TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Marco Polo Hunt November 2018

Scott CWO

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On November 13, 2018, I flew from Denver to Chicago where I claimed my bags and re-checked them with Turkish Airlines. I also met Mel, another hunter from Minneapolis going on the same hunt. We boarded a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines was great and the first class seats and food were the best I have ever experienced. After a shower and snacks/drinks at the Turkish Airlines lounge, I boarded the four hour flight to Dushanbe. This flight arrived at 4:20AM local time. I was met at the airport by an outfitter representative. I was happy to learn that my bag and rifle case arrived as planned. Unfortunately, Mel ignored the advice given by the travel agency and did not claim and re-check his bags in Chicago. After waiting a while for his rifle case, we learned that it was not delivered to Turkish Airlines in Chicago. His rifle was still in Chicago and it would not be forwarded. Luckily for him, the outfitter had a Blaser .300 Win Mag he could borrow. Mel also didn't have his binos and some other items as they were in the rifle case as well.

After sorting things out at the airport, we left Dushanbe and headed out on a 12-hour drive to Khorog. As many of you know, this drive takes place on the "Pamir Highway" which is NOT a highway at all by USA standards. About 8 hours of the drive is along a river which is the border with Afghanistan and this drive is only conducted during daylight hours. There are a few checkpoints and a heavy military presence. The road is rough and brutal. About halfway, we were delayed for about an hour while some local truck drivers pulled a truck up out of the river that had went over the side! There are lots of Chinese trucks on this dangerous road.
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Scott CWO

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Thankfully, Mel and I had a good driver and safely reached Khorog in the early evening of November 15th. After dinner at the hotel, I went to bed early in preparation for another 12 hours of driving the next day.

Early the next morning, Mel and I met for an early breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then met our new driver for the next leg of the trip. We loaded the Toyota 4Runner and departed shortly after breakfast. The trip along the "highway" from Khorog to our camp at Lake Karakul took us away from the Afghanistan border and instead, we were now traveling close to the Chinese border as we headed north/northeast and past the town of Murgab. Our new driver was good and drove a lot faster so we made it to camp in only 8 hours instead of the planned 12 hours. The camp consisted of a fully adequate building with a kitchen, bathroom, shower room, sauna and bedrooms with two twin beds in each. We met the guides and cook and settled in for the night after checking the rifles at the range. My 6.5 GAP was dead on.
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Scott CWO

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On day one, I rode around in an older Toyota jeep-like Landcruiser with a guide (wearing black vest) and some packers. We stopped from time to time and got out to glass the mountains. It was very cold but it was apparent that there wasn't as much snow as I had anticipated. The lack of snow was also keeping the sheep up high on the mountains. The guides and I spotted several sheep but no shooter rams were located to climb after. Being an outfitter/guide in Colorado for all species, I was feeling fine with the elevations. Just a month earlier, I guided my wife to a nice mountain goat at 13,000 feet as well as several clients for sheep, goat and elk at 11,000+ feet so I am used to high elevations.
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Scott CWO

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On day two, we drove around in the bottoms and circled and glassed the same set of mountains as the day before. It was basically a big ridge that stretched for about 15 miles with basins dropping off of each side. We spotted a group of six rams up near the top of the ridge. We were too far away to adequately judge the rams and since we didn't have any other mature rams spotted, we decided to climb up for a closer look. Along the way, we had to slip past some ewes/lambs off to the sides.

As we were making the final push toward the rams, I thought we would slow down and crawl the last few yards to peak over at the rams and put my spotting scope on them to judge and evaluate them. Unfortunately, the guide had other ideas and he just walked upright to the top! This spooked the six rams. He motioned for me to join him and started yelling, "Shoot, shoot, shoot!" I slipped up to his side crawling on my knees and saw that the rams were already running away at 350 yards. I absolutely wasn't going to just shoot a random ram and find out how big it was after it was dead so I didn't shoot. The rams ran a long distance and finally stopped at 1200 yards. We looked at them with my spotting scope and there were three big rams in the group of six. Unbelievably, the guide was upset with me for not shooting. I told him he should not have walked upright to the top while wearing a black vest and sky-lining himself. I also told him I didn't travel half-way across the world to shoot a ram that we had not evaluated. A 50/50 chance of shooting one of the bigger running rams wasn't a mistake I was going to make. He relaxed and we followed after the rams but never did catch up to them again. We hiked the rest of the day at 17,000 feet while glassing lots of other sheep but didn't find any big rams.

