Setting a Campsite with Pack Goats
How you set your campsite with pack goats in the back country is very important. Not only for your comfort and ease, but also your goat’s safety. It’s also critical to the impact on the camp area itself. Some things that need to be considered before you set your camp is sleeping, eating and “lounging.” I will break my camp down in those three categories as I am setting up to coexist with goats. I will need to be considerate of them, myself, and the people who use this camp after me.
So let’s first speak about sleeping. For us, we need a flat spot, for the goats, there is much more to consider. When I decide on my sleeping area it’s all about goat safety and impact on the camp. First, I ALWAYS pack a larger caliber pistol to protect my goats. Also, I sleep close enough to them to hear if there is a predator in camp. The goats wear bells (get our bells here) at night and on the trail, (except when I’m hunting). So, I hear “ting, ting” occasionally, but “ting-a-ling-ling-a-ling” when something is wrong and I come out ready to shoot. I always go to bed knowing where my headlamp and pistol are located.
Also, I bed them just close enough where I can hear them. However, they’re far enough away where their constant burping doesn’t keep me up. Because of this, I like to be about 15-20 yards away. I also prefer a high-line or low-line to secure them at night. A video on that can be found HERE. You CANNOT leave your goats untied at night as a predator can chase them off and you will not be able to protect them. I also check the weather before I go in. During my trip I look at the weather with my InReach. On nights where I think it might rain hard, I put up a tarp for them to shelter under. Otherwise, to keep it easy, I just coat them with a non-insulating coat to just keep the rain off. You can find those HERE.
This next part is very important to our sport and our public image. The result is preserving support by the “non-packing public” and bureaucrats. You must do a good job of having a good plan with your campsite and your pack goats. Look up Leave No Trace standards for pack animals. Depending on how many nights you stay, you can leave a large impact on that campsite by where and how you bed your goats. Plan to have an ability (if possible) to rotate where the goats sleep each night to minimize the impact of them scratching out their beds.
I like “dirt” spots over vegetation as I can easily return that to “normal” as I’m leaving. A dug out dirt bed among the grass is much harder to hide. I will often snake my low line through a grove of trees, close by, so they can also have shelter. The “dirt” under pine trees is mostly old needles which makes for great bedding. Secondly, I always clean up their poop piles each morning and disperse into bushes away from camp where they will never be seen again. We pack in a plastic, child’s toy rake and dustpan and it makes clean up a snap. So those are the things to consider about bedding your goats.
Camp Kitchen Setup
Now onto the “lounging and eating” part of things. When I only had a couple goats it wasn’t too bad to let them into the fire ring and food prep area. But I quickly learned the best choice was to have a “no goat zone,” if I wanted peace. That area is where all the food and eating will be going on. If you don’t do this, you will be constantly defending your open food bags and coolers. Also, don’t ever set down a plate of food cause it’ll be trampled or eaten.
My advice is that you keep them out of that area with the “long arm of the law,” your squirt bottle! It takes about 10-20 minutes right when you arrive to train them. Just have one child or anyone in the area squirt any goat that comes in the fire ring and kitchen area. Once they get squirted and shushed they all figure it out quickly where they are not supposed to be. Your camp life will become much more peaceful overall. This is also a reason I never feed goats treats. Once I am a source of food.. If you give a goat an inch…he will always see if he can take a mile. One of my goats is an especially quick camp thief.
Lastly, let’s speak of lounging. Your goats will graze close to camp when you are around. They will need at least an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to feed. Take them for a grazing walk away from your campsite to minimize impact. As far as their beds, during the day try to keep them from digging out beds. One last component I’d like to mention is that horned goats seem to love to pick on at least one tree close to camp. If you let them, they will strip it if not destroy it completely. Keep them away from that with the squirt bottle and if they do get one debarked, cut it down cleanly at the dirt line so we don’t leave “a trace.” I hope this helps and love to hear your input.
Good advice Marc. The first time I took my goats out on the trail I was appalled at how much damage they did to the campsite in just one overnight stay: piles of poop everywhere, beds dug into the dirt, and nearby trees stripped of bark. I tried to conceal the disturbance as much as possible before moving on, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty thinking about the next hiker who planned to use that campsite.
Ya, we do need to keep track of it for sure and be kind in the “no trace.”