Mountain Goat Hunting is the Trophy
by Ron Spomer
Hunting mountain goats for the trophy horns rather misses the point. The experience is the trophy. You hunt a land rarely seen and even more rarely touched by mere mortals. Goat country is earth’s bedrock stood on its head and sent crumbling under the relentless pressure of gravity and ice. Far from the madding crowds.
Few ever hunt it.
It’s big country, hard country, dangerous country mastered by an ungulate that has opted out of the classic predator/prey footrace. Rocky Mountain goats took Robert Frost’s advice and chose the road less traveled. While pronghorns run and whitetails hide, mountain goats climb, picking their path up precarious precipices for protection in precipitous terrain where even mountain lions fear to tread. Phlegmatic, steadfast goats use sharp edged hooves with bulging, leathery pads to cling to the tiniest protuberances. Deep but narrow chests let them hug walls while cool, calm demeanors prevent panic. Can you follow?
Masters of this vertical world, goats can risk flaunting the whitest coats south of the nearest polar bear. Catch me if you can! And then they methodically climb cliffs that give lichens second thoughts. That white pelage with guard hairs as long as 10 inches make mountain goats a taxidermist’s dream job. Mounted full body, their lavish pantaloons and “goatee” chin hairs more than compensate for short, thin horns (which, by the way, they don’t use to bump heads. Goat horns are for stabbing, not bashing.)
Goats pay a steep price for their safe havens. Gravity kills most of them. Ledges break. Eagles drive them over the edge. Despite their cautious demeanor and uniquely evolved physiology, mountain goats often slip, slide, tumble and plummet. Following in their hoofsteps gives many would-be goat hunters pause.
This is not a hunt for the unfit, timid or poorly balanced. It isn’t necessary to hunt at nose bleed elevations, but it is necessary to climb, often where footholds are toeholds and you find yourself clinging by fingertips. Do not indulge in a goat hunt lightly, but if you want a challenge, if you want to hunt the world according to God instead of some manicured “estate,” mountain goats may be your huckleberry.
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