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This year was special. I was invited by my friend, Jay, to hunt Mongolia for High Altai Ibex. My prior experience ibex hunting was in Kyrgyzstan and I'm hooked on mountain hunting. We booked with Clark Jeffs and Safari Outfitters. Our plan was to hunt later in the season for better capes and colder weather. I also go hunting every year on my birthday. Incredible that my "birthday" hunts started as a weekend of bird hunting near home and are now an international hunt every year. I am blessed! America is great!
Our hunt dates were 10-01 to 10-09. Steve @ Travel With Guns arranged all the flights and permits. These guys are top notch. Professional and available every time something goes haywire with international travel.
I am getting to the age where a 10 pound rifle is heavy on hard mountain hunts. My MRC Extreme tips the scales at 9 3/4 pounds loaded. Incredibly accurate and a pleasure to shoot but heavy. I also am tired of hauling a heavy backpack up and down mountains. I found a Cooper 92 and spent 6 months trying to dial it in. No luck. Maybe next year. It's a light rifle and a pleasure to fire but won't group 3 bullets together at range. I also traded in my older Mystery Ranch pack for a 3 pound Seek Outside pack. That's six pounds of gear off my back! My clothing is all First Lite and boots are Lowas.
I consider myself a very experienced mountain hunter and I purposefully book difficult hunts. I treat life like an Adventure. I hunt to test myself. Being 54, I figure I only have 10 more years of tough mountain hunts before I have to sip sundowners in Africa again. Luckily, Jay and I share the same passion and travel well together. I am honored that he invited me to share this adventure with him.
Now on to the hunt. I left Kalispell, MT early morning for Seattle. Changed airlines and flew to Seoul. Long, crappy food but tolerable. 4 hour layover and off to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Jay had some complications and would be arriving the next day. I was met at the airport by a very nice gentleman named Bayer. He took me to the hotel and I got some much needed sleep in a bed.
The next day was spent exploring the city. I visited the national museum, world's largest cashmere store and plenty of monuments to Genghis Khan. It is an interesting city. Lot's of old, run down Soviet style buildings and plenty of modern skyscrapers. Almost half of the country's population live there so it is busy. I think they have more cars than competent drivers! I get the sense that the country is still in flux. Dealing with capitalism, Mongolian culture, Soviet culture and the demands of a modern society. The people are friendly and don't speak much English. My day was enjoyable.
Jay arrived and we prepared for the flight to Ulgii on the Western edge of Mongolia. Clark had prepared us for a long and torturous jeep ride to camp. Ulgii is straight out of a movie set! The airport hasn't changed since the 50's and the city power is still coal. Most of the homes still use an outhouse and burn coal. Electricity is a luxury. Surprisingly, the trip to camp took about 30 minutes. Camp was a wonderful Mongolian ger in a river bottom.
Here's where it gets interesting. We unloaded the Toyota and got settled in with some drinks. Bayer entered and gave us the afternoon plan. Sight in the rifles and scout around a bit. The weather was shirtsleeve and of course we agreed. I hadn't even opened my suitcase. Luckily, I grabbed a puffy coat, headlamp, water bottle and hat.
The rifles shot perfect and we loaded up in 2 land cruisers for the trip up the mountain. These guys drive where we would walk with caution! An hour later found us on top of a mountain glassing for ibex. The temp was significantly colder than the valley floor. Another lesson. Leave camp prepared for anything..... Always. Jay and I had adequate clothing but less than ideal. I did not have a camera or base layers. Heck! I was still wearing the clothes I left Kalispell in 2 days ago. Oh well!
The guides spotted 3 ibex sleeping on a hillside at 1600 yards down the mountain. Bayer told us the plan. We would walk down the mountain and have a closer look. Hmmmmm. This isn't looking like a test of character on a mountain. This is more like a "Sound of Music" stroll down a hillside. So off we went.
An hour later found us in position. The ibex were sleeping on the opposite ridge. Rangefinders confirmed 460 yards to target. Jay and I are both confident longish range shooters and we discussed the situation. Jay was not happy with shooting on the afternoon before the first day. I reminded him that the goal was to go home with an ibex, whether on the first or last day. We debated and Bayer told us these were very good ibex and there was no guarantee we would do better. (of course he said that.
