Hunting The Roof Of The World

My long anticipated hunting trip to Nepal, “the Roof of the World,” had a fitful start.  My good friend, Ret, had to cancel one month before our start date due to an illness in his family.  My dad, who had been battling Alzheimers for five years, died 12 days before departure. At the last minute, Clark Jeffs, of Safari Outfitters, found me a new hunting partner, and Toby Johnson and I left for Nepal on March 13.

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We arrived in Kathmandu via Seoul on Korean Airlines, where we met Shova Singh, manager of Nepal Wildlife Adventure, who assisted us through customs.  Shova is the daughter of T. J. Thapa, who pioneered the hunting industry in Nepal.  Shova and her husband, Prem, escorted us to the very nice Yak & Yeti hotel where we would stay before and after our hunt.

The following morning, we did an awesome hour and a half mountain flight on Yeti Air along the Himalayan himal (mountain chain), flying at eye level with the highest mountains in the world, including Mt. Everest!  That afternoon we toured Kathmandu’s and Bhaktapur’s Durbar (Temple) Squares, both cultural World Heritage sites, with their ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples.

We left the smog of Kathmandu Valley and drove one and a half hours east to Nagarkot, and overnighted at the Club Himalayan, where we soaked up the splendid views of the Himalayan Mountains from their observation deck.

IMG_2394_-MyersThe following morning, we drove back to Kathmandu’s sister city, Patan, and enjoyed another guided tour through Durbar Square.  That evening, Shova’s brother, General (Ret.) Pyar Jung Thapa, invited us to a traditional Nepalese dinner at his home.  He also presented us with a khukuri, a traditional small sword, for good luck on our hunt.  We toured the National Museum and Art Gallery the next day, but I think it’s safe to say that we were both anxious to begin our hunt, leaving our kind hosts and the ancient city of Kathmandu.

We enjoyed an amazing one and a half hour helicopter flight to the village of Dhorpatan, in the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, where it seemed the whole village had come out to greet us.  The majority of the people are Mongolian — including Magar, Thakali, and Gurung — an amalgamation of different ethnic groups resulting in a mixed culture.  We were met by our camp manager, Maj. (Ret.) Pralhad Jung Thapa, and introduced to our individual teams, consisting of a head guide, assistant guide, tent orderly, cook and assistant cook, bag packer, five porters, a pony boy, a forestry official, and a village representative.  Most of my team had arrived from Kathmandu not by helicopter, but after a 24-hour bus ride, then a four-day hike into the village.

The following morning, our hunt truly began, with Toby’s team and my team splitting up.  My crew left Dhorpatan (alt. 9,600 feet), and hiked north into Bharal (blue sheep) country!  Our first camp was at 12,300 feet and I was glad I had elected to take Diamox, a diuretic that helps prevent altitude sickness.  In fact, I had no high altitude symptoms such as headache, tachypnea, or tachycardia, the entire trip.  As a sickle moon rose in the east, the brilliant stars gleamed overhead, and the Himalayan himal dominated the skyline, I felt like the luckiest hunter in the world.

IMG_2318_-MyersThe next day we moved camp and continued north, reaching a pass at 13,500 feet where we made another camp.  It had become foggy, cold and windy, but before nightfall the fog lifted and the Dhalagari and Annapurna mountain ranges to the east created a breathtaking backdrop to our high mountain camp.

The following morning, we broke camp and continued our northward trek.  We had stopped to glass at a notch at 13,600 feet when Biere, my head guide, spotted a ram, east and below us.  We moved around the mountain to look back at the ridge where he was bedded, and soon discovered several other rams.  Biere said the biggest ram was approximately 24 inches with good bases — it was decision time.  It took me 15 minutes to decide to shoot that ram, and then it took us 45 minutes and four moves to put us within 260 yards of him.  I waited half an hour for the ram to get up, then took the steep downhill shot from a good prone rest.  The 130-grain Barnes TSX anchored the blue sheep for good in the Himalayas!  The ram was 9-1/2 years old; both horns measured 24 inches with 12-inch bases — a very respectable ram.  In fact, I believe that any blue sheep is a good blue sheep!  After photos and caping, we had a hard climb from 12,300 to 13,600 feet where my pony was waiting, and I thankfully rode the final three miles to the next camp, arriving just at dark.

