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Each and every year, when the Bear hunting season begins and the hunters head off in search of the desired trophies, the bugbear season also starts for the taxidermy studios and outfitters. The problem is that the harvested trophy and a ready carpet are apples and oranges. Sometimes the hunters are very unhappy when they receive a ready item from the taxidermy studio. It is the size of the skin, that upsets the sportsmen. Let’s try to figure out what are the reasons of the event. The first – and the key factor is human. The harvested trophy is measured raw, right in the fields. This is the first mistake. Warm skin can easily stretch in all directions, like latex. As a rule, it is stretched lengthwise. During the measuring process, the skin fibers move causing width add up to length. For example, a bearskin can be stretched out for 2 additional meters; at the same time the width of the skin will be only 0.5 meters! Many people do not know the correct skin proportions length-to-width. This is true not only about the PHs and hunters, but also about some taxidermists, too – imagine how weird the ready item may look!

The second reason: one tends to forget that an animal has certain volume, just like every other thing in our world. However, the skins are measured flat. The difference between a flat skin and a ready item (for example, a carpet) can total up to 15-25 centimeters, depending on the skin size. This has nothing to do with shrinkage: these centimeters of length serve to provide the volume. The same is true for any other species trophy. The hunter has to know how to measure the trophy properly.

For example, the length of the lynx skin is 125 centimeters from the nasal root to the tail head. At the same time, the length of the cast body is only 106 centimeters. Extra length appears because the flat skin has no body volume.

The third and a very important reason is tanning. The whole look of the ready item depends very much on the tanning process. The specific characteristics of the skin lead to certain shrinkage of the trophy. The biological processes go on in the skin (corium) of the animal. Tanning is conservation of a living cell for future handling. No chemicals can substitute the biological processes and provide immortality of the cells. During the chemical tanning, the proteins of the derma shrink for 5-20%. The difference depends on the quality of the skin.

Most animals change their coat twice a year: in fall and in spring (actually, they shed the fur in spring only). We are now not talking about the African animals – those renew the hair coat during the whole year without appearing to do so, and keep the thickness of the skin the same all year round – in order to prevent dehydration. Therefore, here we refer to the carnivores of the moderate climate and of the northern regions.

Each species have the thinnest skin and the best strong hair prior to the shedding. At this point, the hair bulbs rise to the upper part of the derma, allowing currying the skin better and making the ready item thinner, softer, lighter and more flexible. In this case, the shrinkage will total up to 5-10%.

The animals usually shed for a long time. For example, when harvesting a brown bear in August, one can still see sparse long hairs among the short overhair. That is what is left of the winter coat. Same can be seen in wolf, fox and other carnivores. During this time of the year, the animals have the thickest skin, which hides the fur hair inside. In will grow prior to the cold season. This thick skin hides the new growing hair bulbs under the subcutaneous fat layer, and does not allow making the ready skin softer, lighter and thinner. Up to 20% of length can be lost to shrinkage. The skin thickness and the shedding highly depends on the weather. If the winter comes early, the skin might be fully mature and best for a trophy as early as October.

Every hunter needs to judge the harvested trophy correctly. It is better to properly measure the skin to avoid future disappointment when you receive a ready item from the taxidermy studio.

It is held, that a Marco Polo trophy from Tajikistan is some kind of a carte de visite for any mountain hunter. I personally have rather conflicting emotions regarding this destination, however have to agree, that hunting in Pamiris are atrial involving complicated logistics activities, rough field conditions, long distance shooting and of course immense altitudes. The trophy harvested after fighting every hardship is surely well deserved. So what is the main attraction for the mountain hunters in Pamir? I doubt that it is moulding of character. Of course, the hunters crave beautiful trophies that they have heard a lot about and seen so many luring horn whorls in every hunting magazine of the world.

Most hunters think Tajikistan is about Marco Polo ram hunting only. However, that is not true; the country is rich in hunting species: Wildboar – the animal numbers are very high. The trophy quality is one of the best in the world.

Mid-Asian Ibex – often shot as additional trophy during the Marco Polo hunt. Nevertheless, not many hunters know that Tajikistan has several regions where you can harvest a high quality trophy of the Ibex with perfect horns. The local outfitters plan to separate the Tajikistan Ibex as an independent Pamir species in the trophy lists of Safari Club International and GSCO.

