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Goat packing gains toehold, but feds want forests goat-free

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Pack horses are tried and true, and mules are proven hunting-gear haulers.

Hunting elk with a trio of domestic goats, though, is an acquired taste.

John and Nancy Clough of Dalton Gardens have joined a growing number of Western hunters who hike into the backcountry with a tribe of herd animals, outfitted with panniers, bumping against their backsides as they climb mountains, cross streams and settle in for a shot at a bull elk.

“Sometimes the elk are curious,” said John Clough, who along with his wife have for decades used bows and rifles to down sheep, elk and deer across the West.

“Sometimes they’ll spook an elk,” Clough told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “You can’t really call them a decoy.”

After years of hard hunting, and packing game meat on their backs the Cloughs settled on goats to get to and from their hunting grounds.

A health condition prompted the move: John suffered from arthritis in his spine.

Instead of curtailing their hunting endeavors, the Cloughs — who are members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Wild Sheep Foundation — joined another group. They became goat-owning members of the North American Packgoat Association.

The couple raise three goats on one residential acre, and all they need to stow their goat gear and keep the animals fed and happy is a 10 x 16 shed that’s loaded with hay.

“Three goats on an acre is perfect,” Nancy Clough said.

When the couple opted to throw in with goats they realized the city had a covenance against the split-toed ungulates.

“No stallions, bulls, swine or goats,” Nancy, a nurse by trade, said.

She filed for a code change and the city council bought in.

Now several of her neighbors raise goats, and the Cloughs can be seen walking their trio through town on halters, or on nearby Canfield Mountain just to get them in shape for the elk-packing season.

The animals can pack 25 percent of their body weight — around 80 pounds — are quiet, hard working and eat on the fly. They travel as many as eight miles a day, fully loaded.

“They eat just like an elk or deer,” John said.

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