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Special Permit Application Hunting tips (Mountain Goat, Bighorn Sheep, Moose)

Special Permit Application FAQ's

This hunting information is provided as advice only.  It is the duty of the hunter to ensure that he or she is complying with all current laws and regulations.


There are no general season opportunities to hunt any of these species of animals.  A hunter must either win a special raffle or must apply to be chosen under a weighted point draw system.



Mountain Goat Tips        distribution map


Mountain Goat after a rain storm  

  • There are 10 units available for Mountain Goat Hunting.

  • The WDFW holds very conservative harvest rates for Mountain Goats (perhaps on the order of <2% of the available herd).  The current thought is that harvesting by hunters does not affect a herd like deer or elk.  The taking of animals adds to the total mortality where kills by rock fall, starvation, and the like stay constant.  Thus, liberal hunting seasons would easily wipe out populations of goats.

  • Goat populations are declining slowly and the WDFW is researching why.

  • Adult billies weigh 150-225 lbs avg.  Adult nannies weigh 120-160 lbs avg.

  • The odds of successfully pulling Goat permit are currently around 1:1000.  If you continue to apply under the current points system, your odds get better with time.

  • The WDFW has great yearly harvest reports for Goats and provide good clues as to which units give a better chance of harvest.

  • If you are successful in getting a goat tag, you will receive a questionnaire from the WDFW which will ask you how many goats were seen during your hunt.  The WDFW biologists use these numbers to help determine the size of herds in the goat units.  There is not a lot of money going into Mountain Goat research and your input is invaluable to helping them understand how many animals exist.  The WDFW has stated numerous times in their annual trend reports that they really don't know how many goats are in Washington.  Your dedicated count of spotted goats helps determine herd health and size. 

  • Goats with kids will more than likely be nannies.  Billies rarely hang out with kids unless they are trying to breed area nannies.  If a kid is in tow... the goat is a nanny.  The WDFW requests that you do not shoot nannies with kids.

  • Typical Mountain Goat habitats are those areas just above tree line.  Mountain goats live up to their name and live high up.   You will find them on rocky outcroppings feeding on lichens, sitting on snowfields, or in early season, just inside the treeline rubbing up against small trees.  You can easily tell where goats live by the goat hair attached to all vertical surfaces.  If you locate the hair, chances are you will find the Goats.

  • The population of Goats on the Olympic peninsula where a group of goats introduced early in the 20th century by some misguided hunting groups.  The goats are now considered a nuisance as they are destroying habitats for native species.  There used to be an archery season in the surrounding areas for goats.  The seasons have stopped.  It is unclear as to why this has occurred as the 80s and 90s had significant attention to the idea of transplanting/eliminating the goats form the peninsula.

  • The population of Mt Goats in Washington State is estimated at between 2,401 and 3,184 animals.  WDFW website

  • Pay close attention to where you intend to shoot your goat.  You do not want to shoot it and have it tumble down a steep rocky cliff destroying the meat, hide and horns.

  • WDFW requires that goats with horns 4" or longer are harvested.  Remember, the average ear length of a goat (not a kid) is 4-6 inches.  If the horn's length exceeds it's ear, it is probably a harvestable animal.

  • A trophy Goat will have horns that will exceed the length of his ears by 50%.  Generally an adult mountain goat's ear is about 6" long. So, an ear length and one half should equal a 9-10" horn length. Mountain goats which are two years old and older will have horn lengths longer than their total ear length.  Boone and Crockett top goats are 10"

  • Spotting mountain goats is fairly simple.  Look for white spots on the sides of mountains…  The trick is to get close enough for a shot without them seeing you first.  Here is a picture of a typical view of a nice Billy in typical goat country.  The photographer of this picture was able to successfully get to within 70 yards of this Billy after it bedded down 100 yards to the left.  The photographer used the scrub below and rock outcroppings to shield him from view of the Billy.  Too bad he was early season deer hunting...

Billy is almost in the exact center of the picture


  • Billies tend to be loners, however, you might see a few bachelor herds.

  • On warm days (if hunting early season) it is not uncommon to see goats bedded down on snow fields.  Carefully observe the snow fields so that you do not alert anything that may be bedded down.