Socalled Tibetan Sheep. At this time, it is not a separate species from the scientific point of view. However, the morphological structure of its horns is very different from the Marco Polo argali. The Tibetan sheep has distinctive short horns: as a rule, they are no longer than one meter, with a very heavy base.

Urial–defined to be the Afghan species. However when it comes to registering the trophies, it would be fair to define two or three groups: Afghan, Bokharian, and Ladakh one. And finally Markhoor– majestic mountain animal, inhabiting rocky region of the Pyandj River. Bukharian markhoor species is the one living in Tajikistan. The hunt was prohibited for a long time, but starting with 2013, the licenses are issued again.

Pamir can frighten away a novice, but at the same time, it lures the daring big time hunters. Tajikistan mountains are cliffy, with a minimum of vegetation. The territory is very open, lacking any natural screen that would allow approaching the animals. Pamir literally holds the first place in long distance shooting among the hunting destinations. The hunter has to be ready for shots from 300-600 meters, quite often from an angle. The altitudes do not allow you to move quickly in case of wounding the animal: the human, residing at lower altitudes, is only able to make a couple dozen steps, and afterwards one will have to rest for quite a long time.

The weather during the hunting season in November-December some times can be rather warm, however evening comfortable temperatures of-5/-10 C and in bright sun, you’ll always have a cold biting wind. During the night, the temperature can go as low as– 25 C. The hunters start getting ready for high altitudes well in advance – it is best to take first Dimoxpills before even arriving to Tajikistan. Treatment course continues during the whole stay in the hunting region.

Nowadays many hunters decide to try to conquer Pamir after taking part in African safaris, hunting in Russian and European woods, and climbing the Caucasus Mountains. In November 2014 Russian hunters Sergey Nazarkin, Mikhail Rabinovich and Rafat Shaihutdinov decided to test themselves and complete their trophy collections with Marco Polo Argali and Mid-Asian Ibex.

Chronicle of events: a hearty welcome at the airport of Dushanbe awaited the hunters after the 4-hour flight from Russia. The custom formalities went smooth and quick thanks to the local outfitter. The transfer to the hunting region was planned for the next day. To save time and energy the hunters decided to rent a helicopter and fly to the base camp (the car transfer takes 2 days with an overnight in Khorog). The weather often fine-tunes the hunting process. This time the mountain pass was covered with clouds, and the departure was issued in two days only.

It didn’t go without “adventures”. During the helicopter transfer, after 30 minutes flight the pilot returned to the airport because of engine fault. Nevertheless, since Tajikistan region has challenging terrain, only two-engine helicopters are used, which allowed the hunters to get back to the airport safely. It took them about 3 hours to change the heli; and just several minutes before the flight cancellation due to late hour, they successfully left the airport and headed to the hunting region. The transfer is possible only during the daylight.

The flight took around 3 hours total. Our hunters had a unique opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking views of Pamir at its finest: Sarez lake and amazing snowbound mountains. The helicopter landed in Rankgul village. After that,one-hour car transfer to the camp followed. The base camp is quite comfortable, keeping in mind that it is located at 4050 meters. There are two mud houses: one for the guides and the other one for the hunters. The house has a large hall way, three twin-bedded rooms, dining room and a kitchen, also a small sauna.

Next morning was spent checking the guns. The hunters had two.338 LapuaMag rifles and one .300 WinMag. In the second part of the day,our hunting team explored the hunting grounds. Russian 4x4 vehicles are used to drive around the territory. If a group of animals is located, the nitis fully examined with a spotting scope, and then the guides make a decision whether it is viable to approach the rams. The rutting time and lack of the snow added the adrenaline buzz: the sheep stayed at the tops of the small mountain groups. All trophies were well deserved with the muscle loading: long trudges up and walks of 1000-2000 meters, which is very demanding in Pamir altitudes. Sometimes the hunters had to climb up to the altitudes of 4500-4600 meters.

The prescouting made by local guides allowed one of the hunters to bag his dream trophy in the same first day. As a result, 3 fabulous Marco Polo rams were harvested in 4 days: 151 cm (59,5inches), 156cm(61 inches), 161 cm (63 inches). 3 more trophies of Mid-Asian Ibex with the biggest one of 121 cm were also shot by the group.

