Marco Polo Blues
By Bruce Marshall
I started thinking about the possibility of a Marco Polo [hereafter MP] hunt several years ago when my son and I went to Kyrgyzstan [hereafter Kyrg] for Ibex. We were both successful and the company we hunted with talked some about MP hunting. About 1 1/2 yrs ago I saw an ad from Theo Blignat for an MP hunt at a great price. I almost went in 2013, but the $$ were tight as well as not being familiar enough with Theo to send that kind of money out. Last fall the same hunt came up again and Theo sent me an E-mail about it. My wife was kind enough to pay for half of the hunt so I decided to go for it.
The hunters in February 2013 each got a MP and 2 Ibex. So it seemed like a good bet to me. I couldn't find anyone to go with me so I decided to go it alone. It is a lot more fun when someone else is with you. So I booked the hunt and my flights last November. For whatever reason the flight in and out of Gillette was going to add $800 to the airfare so I elected to drive to Denver. I left on February 15th.
Travel is the bane of the international hunter. I left home at 4:30 AM. Some 38 hours later I arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrg. I used the VIP service so I went to a lounge while someone else collected my baggage and got everything squared away with customs. There I met Rinat, the general manager of Argali LLC, who I was booked with. His English was pretty good and we talked for a while. Then we were notified my rifle had not arrived. Cuss words, cuss words...
We went to the office and they told us to wait 2 hours and go to the downtown office of Turkish Air, then we could find out where my rifle was and when it would arrive. There are only 2 flights a day from Istanbul to Bishkek. I was on the second, which arrived at 7:30 AM or so. So off to secure a hotel room and then to Turkish Air to see when my firearm would arrive.
Things are a little different on a third world airline. They couldn't tell me where my rifle was or when it would arrive. I was not impressed. I spent the day doing some sightseeing.
That night I filed complaints with Turkish Air, United (the flight started with a United flight) and the FAA. I guess Turkish air actually listened. They contacted me when I got back. I told them it cost me a day of hunting and that they owed me for a hotel night plus 10% of the daily fees. They actually agreed. I received a check last week for $800 from Turkish Air. The flight total was only $1250.
Rinat picked me up early the next day and we went back to the airport. No rifle with the first flight. Then the second flight came in and they said no rifle on that one either. While talking to the staff at TA the rifle appeared. Thank goodness. We cleared customs and started the 12 hour drive to the hunting area.
There were good paved roads to Narn and then gravel and then dirt, then into the mountains. Wikipedia claims there are 81 mountain ranges in Kyrg, so you are never out of sight of mountains.
Mountain range from truck.
Rinat claimed he had been told a pass was open that would provide a shortcut. Open is a relative term. Rinat's 4 wheel drive SUV got stuck perhaps 15-20 times and required digging out 8-11 of those times. Rinat seemed to have a knack for letting off the gas when he should have maintained. He appeared to have never heard of tire chains. We finally got over the pass and then through the military checkpoint, then on towards camp.
Stuck heading up pass.
Frozen lake we drove on.
Rinat told me that the hunting camp that we were going to had unusual access. We went up over a steep hill and down onto a frozen lake. We then drove 8 miles up the lake and then another 1 1/2 miles up the frozen river to the main camp I would be hunting out of. We arrived well after dark and unloaded. My bed was in the same room as the head guide. There was one stove to heat the place and also to do some of the cooking. Wood and coal were used for fuel. The stove was open to my room and to the "kitchen" where the cooking was done and where there was a table for most of the staff to eat. Only the head guide and I ate in our room. In Kyrg expect to be separated from most of the help and to be served meals separately.
Main camp we stayed at. Note outhouse around back.
Main camp in the lower right of picture to give scale to where we were.
The first day we got up and got ready to hunt. My rifle for this hunt was a 7mm short action ultra mag [SAUM] on a custom action by Northwest precision with a lightweight stock. Knowing shots could be long I had a 3X24 March scope on it. The week before leaving I had gone to Montana to work with Broz on long range shooting. I call myself an advanced beginner in long range shooting. My rifle is capable of 1/2 min accuracy with 168 gr Bergers. Upon removing the rifle I immediately noticed that the bubble level was 20 degrees off. CRAP. For long range shooting a level is very useful, especially as I always cant a gun. So for me to be effective at longer ranges I need that to work.
