10 Firearm Lessons Learned from an Animal Attack

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by Cope Reynolds

My wife was born and raised in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia. Lusting for freedom, she contacted me via a secure internet connection in the fall of 2009, and we began planning her escape. By 20 October, we were ready to execute our plan, and I headed to the PRK. Two days later, under cover of darkness, we headed towards freedom. On 24 October, we were married. 

Like many people who have escaped from the belly of the beast, one of her very first ambitions was to obtain a handgun and be able to freely exercise her constitutionally protected right to provide for her own defense. The next thing on the agenda was training. She took several of my handgun classes and became a daily carrier of a Glock 26. She will not walk out of the house without it!

So, where am I going with all this? Well, stay with me…

On Valentine’s Day of 2012, I got a text that said, “You need to come home. I shot Snaps.” I thought, “Oh great!” I had visions of getting home and finding Snaps standing beside the fence on quivering legs with blood running out of both nostrils and a very distraught woman with a gun in her hand.

I wasn’t really looking forward to it. You see, Snaps was a very large Billy goat that we had raised from a wee kid, and he loved Amy. Everyone else, not so much, but he loved Amy… until Valentine’s Day of 2012.

On that morning, Amy got up like every day, got dressed (which included putting on her gun), and headed out to feed the animals before coming into town to work. She helped me at our gun shop. But that day was different.

That day, she and our youngest daughter went out to feed and were greeted by a very large, very unhappy billy goat standing spraddle-legged in the middle of the trail with his head down and smoke coming from his nostrils. Amy recognized immediately that this wasn’t going to go well. In the first place, he should have been in the very sturdy pen that I built for him. To this day, we have no idea how he got out of it.

Well, it all went downhill from there.

Understanding that the wheels were about to fall off this situation, Amy told our daughter to go lock herself in the pen with the baby goats while she kept the goat’s attention. Snaps became more aggressive, and the two of them danced around a tree for a little bit before Amy was able to seize an opportunity to run towards the feed shed. He caught up with her and knocked her down from behind.

She regained her feet, made it to the shed, and slammed the door behind her, thinking she would be safe. Wrong! Snaps began butting the door until he eventually broke it down. Just to emphasize the size and power of this goat, this door was very solid, built of 2x4s and plywood. It also opened to the outside and closed against a solid stop. When Snaps got done with it, it opened to the inside!

OK, so now Amy and Mr. Attitude are in this little 10’x12′ shed together, and Amy has no way to escape.

Left with no other option, she quickly presents her Glock 26 and fires a single shot at his head. At the very instant that she pulled the trigger, he lowered his head to charge, causing the bullet to first go through a horn and then into the body. Snaps kind of sat back on his haunches, his eyes rolled back in his head, and, assuming he was done for, Amy quickly sidestepped him and made her escape out the door.

As she was walking away, she heard a noise and turned around to find Snaps reared up on his hind legs, head down and ready to attack. As he dropped down to all fours and prepared to charge again, she managed to get off another shot which hit him between the eyes, bringing this dramatic little event to an abrupt halt. This brings us up to the point where she made the phone call to me.

OK, so I get there and find a very dead goat and a fairly distraught and injured bride. Let me stop right here for a minute and explain something to you that will help you put the rest of this story together and help you understand why I have gone to such great lengths to include every detail of this story.

My dear wife is the epitome of Dr. Doolittle.

She LOVES animals, and animals love her (at least most of them). She catches flies and moths and turns them loose outside. She very much prefers that I live-trap mice and go turn them loose somewhere, and going hunting with me is completely out of the question.

Alright, this is where the joking stops. All kidding aside, you have to understand just how traumatic this incident was for her. Her having to shoot that goat that she raised from a baby was every bit the equivalent of you having to shoot your best friend. It took me a few days to really grasp the impact that this event had on her. Now, let’s finish my lengthy presentation here…

OK, we left off where I had arrived at the scene of the crime…

She almost immediately told me her first recollection of what happened. She was badly bruised but fortunately no broken bones or open wounds. My son and I gutted and skinned the animal and took him to the meat processor as we didn’t have the room or time to do it ourselves. His live weight was over 200 pounds!

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When we cut him open, we were surprised to find that the first 9mm bullet first passed through 2″ of horn before entering the body. Had it been a hunting scenario, it would have been a great shot. It was a killing shot but not a good stopping shot. Big difference.

After the bullet passed through the horn, it entered the body about mid-way down from the front, between the shoulder blade and the center of the breast. It pretty much severed the aorta and went through one lobe of the liver and one lung. He was dead, but no one had bothered to inform him. The last attack was quite literally on his last breath.

