How Do I Love Thee, My Pack Goat?

The news from the doc wasn’t encouraging.

“You’re done carrying 50 pound packs, splitting wood, and packing out game on your back. You’re wearing out your spine. Keep it up and you’re looking at another back surgery. I don’t want you lifting over 25 pounds.”

Yeah, right. I’m an outdoorsman, okay? Carrying a heavy pack, splitting wood, and packing out game on my back is what I do. But that first surgery hurt much more than carrying a heavy pack, splitting firewood, and carrying out game on my back. I sure didn’t want another back surgery. So…

“Grover” – photo copyright by Mike L. Raether

Enter the pack goat.

For some time I’d been intrigued with the idea of goat packing. Goats have many advantages over other types of pack stock. True, you can’t ride them and they can’t carry as much weight at llamas, mules, and horses but as far as I’m concerned, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

How do I love thee, my pack goat? Let me count the ways –

  • I don’t need a big stock trailer. Goats can be transported in the back of a pickup, but personally I use a little half ton trailer with extended sides.
  • Goats can carry up to 25% of their weight. My pack goat weighs about 165 and carries about 40 pounds. That’s 40 pounds on his back instead of mine. I like this idea. A lot. As some pack goats can go over 200 pounds, this means 50 pounds or more on their backs instead of yours.
  • I don’t have to shoe my goat or even trim his hooves, as long as we hike enough. A goat’s  hooves wear down pretty fast on a hard trail.
  • I don’t have to pack feed. Goats eat just about anything (except tin cans), although they do like a handful of grain as a treat.
  • Goats usually don’t buck or bite, but they might nibble on your shirttail to see if it’s edible.
  • They’re affectionate, but they have bad breath. Goat burps are stinky. Then again, so are human burps.
  • They’re easy to keep. Currently my pack goat lives in a 16X48’ enclosure using 50 inch tall cattle panels. In addition, he has a little house where he can get out of the weather. I could easily add a couple more goats to this set up.
  • They don’t eat much and their feed doesn’t have to be top quality. Last summer I bought a ton of grass hay for my pack goat and he’s just now getting to the last bale.
  • They don’t drink much water. In fact, they can go for a few days without drinking. Dry camps don’t bother them.
  • Pack goats are usually cheap to buy, but you may have to raise them from kids as trained and experienced pack goats are pretty spendy – if you can even find one for sale.
  • They’re incredibly sure footed; they can go everywhere you go and places you can’t (or won’t) go.
  • They’re recycling machines. Goat raisins make great compost.

There are a number of different breeds of goats, and some are better for packing than others. Alpines, Toggenburgs, and Saanans are all larger breeds that make good pack goats. You’ll want a goat that will weigh a minimum of 160 pounds when mature. Most pack goats are wethers (castrated males). But if you like goat’s milk get a doe for packing and you can have fresh milk in camp.

So – are you ready to do it with a goat?

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

Opportunity Lost

It was a great spot. I could see 100 yards in most directions through the Lodgepole Pine that clothed this Montana ridge. It was late October, and the snow was pocked with fresh deer tracks. By the half light of a promising dawn I brushed a few inches of snow off a convenient log, took a seat, and rested the rifle across my knees.

“Graceful Deer” by Dawn Huczek is licensed under CC 4.0. Cropped from original.

I had a buck tag in my pocket, but I wasn’t hunting deer. I had one of the  few cow elk permits for this area and I was out to fill my freezer with some of the finest eating available from the hunter’s woods.

And mixed with those whitetail tracks was elk tracks. From experience I knew that elk fed below me on the grassy, open south face at night and bedded during the day in the tangle of dense downfall and brush on the north face. I was hoping to intercept them on the crest of this east-west ridge.    

I leaned my back against a convenient tree, blew out a frosty sigh and settled in for a wait. After a few minutes I raised a cow elk call to my lips and blew a few enticing notes. I waited, then repeated. I waited some more.

The whitetail buck appeared out of nowhere, as unexpected as a spring snowstorm. Suddenly he was just there, standing barely 30 yards away, eyes boring into me. Apparently he’d crept in to investigate the elk call.

The buck appeared curious, perhaps wondering where I’d come from. I studied his antlers through my binoculars. Nice rack. Not huge, but nice. The main beams were thick and gnarly at their bases. They gracefully swept up and forward and in width stretched out well past his ears. There were just three tines per side but they stood tall and proud, the tallest more than a foot long.       

“I think I’ll let him go.” I lowered my binoculars. I was more than a mile from my truck. It would take all day to get this buck off the mountain, and my elk hunt would be cancelled for the day. I had plenty of season left to fill my buck tag. Four more weeks lay ahead of me. Still, he really was a pretty decent buck…

I raised my binoculars again for another peek while the buck stood as still as a fence post, watching me. I might get a chance at a bigger buck later in the season, but I might not. If I filled my buck tag now, then I could put all my efforts into hunting elk for the rest of the season.

