Record-Breaking Trophies of Tajikistan

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