When we went to bed that night, we learned that she had holstered her gun after the attack with a Type II malfunction caused by sand and debris entering the action of the gun when she was knocked to the ground. By the Grace of God, the gun fired the last crucial shot before becoming inoperable. 

The next morning was not business as usual. The musky scent of the goat was still in the air, the hide was lying off to the side of the trail, and there were still tell-tale signs of blood on the ground. Amy now had PTSD, so I walked out with her to feed. While walking out to the feed shed with its newly repaired door, she stopped in her tracks, put her fingertip to her lips as if lost in thought, and said, “Wait a minute, that’s not what happened at all.”

She then proceeded to tell me a similar version of the story but with dramatically different details. OK. The rest of the day was fairly normal and aside from Amy being pretty restless, the night went well as well. The next morning, same thing. I mean EXACTLY the same thing, complete with a brand-new version of the story, which she maintains is still accurate today.

Now then, it’s class time. What did you learn from this story? In case it’s not really coming around for you, let’s review what happened and see how it applies to a more common shooting scenario…

Lesson #1: Have a gun.

Ladies and gentlemen, carrying a deadly weapon on your person is possibly the single most intense responsibility you will ever undertake in your life. If you’re going to carry a gun, carry it ALL the time. Not sometimes. Not when you feel you might need it. Not when you’re going to “that” side of town…ALL the time. It means don’t leave home without it. Period. Ever.

If my sweet wife had done what most people would have done and said, “I’m going to go out do chores, then I’ll come back and finish getting ready to go to town,” she may have been very seriously injured or killed. Make no mistake, this was a lethal force scenario. 

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Lesson #2: Stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

ALWAYS! Amy has always done remarkably well at this.

Lesson #3: Do everything you can to protect the innocents that you are responsible for.

Amy demonstrated this by directing Kelly to go and lock herself in the other pen. In your home, it could have been shoving your kids or spouse in a closet or bathroom.

Lesson #4: Do your best to exercise all avenues of retreat before engaging the threat.

Now, in many states, you are not required to, but in every state, it is still generally a good idea, although there are cases where it may not be possible.

Amy demonstrated this by locking herself in the feed shed. When her attacker forcefully entered, she was left with no choice but to engage.

Lesson #5: Amy’s first fail.

Never assume that one shot will be enough to permanently end your issue. It’s not like the movies. Shoot them to the ground. Shoot them until they are incapable of continuing to do harm.

Lesson #6: Monitor the scene after the shoot.

After the shooting, even if you feel safe, perform an after-action assessment to ensure that your attacker is incapable of continuing to harm you, that there are no additional hostiles, that you or your companions are not injured, and lastly, that your weapon has not been damaged and is topped off with ammunition.

This was Amy’s second fail. In spite of going through several classes where that was taught, it slipped her mind under the very real stress of this situation. She walked away from the initial shooting location, thinking she had incapacitated her attacker, and she was rewarded with a follow-up attack. 

Lesson #7: Headshots stop threats.

In spite of the after-action fail, she performed admirably by going straight to the cranial-ocular cavity after the center-mass shot failed.

Lesson #8: Check your weapon post-shoot.

Another after-action fail. Even after your attacker has been put down hard, perform after-action the same way. In Amy’s case, she didn’t check her weapon or reload. Either one would have resulted in discovering the Type II malfunction. 

Lesson #9: Call for help.

Immediately call 911 when you are sure you are safe. In this case, 911 was me, but the principle is the same.


Note that Amy told me three different stories, each of which she believed to be true. In a shooting where the law is involved, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! You have one chance to get it right. No matter how innocent and right you think you are, let your attorney do the talking!

When I say Amy failed a couple of points, let me explain something. Amy won. She was not a failure. However, this clearly demonstrates that no matter how much training you’ve had, you can still fail under that much stress. What she DIDN’T fail at were accuracy and determination. One she has practiced extensively. The other is an inherent trait.

I know MANY men that would not have done as well in the same situation. All-in-all, Amy did quite well under the circumstances, and she learned a lot. After all this, I think I would just as soon have my wife backing me up in a hostile environment as a great many men that I know. 

Using this real-life scenario is a great training aid, and I use it in all of my defensive weapon classes. Several of my students have asked me to put it into text form so they can study it. So…here it is!

(Edit: After Amy read this, she corrected me on some of the details of the shooting. I have made the necessary corrections to the story.)

Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Have you ever had to fire your gun in self-defense? What lessons did you learn from the experience? Share your stories in the comments.

About Cope Reynolds

Cope Reynolds is a professional defensive firearms and disaster preparedness trainer and resides in northern Arizona. He is also a long-time gunsmith, reloader, hunter, competition shooter, and Glock handgun aficionado.

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  • Excellent post and takeaways from this event. Thank you for sharing! I also chuckled at PRK since I hadn’t heard that before.

    • PRK always gives me a good chuckle. I mostly grew up there. I escaped early. Trial runs to WA in 1954_56, TX in 1973-4. Then finally succeeded in getting to NM in 1977 and have managed to stay free ever since. Anyone trying to return me now will look like a porcupine full of golden aluminum 8″ bolts. Even my parents had the good sense to escape and die free.

  • That was a very traumatizing thing for her to have to do. Especially for someone unaccustomed to killing and death. It is always a somber moment to me, even though I encounter it routinely on my job as a firefighter/emt and have killed and butchered deer and goats. Her effective response was impressive. I would be very proud if my wife took care of this like yours.

  • Excellent story. I’ve always planned on training, but the “keep your mouth shut” part really hit me.

    • Julia, I get it. All my life, my experience with police has been that they were there to help me through some type of bad situation. Talking to them, telling them my side of the story has always been “the plan”; the thing to do. But in a self- defense shooting, things are different. If I’ve just deployed deadly force against another living being (even an animal) in a public place, it’s very serious. My Freedom and perhaps my own life are now in some danger, and I need to be VERY careful in what I say, and who hears me say it. I can’t afford to have one single word misinterpreted, because explaining might sound like backpedaling, changing my story, being inconsistent; and that could be interpreted as lying. People have been arrested, taken into custody, arraigned, held over for trial, bankrupted by legal fees, and worse, as a result of shooting in self-defense.
      Massad Ayoob, former law enforcement, firearms instructor, gun writer, and expert witness on shooting and arms in scores of criminal trials, recommended in one of his articles that, when talking to police after a self-defense shooting, we say something like, “Officer, you know how serious this is. I was attacked. This person, that one, and possibly others are witnesses. I can tell you more after I’ve spoken with my attorney.”, and then clam up until you DO speak with an attorney. You survived the attack; NOW you have to survive the flawed, competitive, adversarial legal system, and possible future criminal and/or civil proceedings against YOU. It happens. Get with a good attorney. Some specialize in self-defense/firearms law. It really is a legal jungle out there. Protect yourself. You might even consider self-defense insurance to cover many of your legal costs, just in case. That’s out there, too. But in the end (here it comes), “it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6”. Best wishes.

  • I had a 300lb buck goat decide to challenge me, but he was not attacking/following my initial retreat. I went back to the barn and got a fiberglass sorting cane and went back out. When he raised up on his hind legs, instead of accepting his challenge on his terms, I whacked him across the ribs. He never tried again.

    I did not have a weapon, other than the gray one that I always have with me, but can see that there are times and circumstances where one would be indispensible.

  • My family has raised cows for many years. My grandfather used to say “I’ve never seen a bull bad enough to come through a pitchfork!”

  • I witnessed a Billy Goat attack on a teen girl attending a family farm BBQ. It was horrible. There were about 6 kids playing in the paddock but the goat went after one girl, over and over. I’ll never forget that.

  • I’ve only ever drawn my weapon in self-defense once and thank God, I didn’t have to fire it. Glad your wife got a happy ending to what must have been a truly frightening moment. I hunted deer when I was young and my grandfather gave me the same tips this article provided. I’m so pleased to see his teachings were correct. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • this is one of the best encounter stories I have seen in a while Cope. Great insight and teaching article for the readers!!!

