats) in our area are out of control."

    If Bolen and Lewis didn't already know that before their early August high-country adventure, they sure found it out then after a tough hike into some of the continent's most rugged terrain.

    "We were way back," Bolen said. "It took a full day of mountaineering to get into the spot where we were."

    Even then, the unpredictable nature of the late-summer weather limited the duo's glassing and hunting efforts for several days.

    When the weather was off, they simply had to bide their time. When the weather was on, they glassed up five different goats that would have gone P&Y Top 10.

    Still hoping to find a billy that would exceed the archery world record mark, they passed on stalking attempts at those five mountain goats.

    When the weather finally broke for good on Aug. 7 , Bolen and Lewis were quickly glassing again.

    This time, their efforts were finally rewarded.

    "We got out and spotted him right at dark," Bolen said. "At first, we spotted three goats that would go in the P&Y Top 10 for goats, but not the world record.

    "But then we saw this one and knew it right away."

    Lewis, whom Bolen describes as a top-notch judge of horn measurements viewed through high-dollar glass, felt confident that the goat would break the top archery standard … if it could be arrowed.

    "I could hardly sleep that night," Bolen admitted.

    After a fitful night of rest in a floorless bivouac shelter, the pair sat glassing again at daybreak Aug. 8.

    "We found him within a half-hour and put him to bed," Bolen said.

    Game on.

    After carefully planning a stalk, Bolen made his move on the big billy. Turns out, the goat also made a move on him.

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    "We had put him to bed below this cliff. But as I was stalking to peek over the cliff, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye," Bolen said.

    "He had moved about 100 yards paralleling the cliff, so I had to readjust the stalk coming in (to shooting position)."

    After about an hour of stalking, Bolen found himself in a position that few archers will ever know — in bow range of a big-game animal of world-record caliber.

    Even then, with the wind blowing perfectly into the archer's face, the deal wasn't completely sealed.

    "I actually sat on that goat for close to five minutes before I felt I was calm enough to make the shot," Bolen said.

    "I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime, so I was pretty nervous. If I had just immediately got there and then shot, well, I wasn't in the right frame of mind to make the shot.

    "So I sat there and got my nerves together so I could make the shot."

    But as Bolen prepared for the shot at an altitude of nearly 4,500 feet, the goat tested the bowhunter's mettle, yet again.

    It suddenly stood up, pivoted around and looked in the general direction of the
    camouflaged forms of Bolen and Lewis, who was filming nearby.

    "He just kind of looked around and dug out his bed a little," Bolen said. "It's amazing; they throw dirt 15 feet up when they dig."

    Bolen indicates that goats often will make such digs since they're restless sleepers in the high-country wind.

    After readjusting his bed, the billy turned back around and bedded down again in the same spot.

    When Bolen steadied his nerves — again — he prepared to come to full draw.

    "When I came to full draw, I was sitting on my butt because I had done a crab crawl down the hillside," Bolen said.

    "I had to make sure that my cam wasn't going to hit the ground on my release, so I checked the cam clearance and the string clearance on my leg."

    Satisfied that both clearances were good, Bolen also checked his bow sight's bubble-level to make sure that the bow wasn't canted improperly in the steep terrain.

    Finally, nerves, equipment and shooting clearances were all systems go, leading the 30-year old archer to do one final thing.

    "What I always do before I squeeze the shot is I visualize the arrow hitting exactly where I'm aiming and I tell myself I will make this shot."

    When the quartering-away shot was cut, that's exactly what took place.

    "He jumped up and ran down this little cliff just out of sight," Bolen said. "The arrow hit exactly where I aimed, and I felt really confident that we'd make a good recovery" … so long as the now unseen goat hadn't tumbled off a cliff or down a steep slide, that is.

    But Bolen needn't have worried; an hour later, the search revealed a king billy in all its mountain glory.

    "He was just 60 yards away," Bolen said. "I turned the corner and there he was, lying dead."

    After Bolen recovered the mountain goat, Lewis' trophy-judging skills were vindicated.

    "I just couldn't believe the mass on his horns and how he carried that mass out," Bolen said of the big goat. "I was just in awe of his mass."

