It’s hard to tell what was going through Brett Jatrinski’s mind when he pulled the trigger on a 4-year-old billy goat on Aug. 12, 2022, three days before Alaska’s draw-only mountain goat season opened. But one thought is particularly unlikely: that someone was hunkered down over 400 yards away, watching and filming him through a spotting scope.
That person was Ketchikan resident and mountain goat hunting guide Marvin McCloud. McCloud, 41, was out in the backcountry on Achilles Mountain scouting for an upcoming hunt at the time. A client would arrive in a few weeks with an elusive, highly sought-after mountain goat tag for the same area. (Just three draw tags and a single Governor’s tag are distributed for this draw-only district every season.) McCloud wanted to be ready to put him on a quality billy when the time came.
He found a few nice billies and filmed them for about 15 minutes as they meandered in and out of the thick shrubs. But then he heard a gunshot. McCloud redirected his attention to where the shot came from and saw a young man with a mustache and a rifle emerge. That man was Brett Jatrinski, a 20-year-old Massachusetts native. At first, McCloud didn’t think much of the shot. Deer season was open, after all. But this wasn’t exactly a deer-heavy area.
McCloud turned his camera and scope onto Jatrinski, who shouldered the rifle for another shot. That was when McCloud realized that Jatrinski was setting up in the direction of the two billies he’d been filming. He left his phone filming Jatrinski through the scope and turned back to glass the goats through his binos. Jatrinski pulled the trigger again and a crack rang across the southeastern Alaskan rainforest. The phone filmed Jatrinski take the shot and McCloud watched the bullet hit the billy.
“It’s fucking August 12th,” McCloud mutters to himself behind the camera. “What are you doing?”
Jatrinski nervously pulled off his ballcap and rubbed his head multiple times as he stumbled in the direction of his shot. He gripped his rifle by the barrel and used it like a hiking stick. It’s clear in the video that he didn’t see the goats anywhere. He looked over his shoulder as if he could tell someone was watching him. His body language read equal parts confusion and regret.
“I’m assuming he shot the first one and thought he missed, then thought [the second goat] was the one he missed,” McCloud tells Outdoor Life. “I saw him hit [the second goat]. The goat bailed off over the little bench there to the next bench below. Then the guy kind of walks around perplexed. My guess is that he thought he missed again.”
A second man emerged a few minutes later. He and Jatrinski stood and talked. Jatrinski started looking more emotional, rubbing his head and his face with his hands.
McCloud had seen enough. He had cell phone service where he was located, high above the crime scene looking down. He called the Ketchikan-based Alaska Wildlife Troopers and reported the incident. It was almost sundown at this point, so McCloud hung up the phone and started setting up camp. As he built his tent, the two men came within 20 feet of him while hiking back up the mountain. They didn’t seem to notice him and walked down the ridge away from McCloud to set up their own camp about 700 yards away. McCloud reported their camp location to the troopers, as well as where their truck was likely parked.
“The troopers went out that night and got license plate numbers. The next morning, the mountain was pretty foggy, and I had a sneaking suspicion that the men wouldn’t come back up. They didn’t seem like they had enough mountain savvy to come up here in the fog,” McCloud says. “So I went down to where I had last seen the goat. Within about 15 minutes, I found it, sent the location to the troopers, and headed off the mountain.”
McCloud isn’t entirely sure what happened next. Originally, he tried not to assume the worst about the situation. But by the time the case was in the troopers’ hands, he knew something bad had happened.
“It started off with ‘Maybe they shot a deer,’ then I saw him shoot the goat. Then it was ‘Maybe they have a draw tag and they’re just early.’ And I told the troopers all this. I usually give people the benefit of the doubt,” McCloud says. “But once I saw that they didn’t come up with the goat and I knew he hit it, that’s when I started getting pissed off. Goats are pretty special. To have someone waste two like that, to me that’s just super disrespectful to something that I find majestic.”
McCloud’s suspicion was correct. A press release from the Alaska Department of Public Safety would confirm what he thought had happened.
“During AWT’s investigation, it was discovered that Brett Jatrinski, age 20 of Ketchikan, had shot and killed two mountain goats out of season and he failed to salvage any of the edible meat for either mountain goat,” reads the press release. “Jatrinksi was charged with two counts of [wanton waste] and two counts of hunting closed season.”
On Nov. 30, Jatrinski was sentenced to 7 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. He also forfeited his rifle, will be on probation for three years, and can’t hunt or fish for two years. But one detail of the sentencing left McCloud and other Ketchikan-area mountain goat enthusiasts scratching their heads: Jatrinski was only convicted on one of the four charges after pleading guilty to one count of wanton waste.
“My biggest surprise was how great of a case I gave them and how little punishment he received,” McCloud says. “Going from four counts down to one? That surprised me.”
Because so few tags are distributed for this draw-only district, Jatrinski’s actions could have easliy spelled disaster for the 2023 tag quota. Even though McCloud admits this particular herd is doing pretty well, with two fewer billies walking around, biologists would likely have cut the number of available tags even more, a state biologist told McCloud. This would have been devastating for those who have waited 15-plus years to draw. (Non-residents are required to hunt with a guide, putting an extra $15,000 price tag on the experience for out-of-staters.)
But only two of the four tags were notched in the 2022 season. Jatrinski’s crimes effectively accounted for the other two, just barely balancing the scales.
“For me, it was frustrating because I had a guy coming up who had that tag who would be hunting that exact same area. That guy shooting up the hillside was going to make the job of finding a goat that much harder. So I guess there was already that frustration around someone killing goats in the area I’m planning on hunting,” McCloud says. “But the whole waste of everything…wasting a mountain goat is a real tragedy.”