The results surely inspired for another trip to Tajikistan. And of course the hunters will return again and again – and amass a collection of Tajikistan species. The lessons are learned and foretaste is great!

Yury Morozov

Dear Hunters!

The Stalker Team would be very glad to meet you at the upcoming international conventions in USA. We are looking forward to talking to our old friends and making new ones in the resplendent Las Vegas. See us at the 12th Annual Hunter and Outfitter Convention of the Grand Slam Club/OVIS and at Annual Hunters’ Convention 2017 of the SCI.

The Grand Slam Club/OVIS Convention dates are January 25-28, our booth number is 306. The SCI Convention will be held on the February 1-4, booth number of Stalker Group is 6133. You are very welcome to come up and discuss the hunts, chat with our guides and enjoy the show time! And don’t forget that it is you, our favorite challenging routes and extreme trips enthusiast, the best and rear trophy collector, who shall find what you are looking for within our offers, whether Gorgeous Marco Polo Argali or Breathtaking Tur, Exciting Ibex or Graceful Chamois, Impressive Brown Bear or Awesome Moose.

Just turn the wheel and Stalker machine starts to work for you: visas, hotels, tickets, meeting at the airports, transfers on the earth, by water or by air, camps, professional field managers, interpreters, trophy field care, all necessary trophy export/import documentation. And when the hunt is finished and dream trophy is taken, Stalker takes the full responsibility for your trophy until it is shipped to its new home. We are proud to help you to conquer new continents and new countries, to expand your horizons and to get the invaluable experience.

Let’s meet in Vegas!

We are glad to share some comments from our client and friend, Mr.Randall Harley, who has recently returned from a successful Desert Bighorn hunt in Mexico:

“The hunt in Mexico went very well. The staff was very friendly, the food was delicious, and the guides were outstanding. I had no problems entering or exiting Mexico with my rifle and I was able to bring the horns and full skin back with me on the flight home. The border entry in Phoenix was very smooth since all of the required paperwork was in perfect order. I saw several groups of rams during the first three days. One group of 8 rams had some very impressive trophies, however, they were 800 yards away and going over the hill. Other groups were closer, but had smaller rams. On the third day, I shot my ram at 267 yards. He dropped down in his own shadow. The ram was judged to be 10 years old with 16+ inch bases and was heavily broomed to 33 inches long. He had a big chip out of the right horn that added some interesting character. I guess he was more of a fighter than a lover”.

   

We are glad to publish an exciting hunting story shared by our dear friends and partners, who made all the way from South Africa to the very Eastern part of Russia to experience Kamchatka Brown Bear hunting with us. Enjoy!

Gratitude and overwhelming excitement comes to mind, when I recall my feelings on commencing our adventure, a dream that had been 3 years in the making was now a reality. Jacques aka “The Machine” and owner of Chapunga Safaris had hunted several times in Kamchatka and regaled many wonderful stories of the vast unspoilt Russian Peninsula that was awashed with astounding beauty, of bears gorging themselves in the rivers that were filled with salmon as well as the abundance of other wildlife. I could feel the deep call of this country and I knew that this would be the journey of a lifetime. Jumbo, aka “The Skunk” and owner of Kambako Safaris was our wingman, had no choice but to join us on this epic adventure, despite recently recovering from knee surgery. We are all great friends and have worked together in South Africa and in Moscow for many years. And then there is me, Cecil aka The “Author” and owner of Life-Form Taxidermy. The Journey had begun!!

The twin engine Antonov 26 (1985) looked to be very old with tight fitting seats, that was loaded from the rear, soon taxied down the runway at Petropavlovsk, this would be our second attempt to get to Palana. Glancing back, I could see the two white capped majestic volcanoes, Koryakskiy and Avachinskiy towering into the clear blue sky. The flight was smooth and uneventful and Egor the pilot, landed us safely to a round of applause. We exited the plane with great expectation but were welcomed by a strong icy wind that bit the back of our necks and we quickly hastened to warm ourselves with a beanie and gloves.

Soon we were on our way to camp. Pulled, on very practical hand crafted birch sleds, by powerful snow mobiles for two and a half hours, where we slipped and slid through mud and melting snow. On entering base camp there were several green roofed lodgings and we were greeted by excited barking dogs. We proudly marked our hut (Hizhina) with the South African flag and settled in. Our hut was basic with a little closed stove to warm it and we were comfortable.