  • Quite an event!!!!!
    I’ve killed and injured large dogs killing my chickens and rabbits. I badly injured the last, a German shepherd with a hen in his mouth. I was out of amo. Three shots killed a pit bull, a chicken watering can, and injured the shepherd as the dogs ran. I looked but didn’t find the shepherd and hated the idea he might be out there somewhere badly injured. I was out of amo. It was my husband’s revolver I grabbed as I ran out of the back door. I gave up and called 911. We are allowed to protect farm livestock of any kind. 2 deputies looked over the scene, found the initial blood trail just as I had. They didn’t find the dog either. I did get an surprised congratulations from the two deputies. “We shoot at men running and don’t often actually hit them. You fired three shots and killed one and injured another dog with 2 of three shots on the run.” They weren’t bragging but were amazed a 70 year old woman could shoot that well. Lol. I’ve been shooting since 1961.
    5 shot revolver should have been loaded but my husband had shot 2 rattlesnakes in the afternoon and didn’t reload. They were near me and rattling. I’d stopped in my tracks. Talk about a good shot. Each was a clean head shot. I couldn’t complain too much since he’d shot the snakes to save me. But we did decide, if we shot a weapon, it should be cleaned and reloaded quickly. He and the old 38 are gone now but I still live with that rule. My son just gave me a 7 shot 22LR revolver and a holster. It stays in a hanging bedside pocket.
    Yes I dry run different scenarios. Even ones with a rifle. Sometimes with something boltaction, usually with the 5 shot clip. I unload for those play times. Because I keep them ready for non play times. And I often carry something tied down for those slithering invaders of my peaceful yard. I practice frequently. My grandmother practiced, cleaned, and reloaded, her 22, 7 shot, pearl handled, 1890s pistol until about 6 months before she passed at 95. In Florida she had killed coral snakes, pygmy rattlesnakes, and copperheads. Away from her property she’d also killed cottonmouthes to keep grandchildren safe when playing or walking.
    Setting yourself a hard and fast rule and sticking to it adds to you’re safety. Frequent practice is a good rule also. When I moved back to the country after several years in town for a job my accuracy had taken a hit. If I stopped and aimed it wasn’t bad but a quick reaction shot wasn’t so good unless I were shooting frequently.

  • Great story and covers all that I read in history and on the Internut.

    I read a story about one of the greatest bear hunters in Alaska. Long story short he got maimed and almost obtained fatal injuries and he lived by himself, isolated for hundreds of miles from anyone.

    So for hundreds of miles he had to drag himself through snow, mud, and half in a canoe for dozens more before he reached help. He didn’t hunt too much bear after and if I recall lived a crippled till he died.

    You see, he got so good at shooting bears that he got over-confident. He shot a HUGE bear and thought he had killed it. So he leaned his gun on a tree and walked to the bear who SUDDENLY got up and charged him instead of aiming the gun at it while he walked to it or better yet a follow-up second shot to the head.

    So yes, headshots are the quickest thing to quit that computer controlling them limbs of man or beast. There is the Mozambique drill to do.

    If you working around animals or have an unstable pit bull you should always carry some kind of weapon on you even in your house and I also don’t understand why people going swimming but carry no daggar, at the least. It was wise of you to be armed feeding your animals and out in the open.

    I won’t go anywhere open (field, forest, dirt road, etc) without a weapon. Another thing I advocate is for police to carry small shields worn on their forearm or something and I always thought the 9mm was for shooting packs of dogs and why they require so much ammo in one. But for larger targets, I recommend the .45.

    There is a story came out recently of a guy shooting a large chimpanzee losing its mind and it wouldn’t go down with one shot from his .45. He ran scared and gotta a larger weapon or bullet. But I think the 2nd shot would have worked.

    And the last one talking to police are literally dozens of videos NOT to do that right after something traumatic. The police WILL use it against you. Get a lawyer and let him do the talking.

    • I’m currently sitting in my quiet, comfortable home, not a care in the world, and all’s well.
      And I’m wearing one of my favorite guns. It’s never, never, never, ever outside of arm’s reach, no matter what, no matter where, as long as it’s legal.

  • NEVER talk to the police when you are even possibly under suspicion. NEVER consent to a search. When asked “Why not, if you have nothing to hide?”, respond “Even if you don’t respect my God-given rights, I do”. Tell them your attorney will prepare a statement if it is needed.

    • Amen to that. Do NOT say a word. I was married to a cop who drilled that into me since he was the one who made me get a carry permit because of the inherent danger of being a cop’s wife. Florida has a special law to protect the families of cops (and other LEOs).

      • If there are “special laws” to protect cops and their families, there should be “special laws” requiring more severe punishment for cops and their families when they break laws!!!

        Fair is fair, and no one should have “special laws” aka special rights!!!!!!!!

      • There you go, Connie.
        There are even YouTube videos on this subject. One’s about an hour long, if I remember right, and PRESENTED by a cop or cops.
        Search for: “Don’t Talk to the Police!”

    • “NEVER talk to the police when you are even possibly under suspicion”

      indeed, police themselves after any shooting aren’t required to make a statement for 24 hours.

      • Right. People are typically strung pretty tight in the aftermath. You need time to regain your composure.

