News and Reports on Three Sheep Hunts in Turkey, Tajikistan and Mongolia

Editor’s Note: Over the past month, we’ve received a number of noteworthy reports on Asian mountain hunts. These include a report on a hunt for rare Konya mouflon sheep in a new area in Turkey, one from Gary Jorgensen on Marco Polo sheep in Tajikistan, and three reports on Mongolia. Taken together, they may help you decide whether Asia is right for you as you plan your hunts for 2015 and beyond.

In November, Rex Baker hunted Konya sheep in an area that he tells us had not been previously hunted for this subspecies of mouflon, which lives in only one region of Turkey in the Bozdag Mountains west of Konya. He booked this hunt with Asian Mountain Outfitters (250-317-5525). Hunting for Konya sheep was closed in 1989, at which point only three hunters had taken the sheep in recent times. Limited hunting reopened again in 2006, with huntable populations of sheep released from a fenced preserve where they are intensively managed.

In Report 9914 Baker writes, “There are three free-range areas for this sheep. First, there is the area outside the preserve fence; a second transplant area exists farther from the preserve, where many of the sheep actually have ear tags. I was told that the sheep in the third area, where this hunt took place, were indigenous and would not have ear tags. This area has not been hunted before, at least not since the Konya program re-started. My local guides, Temir and Nebzed, pre-scouted the area for nine days. I shot my ram, which measured 75 cm, on the first day of the hunt. We spotted nine rams in total; none had ear tags. The local outfitter is very good, and a hunter himself. Accommodations are in a hotel near the hunting area. I booked this as a cancelation hunt, and it was not cheap, but I highly recommend it.”

Unfortunately, Bryan Martin of Asian Mountain Outfitters, who booked this hunt for Baker, was in the field at press time; we could not contact him to verify details on this new area. We promise to follow up on this story when we have more information. We have four other reports since 2013 on hunts arranged by Asian Mountain Outfitters: 9833, 9331, and 9300 on early-season hunts in Kyrgyzstan for mid-Asian ibex, and 9476 on Marco Polo and ibex.

In Report 9898 subscriber Gary Jorgensen tells us he enjoyed an excellent hunt in Tajikistan for Marco Polo argali at Hot Springs Camp in late October. This hunt was booked with Safari Outfitters (www.safari1.com; 307-587-5596). Jorgensen is 73 and has COPD, so there was some question about his fitness for a high-altitude sheep hunt. He tells us everything went better than hoped.

Jorgenson writes, “If you are after a very respectable Marco Polo ram, Safari Outfitters will treat you right. I was impressed by their very professional support group and the hunt. I was able to observe between 2,500-3,000 sheep, including some real quality rams. It was a great experience, with great people in camp, including Safari Outfitters personnel. Having these people in place makes hunting in this tough environment relatively easy.”

Jorgensen took a 58.5 x 56.5-inch ram on his second day of hunting. We followed up with him over the phone to hear more about his hunt.

“The worst part of the trip is actually the travel to get into camp, including the long drive to Khorugh, and another seven hours to camp. There were three hunters in camp and one observer. The other hunters took both Marco Polo and ibex on the first day of hunting.

“This is a spot-and-stalk hunt, but most of the spotting is done from the Jeep. I probably got a look at between 400 and 500 rams. This was before the rut, and the rams were together in bachelor groups. On the first day I passed up a few 55-inchers. The guides are good at judging trophies, but they want to get in and out quickly and kept saying ‘shoot.’ I said, ‘we can do bigger.’

“On the second day it was snowing and blowing a bit, and I took a ram with one shot after a short stalk from the Jeep. This is the ideal sheep hunt for someone who is physically limited. The rams come down the slopes in the morning, and some shots are taken right off the valley floor. In theory, you could take a ram just stepping out of the Jeep.

“My doctor wouldn’t sign off on this trip because of my health. I have COPD, and use a CPAP. I purchased an oxygen concentrator so that I would have supplemental oxygen for the altitude. The camp is at 13,000 feet, and I took the ram at 15,000 feet. As it turns out, I only used the oxygen a bit at night.

“Everything about this trip was great, and I cannot recommend Safari Outfitters enough. The Hot Springs Camp has hot water, heat, showers, good food, great trophy prep, and you can climb into the hotter-than-hell hot springs after dinner. Quite a trip.”

In preparation for Tajikistan, Jorgensen took a shooting class at Cross-Hairs Long Range Hunting School in Boise, Idaho. “We were ringing the bell at over 800 yards. After that, 400 yards was a chip shot.”

Clark Jeffs at Safari Outfitters gives the current cost for Tajikistan Marco Polo as $39,500 for a five-day hunt. Hunters are frequently unable to fly from Dushanbe to Khorugh due to weather, and usually spend 10-15 hours in a van. He says he has openings for 2015. “We work exclusively with Mongol Safaris in Tajikistan, and our hunters are also met by Sasha Kiselov from our Moscow office, who arranges everything on the trip. This is a much better hunt for older hunters than, say, Kyrgyzstan, which is much more physically demanding.”

We have another report (9872), from subscriber John Teeter on a hunt booked with Safari Outfitters hunting Hangai argali in the Hangai Mountains of Mongolia on a 12-day hunt in September. Teeter says that he “saw 12 or more rams every day, shooting an old, heavy, broomed-off ram measuring 51.5 inches with 19-inch bases.”

Unfortunately, Teeter was traveling and could not be reached for more information on his hunt. Clark Jeffs told us, “Permits for Mongolia are limited at the moment. The current Minster of the Environment, Sanjaas├╝rengiin Oyuun, is anti-hunting, and she moved to ban all hunting in 2012 without success. In 2013, Oyuun’s administration cut the TOTAL (all species) argali quota from 50 to 15 and the ibex (both species) from about 150 down to 35. In 2014 the quota was increased slightly but I was never told exactly how many were put on quota. Unfortunately, we had to raise prices to make these fewer hunts viable for our partners in Mongolia. High Altai argali went from $60,000 to $100,000, and Hangai argali is up to $73,000 from $46,000.” Asia is continually in a state of flux as far as hunting goes.”

As if to underscore this last statement, as we prepared this story for publication, Jeffs sent us an email saying “I was just advised this morning by email that the Mongolian government has announced the 2015 quota – there will be a total of 40 argali permits and 60 ibex permits. I don’t know the exact breakdown of that, but that is what our partners are telling us. Those quotas will be split between the various outfitting companies…it sounds like we will be getting about six or eight argali permits and about 10 or so ibex permits.”

We also spoke to Anna Chepiga from Stalker Group (anna@stalker-group.com; 011-7-495-755-48-52) about permits in Mongolia. “In recent years Mongolian authorities drastically reduced the number of permits issued every year. After this reduction, the number of outfitters operating in Mongolia has also gone down. Where there were 12 to 15 operators in the past, we’ll probably see only five to six continuing to operate.”

Still in Mongolia, Report 9871 is from Danish subscriber Jens Knudsen on a mixed-bag hunt arranged for him by Chepiga. Knudsen targeted Siberian ibex (also called Altai ibex), Gobi ibex, Mongolian gazelle, and Asian elk (wapiti) on a 15-day tour in September.

Knudsen writes, “Stalker Group organized an amazing tour of Mongolia for me. First we traveled to the Bayankhongor Province for a Gobi ibex that qualified me for Capra World Slam. Next we flew to Khovd, about 300 km from the Chinese border, where I hunted the High Altai Siberian ibex. From there we went to central Mongolia at Bayn Unjuul and hunted Central Asian wapiti and gazelle (as a side note, see our report on Foot and Mouth in Mongolia in our April 2014 issue). A total of four very exciting species to hunt. I was treated very well; transport, camp, and food were super. I strongly recommend a visit to Mongolia.”

We also heard more from Knudsen in a later email. “Essentially, I booked three different hunts together, five days for Gobi ibex, six days for Siberian ibex, and five days for a wapiti/gazelle combo hunt. The Gobi hunting area was not too large, and you could see it all from a truck in about an hour. It was easy to get around on foot there. In the High Altai, we drove between fantastic mountains and stopped to spot. Some days we hiked up the mountains to look for ibex. A very nice hunt, and we saw many ibex, big trophies, and 12 Altai argali.

“For the gazelle and wapiti, we stayed in a nice tent camp, with great food. Gazelle were hunted directly from camp, with the elk about an hour away, in nice, open terrain with small hills. I saw about 10 trophy stags, they were easy to spot during the rut. The only negative on the trip was that all guides expected very large tips. I think they may be somewhat spoiled by American hunters. In the future I will be sure to ask the outfitter in advance about what is reasonable for tips.” [Editor’s Note: Hunters considering pursuing gazelle in Mongolia should pay special attention to the update on foot-and-mouth disease on page 12 of our April issue].

Anna Chepiga quoted the prices for a five-day ibex hunt from Ulan Baatar as $10,800US for Siberian ibex, $9,400 for Gobi ibex, and $1,600 for gazelle. Chepiga says she has availability for 2015. “Stalker Group expects to have two to three permits for Gobi ibex, five for Altai ibex, and one permit for Hangai argali.”

Finally, we received Report 9873 from Robert Duhadaway on another successful mixed-bag hunt in Mongolia arranged by Shikar Safaris (www.shikarsafaris.com; info@shikarsafaris.com; 011-90-242-226-31-15). Duhadaway tells us he took Hangai argali (229-3/8), Gobi ibex (87-1/8), Siberian ibex (108-2/8) and Asian elk. Summing up his experience, Duhadaway says, “Great time, great people, food very good, and I took my animals.”

Duhadaway included with his report a richly detailed account of this hunt and his travel to Mongolia, which we have posted in full on the Website Uploads section on our home page as recommended reading for anyone who wants to get a feel for a Mongolia hunt.