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Hunting Mountain Goats

Mountain goats frolic at the top of a mountain in the Snake River Range in Swan Valley Idaho
Mountain goats frolic at the top of a mountain in the Snake River Range in Swan Valley Idaho

 

 

Mountain Goat, blue sky
A nice Billy on a Wyoming Ridge

Mountain Goats make their homes n the highest parts of the mountains, where people find it difficult to go. The grace and beauty of this majestic creature are a treasure to see if you are lucky enough to come across any. Their agility and grace in their steep and rocky home are a marvel to watch. Mountain Goat country is a remote land, extremes of weather, and the pitch of the terrain have made it unsuitable for human habitation and nature, realizing that the severity would support no more than a handful of species, has singled out a select few critters to become the denizens of the mountain slopes. So, as the eagle rules the skies, the Mountain Goat is the master of these high cliffs.

Hunting these a monarchs of the Rocky Mountains hanging amid cliff faces, and scrambling talus slopes, at altitudes that cause most mortals to gasp (for oxygen) is not a task for the timid. Among all North American game species, they exemplify the essence of wilderness and dignity. Few creatures can survive where they thrive. In the space between forests and sky, between earth, and the heavens, is where dreams come true and memories are etched indelibly on the mind and in the heart of the hunter.

Preparing for and executing a hunt is a challenging experience that many hunters dream of taking. However, considering that relatively few hunters have first hand experience of Mountain Goat hunting there is much to consider.

Most early hunting expeditions were by pack train to the country in the highest reaches along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and today’s hunts remain quite the same. For many this remains part of the attraction to saddle up the horses and load up the packhorses and mules and setting out for Mountain Goat camp high in the mountains. Almost all Mountain Goat outfitting in the Greater Yellowstone region is done in this old time style, with packhorses and tent frame camps because this is still the most efficient way to get to the remote, high altitude home of the Mountain Goat. Many elk and deer outfitters provide hunting camps like this as well. There are many do it yourselfers that successfully hunt on foot, it is just a more grueling pack out with heavy loads on our backs while covering incredibly steep, snow-covered terrain.

Mountain Goats on cliff
Mountain Goat, billies, nannies and kids are all at home on cliff faces

Mountain Goat hunt units although sometimes are close to the road rarely are but are often in the wildest parts of the forest, and it’s important that you determine how to access your unit in advance. Typical access might be by jeep road, boat, backcountry airstrips, pack animal, and/or foot. If in wilderness areas there will be limitations on vehicle usage and some states require you to hire a guide if you are hunting in a designated wilderness.

Mountain Goat hunting involves a lot of glassing. Binoculars of the top quality are recommended. Look high on the mountain but do not forget to look below you as well. Big billies can be found in the timbered foothills, the rockiest gorges, as well as the highest peaks, there is no predicting where you will find them. Often, the terrain will be hillsides with at least 2000 vertical feet elevation difference bottom to top. Most of the time expect to see them up on the jagged mountainsides, tops, or slides. Sometimes they come down for water. They are most active at first light and last light.

Billy goats (males) are distinguished by their more 'muscular' build, the females (nanny goats) are still pretty muscular but slighter and they are perhaps most easily distinguished by having a kid or two at their side. Mountain Goats weigh from 150 to 300 pounds which puts them equal too and sometimes larger than mule deer. Mountain Goats are unique in that male and female both have horns, a single pair curved slightly backward, and for the same age are about the same length, except the billies’ horns are thicker. A good horn length on either sex is 9 or 10 inches.

A mountain Goat kid  in his vertical world
A Mountain Goat kid at home in his vertical world

When out in the open, their white bodies contrasted to the surrounding rocks allow them to be seen from thousands of yards. Often negating the need for a spotting scope but they do come in handy for selecting which white dot you want to take home with you.

A good rifle is important, as is your ability to use it effectively so practice before your hunt. Learn the trajectory of your chosen caliber because your shooting opportunities are probably going to be long and few. Judging distance in the mountains is tough, but technology has come to the rescue, a range finder now being marketed now can take the guesswork out of shooting distance, so buy one.