I spent the next hour working with the bubble level to try and get it right. Then we checked the rifle at 300 yards and then went hunting. The procedure throughout the hunt was for there to be 4 of us on horseback. We rode for 7 to 11 hours per day. The chief guide was Callis. The assistant guide was his younger brother Glik. The 3rd fellow was what in my mind I called the wrangler. He took care of the horses, food, spotting scope and me. Glik spoke pretty good English. Callis told me when we met that if I spoke slow then he could understand me pretty well. The wrangler was Shakkar and he spoke no English. My horse was tied to Shakkar's saddle, usually with about 4 feet of slack. As we got ready to leave camp the first problem happened. Glik asked to use my binoculars. Come to find out there was one pair of binos between the 3 of them. This really *Rule 4 Violation*ED me off. It’s still one of the things that gets me fired up about this trip. I really wanted to use my binos, but knew that Glik would see far more game with my binos than without. According to Rinat they all have binos. They just didn't bring them, perhaps thinking the client’s binos will be better. So he used mine for the next 9 days. He gave them back to me at night so I could clean them for the next day. We headed east the first day and made a big loop around to the north of the main camp. We saw 7 different herds of MP's, but no rams over 110 cm. About 100 sheep total.
We did find a wolf kill. The vultures showed us an Ibex that the wolves had killed and partially eaten. We saw wolf tracks almost every day. Most were old. We also saw multiple sets of MP and Ibex horns each day that the guides said were wolf killed. Sometimes 10-12 sets a day. The wolves definitely get their share. I had been told that the average MP they killed was 120-135 cm. So I told them I wouldn't shoot one under 120 cm. That's about 47 inches. The biggest MP ram the first day was maybe 110 cm. They had scouted a winter herd of Ibex with 4 good billies in it. They had set the first day up so we would go by that herd on the way back. They spotted the herd and decided to do a drive. Glik and I were set up below a saddle that they expected the Ibex to go through. Shakkar went down to spook the herd to us. When I first saw the Ibex they were perhaps 1600 yards away. They didn't move near as far as expected when Shakkar spooked them. I suggested to Glik that we crawl back over the ridge and loop around and come back into sight above them at perhaps 400 yards. He replied that they would see us and that his brother would move the Ibex to us.
Marco Polo sheep horns.
Marco Polo sheep horns.
The next thing I hear is boom, boom and boom. 3 rifle shots rang out. Callis was shooting to push the Ibex to us!! Double crap. I wanted to look the Ibex over and pick the best one out, not shoot at running Ibex as they go by me. I already have one on the wall and wasn't planning to shoot another unless it was larger. Crap! I had counted about 65 Ibex. They split into 3 groups. One group went about 300 yards below us, one group about 200 yards above us and one group close to our level. It was either shoot fast or pass. So I picked out what looked like a mature billy above us and tried a running shot. He was then over the saddle and out of sight. The group near our level pulled up and started milling around. I picked out a billy and tried a shot at him. That of course provided the reason for them to head over the ridge. I swung on the billy and pulled the trigger. I shot a rock 30 feet in front of me. I was belly on the ground with a bipod and could see the billy, but the muzzle was low enough it caught a rock. As we stood up my guide pointed out a nanny that I had wounded. She apparently stepped in front of the billy just as I pulled the trigger the second time. I finished her off and was told we'd use her for camp meat. Then Callis told me I had hit a billy my first shot.
The hill he went down was too steep to ride down. 1/2 mile plus down a steep talus slope. Some of the slopes are well over 30 degrees. That doesn't sound steep until you try to walk on them. This was steep enough that a rounded rock would go several hundred yards before stopping if thrown. A slip and fall could result in a ride a good ways down the hill, blood trail all of the way down. That hill wore me out. We were at about 13,500 feet. I'm 56 and my knees are not as good as they used to be. Last July I slipped and fell part way down some steps. As a result I have a small tear in my ACL and meniscus on my right knee. No surgery, just PT to build up the muscles. When I got to the bottom Callis said it was time to head for camp and we were taking a shortcut. He said we'd look for my billy tomorrow. Sounded good at the time.... The hill we went up was extremely steep. Too steep to go straight up. So we switchbacked the horses up it. We wore our poor horses out. We looked into a couple of gullies that my Ibex could have been in, but saw nothing.
