Lessons From A New Goat Packer by Amy Flygare
I’ll be the first to admit that I still feel like a complete newbie to this whole pack goat thing. As a new goat packer, we started our pack goat journey about 2 years ago when we rented a couple of big Saanens from Clay Zimmerman of High Uinta Pack Goats and took them to the Wind Rivers. Immediately following that trip we began our plans to get our own herd. So fast forward 2 years. We now have five goats. One 6 year old gentle giant, two amazing Dwite Sharp Alpines that are 16 months old, and two barnyard bred yearling Oberhaslis.
Last summer we took our babies out on a couple isolated and remote overnighters and had a great time. Babies are easy. Just bring their bottles and you’re good. This year it seemed like there could be a lot more drama on the trail and in camp.
We knew wanted to access a couple of spots this summer that are known to always have high traffic trailheads and access trails. We tried to prepare ourselves ahead of time by getting advice from some more experienced friends and packers, and internet-goat-gurus on trail management, and in-camp goat management. And then we decided to go for it and give it a trial by fire. What I’m going to share with you are a few of the things that we did that worked and didn’t work and maybe save you from having to learn the hard way.
On our way in on a busy trail, we thought that everyone in our group should just grab a goat and move to the side when we needed to pass people. That did not work well at all since we had five goats, two adults, and two mini humans with us. Our boys kept wanting to follow everyone they saw and inevitably one would pull away from our kids and take off following Joe Hiker
So, on the way out we took a different approach and decided to put one adult in the front of the pack with a big stick, dog dazer and pepper spray and one in the back and just hike through hoping that everyone would yield to stock animals. It worked awesome. We probably passed over a hundred people, and almost every one would step to the side and allow us to pass easily. (Other than the million questions and photos!) I have one goat who was a little nervous passing people so I just kept his lead rope out and would lead him through the traffic with no problem. Anyone we encountered with a dog (and there were a lot) we asked nicely as soon as we saw them, to make sure they had a handle on their dog and we would either take a route off the trail or ask them to step to the side (depending on how hungry/mean the dog looked). We only ran into one person with a dog off-leash and saw them far enough in advance we could ask them to grab their dog. Maybe we just got lucky but it seemed to work really well and after the first couple of groups, our goats seemed to figure out what we wanted them to do. The pepper spray and big sticks made me feel much more confident of defending my goats and my family in the event that things went south.
In camp, I was really grateful for advice from people like Marc, who told us that you need to be a little patient while the goats figured out where they were and were not allowed. They all wanted to nibble anything left unattended. Bring several spray bottles and make sure to be consistent on where you allow your goats. We set up our tent with a trio of trees behind it. Then we just tossed some dead fall around the backside of the trees so the goats could only approach our tent from the front side. We then stored all the backpacks and whatever we needed to access quickly behind the tent and in front of the deadfall corral. The goats learned quickly by the “BACK” command and a quick squirt, that they were not to go near our tent. Same thing applied when we were preparing food. “BACK” and a squirt. Done deal.
Another thing that worked well for us was the nighttime tie outs. We have struggled with low lines and high lines and goats getting tangled. We were introduced to the “Orange Screw” at the NAPGA Rendezvous this year and thought we would try it. The Orange Screw went easily into the ground. The goats were given just enough space that they were near each other but couldn’t get tangled in each other’s leashes or deadfall. On the collar end of the leash we attached a swivel clip and they were able to move around and not have their leash twist and tangle. It was the most successful tie out to date. Zero goat drama.
Now if we could get everyone to agree on goats by the campfire, we’d be set!