    Tips for hunting British Columbia's billies

    With perhaps as many as 50,000 mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), British Columbia's rugged mountains are indeed king when it comes to chasing big billies.

    In fact, British Columbia was home to seven of the Top 10 goats in the 1999 fifth edition of the Pope & Young Club's record book, a mark that seems destined to increase with Allen Bolen's potential world record archery mountain goat from the province earlier this year.

    A look at the 1999 11th edition of the Boone & Crockett Club record book shows even more British Columbia domination with five of the club's Top 10 billies, including the two top goats in the world, hailing from the province.

    Keep in mind that despite British Columbia's record book domination, hunting mountain goats — even in the best spot in the world — is a tough task on its best day.

    With that in mind, here are a few tips that can help you turn a dream trip to the B.C. high country into a goat packing-out reality:

  • Hire a guide: Simply put, non-residents hunting big game in British Columbia are required to have a big game guide.

  • Get in shape: Mountain-goat country is tough, rugged, and almost always vertical in B.C. — or anywhere else for that matter. If you're going mountain goat hunting, get in the absolute best shape of your life! Why? Because goats inhabit high, lonely and tough to access places. You spot these critters first, and then try to stalk into shooting range. If you show up in the mountains in poor physical condition, your odds of success will decrease dramatically.

  • Develop mental toughness: Hunting goats is hard work and it can even be dangerous due to the high alpine environments that these critters inhabit. To stay sharp and ready to seal the deal when a shot opportunity presents itself, improve your mental toughness before heading for the B.C. mountains.

  • Carry top-grade optics: Before you can tag a British Columbia goat, you've got to find it first. And since the province's mountain goat country is tough and vertical, that means plenty of glassing. Optics — the best you can afford — are an absolute must when chasing goats on their home turf.

  • Carry upscale equipment: As with optics, good equipment is a must when chasing B.C.'s record book mountain goats. Use the best boots, clothing, backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and weapon that you can afford before chasing mountain goats on their inhospitable home turf.

  • Learn to shoot at steep angles: Whether you use a bow or rifle, there aren't many flat shots in the rugged alpine terrain that British Columbia's mountain goats inhabit. Learn to make the tough angled shots because that's generally all you'll get.

    (Source: ESPNOutdoors.com Hunt Planner: Big billies and high country)

    Hints for field judging mountain goats

    Since both billies and nannies possess horns, it can be a tough task to pick out a mature male. In fact, field judging a trophy billy is considered by some to be among the toughest of all chores in hunting. Just a small amount of difference in horn length and circumference can spell the difference between a good goat and a great goat.

    To find a trophy billy with good horns, learn their preferred habitat, habits, distinguishing body characteristics and horn qualities that make up a mature male goat:

  • Look high: Big billies are often loners, spending their time up high by themselves, or at most, in a group of two or three

  • Body size: Adult billies are typically larger and blockier than nannies.

  • Rump stains: Billies will typically have stains on their hindquarters from urination, while nannies usually do not.

  • Stretching: Billies stretch themselves out to urinate, nannies squat to urinate.

  • Narrow width: Adult billies will have a narrow space between their horns, while nannies will possess a wider space between horns.

  • Good base circumferences: Trophy billies have large base circumferences at the bottom of their horns, usually 4 4/8 inches or better. Nannies have slender horns and typically have base circumferences of 4 4/8 inches or less.

  • Good horn length: Most trophy billies will have horn lengths of 8 inches or better. Top goats have horn lengths of 10 inches or better. Some females listed in the record books can also display similar horn lengths, although the circumferences for nannies are almost always less. Use the average ear length of 4½ inches on a mature goat to help judge horn length.

  • Horn curvature: Mature billies exhibit a gradual curve of their horns, while nannies usually have a sharp curve near the end of the horn.

  • Avoid broken tips: For good scoring, look for horns that are intact.

  • Best coats: If you're interested in a mountain goat sporting a prime, thick white coat, best plan on hunting later rather than earlier.

    (Source: ESPNOutdoors.com Hunt Planner: Big billies and high country)

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  • For more big-game stories, check out The Trophy Room.