Their horses are rather small. Don't say the word pony. They get offended quickly. They claimed that they only weigh about 700 lbs. Hmm. I weigh 200 lbs. That’s a lot of weight for a small horse to pack all day at those elevations. The main camp was at 11,500 and spike camp was at 11,800. We went over 14,000 feet several times. Most of our hunting was done at 12,500 to 13,800 feet. They told me that these horses were the decedents of those that Genghis Khan had used to conquer Asia. Tough animals. They didn't water them at camp as we would here in the states. When we found where a spring had created softer ice in the river beds then the horses would scrape out a shallow hole in the ice with their hooves and slurp the water that collected there. I think that happened 4-5 times in 9 days. They also ate the snow for water. Their horse shoes had cleats on them helped them to dig in on the ice. We usually trotted on the ice. They use the rivers like roads. No
hidden holes for the horses to step into.
Horses slurping water from where they scraped the ice and allowed the water to seep in.
When we got to the top of the hill it was too steep to ride down so we walked again. It was getting dark and I was tired. Long first day. They had told me the first 2 days we would take it easy so I could acclimate to the elevation. Finally back on the horse and back to camp at 8 pm. Quick dinner and off to bed.
Frozen spring coming out of rocks into stream.
Day 2 was similar to day one, off to the east and looping around to the north. We went further east and up another valley. We saw 3 herds of MP today with mostly ewes. We went up a snow filled valley up to a STEEP saddle. Feet out of the stirrups steep. I could hear voices in my head telling me this was a good place to get killed. You wouldn't believe the places they take those horses. We did find another really good Ibex. They tried another drive. This time Callis stayed with me while Glik and Shakkar went around. Callis went to sleep while waiting. Again they used a rifle to spook the Ibex. Never saw the billy. He went a different way. Back to camp early today. Got back around 4PM.
My bed with stove and pass through to kitchen.
While riding I had been thinking about my bubble level. At camp I pulled out a short piece of rope from my pack and hung up a rock about 60 yards away. I then aligned my rifle scope vertical cross-hair with the plum line and reset the bubble level. It was windy enough that I had to increase rock size 3 times. The last one was close to 30 lbs. Now I felt that the level was very close to where it should be. Glik told me to pack for spike camp. He said that it was heated and that we would be there 2-3 days.
We left a little earlier the next AM and headed west and then south. China was just 6 miles south of us, close enough that the border patrol came through regularly checking things out, about every 7-10 days. A lot of area to patrol and very rough. In my journal I wrote that I had "seen the elephant" and lived to tell about it. We covered some extremely rough country today. We saw several herds of MP. Perhaps 35 total. Spooked 5 rams as we turned up a side draw. Largest one was perhaps 100 cm. We went right up to the Chinese border and my altimeter said 14,070 ft. We led the horses through the worst of it. I hung onto a stirrup or a tail to get through. One slip and you would go a several hundred feet before you would stop. We got above where the sheep were living and worked down a ridge looking at each draw we came to. Nothing worth pursuing. I was beat by the time we got to spike camp.
Spike camp was... interesting. That’s a good word for it. Basically a felt tent over a wooden frame, about ready to blow over. Holes in the felt conveniently provided fresh air. It was about 10X16 feet and there were 5 of us in it. We had a cook in addition to the rest of us. There was a stove in the corner by the entry door. Very basic. A tub with legs, a smokestack and a door with slots. No damper to help anything burn longer. The fire lasted about 1 1/2 hours and then it got cold. I FROZE that night in bed. Not a comfortable night at all. I was furthest from the door with 3 of them on the floor between me and the door. I was glad to get up in the AM. I nicknamed spike camp "Camp Icebox" because it was so cold. When I later told Callis that Glik had told me it was a heated camp he laughed about it for the next 2 days.
We headed south that AM and then west up a valley. About 1/2 mile up the valley we stopped because the guides spotted sheep. After waiting 3/4 hour we determined to go up a draw and circle around closer and see if we could get a shot. When we got to the top of the ridge another herd of sheep was spotted. New plan as this group had a bigger ram in it. We doubled back down the ridge and looped around toward the herd of rams. Unfortunately we got busted as we were climbing a saddle on the horses. When the herd took off so did we! Eventually we galloped almost 1/2 mile trying to catch up. When we did they were across a valley. As I jumped off my horse my guide told me they were 500 yards away. I got the bipod down, dropped to the ground and dialed the scope for 500 yards as the sheep took off. I asked the guide which one. He said the first one. He was a monster ram. Then he said 600 yards. So I tried a running shot. I missed of course. Here is where it gets uncomfortable for me. I shouldn't have shot. I felt that the guide expected me to shoot. I missed, but the result was that the basin emptied of sheep. Over 60 sheep left the basin. The guide should have told me NOT to shoot instead of giving me a range. I screwed up by trying a shot that I knew was a low percentage one. I guess it was both of our faults. I never should have shot. If I had not shot then we would have had several other herds of sheep to look over. Instead they were gone never to be seen again.
Marco Polo Sheep.
That afternoon we crept up on a feeding herd that had a small ram in with some ewes and lambs. The guides thought we were stalking a group that had a good ram in it. Must of been 2 different herds and we found the ewes. Never did figure out where they went. We saw close to 130 sheep that day. Back at camp the cook showed us a fox that a pair of wolves had killed about 1/4 mile from camp.
Food was very basic. I have never had a steak in Kyrg. They don't seem to know what it is. Lots of soups and stews. Lots of pasta and bread. Tea is served morning, noon and night. The Ibex was good. They chopped it all up and ate it in soups and stews.
At the main camp we usually had eggs and sausage for breakfast. At spike camp it was different. One morning they asked if soup was OK for breakfast. I said fine. It was their version of Ramen noodles. A slightly bigger package with more spices in it, but Ramen noodles nonetheless. No outhouse either. At the main camp there is an outhouse. No seat. Just a hole in the floor, but at least you are out of the wind. At spike camp it was just cold and you didn't dawdle when Mother Nature called.
Because of my previous Kyrg trip, I took my own TP this time. They do have TP. It’s the John Wayne variety. It’s rough and tough and doesn't take crap off of anybody! Baby wipes for hands or in place of TP is also a good idea. Just keep it in an inside pocket. When baby wipes freeze they don't do any better than the John Wayne TP. Just believe me on this...
On day 5 we went back south and then west. I think these guys got a kick out of scaring the crap out of me. More STEEP hills. Feet out of the stirrups again. They seem to think that's going to help you get off of a horse if he falls. If it's so steep your feet are out it’s unlikely you’re going to stop going down the hill. I guess you might be able to keep the horse from rolling over you. On day 3 I had watched the guide’s horse slip on the ice. All four feet out and the belly on the ice. The guide just kept in the saddle. It happened to me today so I stayed in the saddle and the horse just got back on its feet. Amazing how that works out at times. I can't tell you how many times a horse would fall to a knee up on the steep talus slopes. Your heart rate doubles in a split second and you get pucker marks on the saddle...
We saw about 35 ewes today and wound up back at camp at 1 PM. What the heck?? Callis had a "headache" so he called it quits early. Glik and Shakar took me out for a couple hours to the north and west of spike camp. We wound up a mile or so from where I missed the ram the day before. That area had few sheep as we had run them out of there. On day 6 we woke up to wind, lots of wind with strong gusts. Callis sent Glik and the cook back to the main camp for additional supplies as we were going to stay longer than originally expected. With the still air temp at around 15 the wind made it cold. Callis decided we would stay in camp and see if the wind went down. We'd get the fire going and then a gust of wind would hit. The temperature would drop 20 degrees in 20 seconds. The tent frame would move 12 or more inches with each gust of wind. It moved so much that it popped the door latch 2 different times and the door blew open. The inside temp really dropped then. In fact they had to go out and do some bracing to keep it from blowing over.
Marco Polo sheep. Note how well they blend. Young ram center left.
About 1 PM Glik and the cook got back. Callis decided we should take a ride and see if we could find anything. We saw 2 small herds of ewes, perhaps 15 sheep total. We were out for only 3 hrs. I did not complain, but I was glad to get back. It was darn cold on a horse that day. Generally speaking the daytime temps got as warm as perhaps 20 degrees. At night perhaps down to 0. It was good and cold in the AM. Callis said the wind would bring the sheep down into the grass to feed. That proved pro
To stay warm it required staying dry. My feet perspire more than many people’s do. Each night I hung up socks and liners to let them dry. I'd sleep with a lighter pair on and then in the AM I'd switch to dry liners and a heavier pair. To sleep at night I took to wearing a balaclava and my thermals as well as socks. My sleeping bag was rated to -20, which means comfortable to perhaps 0. I took putting my coat on top of me when I went to bed. That helped a bit.
