Mountain sheep prospects are the best in years. Populations are up in Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, and are promisingly steady in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Hunters in California, Oregon, Texas and Utah, where seasons remain closed, look hopefully to next year. Idaho adds a regular season to its special-permit hunt this year and Nevada, closed to sheep hunters in 1955, has opened two special hunts. New Mexico reports the only decrease and has closed its season. However, Barbary sheep, planted experimentally in New Mexico several years ago, continue to thrive and will be hunted again this December.
Patience, perseverance and limber muscles are needed to bag this fleet-footed cliff climber. An experienced guide is a good idea; telescopic sights are a must. Average shots are at about 200 yards. Long-range shooting and long-range rifle toting influence choice of weapons. Rifles of high velocity and flat trajectory in .270, .30-06 and .300 Magnum calibers are most commonly used.
Often called "white mountain buffalo" by early pioneers because of its humped back, the mountain goat can be hunted only in three states—Idaho, Montana and Washington. Hunting for goat is by special permit in all three states, though Idaho, has this year also established a new short season on regular hunting licenses. Oregon, which has a closed season, reports its populations are on the increase and hopes for a hunting season in the next couple of years, should the trend continue.
The mountain goat is a thorough-going introvert, uninterested in what goes on around him and therefore not difficult to kill once the hunter gets within range of it. The precarious peaks on which it lives make finding it the most arduous part of the hunt.
Shooting is almost always at ranges of 200 yards or more and the weapon used should combine hair-fine accuracy with quick killing power. It should have a telescopic sight of at least 4-power. Generally preferred is a .300 Magnum because of its accuracy and the high shocking effect of the Magnum cartridge at long ranges. In addition, the goat hunter needs a spotting scope and an experienced guide. The prize is excitement and a trophy; as food the goat has little appeal.
This largest member of the deer family can only be hunted in the U.S. in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but increasing herds are also reported from Maine, Minnesota and Utah. Populations comparable to last year are noted in Montana and New Hampshire. Seasons occur anywhere from September to January depending on areas hunted.
Moose territory ranges from open country to heavy brush and woodland. At either extreme the moose is a master at deception, blending its great bulk perfectly into the surrounding foliage. Where terrain permits, spotting scopes or binoculars help. For long-range shooting, telescopic sights of from 2½-to 4-power are popular. Great size makes the moose an easy target to hit but a difficult one to kill. A fast handling rifle, capable of delivering shocking blows in rapid succession, is best. Lever actions in .30-06, .348 and .300 Magnum calibers fill the bill.
If moose steaks on the fire are more important than moose heads on the wall, an early fall hunt, before the rutting season, is recommended. The flesh of the bull moose in rut takes on a strong, unpleasant flavor distasteful to the gourmet.
EXOTIC TROPHIES FOR THE COLLECTOR
Variously known as puma, panther, catamount and cougar, the mountain lion is classed as a predator throughout the West and may be hunted there year round, although it is not pursued in the Southwest during the summer due to the extreme heat. In the South, Louisiana permits hunting throughout the year. Only in Florida, where the panther is confined for the most part to the Big Cypress Swamp, is there a season—Nov. 20 to Jan. 13.