Dates: 09Oct – 25Oct 2009
Rifle: accurized Rem 700 .300 win mag
Scope: Nightforce 8-32x56
Rangefinder/binos Zeiss 8x45 RF
I arrived into Bishkek at 05:00 in the morning to find a man with my name on a sign just off the airplane. He asked for my passport and told me to follow him. We walked right past passport control, customs, security and I started to worry that there had been a problem and I would be taken into an interrogation room. He opened a door that instead lead into a plush bar where I found Simone “Black” the man who I had organized the hunt with.
I got a drink and 15 minutes later my rifle, ammo, and luggage was brought to me.
We left and had a coffee at Blacks’ house in Bishkek before heading off for our hunting area.
Simone has sole access to a national park that is a valley some 120km long as well as the dozens of other valleys leading off it.
Arriving in a small town where he has a base, we went to visit a house that has some trophies and a wolf in a cage. The roe deer were amazing, and there were also meral sheds and a huge meral head that had been found killed by wolves. Meral cannot be hunted in Kyrgyzstan.
The wolf was just a cub and seemed very friendly, it was terrible to see it in such conditions.
After lunch we rode up into the mountains nearby to see if we could find a roe deer and check my rifle. We saw two roe, but neither was deemed shootable.
The next day we zeroed my rifle properly, I had brought my “heavy” mountain gun and was prepared to shoot out to long ranges if circumstances required it, then we were supposed to wait for a local guide to come pick us up and go to the high altitude yurt camp were we would hunt ibex. The local came too late to make the 3 hour drive, got into an argument with the (ex)president of the park and quit on us. The next morning, Hbass, the old president of the park said he would drive us up the river at 03:30 the next morning.
Instead he changed our plans in the morning and we headed off to another area 1 hour away by car, arriving at a shepherd named Sergei’s hut around 05:00 and heading off on horses. They call him Radiola because it’s as if he’s swallowed a radio, always chattering away. A funny character with an appetite for wild meat. It was beautiful riding out in the dark under the intense ceiling of stars and watching the occasional spark come off the horseshoes as they nicked stones.
After about 3 hours we were up in the high country around 9000 feet where Siberian roe can be found, and we did spot quite a few. Mid morning I was asked to shoot one for meat. It was a cross canyon shot, 475 yards, and took me a while to get into a comfortable shooting position. I dialled in my elevation and windage and squeezed off the shot. The deer came recoiling over backwards as if pulled away from the steep mountain and came to rest just a few bushes lower. We would go back to pick it up on the way back.
Once up higher we glassed for ibex, but there wasn’t enough snow to bring them down into this particular area, so we headed back to pick up the deer and head to camp.
Back at Sergeis hut, we had to wait 3 hours to get picked up, and neither of us was happy also because it was blowing a gale and very cold. While we waited we glassed a mountain for roe and saw spotted a monster of a buck that we would go back for. I was starting to see what the difficulties of organizing hunting here could be…
The following morning we finally headed off for the yurt camp at 03:30, arriving just on dawn, and having breakfast in the yurt with the shepherds family while the horses were brought to us. The owner of the yurt, Cubaan would accompany us for the following days.
The Kyrgys always have the table ready and any guest must eat something otherwise they take offence. This was never a problem because they always had honey, marmalades, cream, butter, breads and biscuits, and sweet tea all fresh made by the women.
Riding up a valley it was evident that there wasn’t enough snow here either, and we ended up going to about 14,000ft looking for the ibex, which we eventually found over a ridge in Kazakstan. There were about 18 of them, and 3 males that were probably shy of the 40” mark.
We left them alone and decided to check another spot in the morning. On the way back down the valley Cubaans’ dog chased off a pretty little ermine in his white winter coat. The dog had come with us up the mountain, are a local breed called Taigon, a whippy hound that is apparently a great hunter. Sometimes they use them to flush ibex out of the rocks, and the ibex will stand and look down at the barking dog below it rather than try to outrun it, providing a good chance for a shot.
The strength of the horses was amazing, it was only midday by the time we were up so high, and probably still 16:00 or 17:00 when we got back to the yurt to find the women busy baking bread for a dinner of mutton and potato stew with the whole family of shepherds. At bedtime they put the table to one side and we all laid out our sleeping gear side by side, al 11 of us!
