Re: Pack Goats
There are a couple pack goat breeders in Washington, but Im not sure how close any are to spokane specifically. Although, most likely if you go to a breeder, all they will have to sell is a younger wether that you will still have to raise. I think there are a few not far away in North Idaho. The thing to remember about goats is that they really cant be packed until they fully mature physically at about 3 years of age. So if you buy a 6 month old wether, it will be several seasons before you can expect to pack him. I find that the most efficient way to find goats is to watch the classified ads for other pack goaters that are downsizing their herds, or folks that are getting out of pack goats for one reason or another. Most of the adult goats that I have purchased have come from individuals that had some sort of a lifestyle change that made it difficult to get out with the goats as much as they would have liked. One guy I met had had a knee surgery that left him unable to walk for long distances, so he felt bad keeping the goats penned up as he couldnt get them out. Another family I got some from had started a milk goat herd for a living, and just needed the pack goat pasture space for more dairy does, and since they only used the pack goats a couple times a year, it didnt make sense to keep feeding them. Another guy I got a couple from had seven pack goats but decided that he only needed five, so he sold me two. So as you can see, you can sometimes find great goats that the owners are getting rid of for a variety of reasons. Just a word of caution though, getting goats from someone who doesnt want or need them anymore can carry its own set of problems. Sometimes people will "thin down the herd" but in reality they are just getting rid of a problem goat, or sometimes they might just sell off the weakest of the bunch. And sometimes you have to buy a problem goat in order for them to be willing to sell you a good goat (like a package deal) But usually if they can show you photos of the goats on the trail, and have plenty of stories of them packing, and can give you an accurate accounting of vet visits, training schedules, etc, then you should be ok. Also, I have found that by the time a family decides its time to part with their beloved pet, it is likely that they have gone sometime without a pack on their backs, so expect that they may be a little out of shape. But in my experience, the difference between a good pack goat and a bad pack goat is simply time on the trail. If you can get them out on hikes every week through the summer, they will be as good as any packer for you during the hunting season in the fall. Its too bad you arent closer to Eastern Idaho, or I would have the perfect solution for you; my goat timeshare.... I cant tell you how many people like yourself I run into that would love to get a couple of packgoats, but really only need them one month out of the year, so its hard for them to justify all the effort of the other 11 months to take care of them. So I am starting up a group of folks who will all jointly own and share a herd of pack goats. The goats will stay in one spot with a designated caretaker in the group (me) and the other owners can come pick up as many or as few goats as they need for any given trip. This allows everyone to share the costs associated with taking care of the goats, as well as it gets the goats on the trail far more often than they would with just one owner. If you watch a pack goat in the woods for a while, you will quickly see that they are most at home when on a trail and working. When they are at home in the pasture, they are bored out of their minds, and you can see it in their eyes. But the second you get them on the trail, they come alive. If my goats could be on the trail 365 days a year, they would be the happiest goats on the planet. So the more people sharing the goats, the happier and more healthy the goats are, and the more in shape they are when you or I need them to work extra hard. The other main advantage to a system like this is that you arent stuck with a set number of goats; ie maybe you only need 2 goats 90% of the time, but every so often it would be useful to have 6 or 10 goats. If you own your own two goats, you are pretty much out of luck if you ever need more than two, but if you are a part owner of a herd of 12 goats, you have as many goats at your disposal as you would ever need. I have had a few would be participants express some concern that they might not get to use the goats as much during the hunting season when everyone else wants them too, but at least here in Idaho we have a number of different seasons spanning a number of different time periods. Where one might be using them in late August and early September for the bow hunt, another might have drawn on an early October rifle hunt, and another do the mid October general hunt, and another do the November muzzleloader hunt. Then you also have to consider that most folks only need 2 or 3 goats for a good quiet hunt, and so a shared herd of 12-15 goats will support 5 to 6 hunters simultaneously using the same shared herd of goats. So if you do the math and spread the hunting opportunities over three or four months assuming that no one hunter will want to take more that 3 weeks off work during the peak season, you could effectively have 15 or 20 individuals all sharing the same herd with relatively little crossover. Obviously it wouldnt work though to have 15 bow hunters all expecting to use 2 or 3 goats the first two weeks of September, so at least in my situation I look for a variety of hunters to spread the Goat usage over the combined months of August, sept, oct, nov, and even early december hunts. Plus then you have bear and cougar in the spring and turkey and other hunts that the goats would be equally useful for. I would also like to have a number of group be interested in using the goats through the summer months for Boy Scout trips, family hikes, etc so that it keeps the goats at the top of their game. Plus, there are a few hidden costs associated with owning goats; Although they need a relatively small amount of acreage to support them compared to a horse or llama, they still need some pasture, and the fencing needs to be quite a bit taller than what you would expect with a horse. This adds additional cost when you are putting in your fencing. Plus you have to have a way to transport them, and although they are much easier to transport than a horse, you still have to at least have a pickup with a shell or a stock rack. For my pack goat timeshare idea, I have several different sized trailers, hitch mounted carriers, shells, etc so that the other owners have only pull up in an suv or truck and I have everything else taken care of. Ive even got a trailer large enough to take 20 goats if ever someone needed to take that many at one time. (Although that would be my idea for a cool family reunion, have 20 goats haul in all the gear for everyone and camp out at a high mountain lake for a week)
Also, if you are interested, I wrote an article in a hunting magazine that is published locally here in East Idaho, called Gettin Out, and it highlighted some of the major points about goat packing, specifically related to hunting. The Editor is Jared Scott of Jared Scott Outdoors, a television show local to Idaho that shows weekly on our NBC station. I also took him hunting with the goats this fall, so there is an episode on the show about them as well. He has asked me to come on with his team to help further develop the magazine, show and website so that this kind of content can be more available to average viewers like you and me. I hope to see it expand eventually to other areas in the mountain and pacific west. His website is more or less under construction right now, but I think you can still get on and see the goat packing video, (jaredscottoutdoors.com) and I think you can order individual copies of the magazine for just a few bucks and issue. If not, I can try and get a copy of the article on here sometime. I also know he is looking for other good topics to do shows and articles on, so if anyone else in this area wants to be on TV or write a good article, send me a message and I can get you in touch with him. For all of you long range guys, I think a neat episode would be one to cover a local long range hunter, his gear set up, and follow him on a coyote hunt or something. So if anyone has any ideas, let me know.