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Mountain goat hunting is among the toughest forms of hunting available – and they do not get easier with age. Thomas Lindy Nissen had fully experienced it when he accompanied Mike Quist on his last tour.
Many kilometers have been felled during those last four hours and slowly approaching we go. We follow a smaller river that goes through the valley. We all carry our things in backpacks - and it's actually, quite frankly, crappy. I can not understand why we do not ride, but it has something to do with experience of 41 years old chief guide, Kemal Batchaev. It's time for a break. While we pick wild and tasty raspberries down by the river, Kemal unpacks a cold chicken and some dry bread. He cooks the meal on the ground and soon shouts to us pointing at it.
- Eat chicken, - he mumbles and stands up, then points to a mountain plateau high above us. - There we will go, - he continues. I swallow a dry piece of chicken wondering at the same time if it was a mistake to follow two Danish hunters on this mountain hunt in the Caucasian part of Russia. In addition to my usual packing I have 20 kilos of camera equipment to carry – this is going to be a damn tough ride. The sun rises from a cloudless sky and the temperature exceeds, despite the season, normal temperature during Danish summers. Each step draws oxygen out of the muscles and produces beads of sweat on the forehead. But we go further, meter by meter and minute by minute, and soon expect beef with noodles and a few hours of sleep - something which undeniably feels more and more enticing. It's not more than an hour to sunset when the guides, well-organized and with calm movements, begin to set up the five small festival tents on the flat surface, most likely they knew the place in advance. At the same time, we see bucks far up there. They are far away and high up and there is not a chance we can get a shot tonight.

But they're on their way down to feed at the nearby grassy slopes and that observation gives us a hint of where we will be looking for them next morning. Soon the guides are in full swing making tea, it is an hour left before the eastern sky colors up. It is important to take with us everything we need and go off while it's dark. The longer we can hide in the darkness; the better will be our chances. Jens and Mike go up to the mountain together. We see turs disappear behind the stone ridge. At one moment Kemal quickly waves up Jens and Mike, says they can shoot when the animals are supposed to come in sight again, around 70 meters below us. Unfortunately, the goats choose a more hidden path up before the mountain. We hear they're moving in a ravine, but we cannot see them until they break the horizon just over 400 meters above us. The Caucasian Tur is a very special and interesting goat species that live in the mountains. There are three subspecies; the East Caucasian Tur living in the eastern part of Caucasus in Russia and Azerbaijan, and the West Caucasian (which we hunt this time) and the Mid-Caucasian variant found in the western part of the Caucasus. They have a very special shape of the horns, a massive physique and they live in some of the steepest in the world and most inaccessible mountains. We are hunting in an almost unimaginably large state road area where there are many animals. In this area there are also brown bears and some wolves and golden jackals. The hunting area offers great variety of dense forest on the mountain sides and large grasslands in the valley under the impressive mountain range. In addition to the above mentioned animals you can also meet protected lynx here. It is classic mountain hunting: we will get a chance to shoot on the other side of the great valley after one insanely hard descent and ascent. We'll eat again in the same situation as before, with animals approaching, but this time we have the turn with us. Mike manages to trap one very old buck with a classic mountain hunting shot from more than 300 meters away. Each step slides the large stones several centimeters down the steep mountainside before they get stuck and provide a foothold for the next step. We eat on the way to the camp because Kemal sees two animals that are on their way down from the higher mountain range. He knows from experience that the animals will head down to the valley and get Jens in position fast. Kemal lies down next to Jens and waits for the animals. As the sun goes down the two bucks come over the nearby height. Their large heads rock from side to side, but the animals have full balance and move with controlling, rocking body movements. Two minutes later they are close enough and Jens meets the largest with a well-placed bullet from 200 meters from a reclining shooting position.

The last mountain hunt
It has now become so dark that there is no time to skin the animal. Therefore hunters and guides cooperate collecting large rocks to cover the animal with, to avoid bears, wolves, eagles and others assistants finding it. Then we go back to sleep in the camp. Mike's buck also fell on a place where it could not be salvaged immediately because it was too far down. The next day passed therefore in the sign of salvage, a maneuver as tough as the hunt itself. In fact, such a turn is among the toughest hunting trips you can do and something like you should try to experience while having the physique and is fully mobile. Both Mike and Jens have filled 50 years. Mike has harvested all three subspecies. He has, according to his own statement, declared that he is now too old for this type of mountain hunting and it this trip was thus his last one.

Thomas Lindy Nissen
Vildmarken magazine, issue 3, 2021

caucasian-chamois-russia tur-trophy

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