The wind died down a bit, the guide raised his cap above the rocks, the ibex stood up and Bayer said, "Red, Yellow, Green." Two shots sounded as one and two ibex hit the dirt without so much as a kick. I have to admit I have never done or seen that before. I figured at least we would get some exercise hauling the animals back up to the trucks. Quite a bit of vertical with a 60 pound pack. If the hunt was easy at least the recovery would be hard.
I shouldn't have been surprised when 2 land rovers arrive with 5 grinning and whooping guides. They drove straight off that mountain! Oh brother.
We walked up to the hillside by the billies. Jay placed his empty rifle in the vehicle and went to his ibex. They are beautiful animals. It is a memory you will never forget. Being in a remote location, far from home and sharing a special moment with men who appreciate the effort. Jay's billy was long and had a chipped horn tip. Nothing but character. A fine trophy. Mine was had shorter but thicker horns.
I walked up the hill with the youngest guide. My billy was lying flat on his back. All four feet in the air and blood on both sides of his chest. I reached down to turn him over and..... His eyes opened. Like WIDE OPEN. He turned over and stood up. Obviously, I let go of his horn and started to unsling my rifle. The guides were yelling at the kid to jump on his back and hold him down. Don't as me why they thought of that solution to the problem. I grabbed the kid to make sure my muzzle was safe and shot the ibex again at 10 yards, ending the short rodeo. We all had a good laugh in relief.
Lesson here: Always keep your rifle handy until you need both hands for knives. This ibex was shot just below the spine. Stunned, it fell. The shot was not fatal. It would not have gotten away, but nobody wants to take the chance of loosing an animal. I was prepared for the situation because I always; 1. keep my rifle close. 2. constantly make sure my scope is on the lowest setting while walking. 3. Kept calm about muzzle safety.
We were home before dinner and the hunt was over. Then the adventure started.
The next day found us fishing on the river. No fish but lots of laughs. Third day found us 2 1/2 hours north on a wolf hunt.
The Wolf Hunt:
Bayer informed us of a possible wolf sighting in a remote valley to the north of Ulgii. This was an opportunity to use all the fancy clothes gathering dust in our suitcase. We left camp at 4am and it was cold. Like really, really cold. The drive in the dark was full of laughter with 5 guys crammed in a land rover wearing waaaay to much clothes when the heater is blasting full. We dropped Bayer and Jay off on one side of bowl then drove to the other side, about 5 miles away and got out. It was like stepping on the moon. Stinging wind and pitch dark.
Long story short, we didn't get a wolf. Adventure? We had vehicle trouble and no cell service. The nearest tree for fire was about 100 miles away in Russia. The guide suggested we walk towards town until he could get cell service. Might be 50 miles. Not a chance this boy scout is going to walk 50 miles in many degree minus freezing to try and get cell service. I planned to stay in the safety of the vehicle till help arrived. This time my pack was loaded. Cold weather gear, food and water.
Luckily, Jay and his guide were freezing on the mountain and wondering where we were. The started walking to us. Another lesson: Jay had a satellite phone. I never thought a small gadget could make grown men cry. One phone call and help was on the way. Adventurous day to say the least.
Last adventure of the trip was the Eagle Festival in Ulgii. This is the Olympics of Mongolian outdoor sport. They capture golden eagles and train them to hunt fox, hares, ibex and wolves. You can watch the edited version on The Discovery Channel. Well, we saw it live and in living color. It was expensive by Mongolian standards. However, only tourists have to pay. And lots of tourists show up!
First contestant rides his horse on the playing field. He signals his assistant holding the eagle on a hill about 1/4 mile away. The assistant releases the eagle and the Master starts calling his eagle. The time it takes for the eagle to land on his arm is his score. The eagle flew away. I kid you not. The eagle just left the area. Free at last I guess.