There are a few tips that are essential to understand before you hunt. The first important requirement is to understand that hunting Mountain Goat country is steep, tough, and a long way from anywhere. Scout your hunt area in advance. This may not be easy as many hunt areas are a long way from civilization and not manageable on a weekend trip. Consider chartering a plane and fly the area, many outfitters do the same. For several hundred dollars you get a good look, you may not see any on your flight, but you'll see what you're up against.

Always remember, they have excellent eyes, stay off the skylines, take it slow; use your optics. A high vantage point is helpful, get above them. When you are below them you’ll be looking for the heads of bedded Mountain Goat; when above them, you can look for full bodies. Early in the season they don’t move much. Glass for animals; look for sign.

Close shots are unlikely when hunting these critters, although an experienced guide may help get as close as possible. Before shooting you will also have to evaluate whether you will be able to extricate an animal in the terrain they are in, or what will happen if you wound the animal. Wounded Goats are known to take a suicide leap with their last breath. So wait for a good kill shot in reasonable terrain. If you kill the goat, you have to hope it will land where you can retrieve it, as it will likely involve much going up and down hills or worse, cliffs. The goat may decide to drop dead on an inaccessible ledge, or it may drop into a deep canyon. If it falls too far it may resemble generic protoplasm when you find it, if you find it.

mountain goat decending a cliff face with ease
Mountain goat decending a cliff face with ease

There will be long days in the saddle, or worse on foot, and the climbing will be tough on your body. It is essential to get your body in good physical condition. It is important to remember that the air is thinner at higher elevations than it is at sea level, and getting enough oxygen for some might be tough. Don't let your poor physical condition ruin your hunt. You have to rough it to hunt Mountain Goats, and you can count on long days and cold nights. Rain is a possibility, and snow is a probability in the fall. A healthy body and attitude is important to survive a long hunt in the mountains. Always use caution in the mountains and take a pack with emergency gear, as you are usually a long way away from anywhere. It is foolish to spend any time in the mountains without adequate clothing. You cannot have too many clothes; mountain weather can turn dangerous in hours if not minutes. All the rules of safety must be observed, and these preparations are as important as your physical conditioning. A GPS is a great safety device to have in your pack also.

 

Mountain Goat Family
A mountain goat family

As with any outdoor adventure in alpine or rugged terrain, it is recommended that at least one partner go along just in case. See to it that you have comfortable and durable boots. Your trip will be ruined if you hike in the mountains feeling ill at ease with your footwear. A fall or accident while alone could be disastrous. Sometimes pack animals can be used goat hunting, though the pack animals should not be counted upon to get you up to the goats themselves. Hunting these critters is a challenge, a challenge a real hunter would die for and might if not careful when traversing the face of a cliff. They can walk where predators fear to tread, or at least should not attempt to do so. And that includes hunters.

When hunting goats, even a minor injury could be devastating. A sprained or broken ankle here, in the heart of a Wilderness Area (where helicopters, vehicles, chainsaws, and even bicycles are restricted) could mean an expensive visit from Search and Rescue. The Greater Yellowstone Region’s highly coveted mountain goat tags may place you in some of the most fertile grizzly bear habitat in the West. Know about grizzlies.

These hunts can be the experience of a lifetime that is if you're fortunate enough to get a permit. While not quite a threatened species, the Mountain Goat is few enough in numbers to warrant carefully managing the hunting of them in the states, by controlled hunt draw, auction, or lottery/raffle. Rules vary from state to state, in some states everyone starts on equal footing every year, while in others you must accumulate points to get in position for a tag. Some states even offer a blend of raffles/lotteries and limited draws.

Hope you hunt is successful and safe.

