Peeking down on the rams at a mere 200 yards, we surveyed the situation. In total, twelve of them lounged around the slope below us, but one stood out. I eased up my big 500 mm lens and snapped a couple of photos as he laid there, oblivious to our presence. He stood out enough that I decided I’d be happy to tag him. Unfortunately, I had a couple of issues to debate on. To shoot him in his bed would be risky, as he was partially hidden by the rocks around him. However, if I waited for him to stand, a couple short steps would take him out of sight.
Mountain hunters understand and accept the inherent perils of their pastime. When getting to the mountains is more dangerous than hunting in them, it’s not so acceptable. Given the option of riding “shotgun” I gladly accepted, avoiding cramped 3-wide seating in the rear of the American-made Toyota 4-Runner. The broken front seatbelt was a minor concern at the outset, but that quickly changed. Kyrgyz drivers make their own travel lanes despite painted delineators, and passing blindly is engaged like it’s a sporting event. Speed sometimes doubled the posted limit – a fact that did not go unnoticed by traffic authorities. We were stopped twice, and these were the shortest duration traffic stops I have ever witnessed. The “fines” were paid in a matter of seconds with pre-counted bundles of cash, and no paperwork. Additional stops for food and fuel and camp supplies and “rest” for our drivers made the 12-hour trip drag on, and on…
There are few things in life more satisfying than setting a lofty goal and then achieving it through hard work and sacrifice. Honestly, I’m not sure what motivates a man in his Medicare years to attempt a notoriously difficult hunt in some of the highest and most rugged mountains on Earth. The progression from young and invincible to aged and vulnerable is slow and often laced with mental anguish – particularly when contemplating physical limitations imposed by Father Time. Taking a mature bull elk at 9,200 feet with a well-placed arrow while hunting solo the previous year in Arizona may have extended the window, but there were times when it seemed to be closing quickly. That hunt clearly infused some confidence. Nevertheless, uncertainty loomed… did this old graybeard, now sporting multiple shades, have one more mountain hunt left in him?
On location in Dushanbe, the evening before they head home, Adam, Matt Comment and Connor Gabbott share some lessons, laughs, and thoughts on what it was like to chase ibex on the other side of the world.
I was once vegan, and now fill my freezers with the spoils of our hunts. When people hear that I previously (attempted to) make my own tofu, and now proudly hang trophies throughout my house, they are usually dumbfounded. You, my dear reader, are likely having a similar reaction.
In this article, I hope to show you that my former and current lifestyles are far less contradictory than you might presume. Further, I will argue that despite our many differences, the time has come for those who profess to care deeply for the flora and fauna of this planet to band together on what common ground is shared rather than emphasizing and disputing the morals and ethics of our seemingly opposed world views. It is important to note that these are my own personal views and not those of any organization or group with which I am associated.