Alaska is arguably one of the best place in the world for a NOMAD to hunt. You can pursue everything from waterfowl to grizzlies and Dall sheep within the state’s borders. The scenery and challenge of the terrain is simply unmatched. But many ignore one of the most intriguing targets lurking out in the rugged Alaskan wilderness: the Kodiak mountain goat. Inhabitants of some of the most inhospitable terrain in the state, these large goats are worthy and challenging quarry for your next trip. Here’s everything you need to know about Kodiak mountain goat hunting in Alaska.
The Rocky Mountain goat—known to biologists as Oreamnos americanus—has long inhabited the mountains of North America, ranging from Colorado in the south to the Yukon and Northwest territories in the north. They’ve also lived in the Kenai Peninsula for as long as humans have roamed the land. However, in 1952, 18 of these majestic animals—7 males and 11 females—were transported to the Hidden Basin region of Kodiak Island.
For a little over a decade, these goats received relatively little attention. But in 1964, 26 of these high-altitude creatures were spotted near Crown Mountain, which demonstrated that Kodiak’s new goats were not only surviving, but thriving in the new land. Today, biologists estimate that approximately 1,900 goats roam Kodiak Island and have colonized virtually every suitable habitat available to them.
Rocky Mountain goats prefer living near and above the tree line, occasionally venturing as high as 13,000 feet. At these heights, the goats, who subsist primarily on the hardy grasses, sedges, ferns and lichens that can survive such conditions, become the largest animal around.
As when targeting any other large game species that roams the Alaskan wilderness, the first thing you must do is locate your quarry. Typically, this means hiking deep into the wilderness and glassing one hill after the next. You’re looking to spot a couple of clumps of white fur contrasting with the earth-toned ground and rocks surrounding them.
From this point on the Kodiak mountain goat hunting strategy is simple—in theory. You must close ground to within shooting distance, while working your way into a vantage point that is likely to offer a high-percentage shot. But simple as this goal may be, it can be incredibly challenging in practice.
Alaskan mountain goats are wary creatures that inhabit ankle-breaking terrain. They have remarkable vision, so sneaking up on them is hardly an easy feat. When mountain goat hunting in Alaska, you’ll often need to climb to the ridge line and circle around an entire basin in order to keep the wind on your side and reach a good shooting location. With luck, the goats won’t move while you are working your way into position. With luck.
In order to hunt mountain goats in Alaska, you’ll have to enter an annual winter lottery to obtain a permit. Your odds of being drawn depend in part on the area you wish to hunt. Easily reached areas close to roads are in the greatest demand, so your chances of obtaining a permit for these areas are relatively slim. Given less demand, your chances of drawing a permit to hunt a remote area are relatively good.
You aren’t legally required to have a guide to hunt the goats of Kodiak Island, but it is never a bad idea to enlist the help of those most familiar with the habitats of these animals. It is, however, important to check with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game before heading out on your goat hunt, as the season closes immediately once the harvest limits for a given area are reached. Note that biologists have affixed radio tracking collars to a handful of goats as part of their research—and it is illegal to shoot these individuals.
When mountain goat hunting in Alaska, your rifle selection is largely a matter of personal preference, assuming that it packs enough punch to drop the goat before he has a chance to flee. This often results in a goat tumbling several hundred feet down the mountain, undoubtedly shattering his horns in the process. Bolt-action rifles are often more dependable in the land of grit and grime, with calibers ranging from .264 to .338 preferred by most experienced goat hunters. Be sure to take a moment to sight in your rifle before setting out on the hunt, as the thin mountain air won’t impart as much drag on your bullets as they fly toward their target.
Hiking the Alaskan terrain can be grueling. You’ll likely encounter a range of weather conditions as well while making your way into Alaskan mountain goat habitat. You’ll need to clothe yourself in the highest-quality hunting outerwear available to ensure you remain camouflaged, comfortable and quiet while chasing your prey. As always, layers are essential when dealing with changing temperatures. Add some boots, a good pair of gloves and a beanie, and you’ll be ready to claim your trophy.
There’s nothing wrong with hunting rabbits, squirrels and other small game. But few hunters drift off to sleep at night dreaming of these critters. It’s big game that quickens the pulse and inspires the imagination. And you can’t talk about big game without mentioning moose. Standing nearly 7 feet high at the shoulder and weighing as much as 1,500 pounds, moose are one of the largest animals pursued by hunters anywhere. And moose hunting in Alaska adds all of the challenges that make for a dream trip. To give you the edge, here are some essential moose hunting Alaska tips and gear.
Although it can take a lifetime to master, bowhunting can be extremely rewarding. You’ll be surprised how quickly the bow will begin to feel like an extension of your body. Even if you use the most sophisticated compound bow available, you’ll still feel a primal connection with the hunters who came before you. After all, NOMADs have been feeding their families with bows for far longer than with high-powered rifles and commercially produced tree stands. Feeling the urge and ready to learn to bow hunt? Use this comprehensive guide to bowhunting for beginners.