Pack goats are like my offshore fishing boat for the Rocky Mountains. They let me go deep into little nooks and crannies that can hold pockets of elk and deer that others are unwilling or able to access.
The advantage of pack goats over other pack animals is their ability to navigate the terrain without even a hint of a trail. If you can scramble up it as a human, they will have no problem following you. The disadvantage is they don’t carry as much weight as a horse or mule. The average pack goat will carry 30 pounds of weight all day long—and heavier loads for shorter, more manageable distances. To compensate, you simply have to increase the number of animals in the string.
I’ve developed my line of pack goats by interbreeding several large quality milk breeds. The highbred vigor and increased size allow me to pack my 248-pound goats with 60 pounds of gear and/or meat each. I have Lamacha for their personality and stamina, Alpine for size and stamina, and Sable for increased height.
While hunting, it’s possible to take them along. I have a “stinky” buck that acts as a perfect cover scent, and I’ve walked right into a herd of elk with my goats. The elk expect to hear the noises of four-legged animals chewing their way along the forest floor and don’t seem to be alarmed when approached.
I don’t like to leave them unattended at camp as bears can break in and cause a stampede or even attack them. So, if I do leave them, it’s best if they’re attended to by a camp person. Another method is to tie them up when you get to within a few hundred yards on your stalk and move in alone. The most significant advantage to taking them on the hunt is you can move freely in the woods without worrying about going back to camp. Your camp is always with you. So simply chase that bugle over that far ridge and beyond.
At night I tie them to a low-line. I use 100 feet of spectra line to save weight and tie it between the base of two trees tight against the ground. I then tie the goats up, separated by loops in the line far enough apart that they can’t get tangled together. I will move this every night so they can feed on fresh forage and not destroy anything.
On the trail hiking in, I’ll usually tether the lead goat so that he doesn’t get any crazy ideas and take the goats back to the truck. They typically follow along peacefully. I don’t hike at a crazy pace, letting them eat as we go. Unfortunately, they like all humans and it can be challenging to keep them from following the occasional passerby back home. If I see an oncoming hiker beforehand, I’ll tie up the goats and let them pass out of sight.
The biggest surprise when I got goats was how personal and what great pets they are. I got them to help carry gear and meat, but our whole family quickly fell in love with them as pets. Hence, the milk goat operation and my wife’s “Goats Goods” personal soap lotion and beauty product line made with the milk. We all drink the fresh milk and enjoy cheese occasionally, also.
So, if you’re thinking about a line of pack goats, plan for a whole goat adventure in the future.