Thera are about three dozens of hunting area in Almaty region where you can met several species of ungulates in one area but it was the first time when I decided to get a maral and an ibex during the one hunting trip. I asked my friends from the ProHunt company to organize such expedition. At last when the trophy hunting season was over, the snow covered the mountains my friend Maxim Levin and I moved to the hunt.
We took the huntsman, who also took part in our trip, and started to storm the pass. On the half way to the hunting base we met guides with horses and with the assistant. Talking ahead I would say that they the next day they didn't come to the base because met the beekeeper who celebrated his birthday and stayed with him for a day. In the whole the way to the base was normal but several times we used chains.
Thus we reached the old wooden cabin and accommodated there.
I was sick during the rut season and didn’t expect that deer would be active but took the decoy just in case.
Just imagine how surprised I was when heard the deer’s roar in fifty meters from our stay. It stood behind the fir tree and nearly the salt lick. In two minutes the majestic animal appeared and moved to the nearest forest. It was awesome and had nice horns but not such ones which I was looking for! That’s why I decided to talk to him.
We began the roll-call: I was the first- then he was and vice versa. Than I decided to leave the shelter and began to swung from one side to another, making as much noise as it was possible. I broke dry sticks and stamped by feet. The bull wasn’t afraid, it looks confused. Maxim made video of that meeting. Than the male decided that that strange bull (me) was stronger and made the decision to leave the territory. He left us, deafening with a roar all surroundings. We had no choice but look for the new ways.
The circus, before us, was huge, we could watch just a dozen gorges from our place. Soon we detected two more Marales. One of them was good enough (lets’ call it #1), it was closer and lower to us then the others. I watched all animals through the scope because could estimate their size and horns more effectively.
Few words about trophies. If you checked my reports written four or five years ago you could find that I declared that I wasn’t the trophy hunter because preferred the process to the result. And it is still so. But I’ve add the correction to that position and I’ll explain why. I always try to rise the complexity level of my hunts and once I realized that extra class trophies is very rare in our nature I focused on getting trophies not smaller than I had already had in my collection. It’d be the most complication. It was twilight when we made the video of one more bull but the visibility was so low that we couldn’t reviews all details. The only thing which I understood was that the horns were very thick and had lots of processes. Let’s call it bull #2.
We had dinner and discussed what we saw during the day, everybody agreed that we were lucky to see so many marals and to make video. You need to realize that we were in the very remote area and the rut season was already over. The old guides told us that huge bulls come the that area after October 10th, when the hunters had already gone. One more reason was in the seasonal migration. Marales used to move to more comfortable regions for a winter time.
We had to wait for horses and to decide what to do with the transport and luggage. That area was really remote. But as I’d told you before the horses didn’t come that night.
Next morning we stayed in the camp, observed the surroundings and waited for the horses. We noticed the migration of deer which moved to the southern-east. Several groups left that area but most of them consisted of females. We came to the conclusion that nobody could predict where were the trophy males. That was the reason why we decided not to wait for the horses and left the base after the lunch time. We were not ready for hiking but didn’t want to waste time.
Max and I took fully filled stormy backpacks, the huntsman took the backpack which we made from the hydrobag and the girth from my saddle which I took for the hunt. We met young roe with babies, a lonely female maral and the boar’s family while hiking, thouse meetings made us feel cheerful and motivated.
It was evening when we reached the southern slopes, the guide told us that that place was the final point for the local marales. Probable we arrived too early or the males changed plans but we didn’t’ notice any sing of their presence. We spotted just a couple of males during the evening. It disappointed us because we used to see much more and didn’t want to believe that we were mistaken.
Then we crossed the river and did it without boots. I realized that it wasn’t May we were very cold but it was the shortest way to go to the camp.
That water obstacle made us stronger and we felt ourselves like the real team. We remembered not once about our guides with horses.
The Moon shined on the sky! It was a real pleasure to seat near the fire, to dry clothes and to drink hot tea. We all meditated gazing to the billions of stars and dreamed about the next day.
In the morning we decided to try again and went back to the place where monitored the animals before. We even didn’t reach it when met the herd of females marals. The male had to be close and soon we detected it on the slope. But the most important this was that we found one more group of six females which were leaded by the real alfa male, It was the real monster #3!
Its head had the crown or better say it had the tree on the top of its head! That picture would always stay in my memory.
We decided to get it. The approach would take several hours that’s why we had to leave somebody with the scope to correct and to direct the movement of the others. But it happened that I was the only person who took the radio set and we couldn’t control the movements of animals for about an hour while were out of sight. The only hope was that the herd would have rest and didn't leave that area.
We found several big antlers which males dropped in the spring. Everything looked like the real place of wintering for the marals. One more very curious bull came to us when we were on the half way to the top and followed us with the eyes while we were moving up. We almost reached the final point when the female deer, who guarded the group, detected us and loudly barked. That sound is the danger signal among the marals. Soon all surroundings knew about our arrival.
