Hunting Mountain Goats
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
This subject is very close to my world, as a lifelong Yellowstone junkie, and love the ability to reach way out and see invisible (or kind of hidden) from the road. My wife and I talked about buying one of the overpriced super scopes to see the once in a lifetime spot, and then we took a course or tour with the Yellowstone Association, and the guide used some Nikon scopes, and that helped get us over the love of things too expensive. The scopes the guide used were small enough to move around, easy to find the "target" and follow it through the wilds, and most importantly, the price was under 500 bucks! ..................rest of article
Elk Hunting 101 • Montana, Idaho and Wyoming ranks highly among elk hunting destinations due primarily to its availability of tags. Although the state no longer offers over the counter tags, many of the states hunting units have high draw success rates. There have also been a number of trophy elk over 350” come from Wyoming in recent years.
|Greater Yellowstone Region Hunting Outfitters
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.
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.
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!
I have spent thousands of hours researching for, and creating content to create a market for my photography, for 35+ years I have been roaming this land for landscape and adventure photos and content for this effort. although this was the greatest of adventures exploring every corner of the Greater Yellowstone and sharing it some compensation would be greatly appreciated.