Mountain Goat Hunting Outfitters
elk hunting guide, jackson hole wyoming
Mill Iron Ranch • (Jackson Hole) Mill Iron Ranch has been a Wheeldon family tradition for three generations. We carry on the old cowboy traditions around here, showing the Jackson visitors how to ride, fish, hunt and camp.
Hidden Basin Outfitters (Jackson Hole) Jackson Hole is home to some of the finest big game hunting on earth, where hunters have the opportunity to pursue animals in their natural habitat. Our experienced and fully-licensed guides will lead you and your party in search of cow elk, bull elk, moose, sheep, mule deer, antelope, and bear. For Big Game Hunters Looking for a True Wyoming Experience!
elk hunters, jackson hole wyoming

Hunting Stories and Information

 

Cowboy, campfire
Steve Horn enjoing a utility fire

How To Build a Fire Pit in the Woods (Without Getting Injured)
One of the most important outdoor survival skill to have is an understanding of how to safely build a fire pit. Learning this skill gives you the know-how to keep warm and cook food in cold weather, not to mention, acting as a line of defense from other animals.  In this article, we will be going over the two key aspects of building a safe fire pit in the woods: safety guidelines and the basics of construction.

1. Clear Out a Campfire Area
It's advised that you clear out at least a 10-foot area around your fire pit. To do this, remove any tree limbs, grass, and leaves from the clearing around your fire pit........rest of article

The Modern Hunter-Gatherer •Walking with a loaded rifle in an unfamiliar forest bristling with the signs of your prey is thrilling. It embarrasses me to write that, but it is true. I am not by nature much of a noticer, yet here, now, my attention to everything around me, and deafness to everything else, is complete. Nothing in my experience has prepared me for the quality of this attention. I notice how the day's first breezes comb the needles in the pines, producing a sotto voce whistle and an undulation in the pattern of light and shadow tattooing the tree trunks and the ground. I notice the specific density of the air. But this is not a passive or aesthetic attention; it is a hungry attention, reaching out into its surroundings like fingers, or nerves. My eyes venture deep into thickets my body could never penetrate, picking their way among the tangled branches, sliding over rocks and around stumps to bring back the slenderest hint of movement. In the places too deeply shadowed to admit my eyes, my ears roam at will, returning with the report of a branch cracking at the bottom of a ravine, or the snuffling of a. . .wait: what was that? Just a bird. Everything is amplified. Even my skin is alert, so that when the shadow launched by the sudden ascent of a turkey vulture passes overhead I swear I can feel the temperature momentarily fall. I am the alert man....................... rest of article

Yellowstone Region Hunters Need To Remember That They're in Grizzly Country • When a person hunts they are the one who is in control of the situation. They choose the time, place, animal and the shot. In the past, it was even a rite of passage for young native tribesmen in Canada and Alaska to kill a grizzly bear with a spear! The key was that they practiced and planned on how to control the situation. Today’s hunters are infinitely better equipped when it comes to hunting, but how prepared they are for a surprise encounter with a formidable wild creature such as a grizzly bear may be another story, unless they too prepare and plan ahead........More

Greater Yellowstone Region Hunting Outfitters

 

A nice Greater Yellowstone Bull Elk

Swan Valley Outfitters • (Swan Valley ID) Swan Valley Outfitters is a family owned and operated business. We offer the best scenic trail rides and hunting in the are . We offer many different hunts from mountain lion to trophy elk. Our experienced team of guides and mounts will take you on the experience of a lifetime.

Hidden Basin Outfitters (Jackson Hole WY) Jackson Hole is home to some of the finest big game hunting on earth, where hunters have the opportunity to pursue animals in their natural habitat. Our experienced and fully-licensed guides will lead you and your party in search of cow elk, bull elk, moose, sheep, mule deer, antelope, and bear. For Big Game Hunters Looking for a True Wyoming Experience!

Non-Typical Outfitters • (Star Valley WY) Robb and Dr. Brenda Wiley make their home in one of the most beautiful places that God ever created, the mountains of western Wyoming. Brenda practices veterinary medicine and Robb lives his passion, providing your hunting and fishing opportunities in the Wyoming back country..........We feel that Non-Typical Outfitters has the ability to provide an unmatched opportunity for trophy hunting in Wyoming. The amount of time that we spend in the field before your hunt starts is one of the things that separates us from the rest. We spend extensive days in the preseason locating our trophy animals. For us trophy hunting is a year around job.............We are the most diversified permitted outfitter in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Our hunting area encompasses over 900 square miles of National Forest and close to double that in BLM lands. This gives us the ability to hunt the top trophies in the area without over pressuring any part of it. We can hunt out of a forest camp or a lodge and have the ability to tailor a hunt to almost anyone's needs.