  • When scouting for a productive area to hunt goats consult maps that clearly show vegetated and non vegetated areas.  Hunt the non vegetated areas as goats prefer to be out in the open.  You can also hire a private plane to fly you over an area.  You can take photos and use a GPS to mark way points.  Ensure that you are complying with all state laws when going airborne!

  • You can get closer to Mountain Goats by coming in from the top of where they are bedded.  They almost always instinctually look for predators coming in from below.

  • This piece of advice is pretty much a given, if you are successful in pulling a Washington Goat Tag, you must get in excellent shape in order to properly hunt them.  The Cascade Mountains are steep and unforgiving.

  • Telling the difference between a billy and a nanny can be problematic.  It can be very difficult to tell the difference from just the appearance of horns.  Older females can have just as long of horns as most males.   From a distance, it is difficult to tell the two apart.  There are a few obvious clues to watch for determining the difference.  Females will squat and males will lean forward when they urinate.  Male goats will also have a pretty obvious large scrotum that can be seen from some distance.  Females will sometimes show a black vulvar patch if their tails are raised and they are in the right position.

  • You can also sometimes tell the difference between a male and female in that the males will be bigger and blockier than their female counterparts.

  • Billies in rut will sometimes roll around in dusting beds or in mud to spread their sent around.  Look for a dirty goat and you may have found a billy.Billy in rut...  Note the dirt and moss caked in the fur.

  • Some people have said that a nanny's horns will Y more than a Billy whose horns will tend to flair straight and back.  Obviously, there are many exceptions to this and no goat is alike.

  • A rough way to tell the age of a goat is to count the rings on its horns.  Horns stop growing through the winter months and then begin to regrow in the spring.  there is a distinct ring that shows this progression.  For every ring you count, you should be able to add one to get the goat's approximate age.  Obviously, damaged horns will skew this practice.

  • When the snow starts falling, it is not unusual to see goats move into the timber and browse the readily available tree branches and needles.  And, for that matter, just about anything else they can nibble on.  While the Mountain goat is actually not even related to a true barnyard goat, they definitely eat like one.

  • One curious fact about mountain goats and why they can stay so warm in the dead of winter is the simple fact that their ruminating stomachs produce heat, by the feed simply composting inside the animal's stomach.  One quick point of note is that after you've got your animal, ensure to gut it as quickly as possible to cool down the meat and reduce spoilage.

  • Mountain goats can be dangerous.  When approaching them be aware that they are wild.  They have horns for a reason.  Billys will defend their hard fought harem and Nannys will protect their clan. 

  • If you have been in to the goat population or have drawn a tag.  Please provide any information you can to Submit ideas


Moose Hunting Tips                          

distribution map

  •  Washington's moose belong to a subspecies called "Shira's" moose, which is physically smaller than more northern-dwelling moose. Adults measure nearly six feet at the shoulder. A bull's antler spread can
    be as much as 6-1/2 feet across. Bulls weigh between 850 and 1,100 pounds and adult females or cows weigh between 600 and 800 pounds.

  • Populations of Moose are on the upswing in Washington State based upon long term studies.  The WDFW has done a great job of managing this resource.

  • At least 1,000 moose are estimated to live in Washington. Almost all are in the northeastern counties of Pend Oreille, Stevens, and Spokane.  Occasionally moose are spotted in the northwestern and north-central
    counties of Whatcom, Okanogan, and Ferry, and a wanderer or two has been seen in other areas. But the only significant populations are in the northeast's Selkirk Mountains that range into Idaho and British Columbia

  • A number of moose in Washington are migratory from the panhandle of Idaho.

  • Moose prefer 15-25 year old clear cuts for browse.  Especially if the clear cut has water or ponds in them.

  • Moose can be found in the timber eating lichen off the trees during late season and with plenty of snow on the ground.  Generally moose prefer forested habitat where lakes, marshes, and other wetlands provide them with aquatic vegetation and willows. But in less wet areas, like northeast Washington, they also eat the woody
    browse in early stages of regrowth following disturbances like fires, logging, and clearing.

  •   With its great size and forage demands, the home range of the average moose in any given season is about three to six square miles, although they habitually wander much further.