It was the first time when I heard the maral danger signal. We tried to hide but it didn’t help. The female stood in 120 meters from us and continued to bark. We decided to go further because it wasn’t clear if the other animals heard her or not. We reached the ridge and found that they’d received the signal. The group sprang to the feet and several females had already left the place and was moving to the left side of the slope.
I could shoot from such distance that’s why I fell down in the snow and began to wait for the male. It didn’t show up. I was afraid to lose the comfortable position that’s why asked the guide to look for it behind the ridge. He looked out and showed me that the monster wasn’t there.
There were two variants what had happened. The first one was that the male left the place before our arrival and went to the left, the second variant was that it joined another group and moved to the right. The second variant was more preferable because we ‘d seen the most part of the left slope while climbing. That’s why we agreed to go to watershed and followed the right side.
The views from the main ridge were marvelous: we could see how the dark green fir trees underlayed the bright blue sky, feel warm spring son and watch the soft carpet of the withered grass… So we decided to take the break, had snacks and to think over what to do next..
We had to admit that had lost the bull. The huntsman suggested to look for the Ibexes which prefers to graze on the southern slope. But I desired to find the bull #3!
We decided to move further along the right slope. We still hoped the marals stopped to have rest in the shadow somewhere close.
We'd overcame the long distance when the guide noticed something! “ We found them”- the fleeting thought came to my mind. The guy spoke something but so quietly that I couldn’t understand a word. I looked out from behind of his shoulder and detected the group of Ibexes. There was the huge herd. I accounted about five males with the horns not less than 120 sm. And two of them had even longer horns. The old males with long dark beards and cool horns attracted my attention. I forgot about marals. The Ibex was my goal #1!
The guide looked at me and I nodded. Adrenalin and Endorphins rose my mood to the highest level.
We should have to come back using our own tracks and then to climb once again. The path led through the rocks. The wind blew up and we were approached to the herd not worring that the animals would spot us.
I wanted to make video but the dry grass was too high and lens couldn’t focus. I almost decided not to try when detected an old male which grazed in 300 meters down from the main group. I took me just a minute to estimate the landscape then I laid down and crawled about 50 meters. A dozen of mites used that opportunity to jump on me and to provide me with entertainment for the evening.
The distance was about 300 meters. I should fire at the angle down and I did it. The used cartridge was Federal AccuBond( the crosshairs to 400 meters worked well with that type). The Ibex were laying and I should wait when It’d stand up but it had different plans. At last I felt that couldn’t wait any more, shot and saw how it rolled down. The mountains woke up. Ibexes ran to different sides, the guide smiled and congratulated me. I lost the super bull but found the super goat!
Suddenly my radio set worked. One of the horseman arrived to the camp. We decided that I’d carry the trophy down while the guide went back to the camp and leaded the horses from another side.
I wasn’t in a hurry and decided to went around the mountain. I still hoped that the luck was on my side and I’d meet the bull.
It took me a couple of hours but I didn’t find it. I found one more big goat which was in the first group, made some video and we went to different directions.
I had almost come to the trophy when decided to sit for a moment and heard the noise above me. It was a big bear which had felt the blood and was rushing to my goat. I took several pictures and chased it away.
That accident assured me that such luck in our mountains was the rare guest.
I went to the trophy and tried to put it for the photo op. It was heavy to fix it in the right position. I used the technics of the Indians from the Easter Island and could do it and make selfie.
The next part of this adventure wasn't so pleasent. I was thirsty, felt headache and the thorns bit into my poor body.
I dragged the goat to the place where the horse could come, threw it down and went to look for water. Isotonic which I prepared was over and I sweated a lot during the day and felt dehydrated. There was a small spring filled with marals turds, I dug a hole but couldn’t wait and drunk.
After quenching the thirst I went down to the river. I had to walk around the gorge by the unknown path, then to go near the car and to rise to the camp, located on the boars river. It sounded like to make around the world trip. I descended to 500 meters when met two horsemen on two horses but they didn’t have the extra one for me. Those guys were riding up to the mountain, where I took the Ibex, and should butcher the carcass. I had about two hours of head start and I continued my way down.
It was the second year when I used the hydrator and it was very comfortable. I didn’t need to stop and to take off the backpack each time when I was thirsty and wanted to drink. Two liters was usually enough for a day. The body heat kept water warm, and it was important in the cold time.
The only complexity in that time was that I didn’t know the way, I used animals tracks like the landmarks but lost it few times when the pass led through the rocks.
The bright moon helped a lot, because added some extra light to my head lamp. I moved in the night forest along the raging river and remembered about the bull which we met today. Thinking about it I came to the river. Fortunately the horsemen overtook me and brought to Maxim who was waited for us!