The next several days, we continued to look for the six rams and also drove to some other mountainous areas and glassed a lot of country. We did not see any big rams and turned down many small and medium-sized rams. Meanwhile, Mel and his group were hunting closer to the Chinese border. Mel shot at and hit a ram on day five. The guides recovered it on day six. It was a nice looking heavy ram of about 54 inches. Mel thought that the guides should take me to the area he had been hunting so that became the new plan. He said with the way I could hike, that I should be able to get on some of the bigger rams he had seen from a distance. With only two days remaining, I switched guides and went with the two brothers that had been guiding Mel.

On day seven in the new area, we spotted a nice 56" ram early in the morning but the guides thought we could do better so I nervously passed. Late in the afternoon, we spotted 12 rams with a couple of really big rams among them. We spotted them from the truck at 1500 yards. We sat in the truck and waited for them to forget about us. They finally relaxed and just fed out of sight. I opened my door and started to get out of the truck for a stalk but the guide started the truck and took off! I pleaded with him to stop but he ignored me and kept driving. When we got directly below the now spooked, running rams, he turned off the truck and said to shoot the fourth ram from the hood of the truck. I got out but the rams were running at 900 yards and all balled up in a group so I didn't shoot. I kept my composure but was screaming inside! We could have easily got on the rams on foot without them knowing we were coming. These guides are used to truck hunting, the hunters wounding rams at long range and then recovering the rams with out the hunter the next day! I wasn't going to hunt that way. It got dark and we headed back to camp. It was a long quiet ride.

The last morning, we headed to the next drainage over because the guides thought the rams would head that way. I agreed. We arrived early and it was still dark. At first light, I spotted some rams but it was a different group of small and medium-sized rams. The valley forked and we figured the rams we were looking for would be in the left fork. We climbed on foot up the ridge that separated the two forks. After a while, we spotted the big rams in the bottom of the left fork but they were a mile away. They started to climb up the opposing ridge slowly but surely. After they crested the top, I wanted to get the wind in our favor and hike up an adjacent bowl and peak over the top at them and get on them. To me, it seemed like an easy plan and I was more than up for the hike. When we got back down to the truck, the guide insisted that we should not hike but should drive back around the mountain to the place we had spotted them from the night before with the truck. I disagreed and told him I was not going to hunt from the truck and that it would take a longer amount of time to drive all the way back around the mountains to the other side than it would take to just hike from our current location. He wouldn't listen and I was not happy. At this point, I was done and just told him to take me back to camp. He refused both options and drove all the way around. Once over there, we did not relocate the rams!

We then drove up another valley and parked the truck to glass. Seeing nothing, we continued up the valley until the accelerator pedal separated from the cable, leaving us stranded for a while. The guides found some wire and made a temporary fix and we continued. We drove up on a knob and glassed the surrounding mountains. We spotted some rams just below the top of a 21,000 foot peak a few miles away. There was no way to approach them because the mountain was too nasty and there were other sheep between them and us. The only option was to wait until evening approached to see if they would drop down to feed.

About 2PM, the wind picked up significantly and the rams decided to drop down from their exposed position. They dropped down and away from us. We drove a little ways further up the valley. While driving, I told the guides that I did not want to drive all the way to the rams and spook them with the truck. I insisted that we hike when we could. After a while, we parked the truck and continued up the valley on foot. After about a mile of hiking, I spotted the rams up on the shoulder of the mountain ahead of us and to our right. We started a stalk up the mountain. We got to 750 yards, which is a make-able shot with my rifle but I thought we could crawl another 200 yards. We carefully closed the distance to 550 yards and picked out the best ram in the group. I shot the ram and he went down. I had to finish him with a second shot when we walked up on him but he didn't get away. He measured 57". Smaller than the rams I wanted to go after earlier in the day but a good ram with just two hours left on my last hunting day. A check of my electronic gear showed we were at 17,552 feet.
 