  • Wow!! I am going to have to look at goats as dangerous animals which never occurred to me since we had goats when I was a child. I’m a 27 year CCF permit holder (and counting) and I concur on your advice–always have your duly permitted gun with you when you leave the house and sometimes when you are in the house. I restored a 100 year old Victorian house that was in a “redeveloping” neighborhood that was so bad I was strapped when doing laundry. Better to have and not need…

  • I really appreciate this story. I’m going to share it with my wife. This story has taught me a lesson as well(always be aware and ready).

  • Yeah, been there done that, but I did not kill the boar. I hike with dogs and currently carry a short barreled .38. I crashed through some black scrub that populates the washes here in Northern Arizona and startled a group of wild boar. As they piled out of where they were bedded down and scattered, I fired a round in the air to get them to move along quickly. I’d heard male boars in the group will engage and one charged me. I fired twice into its head and I’m pretty sure I hit it as it broke off the charge and headed away. I got the dogs to higher ground and watched the boar lumber off. My copper jacket hollow points had not brought him down. It was only later that I found out how there snout and head are heavily armored in cartilage.

  • Nice story and some good points made at the end. “If I think I might need it, I’ll have it with me” is a reply I am accustomed to when I ask someone why they don’t carry all the time.
    I think I may have drawn my weapon initially once I came upon the goat loose, in fighting attitude, and already knowing things weren’t going to go well.

  • Always examine your firearm if you drop the thing, whether you’ve been involved in a shooting or not. My Ex-wife dropped her Sig 365 from a crappy holster into a pile of Florida sugar sand. She didn’t check it right away except to brush the exterior dirt off. A couple of days later, she removed the magazine for some reason (I forget why) and the pistol and mag were full of sand.

    She brought it over as it was obvious the pistol needed a cleaning she didn’t have the tools or skills for. I had to blow it out with compressed air and was considering taking it apart to pins and springs and rinsing it out with hot water, but the air and a detailed brushing did the job. The sand essentially put the pistol out of action as a reliable defense weapon until cleaned.

    I made her get a better holster (our #2 daughter has an excellent Kydex holster I recommended) and told her to check the pistol immediately if she dropped it again, not wait a few days. She carries it as an EDC, and on her land, because a neighbor’s dogs like to “visit” and get aggressive. She”s shot at one of those dogs before. So a reliable pistol is imperative. The neighbor is on the sheriff’s “sh*t” list for aggressive dogs and will lose them if they attack my Ex (and any other neighbors) again on their property.

  • Hmmm….. I don’t know if Snaps was a bottle baby or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I have had several rams that exhibited this kind of agressive behavior especially during breeding season, or if there were ewes that he was being separated from. I think that bottle babies imprint on humans and have ‘species confusion’ if you will. That isn’t to minimize the danger – getting hit by a ram or a billy can be like getting speared by a linebacker’s helmet. But it helps to understand their motivation and raise awareness of potential threats.

    • This isn’t about imprinting, but people are always advised never to feed deer and make “pets” of them, or habituate them to your close presence. Bucks get aggressive during rut, and if they’re not afraid of you, they may attack. Lots of people have been hurt by hooves and antlers, and I think, a few killed.

      • You need to re-read the article. This was not a Deer, it was a home raised Goat. Big difference.

  • Best statement of the article: “It was a killing shot but not a good stopping shot. Big difference.” Correctamundo! Bingoaroonie! Carve this observation in stone.

    I do pray Miss Amy gets over the PTSD episode and rather quickly. I’ve had to put down some pets – by a veterinarian – and still feel somewhat guilty over it.

    In any manner, being physically responsible for the death of anything more complicated than a snake is seriously soul harming. Even those of no alternative.

    And I like your rules of self-defense.

  • “Have you ever been in a situation like this?”

    several times. usually the animal has been right on me before I can get out anything to use as a weapon and it’s been a matter of baiting or kicking it off first. awareness is the first defense.

  • Two things I did not see addressed in the story:
    (1) the goat may have been diseased in some manner, which should have been verified BEFORE you gutted the animal and submitted it for butchering at a public facility- this could have been/could be a serious health issue.
    (2) The “attack” well could have been the goat attempting to get to an animal in heat, but did you consider that the “animal” could have been your wife? If she was having her period that could have been the trigger, considering that the goat may have considered your wife to be “his”, since she raised him.
    This behaviour has been documented by bears attacking humans, and the only not-so-obvious reason was one of the women was in that time of the month, and the estrus smells close enough to bring the male looking for a mate into the scene…

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