The most popular type of rifle in Australia is the bolt action repeater. Reliable, strong and available in a heap of different configurations, it’s not hard to see why bolt actions are in such demand. For hunting Goats there are a few options available to shooters but it would be a hard argument to win if you said that bolts actions weren’t the most popular. However, this would be a short article if I only recommended the use of a bolt repeater.
I’m going to batch together the different styles of bolt action rifles as we all know there are a lot of options available. My personal preference these days is a Weatherby Vanguard for several good reasons. I like a 24 inch barrel on my bolt actions and most manufacturers are going with the shorter 22 inch tubes these days. I like the Vanguard action which is strong and reliable and has a good workable trigger. One brand of rifle that I’ve owned had a trigger that couldn’t be worked over to satisfaction and required an aftermarket trigger to be fitted. That’s an extra expense that is avoidable and not needed with the Vanguard series. Weatherby also includes a 1.5moa guarantee which is a nice touch, but I’ve found all the Vanguards that I’ve owned to shoot much better than this once they receive a good bedding and trigger job. In all honestly, for shooting Goats at practical ranges, just about any bolt action available today is going to do the job.
Magazine capacity of any rifle is going to be determined by which cartridge you choose to use. The larger the case, the less room you have to store the extra rounds. Detachable magazines can extend this capacity and will offer a huge advantage when it comes to culling operations. I prefer a minimum of four rounds capacity with five being just that little bit better. There’s nothing worse than opening up on big mob and just as you fire your last shot you notice that huge billy that was hiding behind some timber. Fumbling to reload whilst trying to keep an eye on the game only to have it disappear just as you re-shoulder your rifle is not a nice feeling.
Lever actions are another popular option especially for hunters that prefer to stalk the timber and scrub for trophy Goats. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of lever actions for a couple of reasons. I’ve never liked being limited to only a few cartridge choices which some of the older lever guns require. If I had to pick an old style lever gun it would be in 30/30 as it’s really the only cartridge that would be suited to my style of shooting. I also dislike the triggers as a lot of them can’t be worked over and I find them too heavy and draggy for my liking. My Browning BLR was used to drop quite a few Goats and it was a nice rifle to use. Mine was chambered in .243 Winchester which is the big advantage with the BLR’s. Having drop magazines instead of tubular under barrel ones and a strong rotating bolt head action means that today’s higher pressure rimless cartridges can be safely used. The big draw back with my BLR was the trigger. Because the trigger comes away with the lever when working the action, not a lot can be done to improve it. Mine was pretty woeful and I never quite got used to it. There are advantages to using lever guns and they can be very useful when their strengths are utilised. Working a lever is quick and gives you that quick follow up shot when it is needed most. They are designed to be carried which means light weight and portability when hunting in the thick stuff. A friend of mine is a big lever fan and he uses his with devastating effect. The thousands of other lever fans out there prove that they can be a useful tool under the right situations.
Pump action rifles are something that I have zero field experience with. I’ll often daydream about getting a Remington 7600 in .308 which would make an ideal close to medium range Goat and Pig gun. Mounted with a low powered scope and detachable magazine, there’d be plenty of firepower and it would really shine when on a Goat cull. I’m not sure how the triggers come out of the box, but the few reviews that I’ve read say that they are an accurate rifle. Hopefully one day I’ll get my hands on one and let you know how they go.
Single shots are more of a specialty item. They are slower to reload (still fairly quick in the right hands) but they are usually very accurate. There is a saying that single shots make a better shooter because hunters are aware of the additional time it takes to reload, therefor they are more inclined to make that first shot count. Every hunter should be making sure that first shot counts so as long as that mindset is there, then I fail to see why there should be any difference in a hunter’s accuracy. Single shot rifles do have their fans but they’re certainly not my first choice when it comes to shooting Goats.
As for scope selection, there really is a heck of a lot of choices available. Goats can be hunted in so many different environments that it’d be foolish to recommend just one for all conditions. For this reason I prefer a variable in either 3-9×40 or 2-7×33. Anything close to this range is going to work just as well but be careful you’re not over-powered for those close range shots. With scopes in particular, it’s wise to buy the best you can afford and don’t be tricked into thinking there’s such a thing as a good cheap scope! You can only shoot as good as you can see so keep that in mind when you’re shopping around.
I hope this article has given someone new to the sport of Goat hunting something to think about. I try really hard to only write about my personal experiences or at least rely on someone else’s that I have total trust in. Everyone will have different preferences and they will change over time as I know mine certainly have. I hope the series of these Goat hunting articles have been an enjoyable read and possibly even educational.