Jumbo and Jacques had begun hunting bear with the team of Ohotnik/Sledopyt and I decided that I would try my hand at fishing. Vladimir, our wonderful and humorous translator, and I left camp at about 7am, the sun was rising and it was spectacular! The snow was hard and ragged, frozen by freezing artic winds that whistled through the trees at night. By sled it took us what felt like several hours to get through the snow over flowing streams - spring was in the air. At times, Evkumy, our guide, with his partner, an old fur trapper, cut old branches to bridge us into new and safe areas.

The snow was so deep and travel arduous at times, winding in and out of the cedar brushes and going through a forest of Birch trees, I thought of my friends and wished them Godspeed and much success. Once at our chosen location numerous attempts of drilling were made in the ice of the frozen river to locate the best fishing grounds. Vladimir and I explored the area, he showed me herbs, such as lichen and other small plants that are used in tea (chay) as well as being used for medicinal and fragrance purposes. When we finally bored a hole that was successful, I was elated and couldn’t wait to give it a shot… it amazed me that we were able to pull fish out of such a tiny hole - what a remarkable experience – one fish, two fish, six fish, I was born to ryba (fish) with nylon gut and a short stick.

The silence filled my mind and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I prayed that this breathtaking wilderness would remain as it is forever, and into silence of no thought, once again I emersed as if it was natural, as life should be. Minutes passed or perhaps an hour, only to be woken by cracking of the shifting ice and the familiar knock knocking on the dry Birch made by the woodpecker. We fed that evening on the abundant catch of the day – unforgettable! Thank you to the Koryaki hunters (Sledopyt) for guiding, educating and sharing with me the art of their everyday experience.

For the next few days, we were up at 5am with 10º - 18º below temperatures excited for what new adventure the day may bestow upon us and we longed for the colours of the rising sun and the warmth that would follow. We lost ourselves in the vast icy tundra that stretched for miles in every direction. Scattered birch forests stood naked and silent in deep snow with the occasional alarm call of the ever present black crows. In the blanketed snow landscape, stood moss and grass covered mountains, sleeping volcanos loomed strategically between frozen lakes and meandering thawing rivers, embellishing the paintings of everyday. Riding in the sleds in search of bear, the rough terrain would punish the body and we would endure multiple daily crashes and heal the pain with laughter and our undying camaraderie, never to give up.

Every day was filled with magic and was triumphant on many levels, sighting many bears. Jacques and Jumbo, both hard working professional hunters were incredibly successful with their bear hunts. I too was fortunate, through the patience and support of my friends and the team, successful on the final day of hunting. We were prepared and well kitted but every evening, we returned visibly exhausted by the harshness of the land and grew a deep respect for the indigenous Koryak and the local ohotniks and guides, Alexander, Evkumy and Gene. Life was great and we were completely absorbed into every aspect of our day with humour and child-like awe, of this land and its wonderful people. Our time was filled with great achievement on countless levels. Every hunter, fished his fish, stalked his bears and harvested his dream. We admired every specimen with huge respect; its size, it’s strength and its agility. On our return, when darkness grew closer and the orange and amber rays of setting sun coloured the sky, we would stop to absorb the last of it as the first evening stars showed themselves and then a million-billion more, filled the heavens and we gazed forever. When the sun had set, the numbing cold rushed into our bones and we longed for welcoming barking of the home dogs and the warmth of Elena’s borsch and kitchen fire to re-live the days adventures and its many successes, drinking a quiet toast, Nazdorovia!! There would be many days when I would sit and long for the wide open spaces of Kamchatka and think back on the camaraderie, laughter and the silence… We would like to thank the entire host team, our translator Vladimir Topolskiy, Alexander, Evkumy and Gene, for the most amazing hunting of a lifetime, in Kamchatka. This adventure gifted our characters and enriched our lives with memories that will forever be entrenched deep in our hearts and minds. We will always be grateful to Russia, Kamchatka and its entire beautiful people. An experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted. The powerful, personal experience of being overwhelmed and inspired. An unusual, exciting or daring adventure not only grows the soul… but also is the life of it!

Cecil Corringham