The mountain goat hunt from Seward is popular for good reason. The area’s rugged terrain and healthy goat populations offer a challenging and rewarding experience. Read about author Nigel Fox’s adventure, ultimately leading to a successful harvest.

Mountain Goat Hunt

Blog and photos by Nigel Fox

I did not plan or picture myself arrowing my first mountain goat in Alaska in a twenty-four-hour period. In my mind, I always imagined I would be in some remote place in Alaska way up high, camped on a mountainside for days, just me and the mountain goats and nothing else around. That did not happen for me, and I was lucky enough to harvest my first mountain goat with a bow just a few hours from my home.

Drawing the Mountain Goat Hunt and Planning

In February of 2020, I drew the any-weapon Seward, Alaska mountain goat hunt for the fall hunting season. When I found out that I drew this hunt, I decided to do my research on exactly where I wanted to hunt. The plan was for an airplane to drop me off on the beach in one of the little coves in Resurrection Bay, hike up the mountain, and camp for several days with a good friend of mine. I made my plans for the opening of the season in August because I like to hunt opening day, but mostly because of my schedule, being a sportfishing guide on the Kenai peninsula. I also knew if I couldn’t get it done in August, I could have another opportunity at the beginning of October.

Mountain Goat Hunt

View of camp and the mountains surrounding Resurrection Bay.

The First Attempt

Fast forward to August 13th, the day we were supposed to be transported to our starting point. I already knew once we arrived in Seward that we would have problems being transported to our location because of the high winds and rough seas. My buddy, Jeff, and I sat having coffee at Miller’s Landing after a failed first attempt, waiting for the rough seas and wind to die down in hopes of making a second attempt. While waiting, we met a gentleman who lived in the area. He talked hunting with us, explained he was a wildlife photographer, and that he had seen mountain goats on a hike near his home. He gave us permission to trespass across his property if we didn’t make it out and needed another option.

Near Success and Lessons Learned

After we waited several hours, the wind and seas died down in Resurrection Bay and we were able to get out, albeit much later then we wanted to. In short, I did not harvest a mountain goat this trip. We did see lots of mountain goats in the four days of hunting. It was supposed to be five days of hunting, but we ended a day early because of fog. It seemed like every mountain goat I went after was just out of bow range and the ones that were in bow range were nannies instead of a billy. On the hike out, all I could think about was I need to get out one more time and fill my tag.

Sitting on the beach waiting for the transporter to pick us up, I remembered that the gentleman from the coffee shop gave us permission to trespass across his property and use the trail he cut up the mountain near his home. I couldn’t wait to get back out for a quick two- or three-day hunt to fill my tag!

Preparing for the Second Attempt

The rest of August, I was busy guiding, so it went by fast and before I knew it, it was September. I had planned on going back to Seward to fill my mountain goat tag at the beginning of October. I had one more month of guiding left for my 2020 season and then I could possibly get my goat. But I got lucky and had a few cancelation days in a row, September 13th and 14th, with a late start on the 15th. I could get two solid days of hunting in and that would work out perfect for the new spot I was going to bow hunt.

I notified my buddy, Jeff, to the change in plans and he was all in. We pulled up onX Hunt to do a little scouting and to download the map of the area on my phone. It would be a shorter hike up the mountain than the first time we went out, but we had more elevation gain which would slow us down some. I figured it would take a few hours to get to the top and about the same coming down if we had a goat on our backs.

Both of us packed very light for a few days of hunting because the weather was supposed to be sunny and in the 60s. We packed enough food for two days and just an extra layer plus rain gear to shelter us from the weather. Worse-case scenario, we could hike out that day if it was bad or if there were no goats.

A big billy all alone in the cliff faces.

The Hunt Begins

On the morning of September 13th, we arrived in Seward very early and parked our truck near where we were going to start hiking. OnX was pretty accurate on how steep it was! We cut some of our hike out because we were allowed to trespass on that gentleman’s property that we had met in August, but we still had a three-hour hike in front of us and lots of elevation gain.

As we made it towards the top, I noticed that there were a few goats feeding on the edge of a basin off to my right. I was able to get the spotting scope on them and there was a very nice billy in the group. I pulled up onX and started planning a stalk.

A Surprise Visitor

As we approached the edge of the basin where the small band of goats was, I noticed a black figure moving towards us in a small patch of alders! Suddenly, a big black bear stood up in front us in the alders and barked at us. Jeff and I stopped dead in our tracks and watched the black bear run towards the band of mountain goats we were going to put a stalk on. As you can imagine, the black bear spooked the band of goats, and they ran further into the basin. It set the tone for the day with a few other opportunities to put stalks on a couple of billies, but without success. The mountain goats were on edge because there was a lot of black bear activity, probably due to the bumper crop of low-bush blueberries on which the bears were feeding.