There are several places to hunt Mountain Goats in the Yellowstone Region

Jake's Horses • (Island Park WY) All day or by the hour trail rides, alpine lake fishing, hunting, pack trips & guide service. We are located in Island Park, Idaho.

Mill Iron Ranch • (Jackson Hole WY) Mill Iron Ranch has been a Wheeldon family tradition for three generations. We carry on the old cowboy traditions around here, showing the Jackson visitors how to ride, fish, hunt and camp.

Wind River Trophy Hunts • (Pinedale WY) We provide hunters with the unique experience of hunting in the remote backcountry that contains one of the healthiest elk populations in the state of Wyoming. For hunters looking for the ultimate hunting experience - whether it be elk, moose, sheep, antelope, or mountain lions - Wind River Trophy Hunts is your best bet!

Jenkin's Hunting Camp • (Star Valley WY) Larry Jenkins' Hunting Camp has provided Big Game Hunting since the 1970s. His hunting camp is a family run operation where Larry, his wife Shirley, and their two sons and daughter are all part of your hunting experience. Larry and his family have owned and operated their camp for over 30 years. By specializing in pleasing the individual, Larry can gear the hunt to your own abilities and desires. The saddle horses are all mountain trained and gentle enough to carry you all day in safety. However, Larry prefers to ride as little as possible and still get your game. Your not in the saddle all day long. You can expect an average of 80% success rate on buck mule deer. Larry's hunter success on bull elk ranges from 80 to 100% average each year.Many of these bulls are trophys.

Many Bighorn Rams like this one have been harvested from the mountain tops of the Greater Yellowstone Region

Sheep Creek Outfitters • (West Yellowstone MT) is a small family outfitting business located in the West Yellowstone, Montana Area. I am a full-time outfitter with over thirty years experience hunting Elk, Mule Deer, & other Big Game in the Rocky Mountains. We take only a limited number of hunters per season, approximately fourteen to sixteen rifle hunters and eight archery hunters. Each hunt period is an eight day trip (six actual hunt days) and a nine day trip (seven actual hunt days) for archery. The two non-hunting days are pack-in and pack-out days. We take only four hunters per hunt.

Boulder Basin Outfitters • (Cody WY) Generations of Experience Hunting and Fishing Wyoming Carl and Michelle Sauerwein, owners of Boulder Basin Outfitters, bring more than a lifetime's worth of hunting and fishing experience to their Wyoming outfitting business. Born and raised into a family with outfitting experience that spans back generations, Carl has more skill and knowledge of Wyoming big game hunting and fishing than the average Cody Country Outfitter

Elk Ridge Outfitters • ( Bozeman MT) We hunt the Bridger Range northwest of Bozeman, hunting districts 393 and 312. This 28,000 acre private ranch takes in 2 major drainages. The ridges and slopes are covered with scattered timber and numerous basins. Elevations vary from 5,200 ft. to 7,200 ft. The Bridger Mountains of south central Montana offer hunters one of the highest success rates in Montana for elk. Private land and limited access allows us to manage elk numbers and limit bull harvest.

Absaroka Ranch • (Dubois Wyoming) Our hunting area is the most magnificent Dunoir Valley located northwest of Dubois, Wyoming. The Dunoir remains one of the last truly abundant wildlife and virtually hunter - free areas in the state, if not the entire West. We provide nearly everything for your hunt such as saddles, rifle scabbards and saddle bags, and you will enjoy a comfortable, modern cabin and excellent, hearty meals. All you provide is license, rifle, ammunition, and other personal hunting gear. Please don't hesitate to call or write us for additional hunting information. You'll find the hunting excellent, the crew superbly qualified, and the country spectacular. We'd love to have you along for the fun, excitement, and sheer pleasure of a true Rocky Mountain big game hunt!

Big Game Animals of the Greater Yellowstone Region

 

Want to know more about hunting in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho? A Northern Rockies big game hunt is the ultimate thrill; it also justifies all those Cabela's and LL Bean purchases. The Greater Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming offer some of the finest hunting opportunities on the planet. It also has some of the most experienced outfitters and guides found anywhere. Add a Yellowstone region moose, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bison, black bear, hunt, or maybe even a wolf hunt to your bucket list.

