ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS
This Rocky Mountain goat will never fit into a Christmas stocking.
Don't tell that to Todd Erickson of Carlton, however.
Erickson will forever view the billie as the ultimate stocking stuffer.
The mountain goat, which Erickson took on Sept. 1 in the Elkhorns near Twin Lakes, will soon put him on the state's all-time records list. The mountain goat has unofficially been scored at 51 2/8 points, which means it may be one of the top mountain goats ever taken in the state, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The ranking of Erickson's mountain goat will not be known until it is officially scored in late October after a mandatory 60-day waiting period. The current state record is 51 2/8 for a mountain goat taken in 2000 in the Elkhorns by Ken Mellow, then of Medford.
The Oregon record would not concern Erickson if it were not for his wife, Cheroyl. Erickson won his tag for a Rocky Mountain goat hunt in a raffle in June in Seaside at a convention of the Oregon Hunters Association. His winning ticket was purchased by his wife who put it in his Christmas stocking. The ticket was one of 13 she purchased for $101.
The winning ticket allowed Erickson to hunt for a Rocky Mountain goat in Northeast Oregon from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31. Erickson, though, proved a master of efficiency, taking his goat after hunting just 10 hours on the first day.
His hunting partner was his 13-year-old son, T.J., who initially spotted the mountain goat his father took.
"He was instrumental. He has very good eyesight,'' his father said.
The mountain goat was first spotted between 8 and 9 a.m., but the Ericksons bypassed it because they were 300 to 400 yards away, too far to tell how big the horns were.
"At that distance it is hard to tell even if they have horns,'' Erickson said. The father and son team spotted it again around 3 p.m. as they were returning to camp. The mountain goat was with nine other goats coming down a draw. The Ericksons moved within 87 yards of the goats, watching them closely with a spotting scope.
"The most exciting time is before you shoot. Once you take it down, that is when the work begins,'' the Yamhill County resident said.
Erickson took aim and downed the goat with his rifle after watching it for about an hour. Upon reaching the billie the father and son were surprised. The mountain goat's horns were bigger than anticipated because they were dwarfed by its large body.
Its left horn was later determined to be 10 7/8 inches and its right one 10 5/8 inches.
"It is unusual to have horns that are 10 inches. Anything over 10 inches is unbelievable, anything close to 11 inches is unbelievable, unbelievable,'' Erickson said.
The Ericksons went back to camp and returned the next day to cut out the meat and pack the animal out. T.J carried the cape with the head and legs attached, and his father carried the meat.
They first had to climb up a steep 200- to 300-foot slope, which took more than an hour, and then hiked seven miles to their vehicle.
"It was a killer, unbearable, but we had no choice,'' Erickson said.
He credits ODFW staff members in Baker City with doing an excellent job of preparing him for the hunt.
"They were tremendous,'' Erickson said.
The Carlton resident is one of just eight people fortunate enough to hunt Rocky Mountain goats in Oregon this year. The other seven are hunters who won once-in-a-lifetime mountain goat tags in annual drawings. All of the hunts for tag winners run from Saturday through Sept. 21. Depending on their tag, hunters are restricted to areas in the Elkhorns or the Wallowas. Erickson could have hunted in either area. He selected the Elkhorns because they feature easier terrain. Erickson said it would have been much more work to reach mountain goats in the Wallowas.
"I would have had to hire an outfitter,'' Erickson said.
As it is, he did not hire an outfitter but he did have to hire a taxidermist to make a life-sized mount of the Rocky Mountain goat. The mount will forever remind Erickson of the pack of raffle tickets his wife gave him.
"It was the ultimate Christmas present.''