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In the fall of 1978, on the 640-acre family deer-hunting ranch on Goat Mountain in Northern California, an eleven-year-old boy goes hunting with three men: his father, grandfather, and a friend of his father's. Goat Mountain is a dry place of live oak and buck brush and poison oak with occasional relief from stands of ponderosa pine, white pine, and sugar pine, and even a swampy bear wallow. This is the place where all the family's memories and stories and history are held. When the men arrive at the gate to their land, the father spots a poacher hunting illegally on his property. When he lets his eleven-year-old son take a look through the scope of his rifle, the boy pulls the trigger. The men struggle over what to do with the dead man. Though the struggle begins between the father and grandfather, it ultimately becomes a struggle between the grandfather and the boy. By the end, nothing is as it seems.