Some people say that it is just luck whether you harvesting big game when you are hunting, and it may be to some extent, but it is more knowledge than anything. Luck favors the prepared mind. One must have an understanding of the animal, and it's habits during any given time of hunting season. During hunting season game animals are often breeding or migrating and knowing what is on their mind can aid you in the hunt. That doesn't mean that they will be there to cooperate but that is where you would start.

Anyone who has hunted big game in the Rockies knows how important it is to be in good physical condition. Your physical condition will be put to it's limits so it is very important too first get into shape so your hunt won't end up as a disaster. After considering all these things, you still have to deal with an animal after it is down and be prepared to call on all your conditioning to cope with it. There are game hauling contractors that provide “ you tag them, we will drag them” services that you can hire to pack out our harvest. This can be money well spent. If it is your first Rocky Mountain hunt you do not want it to be your last.

The weather in Rocky Mountain country can change in a matter of minutes. The clothing and gear that you take with you are as important as anything else when you consider a hunting trip into the Yellowstone region backcountry.

If you are a nonresident hunter, it has already been a costly trip; so don't be unsuccessful by trying to save a few dollars. Make the phone calls, use the web, seek the advice of the local hunters, and use the proper equipment and consider the value of hiring a hunting outfitter that can guarantee you a shot at an animal.

There are resources to help you get informed such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Game and Fish department for the state you will be hunting in.

Elk
 
Jackson Hole Elk Herd

Most early hunting expeditions were by pack train to the fabulous backcountry and today’s hunts remain quite the same. For many this remains part of the attraction, to saddle up the horses and load up the packhorses and mules and setting out for hunting camp high in the mountains. Many outfitters in the Greater Yellowstone region hunt this old time style, with packhorses and tent frame camps because this is still the most efficient way to get to the remote areas where the hunting is best. Many bighorn sheep and deer outfitters provide hunting camps like this as well.

Elk hunting in The Greater Yellowstone region can be one of the most remarkable experiences of a lifetime. Here in the Greater Yellowstone region you will see either the splendor of the Grand Tetons, the Gros Ventre Mountains, the Wyoming Range, the Absoraka Range, Snake River Range, or the Big Hole's. Jackson Hole is also the home of the National Elk Refuge where 6 to 12 thousand elk spend their winter taunting you into thinking that your hunt is going to be easy. In the Greater Yellowstone area there are many outfitters and guides to choose from if you choose to not go without a guide. ------------------ More info

Mule Deer
 
Gros Ventre Mountain Trophy Mule Deer Buck

Southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming are both famous for producing big mule deer bucks. Most early hunting expeditions were by pack train to the fabulous backcountry and today’s hunts remain quite the same. For many this remains part of the attraction, to saddle up the horses and load up the packhorses and mules and setting out for hunting camp high in the mountains. Many outfitters in the Greater Yellowstone region hunt this old time style, with packhorses and tent frame camps because this is still the most efficient way to get to the remote areas where the hunting is best. Many bighorn sheep and elk outfitters provide hunting camps like this as well.

Your best hunting will probably be in the higher elevations where rugged country limits access to all but the most hardcore hunters and outfitters in the know. This area has long been known for its excellent deer habitat and herd genetics. Controlled hunts in the Upper Snake region are coveted for the opportunity to hunt mule deer during the rut in late November. --------------------- more info

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
 
Bighorn Rams on the fight

The Greater Yellowstone region is a stronghold of the bighorn and has gained a worldwide reputation for producing the some of the biggest Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. There have been many fabulous rams harvested in the Greater Yellowstone area with a good number of them scoring over 200. Bighorn sheep are heavy horned and often broom (breaking the tips of the horns off to help vision). It is very difficult to find an old ram that reaches anywhere near 40 inches long after the loss of the lamb tips from brooming. However, most sheep hunters value a heavy horned old ram regardless of brooming as a fine trophy.

