What It Took to Tag the World Record Mountain Goat
Justin Kallusky made history last summer with the first 60-inch Rocky Mountain goat in the Boone & Crockett record book. Here's the full story
All Justin Kallusky could see at first was the mountain goat’s butt. It stuck out from the large, dry cut bank he was laying under, sheltered from the midday sun. He’d been there for a while, and Kallusky was settled in and ready to wait him out. After staring at the goat’s backside for an hour or two, Kallusky decided to take in his surroundings. He let his eyes stray from the fluffy white goat, which would turn out the be the world record mountain goat (though Kallusky didn’t know it at the time).
“I looked up and around and stared out across the valley, and was like ‘Oh my goodness, how beautiful is this? How amazing is this place?'” the 42-year-old lineman from Cranbrook, B.C. tells Outdoor Life. “I just felt this sense of gratitude and peace and I just totally felt in tune with that environment in that moment in time. I was so happy to be there, I felt so privileged, hunting these beautiful animals in one of the most spectacular places on Earth. It didn’t even matter, this was a win no matter what.”
Kallusky was so touched that he decided to pull out his notepad and write a poem. He does this pretty frequently, but rarely while he’s glassing a potential shooter. As soon as he got his words out on paper, feeling content with the product of his sudden surge of creativity, he looked up to see the goat rise from his bed. He expected the goat to stretch, pee, and take a moment, perhaps giving Kallusky a shot. Instead, the goat immediately turned around and marched straight off.
Kallusky’s moment of peace was over.
If you’ve read anything about the Kallusky goat, you know how this story ends. The world record mountain goat taken in 2022 scores 60 4/8 points, smashing the previous world record by three points. Each of the billy’s horns measure well over 12 inches. What you might not know is the full story of what happened that day, or in the days since.
Afraid to make a move, so here is where I stay,
Clinging to these cliffs of volcanic rock and clay.
Below me lies a billy, with a coat as white as snow,
I hope he makes a move, somewhere I can go.
Below him lies a river, with cliffs straight up and down,
My rifle’s locked and loaded to take him back to town.
Little does he know I’m waiting at the top,
For him to stand and make a move so I can take my shot.
Will this be his last nap? I honestly do not know.
I guess it all depends on which direction he will go.
Once Kallusky finished his poem and watched the goat walk away—potentially forever—he snapped out of his trance.
“My mentality switched into predatory mode,” Kallusky says. “I was a hunter again.”
Kallusky was hunting near the Stikine River in northwestern British Columbia with his friend Charlie, who, at the expense of all 10 toenails, had harvested his first Stone sheep three days prior on Aug. 20. Now it was the 23rd and the two were on day one of Kallusky’s mountain goat hunt. They spent the day prior hiking in and setting up camp, battling a lack of campstove fuel and eating cold freeze-dried meals.
Charlie stayed up high while Kallusky worked his way down the steep terrain in the direction of where the goat had disappeared. Eventually he got to a point where he couldn’t go any further. Grabbing onto some bushes, he leaned out over the edge of the sheer rock face to try to put eyes on the goat, but he couldn’t see anything.
“A whistle caught my attention from up above,” Kallusky recalls. “I turned around and looked up the hill. There was my partner. He’s making binoculars with his hands and he’s looking left, looking right, looking all around, and I give him the shrug, like what the heck is that? I’ve never seen that hand signal in all my life!”
He thought his partner was telling him to look again, so he puts up the “one minute” finger signal and turned to re-check the area. He still couldn’t see anything. He turned around to signal back up to his partner, but Charlie was gone. Kallusky scrambled back up the hill to the glassing spot, thinking he’d be there, but he was nowhere to be seen. Kallusky hiked for another 15 minutes without seeing either Charlie or the goat, so he turned around to go back to the glassing spot. When he arrived, there was Charlie.
“I was like ‘where the heck did you go?’ And Charlie tells me ‘When you were down below, I ran up the valley to a different spot. I could actually see the goat, he was right below you!’ I couldn’t see him, because he was tucked back inside a cave. My partner ran all the way back to tell me,” Kallusky explains. “That’s when he whistled at me. When I gave him the ‘give me a second’ signal, he thought I was going to keep hiking down. And he was like ‘Dude, I had to go back to my spot where I could see the goat. It was going to be hilarious. You guys were going to run right into each other.'”
This massive miscommunication meant that Kallusky’s goat was still right down the hill, which he was ecstatic about.
