An Update on Maral Stag Hunts in Mongolia

Poaching and a winter of record cold led to a major population crash for maral stag in Mongolia in the early 2000s. In response, the government stepped up its anti-poaching and transplant program, which brought a quick recovery. As early as 2007 there was talk about hunting reopening, and some Mongolian outfitters were still listing maral stag on their brochures to keep hunter interest alive, despite being unable to book hunts at that time. The focus for Asian elk hunting had shifted to Kazakhstan and Russia. Hunting in Mongolia reopened quietly with five permits in September of 2011.

Mongolia has multiple ibex and argali species available for world-class combo hunts, so there’s good reason for renewed interest in Mongolian elk as another combo possibility.

In 2012 Mongolia enacted major changes in hunting regulations, and there have even been efforts to close hunting there altogether. Permits have been cut across the board in each of the last few years, and readers will recall that Gobi ibex hunting was canceled in 2013 only to reopen the following year (see Article 3105 in the database). In our most recent coverage in January (see Article 3349), we mentioned that permits were reduced again for 2015.

In that article, we also included a report from Danish subscriber Jens Knudsen. His hunt was arranged by Anna Chepiga of Stalker Group (http://www.stalker-group.com/en; anna@stalker-group.com; 011-7-495-755-48-52)

By email, Chepiga told us, “We do not book many clients in Mongolia, but we have outfitted for maral stag since the hunt reopened. The hunt takes place in Töv Province near the town of Bayan-Onjuul, south of Ulaanbaatar. The best time is September 1 to October 15, during the rut. For 2015 the cost is $14,000US, which includes trophy fees and permits. Accommodations are in comfortable yurts with beds.”

Chepiga told us that there is no expectation that maral or Gobi ibex or any other hunt will be suspended this year, but that the future is not settled. “Ministries are always changing in Mongolia. The current government is not negative towards hunting, but no one knows what will happen in Mongolia in 2016. There is still discussion about closing hunting tourism. Our local partners there hope that everything will be settled in August 2015.”

We also heard from Kaan Karakaya of Shikar Safaris (http://www.shikarsafaris.com/; info@shikarsafaris.com; 011-90-242-226-31-15) who told us:

“For the current year, 15 permits were provided for maral stag and 23 permits for the Gobi ibex. That’s for all of Mongolia. Following the major hunting regulation passed by the Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism in 2012, permit numbers are carefully controlled.

“All these permits have been issued to the hunting zones where pre-scouting counted optimum animals, and hunting some of them will not have any negative effect on the population. The areas are in the west of the Töv Province and a few others in western Mongolia. These areas are mostly rolling, open steppe, which makes for a challenging hunt.

“Regulations require that hunting zones be thoroughly managed by the outfitters. In turn, The Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia provides appropriate hunting licenses based on the conservation effort. The hunting zone must be maintained and monitored throughout the year. Furthermore, a hunting management plan must be submitted indicating the goals for sustainable use of the area. The companies in charge of each hunting zone work with the local people on a community-based conservation effort, and must put revenues from hunting back into the local area.”

Karakaya says that these projects, which are similar to community-based conservation efforts elsewhere, have been a success so far. Outfitters have made habitat improvements for key game species and increased anti-poaching efforts. The new regulations have increased operators’ costs, which have been passed on to hunters. According to Karakaya, good progress has been made with sustainable hunting.

“Besides maral stag and Altai and Gobi ibex, argali populations are doing very well. A few projects started successfully in northwestern Mongolia for Altai argali conservation, and the argali population grew from 250 to 750, with the result that five hunting permits were issued in 2014. More projects for Hangai and Gobi argali are also helping to save those species. Overall, Mongolia has made big steps for community-based conservation.”

Bob Kern at The Hunting Consortium (http://www.huntingconsortium.com/; 540-955-0090) reminded us that while permits for other species have been reduced, the quota for elk has actually gone up since 2011. “The Hunting Consortium operates hunts for Asian elk in Mongolia and in Russia (both in Tuva and the Gorno Altaysk regions), and in Kazakhstan, where the largest trophies are found. In Mongolia the average trophy scores between 280 and 340 SCI, although heads over 350 have been taken. Elk is the base item for several popular combination hunts: Siberian roe deer, wild boar and wolves are often encountered on these hunts, and can be taken for an extra trophy fee.” Kern gives the cost of a 10-day hunt as $16,000, including trophy fee, transfer from Ulaanbaatar, and all accommodations. Hunts are conducted on horseback and on foot from tented camps.

Finally, we heard from Jeff C. Neal at Jeff C. Neal Inc. (http://www.jeffcnealinc.com/; 918-299-3580) who tells us that he has four spots available for maral stag hunts in 2015. Hunters will arrive in Ulaanbaatar, and transfer the following day to the hunting area for a three- to seven-day hunt with ger accommodations. The cost for this hunt is $15,500 for 1 x 1, including trophy fee, with $2,400 for a non-hunting companion. There are some additional fees for transportation and lodging in Ulaanbaatar. The season for maral stag runs from September 1 to November 1.

If you hunt maral stag in Mongolia this fall, be sure to file a report.