“I think I’ll take him.” Slowly lowering my binoculars, I began easing the rifle up to my shoulder. But the buck had grown tired of the game. Suddenly, without warning he turned, flipped his tail and was gone. I’d looked too much, and waited too long. The opportunity was gone as quickly as a popped balloon.

I continued calling for elk but without success. Late in the day as I descended the mountain, I thought about the drama with the buck. Why had I hesitated? That buck was probably a gift from God, a diamond opportunity to tag out. And I’d missed it.       

I began thinking about some of the other diamond opportunities God has given me that I’ve missed because I’ve hesitated. Not just opportunities to take game, but opportunities in other areas of life.

God is not silent. He calls to us, sometimes even challenges us. And like that buck on that ridge, He often waits patiently while we make up our minds. But also like the buck, He won’t wait forever. If we hesitate too long, the opportunity might turn, flip its tail and flee. Of course, sometimes the opportunities come again. But sometimes they don’t.

By the way – you may be wondering if I ever filled that buck tag. No, I did not…

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

It’s Okay to be a Skeptic

Most people think of skepticism as being negative, but there’s a positive side too. I’m not going to list the negatives, because I don’t want to insult your intelligence. So on to the positives –

First off, we’re not talking about being cynical or condemning.  Cynics can be skeptics, sure, but  cynics are always negative and pessimistic. And as I said, there’s a positive side to skepticism. So now I’ll get to the point.

Skepticism is related to doubt, and the positive about being doubtful is that those who doubt are in many cases just looking for more information. They want to believe, but need more light. Doubters aren’t lemmings; they want reasons to believe.

Did Jesus Christ ever condemn people for having doubts? I look to the Bible as my yardstick, so recently I went to the New Testament to learn about how Jesus related to doubters. Here’s what I found:

Those who persecuted Jesus were in complete denial about His claims. Jesus had no time for the cynics, or those who refused to believe. But He comforted those who doubted, because He knew that the desire for confirmation was root of their doubts .

A couple of cases to consider –

The first: Jesus once said of John the Baptizer that he was the greatest of all those born of women. Yet after John was cast into prison for standing up to King Herod, he suffered doubts. Earlier John had pointed to Jesus as the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29).  But now languishing in a filthy prison he wondered if it had all been in vain. Had he really done the right thing? Was Jesus really the Messiah?

So John sent some of his people to Jesus with the question, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). So how did Jesus respond to John’s faltering faith? He reassured him – basically told John that his efforts were not in vain:

“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”  (Luke 7:22). John later lost his head (literally) but I’d bet he did so with a smile.

The second: After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a follower named Thomas had doubts about the resurrection business. He said,  “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25).

Thomas’ comments have earned him the label “doubting Thomas.” But the question is, how did Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubts? The answer is found in John 20:26-27  – “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'”

Sometimes it’s okay to have doubts – it just depends on your reasons for doubting. Go ahead – be a skeptic.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

Why Haters Hate

Hate: No matter how the story is told, it’s a sad story.

“Stop hating (all way)” by sylvar is licensed under CC 4.0

Why do people hate? Not “just because.” No, not at all. There are reasons behind every form of hatred, and all are ugly.

I came up with four base-level forms of hatred. I call them “base-level” because a lot of ugliness gets built on each one.

  • jealously,
  • a desire to feel superior,
  • a need for attention, and
  • for revenge.

But where does all this hate come from? Some would say from the fallen nature of man, and that’s the larger truth. But the smaller truth is that much of the hatred within us was deposited within us by our parents or through our peers. What kind of an example am I leaving for others?

I grew up in the greater Seattle area, a multicultural mecca where prejudice was pretty much unnamed. But I learned at an early age that not everyone considers others as equals.

For example, I remember one family that moved into my neighborhood from a southern state known for its racial tension. One day their son and I got talking. He told me how much he hated blacks, only he didn’t call them blacks. He used another word. Because I was a mean widdow kid (and a lot bigger than the new kid) I thought it would be great sport to sit on the kid, hold him down, and call him “n” “n” and “n” over and over again. Which I did.

The kid turned so red in the face I thought he was going to stroke out. I finally let him up, me laughing and him sputtering and spitting. This, by the way, ended our fledgling friendship.

As I considered all this, I mused, “Did Jesus ever use the word “hate?” He did, actually.  My favorite passage comes from Matthew 5:43-48 –

“‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect [complete], as your heavenly Father is perfect.'” (NASU, emphasis mine).

Of course, the only way we can become perfect, or complete, is by placing our faith in Jesus as Savior (as in, save me from myself and the consequences of my knucklheadedness). He is the only one Who can teach us to truly love. May we yield to Him, so that He can make us perfect, as He is perfect.

So why do haters hate? Because they don’t know how to love.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –