Hunting with pack goats

2011-07-12T16:46:00Z Hunting with pack goatsBy Katie Novak, Midwest Producer Midwest Producer
July 12, 2011 4:46 pm  • 

Some of the most wondrous views of nature can only be found in the back country, and what better way to hike up there than with a few pack goats by your side.

Scott Herbolsheimer and Pat Maline took what started as just an experiment and developed it into a prosperous business called Summit Pack Goat.

In 1998 the two friends from Burt County in eastern Nebraska and fellow bowhunters heard about people using pack goats to allow themselves to get farther away from crowds while hunting.

"To get away from the people where the elk are, it takes a fair amount of work, usually," said Maline.

They started with just six goats they got from a neighbor. The goats were going to be used only for personal hunting excursions.

"When we got our first goats we didn't think it was going to become a business. The problem was, we were trying to find good goats and couldn't," Herbolsheimer said. "It eventually got to the point we had to get our own does and raise our own because we couldn't find what we wanted. Once we started raising goats that we wanted, we started raising more goats than we needed."

As their goat herd quickly grew, a website -  www.summitpackgoat.com  - was developed to sell their quality pack goats. The two friends now have 60 goats including 14 does that were expected to have kids this spring.

The majority of their clientele are bow hunters from all over the United States including Minnesota, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia, Utah, Washington, Colorado and Wyoming. They even have a couple of goats traveling to Alaska this summer.

According to the business partners, one of the most fulfilling aspects of Summit Pack Goat is meeting wonderful people.

"Our customers have been very good to us," said Maline.

Animals that make good packing goats are marketed on their website and the rest are culled for the sale barn.

Pack goats are delivered to the customer or the business partners use a shipper. They have even had some flown air freight that were leased for a movie in California; however, the movie production got canceled.

"We almost had famous goats,  but it didn't work out," Maline said.

Raising goats takes a lot of hard work, especially when it comes time to build really good fence or bottle feed. Once a kid is born, it spends just a couple of days with its mom before it is then bottle fed.

"The key is that they've bonded with people and that's the most important part of the process," Maline said.

Bottle feeding becomes a family affair in both households.

"All of our kids know how to bottle feed goats. No issues there," said Herbolsheimer.

However their wives are a different story.

"We try to have them as little involved as possible just to keep peace," chuckled Herbolsheimer. "If you want to keep the wives happy we need good fences, too."

Maline joked that there would be a barbecue if a goat were to jump on top of cars.

"Which is a training method. We threaten them with the spit," said Herbolsheimer. "It hasn't come to that yet, but it's been close a couple times.

Pack goats are used to carry supplies up the mountains in elevations such as 11,200 feet. Some supplies might include their ultra light tepee, a collapsible wood stove, kitchen supplies and sleeping bags, pads or air mattresses. They are also used to carry meat or fish back down the hill after an outing. 

"There is only so much stuff you can fit on your back," said Maline. "I don't mind roughing it, but I like to be comfortable, too. So with our pack animals we can put together pretty good loads of equipment and supplies and actually live fairly comfortably."

It is usually about a five-mile hike from their trailer to where they set up camp. In the past, the two hunters have gone on about 20 fishing and hunting trips, using any where from four to 13 goats depending on the strength of the group.

If the pair are lucky enough to get an elk during a trip, they butcher it and hang it in a tree to cool. Hanging it in the tree also helps bears from having a feast. Unfortunately Maline has experienced that sinking feeling when a bear eats your kill.

When the meat is taken off the carcass, a good pack goat can carry anywhere from 25 to 45 pounds easily.

They use specially designed packs and equipment from Northwest Pack Goat Supply including panniers which are water resistant packs.

"It's pretty country. That's why you go with the goats," said  Herbolsheimer. "You can get back there to see some neat country and there's nice fishing too."

The two friends are hoping to continue their business, but are not really looking to expand at this time since they both have other careers.

"We actually look forward to the day we're retired so we can use the goats personally more than we get to now, but that is a long ways off," said Herbolsheimer.

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