Me dressed to hunt.
On day 7 the wind left us during the night and we headed south once again. When riding Callis had the point, then Glik with me and Shakar bringing up the rear. Callis's job was to see the sheep before they us. If the MP see you inside of 3/4 to 1 mile they are up and leaving the area. They blend in well, as you can see from some of the photos. On this day we turned east up a valley and came over a small hill. About the time I cleared the hill we all spotted a pair of rams out in the grass. A golden opportunity and we muffed it. Callis was asleep at the switch, daydreaming, because no ram should be so low. The rams were 900 yards away and of course they saw us just after we saw them. The grass is brown and they stuck out so bad that I spotted them immediately. Big rams, both 130 cm plus. They took off and we tried to follow. We never caught up to them that day. We went clear to the Chinese border. We looked for them for 4 hours. I was sick. I knew it was one of those opportunities I would wish we had again. It was to get worse...
We stopped for lunch overlooking the border. Each day we would stop for lunch, hopefully where the horses could graze some and we were out of the wind. They would spread out a coat to eat on. Lunch was always the same. We had bread, canned sardines, cheese, sausage and tea. Then I'd hand out some candy or gum for dessert. We usually had lunch around 1:30 to 2 PM. One day it was closer to 3PM. They didn't have a watch between them so they asked me the time. Lunch was filling, but got a little boring by the end.
After lunch around 4PM we found a herd of 12 rams, some bedded and some up feeding. They were near the head of a valley with the wind coming to us. We crawled to where we could see them well, right at 700 yards. No reasonable way to get closer. On our side if you went up the ridge they wouldn't get closer and the wind would become a cross wind. More wind drift. To get on the other side would require a ride of close to 2 1/2 miles and then they would probably spook because we had to go where they could see us. Just not a good option. The week before I left I went up to Mt and did some shooting with a Broz out to 1000 yds. My rifle was shooting 4 inch groups at this range. Because of the elevation, bullet drops were much different. As an example, I e-mailed Berger to see what speed my bullet needed to reliably expand. They said 1900 fps. At home at an elevation of 4600 feet my bullet hits that speed at 900 yards. At 13000 plus feet it is 1100 yards. A bullet shoots much flatter at elevations like that. I had 2 devices to help with those calculations. The first is a G7 rangefinder with my ballistic data inputs in it. The second was my iPod with the program Shooter loaded on it. I had to use my Kestrel to input the environmental data to the iPod.
In Montana I had been accurate to 1000 yards. I had a great rest and felt that I could make a good shot. I told the guides that it was 50-50. In my mind it was 75-25. I had the bipod rock solid with a rock under the butt of the rifle. It felt good. The best ram was likely 125-130 cm. Nice sheep. I carefully squeezed the trigger. At my shot, sheep scattered everywhere, including my intended target. The guides said just barely high. I tried another shot at him and went over his back again. Then the valley was empty. I still don't know what happened for sure. I was 2 inches or less high at 700 yards. My best guess is "lift" from the wind or a calculation error in the G7's program. It is supposed to account for the elevation, or I have read H-1000 may increase in velocity with decreasing air temp. Most likely it was one of those three things. Just 3/4 of a min lower and he would have been mine.
