Mountain goat is a resilient species that seems to be thriving throughout the West while other animals are struggling. This is partly due to the fact that traditional mountain goat habitat doesn’t make very desirable real estate to build on, so human encroachment on their habitat is minimal. Mountain goats reside in multiple states within the U.S. and in Canada. Conservation efforts have played a big part in the increasing numbers, especially when it comes to U.S. distribution. Mountain goat numbers in states like Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming are entirely products of relocation efforts to introduce the mountain goats to suitable habitat, and for the most part, their numbers have been increasing ever since. Even states like Idaho, Montana, and Washington that have historic native range herds of goats have expanded their numbers through relocation efforts. Although these animals are still low in numbers when compared to the big three (deer, elk, and antelope), they are one of the only trophy/once-in-a-lifetime species that continues to expand their home range and provide more hunting opportunities year after year. Don’t get me wrong, draw odds within the U.S., outside of Alaska which has different regulations when acquiring a mountain goat permit, are still long, but they are typically better than sheep or moose draw odds. This article will give you an overview of the best opportunities to put a mountain goat tag in your pocket.
Alaska has draw and over-the-counter permit areas, but both will require a registered Alaskan guide to accompany any non-resident or you must have a next-of-kin relative who is a resident of Alaska accompany you on the hunt. In general, mountain goat hunts in Alaska tend to be very physically demanding, but depending on the area and location of your hunt, some of that can be mitigated with an airplane ride into remote landing strips and alpine lakes. Mountain goat hunts in Alaska typically cost between $7,000 and $11,000, with the price mostly being dependent on accommodations and overall physicality of the hunt. The main thing to keep in mind when looking at booking a hunt for mountain goat in Alaska is to be prepared for a very physically tough hunt.
For those of you who want a little less strenuous hunt, Kodiak mountain goat hunts are often thought to be less physically demanding than most of the other areas within Alaska, but the mountains of Kodiak are still very steep and require some level of being in shape. Alaska’s application deadline for all draw type hunts is typically December 15th. All other registration mountain goat permits can be picked with an outfitter upon your arrival in Alaska.
Almost all mountain goat hunting in Canada is conducted in British Columbia. Outfitters have certain concessions within British Columbia and own full hunting rights within them. Each concession is issued a certain amount of mountain goat permits based on the overall population within that particular concession. The outfitter can then transfer a permit to his client for their hunt. Most of these hunts are similar to Alaska in that they are very physically demanding backpack and horseback style hunts. Even though the horseback style hunts get you close, you will still need to hike into the secluded basins.
I would give the slight edge to British Columbia over Alaska when it comes to trophy quality and population, but they are pretty close. In fact, 7 out of the top 10 all-time B&C entries belong to British Columbia, which is a pretty good reference to how the rest of the record book lays out. Hunt costs are a little more expensive in British Columbia than Alaska with some trophy class hunts exceeding $12,000 but most running around $10,000. The biggest difference between hunting in Alaska and Canada is the actual entry into Canada can sometimes be tough if you have had certain criminal violations. It all depends on how that violation is deemed in Canadian law. Make sure you check with Canadian officials before you book your mountain goat hunt.
When it comes to applying for mountain goat hunts in the lower 48, such as Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, there are some key differences that make it better in some states than others. The one thing I can tell you for sure is that regardless of the state you apply for, it is a long-term application strategy of at least 20 years. This goes for even the easiest to draw units in the West.
Trophy quality, according to the all-time B&C record book, weighs heavily in Washington’s favor with 60 mountain goat entries of 50" or greater. Montana and Utah are tied at 36 entries, with the rest of the states spread out from 19-3 entries apiece. The big problem is that more B&C entries doesn’t necessarily relate to more permits. In Washington, there were only two non-resident permits allocated in 2017 with draw odds ranging from 1 in 600 to 1 in 2,000. Conversely, Wyoming only has three B&C entries but issued 10 non-resident permits and has draw odds from 1 in 26 to 1 in 194, which are almost true draw odds as Wyoming does not have a point system for mountain goat.
Montana is the one exception for having both 50"+ potential and issuing more non-resident tags than any other state at 20 non-resident permits. It also has decent draw odds. With Montana’s point system, you can’t really determine when you will draw as they square your bonus points and that’s how many chances you have in the draw. The odds we list in our magazine should give you a good idea of what the demand for a given unit is, but they aren’t true draw odds.
One state that isn’t often thought about when looking into applying for mountain goat permits is Colorado, even though they issue the second most non-resident permits with 16. These are guaranteed non-resident permits, whereas Montana permits are not. However, Colorado has one big catch in that applicants must apply for three consecutive years before they are actually entered into the draw. After that, the names are drawn randomly with respect to the applicants’ weighted points. For Colorado draw odds, we only take into account the amount of applicants applying for a specific hunt, not weighted points. Colorado is lacking on the trophy side with only nine total entries over 50" all-time in B&C.
Idaho is the outlier with respect to decent non-resident draw odds. They are not great at 1 in 50 statewide, and there is decent trophy potential with 15 total B&C entries over 50". Oregon, Nevada, and Utah join Washington as the worst states to apply for with regard to draw odds and the amount of non-resident tags issued. Trophy quality is great in all of those states if you draw a tag, but with so few tags issued in the draw, these states would be the first ones to go when thinning out my mountain goat applications. As always, you can find more detailed information, like draw odds, harvest statistics, and season dates, on specific mountain goat units in these states in our January through May issues.
Typically, draw odds are a direct reflection of the price of a given hunt on the open market, but this is simply not the case for mountain goat hunts. On average, it would take you 26 years of applying, even in the easiest to draw units in the West, if you simply went by the random odds. Conversely, if you were to take the money you would have spent on non-refundable license and application fees and put it into a savings account toward a guided hunt in British Columbia or Alaska, you could pay for it in roughly 10-13 years. Another way to look at it is that a fully guided trophy mule deer hunt for an opportunity at bucks north of 190" will typically run between $10,000 and $15,000 and hunters harvest bucks of that caliber every year with general season over-thecounter permits, whereas there are no general or over-the-counter permits for mountain goats and the best draw odds are less than 10%, yet fully guided goat hunts are the same price. If you want to hunt mountain goats in the next 10 years, your best bet is to buy a guided hunt and go, but if you want to play the odds and you aren’t in a hurry to hunt them anytime soon, look over the mountain goat table and roll the dice.