Relaxing in the sun at our daily glassing spot.

Decisions and Disappointments

After my third failed stalk, it was around 4:30 p.m. and we had to decide if we were going to stay the night or call it a day and hike back down to the truck. We ended up making the call and heading back down. With all the bear activity we had seen, we thought it would be best to leave and come back at the beginning of October for one last hunt.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement. Having three shots at good billies and not capitalizing on any of them was upsetting. It also made me think I should bring a rifle next time. I thought about it, but deep down I knew I wanted to stick with the bow.

A New Route and a New Opportunity

Jeff and I decided to take another route down the mountain. We headed down the northwest basin to a creek and worked our way back to the main road to where our truck was. It looked like a much easier hike then going back the same way we came up, but we were so wrong!

As we started down the side of the basin, we noticed a couple of black bears at the head of an avalanche chute. We quickly rerouted and worked towards another avalanche chute. Jeff was in front of me, and he stopped dead in his tracks and dropped to his knees. He turned around quickly and said, “Nock an arrow, there is a mountain goat below us.” It did not register with me at first, and Jeff had to repeat himself. I thought he was joking with me at first, but I quickly realized he was not. I took my pack off, grabbed my bow and I crawled to the edge of a little cliff face next to the avalanche chute.

The Shot

Mountain Goat Hunt

Nigel Fox with his archery mountain goat.

Sure enough, there was a good mountain goat standing below us, feeding. I quickly ranged the goat. It was a 74-yard shot, and a very steep angle to go that long with it. As I went to full draw, the goat must have heard us or sensed something, and it spun around to look right at us. I tried to let my pin settle on the goat’s chest but decided to let down because it was not an ethical shot for me to take. Had the goat stayed broadside, I would have taken it, for sure.

When I let my bow down the mountain goat spooked and ran towards me across the avalanche chute to the other side, about 65 yards from us. The billy stopped on the other side of the chute and looked back at us, presenting a broadside shot. I quickly ranged the goat at 67 yards and moved my sight to the proper distance. As my pin settled on the goat’s shoulder, I released the arrow. It punched through both front shoulders, and we watched him go down immediately at the edge of the avalanche chute. When I saw my mountain goat lying 67 yards in front of me, I could not believe it. We didn’t have much time to celebrate because it was getting dark fast and we had a goat to break down, and still several miles to hike out.

The Trek Back

When I approached the goat, it started to slide down the avalanche chute. There was nothing I could do about it, but watch him slide several hundred feet. By the time we made to my goat, it was dark, and we had to move fast to get him caped and quartered out. It was not going to be an easy task because we were on a bunch of river rocks with no real flat spot to take care of him.

Jeff and I worked quickly, breaking him down, and loaded our packs to start down the creek edge. We still had roughly four miles to hike back to the vehicle on what we thought would be a fairly easy hike along the creek. We were very wrong about our choice, and we suffered every step of the way out. From the first step to the last step of our hike, we were soaked from having to cross the creek several times with bad footing on the large river rocks.

Climbing over several downed trees with heavy packs made the trip down twice as long as the hike up. We were forced to take this route because it would have been impossible to climb back up the mountain after recovering my mountain goat. Nevertheless, we made it back to the vehicle around 3 a.m., soaked, tired, hungry, and slightly scuffed up, with my first, but not my last, mountain goat. Once we got to the car, we had a two-hour drive home ahead of us.

A lone mountain goat low in the trees.

Mountain Goat Hunt Reflections and Recommendations

In hindsight, I would not try to hunt mountain goats again in a one- to two-day time frame. Even as close to home as this hunt was, it is much more enjoyable to have several days to hunt these animals. Don’t get me wrong—I will take a harvest like this any day, but it is always nice to enjoy the hunt with several days in the mountains. I also recommend hunting with a partner. Having the company and help in making safe decisions makes for a more successful and enjoyable trip. Having my good friend along made this harvest possible; without him, I don’t think I would have been able to get it done!

Current Bow Set Up:

Bow-Xpedition Archery Xlite 31

Rest/String Set-Vapor Trail Gen 7x

Sight-Black Gold Ascent Verdict

Stabilizers- Stokerized M-1 stabs

Arrow-Kill’n Stix Ventilators

A small band of mountain goats feeding on the side of the mountain.

Nigel Fox has been co-owner/guide at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for over two decades. He is a lifelong Alaskan and avid bowhunter of the Alaska backcountry. When he is not spending time guiding clients on the Kenai River, he is on another Alaska hunting adventure.

For more, check out the entire Hunt Alaska article archive.