Bad luck seems to plague me with sheep. My first ever sheep hunt was in my home state of Wyoming. It took me until the 10th day of a 10 day hunt to get my ram. My bad luck continued this day. After missing this ram Callis headed to the top of the canyon where they had left, probably to make sure there was no blood, even though they were sure I had missed. We worked along the top of a ridge past several canyon heads and then they caught sight of 2 rams heading downhill to feed that night. Big rams. Maybe the 2 we had spooked in the grass that AM. We bailed off the horses and headed down the draw to catch up with these rams. After 3/8 of a mile or so we started to catch up. Up ahead was a rock formation that was giving us some cover. As we approached it I glimpsed the rams close ahead of us. I was winded enough that I had to catch my breath before I could attempt a shot. I had warned my guide I wouldn't shoot while "sucking wind". While I'm catching my breath both guides stick their heads up to glass the rams. After 45 seconds I bring the rifle around the edge of the rock formation to get a rest and prepare to shoot. I just see the rams running around the edge of the hill The guides had spooked those 2 rams... Cuss words, cuss words... Ratchin fratch... I had noticed when I arrived that all of the guides wore bomber type hats that are black. Those sheep saw those 2 hats and left the area. They were only 300 yards away. My best opportunity lost because the guides couldn't keep their heads down until I caught my breath and I could shoot. I still get ticked off when I think about this. Best chance of the entire trip, bar none, and they screwed it up. That wound up being my closest opportunity.
Day 8 was one of my worst ever hunting days, up early and back out looking for the 2 big rams that we saw the day before. At the first valley south of camp they spotted the rams probably over a mile away. We start after them, trying to catch up and stay out of sight. After close to 3 miles we have closed the distance. We’ve been off of the horses several times looking into draws and canyons. Finally we spot them. Glik ranges them at 500 yards. I made a fatal mental error. All I can say is mental fatigue. I was worn down by then. No other reasonable excuse. I had made up drop charts a couple of days earlier when the wind kept us in camp for quicker shots at medium ranges. I knew 500 yards was 8 min to dial on my scope. The G7 gave me 9 min. So I dialed 9 even though I knew I only needed 8. I then took a couple of seconds to find the sheep in my scope. In fact I had to reduce the magnification to 10X and then back up to 24. The ram turned some and I pressed the trigger. My bullet just went over his back, totally my mistake. I knew the G7 was wrong. I took up the slack and pulled the trigger... only to miss. I can make
that shot 9 out of 10 times or more. Again just 2 inches high. 1 min lower would have been 5 inches lower and he would have been mine. I tried a running shot but it was no use. He was gone never to be seen again. I still see him in my dreams... Or are they nightmares? I take full responsibility for missing this time.
Callis was *Rule 4 Violation*ed. He sent Glik back to camp to pack up and meet us back at the main camp. We made a big loop and covered some wild country. We saw a large herd of Ibex and MP mixed. I get the impression that this is not common. Maybe 80-100 animals total. No MP rams worth trying for. The biggest billy was about 100 cm, which is what my one at home is, so I declined. We saw perhaps 35-40 MP this day in total. It was a long ride back to the main camp. The wind picked up at the end making the main camp very welcome indeed.
Callis's and Glik's dad was in camp. He is a "famous" guide and has his name multiple times in the SCI book according to Rinat. That night he ate with me instead of Callis. He wanted me to shoot any MP ram we found the next and last day. I was to take the cape back with me. They had 2 weeks more that the locals could hunt. He assured me they could kill a big ram, perhaps the one I missed, and then send me the horns later. I told him I would think about it. In my mind I was not interested for several reasons. First of all MP are a CITES animal and this would be illegal. Second, if I didn't shoot the ram I would have no pleasure looking at him on my wall. I wouldn't even want him there.
The next day the father was my chief guide, bad knees and all. His eyes are not what they used to be. We did find a herd with some smaller rams. The father asked me to shoot one. At that point I told him NO, just not going to do it. I explained I had to shoot what was on MY wall. I might also explain that Theo is from a RSA background so we had daily and trophy fees. I was not going to shoot a "dink" and pay a $9500 trophy fee. At that point I was resigned to not getting a MP. They were VERY unhappy with me. I guess the gist of it is that they have a limited number of permits. By my not shooting a MP it cost them $$. That was not my problem. I remembered all of the days we were back
to camp early...
The father spooked several herds of MP that Callis might have seen. 2 different herds of rams went up over the same saddle and he decided that was where we were going. After 8 days you would think I knew where they would take horses. I thought I did and this was NOT one of them. The saddle was so steep I would not have been able to walk across it without a walking stick, loose talus slope with snow on parts of it, feet out of the stirrups. I could hear those voices in my head telling me this was a good place to get killed. That was the worst ride of the whole trip, my life in fact. When my horse stumbled and went to a knee I about peed my pants. I will freely admit it scared me and I'm fearless. I was so glad to get to the top. No sheep. Plenty of wind like normal. We eventually found a couple of herds of ewes and lambs, but no rams. They had just pulled a Houdini on us and disappeared.