Scott CWO

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After pictures, we took care of the ram and made it back down to the truck at about dark. It was an interesting trip and I am glad I got a ram but I cannot say that the guides were particularly good at what they do. They seem to want to truck hunt and shoot at running rams. Of the six hunters in camp, I was the only one to recover my ram in person at the kill site. It really shouldn't be that way. Some of the other hunters were not pleased even though they took rams home. Some of them wondered if they really got the same ram they shot at.
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The next day, Mel and I left camp in a blizzard and made it to Khorog at midnight after a harrowing drive and a spin out that could have been bad had we not went into the ditch on my side of the truck - the other side of the road was a 1500 foot drop! The second day of driving back to Dushanbe was long but uneventful. I had to salt my cape again in the bathtub at the hotels in Khorog and Dushanbe but I got it back with me safe and sound. It is being mounted by Dawayne Dewey in Cody, WY.
 

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WOW! Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!
 

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Congrats on getting a great ram. Excellent shooting. If you don’t mind me asking, “who was your outfitter?” I am planning a Ibex Hunt in Tajik and would like some more info.
Feel free to pm me if you rather.
Thanks.
 

gillettehunter

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Thanks for the hunt report. I had a couple of brothers as guides in Kyrg that were adequate, but not the sharpest hunters. They wanted me to shoot a small ram on the last day and then they would shoot a bigger one and send him out to me. Not legal or anything I was interested in doing.
Glad you made out so well in the high elevation. You were up there. Congrats on a beautiful ram and hunting him the right way.
Is your rifle a SAUM? What bullet did you use?
Bruce
 

LivingTheDream

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Congratulations that ram looks awesome! Was that the hot springs camp you were hunting from? Seems kind of crazy the guides just busting the sheep but I have heard that from other hunters as well. Beautiful sheep and a dream hunt.
 

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Nice Ram and you have the patience of a saint! Glad it worked out for you!
 

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Glad that worked out. Congratulations on a very nice ram.
Sad to see them trying to hunt such an incredible trophy from a truck.

It sure as hell was an adventure. (At least no one was shooting at you this time.)
 

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Scott what outfitter did you book with? Which airline did Mel connect to Turkish on? It’s a shame about his gun not arriving but you sometimes have to recheck to make sure.
I want to go on this hunt in a couple years. It seems all outfitters charge about the same price so I want to choose the best one.
Philip
 

Scott CWO

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Scott CWO

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Congrats on getting a great ram. Excellent shooting. If you don’t mind me asking, “who was your outfitter?” I am planning a Ibex Hunt in Tajik and would like some more info.
Feel free to pm me if you rather.
Thanks.
Thank you. Will send PM.
 

Scott CWO

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Congratulations on your adventure. Very good ram !

Sad thing, to travel halfway around the world for your dream hunt and be stuck with these very"professional" hunters.
 

Scott CWO

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Thanks for the hunt report. I had a couple of brothers as guides in Kyrg that were adequate, but not the sharpest hunters. They wanted me to shoot a small ram on the last day and then they would shoot a bigger one and send him out to me. Not legal or anything I was interested in doing.
Glad you made out so well in the high elevation. You were up there. Congrats on a beautiful ram and hunting him the right way.
Is your rifle a SAUM? What bullet did you use?
Bruce
Yes, while there are some good Asian guides, on balance, they are not considered the best. Mine told me not to worry about shooting into a group of rams. If I were to hit more than one, they said they would just keep the smaller ram themselves! I wasn't going to hunt in that way and it is totally unnecessary if the guides will do a proper stalk.

The rifle is a SAUM. I use the 139gr Berger Hybrid with my load and rifle data entered into a Sig rangefinder that is blue-toothed to my iPhone. I have shot the rifle out to 1400 yards with consistent hits on a gong. The farthest I have shot a game animal is 550 yards but clients have borrowed it for successful shots to 800 yards when there was no way to get closer. The rifle is a custom Tuebor Precision Raider with a titanium action and carbon fiber wrapped barrel. It's a great setup.
 

Scott CWO

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Congratulations that ram looks awesome! Was that the hot springs camp you were hunting from? Seems kind of crazy the guides just busting the sheep but I have heard that from other hunters as well. Beautiful sheep and a dream hunt.
Thanks.

No, I was at the Lake Karakul camp which is further north near the Chinese border. The Hot Springs Camp is to the south and is situated in the southeast corner of Tajikistan near the three-way border with Afghanistan and China.
 

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