At about 06:00 we were up for breakfast, the women were very efficient in packing away the sleeping gear and setting up the table again for breakfast.
We were only halfway along up the valley when I spotted the first ibex of the day. In this valley there was a bit more snow and there was a group of 8 females and young males on a rocky spur.
Further on Cubaan took a detour to get a look around the north face of a mountain to see if there were any ibex there as Black and myself continued our way up. Cubaan came back saying there was a “record” ibex asleep around the other side of the mountain we were climbing.
I was sceptical about the record part, but trusted it would be a good billy.
After another half hour on the horses we tied them up and started a steep climb on foot. The wind was in our favour and Black knew the ridge were the animals were laid up well, telling me we could easily get into position for a 300 yard shot.
After about half an hour of climbing we peeked over onto the high plain the ibex were perched atop of the and wind swung 180° and was now blowing directly towards the group of 5 ibex, each one bigger than the last, laid down in a row on a ridge that allowed them to overlook the entire valley.
Watching through the scope the largest one got up, and I thought we had been busted, but he laid down again, now facing towards us.
They were at 598 yards and there was no way to get to the next ridge before our wind got to them, to do that we would have had to cut back cross up the side of the next ridge, and with the wind going toward them, there was no way we would get away with it. So I decided to take the shot.
The cosine indicator which showed .94, dialled 38 1/8th minute clicks, took a reading from my anemometer, adjusted the values and added 5 clicks for wind. Setting up the rifle on my bipod I put my rolled up seat pad under the rear of the stock and got into a good prone position ready to make the shot. The wind dropped so I took the windage back to zero and squeezed of the shot, almost too quickly while the conditions were good. In recoil I lost the sight picture but as I was looking for it again I heard the thump of impact as well as Black telling me I’d hit the ibex and rolled him over. I regretted not enjoying the sight picture more before squeezing off the shot but I felt that time was running out before the wind took our scent to the billies.
He was laying down with his head up, facing ¾ towards me and the bullet entered at the base of the neck near the shoulder, killing him without so much as a kick.
Black and myself with the Ibex
After the photos we slid, pulled and let the ibex fall back to where the horses where not before having a well earned snack. Once loaded up and on our way back to the yurt I noticed Cubaan in trouble with his horse slipping on a steep trail above the frozen river. The horse was scrabbling for footing and it was clear that they were in for a fall. Cubaan stayed with the horse as they slid and rolled some 20 feet down to the river where they both lay motionless. I could already see myself having to shoot the horse and carry the man back tied on in place of the ibex, but miraculously neither was hurt. We did notice that my rifle had sustained some damage to the crown and the scope. It was a given that it would need to be re-zeroed but I didn’t realize how bad it would turn out to be.
I took things fairly easy for the rest of the hunt, I still had 10 days of the sixteen I had planned for this trip, so I went fishing for trout, rough shooting pheasant and helped another hunter with his ibex and a pair of ular, Hymalain snowcock, the largest of the partridge species which are hunted with a small calibre rifle.
Even though I made 6 more outings for the roebuck, I didn’t get one, I saw an average of 20 each day, but the big bucks were elusive and I had a few strokes of bad luck.
On the last day I got a chance at a monster of a buck at around 500 yards, but with the borrowed rifle in 6.5x68S with a 6x scope and German 4 reticle it was not an option. I believe it was the same buck we had glassed from the valley the week before, maybe 40cm tall and he had pearling so long it looked like extra tines sticking out from the antlers.
I’d shot that rifle out to 400 to see how it grouped back at the camp but it was impossible to make that kind of a shot going on holdover and I believe it was only shooting a 93gn bullet.
Later that same day a nice buck skylined himself just 100 yards above me as I returned down the mountain but I was not able to get the rifle to chamber a round. Some debris from the trees had fallen down the barrel into the chamber, and while on the horses I don’t keep round in the chamber.
The owner was very nervous about me putting tape over the muzzle as I normally do, so what can you do?
Here are some more photos from the trip;
there are a few more pics on: Kyrgyzstan ibex hunt report - Topic Powered by Social Strata
since it appears I am limited to 6 images per post here.
I had a memorable hunt in Kyrgyzstan, hunted hard and high and I took some great memories from those mountains.