The Greater Yellowstone region bighorn sheep have always been a premier trophy for sportsmen from around the world. The sheep outfitting industry in this area has a long respected reputation as good producers of trophies for their clients.---------------------------- More info

Shiras Moose
 
A nice Greater Yellowstone Bull Moose
It is said in Alaska that the most dangerous animal in Alaska is the moose. It is not that moose are more fierce or aggressive than bears, it is because more people are injured and killed by moose because many people think that moose are giant cartoon characters and consequently don’t give them the room they need to feel comfortable. Most animals have a "fight or flight distance" the shorter an animals fight or flight distance is the more likely they will fight instead of flee. Moose, bear and bison all have short fight or flight distances. The lesson being When observing or photographing moose don’t mistake their docile inspection of you as tameness because they are just trying to figure out if they want to trot into the woods or to kill you.--------------------- more info
Mountain Goat
 

 

Snake River Range Mountain Goat

The Mountain Goats of the Greater Yellowstone eco-system make a home on the vertical planes of the Rocky Mountains where they cling and move around on the impossibly steep slopes of this unforgiving and barren terrain, Mountain Goats can survive on scant food in incredibly hostile environs. Mountain goats fit perfectly into the category of "charismatic mega-fauna." Their beauty, grace, and athleticism, is a treat to watch and their cute faces are always a thrill to see. The kids are precocious, able to move on steep slopes within hours of birth, an awe-inspiring site in itself.

Although the Yellowstone Ecosystem has an abundance of Mountain Goat habitat, Goats are not endemic to the region. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, there were several hundred of the shaggy cliff dwelling creatures transplanted from western Montana to the Beartooth, Absaroka, Madison, Bridger, and Crazy mountains and the Snake River Range. Hundreds of them now inhabit the high country. Some of those animals are willing to leave their preferred high-elevation habitat to cross rivers, and valleys too colonize new places. There haven’t been any transplants in the Gallatin Range, for instance, but goats thrive there today. -----------------------------> More

Bison
 
Bison/Buffalo Full Moon

The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is the only place in the lower 48 states where an endemic population of wild bison has survived since prehistoric times. Perhaps no other animal symbolizes the American West like the American bison. In prehistoric times millions of these quintessential creatures of the plains roamed the North America from northern Canada, south into Mexico and from Atlantic to the pacific. No one knows how many bison were in America before Columbus arrived but the guesstimate is about sixty million. They were the largest community of wild animals that the world has ever known. For a good part of the 1800s bison were considered to be in limitless supply.

After the Civil War the push to settle the west was on, new army posts were established, coinciding with the westward push of the railroads. The army and railroads contracted with local men to supply buffalo meat to feed the troops and construction laborers.

Bison were hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1800’s and were reduced to less than a thousand animals by the end of the century. Many western legends took part in the big buffalo hunt including Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett, Wild Bill Hickok, and William F. Cody, just to name a few. ------------------------------------> more

Black Bear
 
Greater Yellowstone Region Cinnamon Black Bear

The black bear ranges across forested Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia as well as much of the United States. A solitary animal most of the year, they pair up briefly during the mating season. Cubs remain with their mother for about a year, who protects which prevents them from being killed by the adult males. 
    

Black bears swim well and often climb trees to feed on buds and fruit. They have a keen sense of smell, acute hearing, but poor eyesight. They can be seen at any hour of the day, but are most active at night. When very young, the cubs cry when afraid and hum when contented.  .................................more

Pronghorn Antelope
 
watchful Pronghorn Antelope
A watchful pronghorn surveys his territory

Pronghorn Antelope are considered by some to be the most dazzling of North American big game animals, with their distinct brown and white coloration accented by black cheek patches and glossy black horns. Few sights are more awesome for a hunter than a clear sky sunrise over a and high country meadow with a gorgeous buck sporting tall, glistening, black horns, after creeping to peak over a knoll for a chance to harvest one of these great animals.

Hunting pronghorn antelope is an exciting challenge because they prefer the open country of the deserts, plains, and high country meadows so they can see any approaching danger a long way off. During hunting season, the grasses and forbes on the prairie are a light brown, and the sage is a dark gray-green, the pronghorns coat often blends in with these colors making sometimes making them difficult to spot on the open prairies unless their white bellies and rumps are visible above the grass and sage. All things being perfect sometimes these white patches make it possible for hunters to see them from long distances though.........................more about hunting Pronghorn Antelope

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