4 Things You May Not Know About Mountain Goats

Feb 12, 2021B.C. Hunting, Kawdy News


Mountain goats have become one of the most sought-after big game species in North America. While Mountain goats can be found in 14 different U.S. states and Canadian provinces, the best hunting opportunities are in British Columbia. Despite our own bias, B.C. has the quantity, trophy quality and availability to make it the best mountain goat hunting destination on earth.

Mountain goat hunting has become more and more in-demand over the past decade. As high-adventure mountain hunting has gained popularity, so has the interest in mountain goats. Despite that increase in popularity, most hunters know very little about them. Other than the rugged and steep terrain that mountain goats inhabit, few hunters can tell you much about the day-to-day lives of these unique animals.

Here are a few things you may not already know about mountain goats.

1. A Unique Species

First, it’s interesting to note that mountain goats share the same subfamily group with true goats. The subfamily Caprinae includes sheep, goats, chamoix and muskox. However, mountain goats belong to their own unique genus. True goats belong to the genus, Capra, which includes ibex. But mountain goats are the only members of the genus, Oreamnos. They are only native to North America, making them totally unique.

BC Mountain Goat Hunt

2. Survival and Defenses

Mountain goats inhabit such harsh terrain because that is their primary means of safety. They are able to traverse cliffs and rugged mountainsides, keeping them out of reach of predators. As hunters, this makes mountain goat hunting a challenge. But it also provides opportunities. The broken terrain often allows us to stalk within range while avoiding a direct line of sight. The best approach for a stalk is often from above.

3. What They Eat

Goats are opportunistic in their feeding habits. They can be grazers and browsers. During warm summer weather, they live on high, green slopes above timberline. They survive mostly on grasses, forbs and low-growing plants during this time. During the winter, mountain goats will descend in elevation to timberline. Mountain goat diets during the winter vary regionally, depending on what is available. But browsing on low shrubs is common during these months.

Mountain Caribou Hunt in BC

4. Identifying a Billy

If you’ve never hunted mountain goats, one of the most difficult aspects can be learning to tell the difference between a billy and a nanny. But after some time studying them through binoculars or a spotting scope, you’ll get the hang of it. For an experienced mountain goat hunting guide, quickly identifying billies and nannies becomes second nature.

A billy will be larger in stature than a nanny. The billy will also have heavier horns, most noticeably at the bases. A good rule of thumb is that a billy will have bases larger than his eye. A billy’s horns will have a gradual, even curve from the base through the tip. However a nanny’s horns will appear to extend straight up from the base and then curve closer to the tip.

We harvest almost exclusively billies – most obviously for the trophy quality. But also because the take of nannies will have a much larger impact on the population dynamics. There may be cases when it’s reasonable to harvest an old, dry nanny (one with no kids). Some of the top scoring mountain goats in the record books have been old nannies. However, hunters should expect to look for a quality billy on their hunt.

Contact Us with Questions

Mountain goats are undoubtedly one of the most unique big game trophies in North America. If you’d like to learn more about our guided mountain goat hunts in British Columbia, please visit our Mountain Goat Hunts Page. For details or more specifics, please contact us anytime.

British Columbia Hunt

Written by Ryan McSparran

Ryan McSparran is an outdoor writer, a hunting and fly fishing guide, and very proud to be a part of the Kawdy Outfitters team.