“But I asked him, ‘What the hell was with those weird binocular hand signals?’ And he was like ‘I was trying to tell you I had eyes on him!’ And I was like, ‘…WHAT?'” Kallusky laughs. “‘Dude, the hand signal for enormous world record mountain goat is, like, put your fingers on top of your head and act like a mountain goat. I got eyes on him? Come on!’ I kind of wanted to punch him, but I wanted to hug him at the same time.”
A Good Shot and a Long Fall
The pair hiked back up the valley to where Charlie thought he was going to watch Kallusky run into the billy the first time. He was still bedded in the cave. Only then did Kallusky realize how close he had been to the goat when he was leaning out over the cliff face. The pair scrambled down to a closer point where Kallusky would have a straight shot across the valley. He hit the big billy right in the shoulder with a perfect shot.
“But with his last dying ounce of energy, he gave one little flick of the hoof and cast himself from the cave, and tumbled and tumbled all the way down, out of sight,” Kallusky says. “It was kind of an odd feeling because we had finally just gotten this mountain goat that had been such a difficult mission, but on the other hand I was scared as to what condition he would be in after sustaining such a huge fall.”
He estimated the goat fell about 500 vertical feet down the mountain. The duo carefully picked their way down, taking a quick detour to check out the cave where the goat had been bedded. Eventually they came across the goat, at which point Kallusky realized how big he was. He doesn’t keep up with records or measurements very much, but he knew the goat was bigger than one a friend of his had tagged, and that goat made the Boone & Crockett book.
Kallusky and Charlie both ran out of water in the heat of the day as they field dressed the goat and prepared to hike back to camp. Eventually, they made it, but not after crossing a bunch of grizzly sign that gave them pause about spending the night with a carcass near camp. They decided to hike all the way back out in the dark to the truck. Kallusky guesses it was a 20-hour day.
As required by law, Kallusky had a biologist check out the billy. After the biologist realized how big the goat was, he told Kallusky to get in touch with an official B&C scorer.
“I was just like, yeah, that’s kind of cool. Right on. I guess I can go get it scored. But I’ve never scored an animal in my life, not once,” Kallusky says. “I probably have some animals that would make it into the book that are just sitting in a shed somewhere. It just never dawned on me to measure an animal. It’s always been about the size of the experience, not the size of the horn to me, that determines whether a hunt is memorable and successful. But this guy was pretty adamant that I go talk to the scorer.”
He went to see scorer Grant Markoski, whose eyes got “big as saucers” when Kallusky pulled the goat out. They waited through the 60-day drying period to take an official score, which came out to 60 4/8 inches. That score beats Troy Sheldon’s previous record, taken from the same part of British Columbia, by three inches.
According to Kallusky, Mike Opitz, the chair of B&C’s Special Judges Panel, put the feat in perspective for whitetail hunters. If someone beat the world-famous Milo Hanson buck by the same margin that Kallusky’s goat beat the previous mountain goat record, that deer would have had an extra 13 inches of horn, Opitz calculated. But Kallusky was most humbled by the comparison Opitz made to the Chadwick ram.
“That is the most iconic big game animal ever shot in British Columbia. It’s the only mountain sheep to ever measure over 50 inches,” Kallusky says. “Since it was shot, everyone has said that it will never be beaten, myself included. Now, people tell me this goat is to mountain goats what the Chadwick ram is to sheep. They’re telling me that record will never be beat. And that’s when I’m like ‘Woah, holy cow, I’ve got something special.'”
Kallusky’s best story yet comes from when he took the billy to the 2023 Sheep Show in Reno, Nevada, where he displayed it with the B&C club. One attendee came up and asked him, “If Boone & Crockett was for North American game, why he was displaying an African animal?” The man couldn’t believe the skull and 13-inch horns belonged to a Rocky Mountain goat.
Kallusky isn’t used to the spotlight that shooting the world record mountain goat has created. He also doesn’t love the negative attention from people who criticize him for killing such a spectacular animal, but he is excited to have a platform to connect with other people who are passionate about wildlife conservation and mountain hunting. And while the record is a special achievement, he will always care more about the stories and lessons that he took away from the hunt.
“All my greatest accomplishments, what I consider to be my most successful hunting stories, are the ones where adversity is overcome. Where you, at some point in time, feel like giving up, or think it’s over, or don’t have the strength to carry on, that’s what kind of exemplifies mountain hunting,” he says. “The mountains are so inherently difficult. They’re indiscriminate. They don’t care about you, or that you took two weeks off and traveled 2,000 kilometers. If it wants to snow, it’s going to snow. If the animals aren’t there, they’re not there. Nothing is going to be handed to you. You have to work for everything you’re going to get.”