Second contestant repeats the procedure. His eagle flies off to join the first eagle. I am shocked. You would think they practice this before the tournament? Only 201 more eagles on the flight line....
The third eagle takes off and begins gliding over the crowd. Appearing to be closing in on his "owner". Suddenly, the eagle cups his wings and dives into the crowd about 50 yards from us. A tourist lady was having her picture taken while holding a falcon. I guess eagles don't like falcons because this eagle knocked the lady down and killed the falcon. Really? This Eagle Festival is almost like a hometown rodeo!
We stayed for another hour or so and did actually witness some eagles landing on arms. Fascinating experience and I'm tickled to have seen. I would not recommend taking your wife unless she is a trooper. Ulgii is not home to even a 2 star hotel.
Overall, the trip was a wonderful adventure. I plan to return and look for a Gobi ibex. Many thanks to Clark, Steve, Bayer and Jay for making my birthday a special day in my memory bank.
Just A Hunter has offered to post some pictures. Thanks for reading.
|one of us|
Another well written report and fantastic hunt. Congratulations and thank you for sharing!
|one of us|
Great report, helluva adventure! Congrats.
On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of ten thousand, who on the dawn of victory lay down their weary heads resting, and there resting, died.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch...
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
- Rudyard Kipling
Life grows grim without senseless indulgence.
|one of us|
What I have learned on AR, since 2001:
1. The proper answer to: Where is the best place in town to get a steak dinner? is…You should go to Mel's Diner and get the fried chicken.
2. Big game animals can tell the difference between .015 of an inch in diameter, 15 grains of bullet weight, and 150 fps.
3. There is a difference in the performance of two identical projectiles launched at the same velocity if they came from different cartridges.
4. While a double rifle is the perfect DGR, every 375HH bolt gun needs to be modified to carry at least 5 down.
5. While a floor plate and detachable box magazine both use a mechanical latch, only the floor plate latch is reliable. Disregard the fact that every modern military rifle uses a detachable box magazine.
6. The Remington 700 is unreliable regardless of the fact it is the basis of the USMC M40 sniper rifle for 40+ years with no changes to the receiver or extractor and is the choice of more military and law enforcement sniper units than any other rifle.
7. PF actions are not suitable for a DGR and it is irrelevant that the M1, M14, M16, & AK47 which were designed for hunting men that can shoot back are all PF actions.
8. 95 deg F in Africa is different than 95 deg F in TX or CA and that is why you must worry about ammunition temperature in Africa (even though most safaris take place in winter) but not in TX or in CA.
9. The size of a ding in a gun's finish doesn't matter, what matters is whether it’s a safe ding or not.
10. 1 in a row is a trend, 2 in a row is statistically significant, and 3 in a row is an irrefutable fact.
11. Never buy a WSM or RCM cartridge for a safari rifle or your go to rifle in the USA because if they lose your ammo you can't find replacement ammo but don't worry 280 Rem, 338-06, 35 Whelen, and all Weatherby cartridges abound in Africa and back country stores.
12. A well hit animal can run 75 yds. in the open and suddenly drop with no initial blood trail, but the one I shot from 100 yds. away that ran 10 yds. and disappeared into a thicket and was not found was lost because the bullet penciled thru. I am 100% certain of this even though I have no physical evidence.
13. A 300 Win Mag is a 500 yard elk cartridge but a 308 Win is not a 300 yard elk cartridge even though the same bullet is travelling at the same velocity at those respective distances.
|one of us|
Now that is an adventure.
|one of us|
Really enjoyed the report.
That 'Eagle Festival' still has me laughing....
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|one of us|
Pretty sweet, Rob!
You are an adventurous guy.
Congrats on a very cool hunt!
|one of us|
Great story! And FishN4Eyses: GO BOBCATS!!!!!
|one of us|
Great Billys. Congrats!!!
Golf is for people that don't know how to Hunt and Fish.
The Al-Bino Vest
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|one of us|
The Eagle Festival sounds like an experience in itself!
GOA Life Member
NRA Benefactor Member
Life Member Dallas Safari Club
Westley Richards 450 NE 3 1/4"
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