  • The ratio of permit applicants to available permits is very high.  If you plan to hunt Moose in Washington, use the draw system currently in place.  Apply now, even if you don’t want to hunt moose.  It may take quite a few years to actually get drawn.

  • At this time, they also have a lottery drawing available.  The raffle generates additional money for the WDFW and who knows… you may actually get drawn.

  • Moose prefer 15-25 year old clear cuts or precommercially thinned areas on moist sites. Forest regeneration in these areas tends to produce dense stands of willow and other shrubs which are preferred browse.

  • At this time, the only huntable populations of Moose in Washington are in units 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 117, 121, 124, & 127.

  •  According to the WDFW.  The greatest concentrations of moose are in the Northern portions of GMUs 127 and 130.

  • If you have been in to the moose population or have drawn a tag.  Please provide any information you can to Submit ideas


Bighorn Sheep Hunting Tips


distribution map 

  • There are 11 different units to hunt bighorn sheep in Washington State.  Hunter success is very high for those who draw a permit.

  • The odds of successfully pulling a bighorn sheep permit are currently around 1:1000.  If you continue to apply under the current points system, your odds get better with time.

  • Wild Sheep tend to inhabit tougher terrain than normally hold elk or deer but not as tough as would be suitable Mountain goat habitat.

  • Perfect habitat for Bighorns are areas with a mixture of cliffs, ledges, talus slopes and meadows.  These areas tend to be areas where they are more open, drier (less snow in the winter) and windier which keeps the ground feed more exposed.

  • Bighorn sheep rely on sedges and grasses for the majority of their diet.  They are quite a bit more selectve in their food sources than, say mountain goats.

  • Sheep need to drink!  They inhabit areas which are perpetually dry.  Find areas where water is available and wait!

  • The WDFW has great yearly harvest reports for Sheep and provide good clues as to which units give a better chance of harvest.

  • The Washington Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep has some information on places and types of Bighorn hunting.

  • If you have been in to the Bighorn Sheep population or have drawn a tag.  Please provide any information you can to Submit ideas


Special Permit Application FAQ's

Special Seasons have been developed to hunt some species.  Special Permits are always required.   There are no general seasons. The Permits "grow in value" the more years you apply for them.  This is excerpted from the WDFW FAQ regarding special permits.

Q: How do the hunt choices work?
A: When the drawing occurs, it is as if all of the applications for a species are placed in a barrel. The computer spins the barrel by issuing random numbers to each application. The lowest random number that is issued to each application is the number used to order the applications from the lowest random number to the highest. It is the same as drawing cards from a barrel one by one. The application with the lowest random number is drawn first from the barrel and the hunt choices are checked. As each application comes up for consideration, the first hunt choice is checked to see if there is a permit left to be awarded. If there is none left, the second hunt choice is checked. If there is a permit available for that hunt choice, the application is selected for that hunt. If not, the process continues until all of the hunt choices on the application have been checked. If all of the hunt choices marked on the card have run out of permits, no permits are awarded to that application.

Q: How do I build up points?
A: Each person who applies for a special hunt permit for a species receives a point for applying. If that person is not awarded a special hunt permit during that drawing the point is retained. If the person is awarded the permit, that person's point total drops to zero. If the person who was not awarded a permit for that species applies the next year, they then have two points. A single point is built up each year the person applies for a species until the person is awarded a permit.

Q: What is the value of building up points?
A: Building up points is very much like putting more application cards into the barrel. Those that have more cards in the barrel have an advantage over those that have less. The more points a person has built up for a species over time, the greater are the chances that his/hers will be selected.

Q: I heard that the points have multipliers on them. What is that for?
A: Some permit drawing systems are designed so that one random number is issued for each point built up for the species by the applicant. It is the same as having one card in the barrel for each point (one point - one card, two points - two cards, etc.).

Washington's system places a multiplier on the points. The number of points is squared and it is this number of random numbers that are issued to the application (or number of cards in the barrel). If a person applies for an elk permit for the first time, they have one card in the barrel. If a person has built up two points, they have four cards in the barrel. If a person has three points built up, nine cards are in the barrel and so on.

Placing a multiplier on the points more noticeably increases the chances of being selected over someone who is a new applicant or was recently awarded a permit as points are built up.

Special Permit Application odds (2008)


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