When people ask what we specialize in, we have to list moose, mountain caribou, stone sheep, mountain goat and bear; because it’s all that good. And while moose and mountain caribou have probably made up the lion’s share of our business in terms of the number of hunters, there’s another that’s been growing more quickly in popularity – and that’s mountain goat hunting.
In recent years, there has been a steadily growing interest in mountain goat hunting. Perhaps it’s due in part to the cool films that have been produced by brands like Sitka Gear. Here’s a recent example. Or perhaps it is because of a broader interest in mountain hunting in general. Popular hunting media and films today seem to generate a lot of interest in the high adventure pursuits like sheep hunts and mountain goat hunts.
Whatever the reason, we love the attention because we love hunting these incredible animals. They inhabit spectacular places and make for an unforgettable adventure. But other than the high rocky slopes where they live, not many hunters know very much more about mountain goats. We have the opportunity to watch them at length each season, so we thought we’d share some of those insights.
Are mountain goats actually goats?
Mountain goats are something totally unique. True goats and mountain goats share the same subfamily group called Caprinae, which also includes sheep, muskox and chamoix. But that’s where the similarities end. True goats belong to the genus, Capra, which includes ibex. But mountain goats are the only living member of their genus, called Oreamnos. Mountain goats only live in North America, and there is nothing else like them in the world.
What do they eat?
Goats are opportunistic and their diet varies by location and season. From early summer through the fall, mountain goats are typically found on high elevation tundra above timberline. They live mostly on grasses, forbs and low-growing plants as long as they are available. When winter snowfall arrives, most mountain goats move down in elevation but not far, remaining close to timberline. Their diet during the winter coldest months is completely opportunistic, but most often consists of browsing on available shrubs.
How do you judge a billy from a nanny?
Fortunately, our guides have seen so many goats during their careers that the ability to judge a billy from a nanny is almost instantaneous. With a little practice, most hunters will get the hang of it. The first clue is body size. Another is the thickness and curve of the horns. While horn length may be the same, a billy has thicker horns with an even curve all the way through the horn. Nannies have thinner horns that tend to be straight, with a curve close to the tips.
What is their primary defense?
A mountain goat’s best defense is his position on the mountain. They rely on their steep, rocky haunts to keep them from danger. Mountain goats have an uncanny ability to navigate the most impossible looking terrain. Of course this can make hunting mountain goats a challenge. On the other side of that coin, we can use a goat’s confidence to our advantage. The uneven terrain and rocky ledges can allow us to stalk within range, frequently from above.
Of course we’re biased, but we think mountain goat hunting is one of the greatest hunting adventures available in North America and certainly one of the most beautiful trophies. For information on our trips, please visit our Mountain Goat Page. You may also call us with questions at 250-306-8624 or send us a message.
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.