Few words about our accommodation. We camped in the old “fox” tent. The average temperature at night was -6ºC but we weren’t cold. I slept in the down jacket “Marmont”. The manufacturer had written that the outer layer was waterproof. It was true, I’d checked it.
Later in the evening, when we discussed the events of the past day, I learned that the Bull went to the left direction, there was one more winter place of those animals on the southern side. We looked in details all pictures of the bulls and found that the horns of #1 were damaged by the antler fly. #2 had really nice horns which were heavier and more thick than the horns of #3 but the last Bull had the outstanding antlers and they were longer. Long antlers are better than the heavy one according to the SCI rating.
I didn’t wait for the dinner and felt asleep.
Next morning We ate meat for the breakfast and went to look for the Bull #3. We unanimously decided to use horses and rode about half of the way because were tired yesterday.
Unfortunately none of us spotted good marals from the place which we had chosen like the overview point. All the males were small or young. The big ones preferred to rest in other places but no to lay on the sunny places. We defined a new overview point on the opposite slope and went there.
It was about 3 o’clock when we came to the place. That new point allowed us to see the surrounding from another side and soon we noticed that marals began to appear.
Time went on but none of the huge males came. Next day we had to drive back to the town and to fly home.
It was hot on the slope and flies and bugs began to pester us. It gave me the idea that animals suffered from flies too and would prefer to rise to the heigh 3000 masl. It was colder there and wind would relieve them from the insects. I was right because soon we detected a big bull which slept under the fir tree near the top.
I fixed the phone on the scope and made a couple of pictures, just to consider it carefully. The sun shined so brightly that I had to get in with the head into the backpack trying to consider the photo. My God! It was #2. It was about 10km from the place where we saw it in the first time. It was the sign.
-I’ll take it,- I told to the guide.
-We don’t have time,- replied he with the hope in the voice.
-No. We have enough,- my answer killed his hope to finish early.
The direct distance to the bull was about one km and a half but taking into account all hills and holes to our way to the trophy, it was about 3km, plus we had to ascend about 700 m up. The bull could see us whene we were approaching but we hoped that it slept the big sleep or didn’t hear well. The dry grass rustled our feet though we tried to do our best and to move as quetly as possible. The only advantages we had were the wind which blew from the mountains to our faces and the sun which shined on our backs. It was the end of the rut season and we heard the bulls’ voices all around, Soon I noticed two of them which began the knights tournament.
The coveted trophy woke up and began to reply to the opponents. We speeded up, then ran and overcame the first part of the distance in the high tempo.
Adrenaline is the dangerous thing! Where did the power come from?!
We had to cross two more open parts but fortunately the #2 could not see us because of the huge fir tree which grew between us. The last part of the way we crossed on all fours. The last time when I observed the male, it stood up and moved somewhere to the left direction out of sight. It was about 50 meters to the top, when the guide pulled me down. I obeyed and detected the young male which laid in a few meters from us.
It slept but woke up because of the noise. “Please, don’t bark”,- I prayed to myself, then got the pipe and blew. The maral stared at us but didn’t make any sound. The guide and I stood up without speaking and went to attack. It decided that the best variant would be to dissapear. We took the breathe and ran up the top. The strong smell of musk hit my nose, my eyes peeled along the slope but I couldn’t find #2.
- It left! It left! Give me the pipe!
I blew into the pipe hoping for the reply. Nothing… There was a small male which we noticed on the shadow side of the slope but couldn’t find any tracks of our bull.
- There it is!
The bull stood in front of us but below us. It went down to 200 meters moving to us!
I didn’t remember well what had happened next. Everything was like in a blur. I took camera, focused it on the bull and asked the guide to make video. Then I tried to talk with the bull but it understood that we were not the ones for whom it was and ran away up to the mountain. The hunter which slept inside of me woke up and send away the cameraman. I began to hunt. The bull was running and I didn’t want to fire to the moving aim.
-Give me the pipe!
The guide did his best and stopped the male. It took me just a moment to aim and shoot.. The maral stooped and ran stumped on the right leg. According my experience it meant that I hit to the heart but the strong bull could ran about 100 meters with such wound and fall from the rocks and damage the antlers. I ran ahead, shot once again and stop it. It fell like a dead man.
Hurrah! That was the Hunt! Everything finished in the best way!
I used Blaser carbon R93, cal. 300 Win Mag, Federal Accubond 180 gr, sight Zeiss terra-3 (4-12 x46), сетка rz8.
We went down to the trophy! The trophy was great! It had thick thorny antlers in the upper part. Then we made pictures, cut meat and moved back to the camp. At last we were late to the airport because the avalanche came down to the road and closed it but all other things were excellent.
The very interesting moment is that the bull’s liver was white and sweet. It happens because of glycogen's. Such liver’s condition is normal for the rut season but it was almost over. It proves the idea that old males loose the reproduction function and trophy hunting helpe to regulate the reproductiv population.
That's the story!