A few months ago Cody Hirt, the founder of Veteran Outdoors, told me he had a problem. A large male Catalina ram has been destroying fences and property. Worse, the big goat had no fear of humans; it regularly attacked people on the property. An aggressive ram, even a small one at 100 lbs., will absolutely ruin your day. So I understood why Cody wanted it gone. What I didn’t really get is why Cody didn’t just kill it himself. Still . . .
He knew that if there was one man that knew how to take care of a goat, that man was me. I told him that whenever he had the opportunity, I’d head out to his place near Blanco, Texas and kill that goat up and good . . .
Cody has a beautiful little 300 acres ranch. It’s all hills and valleys under high fence for hunting White Tail deer and exotics. There isn’t much cedar brush on it, just a whole lot of oaks and elms. I asked Cody what gun I should bring. He knows I like to make things challenging. There isn’t much challenge shooting game with a scoped rifle at 100 yards and under, but a pistol, a flintlock, a bow? We can make it fun!
Cody told me to bring whatever I wanted; I’d likely just walk up and shoot it. Still, I love hunting. Even if this was more of an execution than a hunt, I wasn’t going to pass up putting a Catalina Ram’s skull on the wall.
The idea of walking around the hills on a chilly morning with a Khyber Pass style AK47, hunting a goat sounded straight Mujahedeen to me. My recently self-made AK47 was already sitting in the truck with three magazines full of surplus 123gr hollow point rounds. What the heck, I had a target and I had a weapon. Let’s not make this any harder than it has to be.
I met Cody early in the morning. After a quick hello, we hopped in his Polaris and started looking for the goat. I had a conference call at noon, but Cody figured we would have the critter shot and skinned long before then. We caught up on old friends and I finished a cup of coffee as we drove to where the goats usually hang out.
Oddly enough, they weren’t there. No big deal. As I said, this was only 300 acres under high fence, so they can’t really go that far. During our drive we marveled at a pair of Red Tailed Hawks, diving and calling to each other, and the occasional White Tail deer that would peek and startle from the woods here and there. Overall, it was oddly quiet. And no sign of that goat. After the first couple of hours of looking, we began to wonder if there was a hole in the fence somewhere.
Then Cody spotted goats. There were four of them, including an Ibex. There was only one problem – they were all laying down on a hilltop about 200 yards away. So we both hopped out and walked toward them. I expected to just walk to within 50 yards or so before I pulled the trigger. That’s what I was expected … right up until they all got up and ran.
And ran and ran and ran. Like the Road Runner leaving Wylie Coyote in the dust, and I was the coyote.
Cody said, “Well…they know something’s different.” We spent the next couple of hours looking for them again, all on that same 300 acre piece of land. We finally spotted them again, but this time they didn’t see us first. They were head down, eating behind a field of tall grass. We could just make out their outlines and occational horn tips peaking out of the grass.
I grabbed the AK and stalked forward at a pretty brisk pace. I covered about 80 yards, leaving only 30 or 40 yards between the goats and me, before I could finally make out the one goat I was to kill. As they broke through some of the cover, I got a good look at him, and was pretty darn surprised. I assumed this to be some gnarly little goat, without good horns. I was wrong.
He was big, with a gorgeous spread of horns. He was a problem, and that’s why Cody wanted him dead, but he saved him for me instead of killing him on his own because Cody knew I wanted a big Catalina Ram, and this one fit the bill. Much love, brother.
I saw him, and he saw me. He didn’t bolt this time, but they all started walking away. I had to wait until he got clear of the other goats. The second he did, I took my shot, broadside, at no more than 40 yards. I saw him shudder. And I saw him pick up the pace with no discernible effect. I stood and shot again, hoping to drop him in his tracks with a shot to the neck. I saw his hair fly, watched his head snap. And then he REALLY ran. They all did, down a hill and out of sight.
