How to Hunt Mountain Goats

Packing out a mountain goat.

So you’ve either drawn a mountain goat tag, purchased an over the counter tag or booked a goat hunt with an outfitter. Now you have to learn how to hunt mountain goats and get into peak physical shape.

People call goats the poor man’s sheep hunt, and for good reason. I have hunted sheep and mountain goats, and I can honestly say that they are both incredibly demanding. However, goats definitely take the cake for living in rougher terrain. Almost every year a few mountain goat hunters die from falls, hypothermia and exposure.

Hiring an outfitter should be seriously considered.

Get in shape!

Read that again. And once more.

Don’t get me wrong, I think anyone who is focused and committed can successfully go mountain goat hunting, but you MUST get yourself in shape. This can be overwhelming to a lot of people, especially if you are not an experienced backcountry/mountain hunter. However, most people who don’t live and hunt this type of terrain on a regular basis, and just don’t realize how much preparation goes into this type of hunting.

Gary Colbath with a mountain goat he shot on Kodiak Island in Alaska. It died in a near vertical chute. Good thing he's in shape.
Gary Colbath with a mountain goat he shot on Kodiak Island in Alaska. It died in a near vertical chute. Good thing he’s in shape.

The right gear is essential for a mountain goat hunt.

You are probably going to spend hours pouring over topo-maps, google earth, talking to wildlife biologists, game wardens, past hunters, reading hunt reports, figuring out logistics, scouting, etc, etc. But another big piece of the puzzle is figuring out what gear and equipment you need. We highly recommend you do your due diligence researching our recommended gear list for a mountain goat hunt.

Get ready to spend hours glassing.

Like most mountain hunts, a mountain goat hunt is a spot and stalk situation. The only difference is that you’ll typically glassing UP towards them instead of from a higher perch. This is because goat country is steep. Very, very steep. And they live on top. Getting above them is just too risky.

Luckily, unless there is snow, they are fairly easy to spot when compared to other big game species. During the morning and evenings, they will move up into the wind-swept cliff faces, open bowls or basins to feed. So, if you’re hunting an area with thick timber, be sure to be glassing the open/rocky country during these times.

Learn how to tell a nanny from a billy.

Most hunters get caught up on learning how to field judge a mountain goat, and yes, that’s important, but the difference in a good goat and a huge one really isn’t that much. Learning how to tell a male from a female is more important.

Both males and females have horns, and it is somewhat difficult to discern between the two. In fact, many wildlife departments allow the taking of nannies. They encourage hunters to avoid nannies and in many cases require an orientation course on sex identification, yet nannies are still mistakenly taken.How to tell a billy from a nanny

Adult Billy

  • Larger horn base, usually wider than the eye.
  • Bases are closer together.
  • Horn is heavy throughout its length.
  • Horn has gradual curve.

Adult Nanny

  • Wider space between horns.
  • Horn is thin throughout its length.
  • Horn is straighter with most of the curve near the end.
  • Smaller born base- equal to or smaller than the eye.

Once you spot a good billy, it’s time for a brutal stalk (usually).

The mountain goat will probably be high above you in the cliffs, so strap on your crampons and start climbing. They’re used to threats from below, so try to stay out of sight, but that can be difficult. Because of this, long shots are the norm. If you’re a bowhunter you’re going to have to try to get above him. If you do get above him, he probably won’t even look up, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Nothing panics a mountain goat like a threat from above. Good luck, and bring along some climbing equipment. You’ll likely need it.

Retrieving your mountain goat is often the most difficult part of the hunt.

Mountain Goat Shot Placement
Mountain goats are notoriously tough. Hit them well!

NEVER shoot at a goat unless you’re confident that you’ll be able to reach it. And don’t expect to drop him in his tracks. Mountain goats are notoriously difficult to anchor and often take a death run over a cliff, even if you hit them perfectly.

If he stays on his feet after the first round, put another one in him as quickly as possible. Keep shooting until he is anchored firmly to the earth.

Now you need to worry about him rolling down the mountain into oblivion and breaking off his horns in the process. A bit of luck is involved here. So, in short, use some wisdom before you pull the trigger.

Luckily a good taxidermist can fix a broken horn.

I’ve seen them fix bullet holes and even cast a completely new horn that looks just as good as Mother Nature made it originally. That said, it’s easier (and cheaper) to just hit them well and anchor them on the spot to so you don’t have to deal with that.

So, are you ready to go mountain goat hunting?

If this sounds fun to you and you think you’re up to the challenge, let us know what you have in mind. We’ll do our best to help you find the perfect mountain goat outfitter and get it booked.

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