Posted on Oct 16, 2016 by Rick
A Marco Polo sheep hunt is one of Kyrgyzstan’s crown jewels. These famous argali have the longest horns of any sheep species, typically exceeding 50 inches in length and making them a literally unbeatable trophy. Yet the reward is commensurate with the challenge: shots must often be taken at angles, through crosswinds, and at several hundred yards’ distance; hiking and climbing is often essential during the final stalk; and the high altitudes are uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst.
If those warnings only make you want to do this more, then you’re ready for one of the world’s most incredible hunts. Starkly beautiful mountains, friendly and welcoming people, and a true test of skill await.
There are two Marco Polo argali hunting seasons: one beginning near the end of August and lasting to the end of November, and the other beginning in January and ending in February. The best times to hunt are October and November during the first season and January during the second. Temperatures may drop to below zero in the colder months, so be sure to pack accordingly.
With our outfitter, hunters begin their journey by flying into the impressive city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, on Turkish Airlines. From there it’s a long drive to the hunting grounds. Depending on which camp is selected, the drive can range from 10 to 15 hours.
The camp you arrive in will most likely be based in a large camper known as a “vampor” or in the house of a local shepherd. In any camp, you’ll be warm and comfortable, have access to electricity, and enjoy some excellent local cooking. Ibex and Marco Polo sheep will feature prominently on the menu over the course of your stay, as will local soups and rice-based specialties. An interpreter will also be there to help you plan and discuss any important issues.
Any time left to the first day is spent recovering from the journey, sighting in rifles, and allowing your body to adjust to the heights (about 10,000 feet above sea level). This altitude can be a serious issue, and the more physically fit you are, the better-equipped you’ll be to face the difficulties. Consider taking Diamox during your hunt if you’re flying in from a low-altitude location. This can prevent altitude sickness and extremely serious (though fortunately rare) dangers like cerebral or pulmonary edema, but the potential side effects must be considered as well. Be certain to speak to your doctor about your plans and options before signing up for this hunt.
Now that the precautions are taken care of and you’ve reached your destination, it’s time to hunt! You’ll head out on horseback first thing in the morning. The interpreter will generally stay back in the camp, but words are rarely necessary in the field—as long as you trust your guides, they’ll get you in place to take your shot.
The journey by horse will take you up another 1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. The horses will generally be able to get you close to your quarry (particularly if you’re hunting Marco Polo’s, as opposed to the more wary ibex), but be prepared to hike and climb during the final stalk.
As mentioned above, the shooting conditions are often extremely difficult and at long range—a flat-shooting rifle in the .270–.300 range equipped with high-quality optics will serve you best. However, it’s crucial that you use a gun you are extremely comfortable with, and this should be your top priority when selecting your weapon.
Hunters will usually have 10 full hunting days on their two-week trip, but this can be lengthened or shortened on request to deal with unexpected occurrences during your hunt. If you bag your sheep early, for example, you can opt to return home . . . or add another species and keep hunting.
At the end of your Marco Polo hunting trip, you’ll ride back into Bishkek, where the outfitter will take care of the essential paperwork. You’ll need to stick around during this time, which can take up to two days. This is a real opportunity. Bishkek has some incredible sights, and when else will you be in the capital of Kyrgyzstan? Take some time to enjoy a genuine cultural experience.
For more information on hunting in Kyrgyzstan, contact Derek Amadio at 888-850-4868, Extension 705 or by cell at 307-277-3832.
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