Unless you are a resident of Alaska or British Columbia, opportunities to hunt mountain goats are not easy to come by. In fact, it has been said that there are not many goat hunting experts in the Lower 48, simply because so few hunters have the opportunity to gain experience with goats on multiple hunts.
If you, like me, are a Lower 48 resident of the US and want to hunt mountain goats, you will either need to draw a coveted and limited tag or pay to go on a guided hunt in Alaska or BC.
As part of my SEAK Adventure series — documenting the journey leading up to my mountain goat hunt in the fall of 2022 — I wanted to share what I have learned about non-resident mountain goat hunting opportunities, the states I apply in, and why I ultimately decided to hunt in Alaska.
Mountain Goat Hunting Opportunities in the Lower 48
When it comes to hunting mountain goats in the Lower 48, you will certainly have a better opportunity if you are a resident of a state where goat hunting is offered. But even as a resident, you will be looking at a process that may take years, and could very well be limited as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For example, as an Idaho resident, Exo's owner, Steve Speck, applied for many years before drawing his Idaho mountain goat tag (header photo). Another Exo employee, Patrick, became an Idaho resident and drew his mountain goat tag in just two years of applying. In Montana, hunter Lee Ricks (photo below) applied for 14 years before getting his opportunity to hunt mountain goats in his home state.
Whether a resident or not, if you draw and fill a mountain goat tag in Idaho, that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hunt mountain goats in Idaho is complete. In Montana, you have a 7 year wait after drawing a mountain goat tag before you are able to begin applying again.
Other states in the Lower 48 that offer mountain goat hunts will be structured similarly. Now, for you non-residents...
States with Non-Resident Mountain Goat Hunts
I live in a state that offers no mountain goat hunting opportunities, which means that I would have to enter non-resident draws for states in the Lower 48 that offer non-resident tags. Last year, for example, I applied to hunt goats in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The latter two states require you to pay for the full cost of the tag upfront when you apply, then get refunded (except for a small fee) when you don't draw. I don't love the fact that I have to hand over thousands of dollars for a terrible chance to have an opportunity to draw a mountain goat tag. But, hey, a chance is a chance, and most of the money comes back if you don't draw.
Photo: Montana resident, Lee Ricks, applied for 14 years before drawing a mountain goat tag in his home state.
You can apply as a non-resident in Colorado, where you will also have to pay the full tag cost upfront and wait for a refund. However, you have to enter Colorado's draw process for 3 years before you become truly eligible to draw a tag. Look at it this way — those first few years are just you proving to the state that you seriously want to hunt mountain goats. Unlike many other states, Colorado has weapon-specific seasons and also offers a Nanny-only hunt, so that does disperse how hunters are applied and considered, compared to most states that offer an any-method, single-season mountain goat hunting opportunity.
Utah is another state that offers non-resident mountain goat hunting opportunities that relies heavily on a point system. Plan on playing that game for years (or decades!) before you reap any reward. Other states in the Lower 48 offer extremely limited non-resident opportunities with odds so low that they practically don't exist. But, hey, someone has to get lucky, right?
Guaranteed Tags & Guided Hunts
As mentioned prior, Alaska and BC offer ample opportunities to secure a mountain goat tag and experience a great hunt. In either place, you will have to hunt with a guide as a non-resident. One exception to that guiding rule is if hunting in Alaska and you are with an Alaska resident (age 19 years or older) who is within the "second degree of kindred" to you.
If you have decided to go on a guided hunt and are considering choosing between Alaska and BC, you certainly have a lot to consider. Both places offer great hunting and a variety of hunt styles.
If you are considering booking a hunt in either place, I would do your homework — primarily by talking to outfitters and guides in both places, and also by reaching out to as many goat hunters as possible. Also consider the style of hunt you'd like (horseback, backpack, lodge-based, etc). And be sure to consider the logistics of international travel to Canada, versus staying within the US and hunting Alaska.
As you do more research and talk to more outfitters, I am sure you will connect with an opportunity that seems to be what you are looking for. That's certainly what happened to me.
PHOTO: Daniel Horner prepares his Exo pack after a successful Mountain Goat hunt on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Having hunted Sikta Blacktail on Kodiak Island in 2019 and 2021, I fell in love with the island. It was initially the place I planned to hunt goats. Many areas on Kodiak require you to draw a goat tag, but odds are pretty good (20-30%) so most hunters will get their opportunity within a few years of applying. The guide or outfitter that you plan to hunt with will help you apply for the draw. The entry deadline to apply is December 16th of the year preceding the hunt; draw results are posted in February.
Some areas of Kodiak, and many other areas of the mainland of Alaska offer registration hunts with guaranteed tags. Hunters can purchase tags for registration hunts over-the-counter. That said, registration hunts are limited because certain hunting areas within the hunting unit are closed when harvest objectives are completed. Some registration hunts may never meet their quota and close in the hunting seasons, while others may close in the season and limit the areas that you're able to continue hunting.
I will be hunting with a registration tag in Southeast Alaska. While certain areas of my hunting unit could close when harvest objectives are met, there is a next-to-zero chance that closures due to quotas would limit my hunting opportunity. This is something that you should speak with your outfitter about, and also engage Alaska F&G to thoroughly understand.
The story about how my hunt came together and why I am hunting in Southeast Alaska, opposed to Kodiak or BC, is a story for another day.
More Than A Mountain Goat
A final note to consider when planning a guided mountain goat hunt in Alaska or BC is the opportunities that you may want to pursue in addition to the mountain goat hunt. If you're hunting on Kodiak, for example, you may look into adding Sitka Blacktail to your trip. Or maybe some post-hunt days on the water reeling in Halibut and Cod.
Or perhaps you want to make a combo goat and bear hunt in either Alaska or British Columbia. Combination hunting opportunities may be an influential factor in where you ultimately decide to hunt goats.
If you want to hunt Mountain Goats in the future, I would highly suggest determining an application strategy for states in the Lower 48, and at the same time, begin to set aside some money each month to fund a future guided hunt. As I mentioned in this series intro, you have to begin to pursue your goals — even if those goals seem out of reach currently.
Mark Huelsing is the host of the Hunt Backcountry Podcast and works at Exo Mtn Gear — though he's never been able to figure out his job title. Connect with Mark by sending him an email (mark at exomtngear.com) or DM @MarkTheFark on Instagram.
To follow along and receive future articles in this series, sign-up to receive email notifications from Exo Mtn Gear. You can also view all articles in this series at the SEAK Adventure series archive.