At the end of the day we arrived back at Camp Icebox. They sent a vehicle from the main camp to take us back. This saved arriving in the dark on horseback as well as 2 more hours on a horse. The terrain in the hunting area was very interesting. It was rock with a little grass in it. In 9 days of hunting I did not see a single tree or bush. None. Nada. They did not exist there. A tall patch of grass where it was lush was perhaps 10 inches tall. Most of the grass was 3-5 inches tall. Grass and rock and that’s it. You can see why close shots are rare on MP or Ibex.
Glik insisted that I pack that night as we would leave early for Bishkek the next day. He said we would get up at 6 and leave by 7. It was 6:30 getting up and almost 9:30 leaving camp. Things like that bug me. Give me a time and I'll be ready. They have a different concept of time there. Once in a vehicle I want to get to my destination. They take their time. Had to stop on the ice lake to look at the Ibex and smoke. I might note that they had been instructed not to smoke in a vehicle with me. Tough, as many of them seem to smoke 2 packs a day. They then had to stop at the first 2 homesteads we came to leaving the hunting area. These people are way out in the boonies. They may only make it to town 2-4 times a year. The second one invited us to have tea and some meat. So we accepted. I was feeling rushed, but they were not. After all, they were just going on to Narn City. I still had 6 more hours after that so I wanted to get there and get back to a shower. No bathing facilities in the camp I was at.
Ibex on the way out.
I finally got handed off to a more modern vehicle and better roads, and eventually got to bed around 11PM. Up at 4:30 to head for the airport and that long ride home. My translator told me no need to pay for the VIP service. So I checked my rifle through myself. They made me separate out my ammo. I paid $2 to have it strapped and they added it as baggage at no extra charge.
Customs in Kennedy was fine. Had to recheck the rifle. Had to go to another terminal and then get TSA as well as the local PD to check it out. Glad I had 4 hours to clear everything. Got to Denver at 11:30PM local time. Drove home the next day.
I had to wait a while to think about this hunt before I wrote this up. I needed to get over some disappointment, over guide mistakes and own up to my own. I missed a shot that I can make 9 out of 10 times or more. The guides spooked the rams at our closest opportunity. Guess it happens.
What would I do different if I went again? I thought about that on the way back. Probably take less clothes. I took 2 set of coveralls and didn't wear either. I'd spend the money for a satellite phone to assure family I was fine. I think I'd go ahead with a Global Rescue plan. It was more dangerous than I thought. I'd bring extra bino's so I was sure I was using a set. Grrrr... Look at possibly some heavier gloves. I’d get a pair of Kenetrek Pac boots. I’d get a gym membership 3 months prior, to build up my thighs/knees more. I did OK, but it could have been better. I’d lose 5-10lbs more than what I did. It would have been just that much easier. I’d talk to my guide about stalks vs. drives for Ibex. I’d bring more Ibupropen and Aleve to hand out. I’d bring an extra box of .300 Win Mag shells in with my ammo to give away. It’s a popular caliber and costs the equivalent of $100 per box for them. Better heavy socks would also make my list. I would also make sure and check my rifle at 700 yards to be sure the calculations from the G7 matched actual conditions upon arrival. I probably would even throw in a set of Wheeler's Level-Level-Level in case something gets knocked out of whack.
I hope to go back. Rinat was considering a discounted hunt for me. I have one friend that this as his dream hunt and wants to go next year. Another friend is also considering it. Anyone else want to go? If they get good snow then the hunting is much easier. Kyrg is an interesting place to go. I still want an MP. One of those dream animals...
Bruce Marshall was born and raised in Southeast Idaho. He has graduated from Ririe High School, Ricks college with a Associates degree in Arts and Science, University of Idaho Bachelors in Geology, Gemological Institute of America as a Graduate Gemologist and Paris Junior college with a degree in goldsmithing. He and his wife MaryAnn have been married for 33 years and have 3 children and 7 grandchildren. They own Marshall Jewelry in Gillette Wy. Bruce has hunted and fished since he was 3 years old. He has been blessed to hunt Africa 2 times and twice in Kyrgyzstan.