I knelt down and waited for a moment — but just a moment. I was sure he was dead right on the other side of the hill. Cody saw the whole thing and walked up to help me bring the carcass up. But of course, there was no carcass. There was no body, no blood, nothing but the sour smell of old goat in the air. It smelled like disappointment.
They called this goat “The Jerk.” He was living up to his name. Cody and I spent the next hour walking the hillside looking for any sign of that goat and came up empty. We were both sure that we would stumble on its body at any second. It took two solid hits from an AK47 at fairly close range … and then just disappeared.
I cancelled my conference call. We spent the next four hours driving, walking, spotting, and failing to find any of those goats, much less the one that just took two rounds without sneezing.
As far as the AK47 goes, what it lacks in loading and reloading ergonomics, it makes up for in ease of handling and carrying. In the Polaris, I had the stock folded; getting in and out was a breeze. The AK’s light weight and great balance made walking up and down those hills all day a whole lot easier.
It was getting later in the afternoon. We were making plans to come back out the next day to keep looking for it, or for what we thought would be the buzzards picking over the dead body. This was getting frustrating, but Cody is a great man who does amazing things for vets; it always lifts my spirits to spend time with him. There are some people that make you feel better just being around them. Cody is one of them.
We split up. Cody worked down in the valleys while I took the Polaris up on the ridges and hills. Thirty minutes later, driving pretty close to where this all started, I spotted the small herd running about 50 yards ahead. The Jerk was with them, running. He was a couple of body lengths behind everyone else and struggling.
This time, I didn’t even stop the Polaris before the rifle came up and I let the first round go. Body hit, eight inches behind the shoulder. For the first time, he fell to the ground. I stepped out of the Polaris and took a knee, ready for the goat from hell to get up and make a mockery of all rational terminal ballistics. He did, but slowly. This time, I had a more than a second to aim. The round drilled right behind his shoulder. He fell, and didn’t get up again.
He’d just quit breathing when Cody, hearing the shots, yelled to ask if I got him. Finally, yes, I did. The Jerk was even bigger than I thought. Considering what we both were expecting, we sure worked for those horns. Cody and I hauled him into the Polaris and caped him out back at the house.
After my first two shots, even though I saw the rounds hit, I had to question myself when we couldn’t find the animal. I just kept doubting myself, thinking maybe I missed when both Cody and I were sure of what I saw. I didn’t miss. The first round hit about four inches behind the shoulder, with no exit wound. The hide slipped back over the entry wound, with no external bleeding. It was a .310 caliber hole going in, and nothing coming out.
The second shot – the neck shot – happened to land in that two-inch section below the spine and above the lungs. It was the only pass-through wound on the animal. The third was another solid body shot on the opposite side of the first round. But again, no exit. The final round, the shot that kept him down, was in the crease of his shoulder, surely pulverizing his heart. No exit wound.
The neck wound was in fact the least damaging wound. He would have lived with it and it would have likely healed fine. The first round would have killed him, but probably not until a day later. The third round would barely reach a lung. The fourth certainly finished his heart. Only the neck wound passed through, so no blood trail. Long story short, if you’re going to hunt with the AK47, even on thin skinned game at close range, choose a heavier, soft point round. The 123gr HP just shatters way too fast.
While we were skinning The Jerk, Cody’s pet deer, a budding young spike named Clark, came to visit. I’ve seen tame deer before, but never one so tame as to walk up to me and start licking my arm. He followed us around everywhere. It was a real treat to pet and play with a deer like that. Cody says that he even goes hunting with them when they stalk. When deer see Cody and Clark is with him, he says if he’s just still for a minute they all focus on Clark, and ignore him entirely. I’d like to see that.
So it turned out to be a real hunt after all. First, it was a heck of a learning experience. I’ll stick with soft point and ballistic tip rounds for rifles even if I think a light hollow point would do the trick. Second, I won’t take neck shots. Third, high fence hunts can be damn hard. Fourth, all goats are all jerks. And lastly, no hunt is ever as easy as it sounds. One more: any hunt is better than a day at the office.