The next day, our team headed back to Dhorpatan.  Along the way, I spotted several mountain grouse — an endangered and protected species.  We had lunch at the pass where we had spotted the rams, and from there it was all down hill, leaving the Chomo, Goya, Dhalagari, and Annapurna himal behind us.  I enjoyed the spring-like weather and the brilliantly blooming rhododendron.  About two miles from Dhorpatan, we spotted another target animal, the muntjac, or barking deer, a 40-pound deer with canine tusks.  I was getting ready to shoot when I spotted four wild boars against the mountain some 300 yards across from us.  I elected to shoot the biggest boar, and hit the tough animal each of the four times I shot before he was finished.  Soon we were back at the village, where we later enjoyed ram backstrap, wild boar meat, and whiskey that I had saved for such an occasion.

IMG_2345_-MyersThe next day, while the men were expertly taking care of the trophies, Toby came into camp with his blue sheep.  That evening, I went muntjac hunting, and with one shot successfully killed a most unique trophy, the barking deer.  Later that evening, Toby and I celebrated our success, while enjoying skewered muntjac shish kabobs.  Both teams joined in the celebration, and with a roaring fire and fiery local moonshine, we toasted our good fortune.

The following morning, we broke camp and headed west to Himalayan tahr country, passing two seasonal villages along the way.  Everyone was busy tilling and planting their crops, but not too busy to greet us with a smile, clasped hands, and a salutation of “namashthe” (good morning or have a good day).  Four miles downriver, we turned north, and then separated into two groups again, Toby continuing north and my team west. We had a steep climb through the cedar forest, and camped just above tree line at 11,300 feet.  From there we could see plenty of steep, cliffy, tahr country.

IMG_2456_-MyersI slept well, my vivid dreams continued, and I awoke to a fresh, frosty morning.  Later, we moved camp further west, and eventually spotted a band of gorals, another protected species in Nepal.  We made camp just under the main ridge at 13,400 feet — an unlikely spot with wood and water far below us, but within easy access to big sections of tahr country.  Biere and Sano scouted all morning, and spotted two bull tahr about two miles from camp.  We hiked back to that spot, but failed to relocate the tahr.  We then spotted 13 bull tahr on a mountain more than three miles further west.  It was 11 a.m., and I elected not to pursue the tahr as it was too late in the day, and I didn’t think I could complete the stalk before dark.

Of course, I second-guessed myself most of the evening, but at 6 a.m. the next morning, we were back at that spot about two miles west of camp, at an elevation of 13,500 feet.  The two groups of seven and six tahr were still on the same mountain and the stalk began.  Three hours into the stalk, I knew that if I could reach the tahr, I’d never make it back to camp before dark.  It was tough navigating the connecting ridges, skirting up, down and around.  The mountains towered above us, and I felt small and insignificant.  We jumped more goral and ewe tahr later in the day, and finally reached the bottom of the main drainage. We then made a hellish climb up an adjacent drainage to where the grass started, then another long climb to the top of the ridge.

IMG_2552_-MyersWe skirted one and a half miles around and behind the mountain to the south, looking for the biggest bull in the group of seven; however, we failed to locate them.  We then painfully worked our way back to the top and around the backside of the mountain to set up on the first group of six tahr.  It was 5 p.m.  I was bone tired as I carefully prepared to shoot a steeply downhill 220-yard shot.  With a smooth release, the Kimber .270 WSM’s striker dropped, and the well-earned Himalayan tahr was mine.  He was nine years old, had 12-inch horns and 9-inch bases, long blond shoulder hair with darker hair on the rump and legs.  After pictures and caping, we bailed off the mountain and down the steep ravine.  With darkness fast approaching, we soon had to stop. We quickly made a fire, prepared jerky, built a sleeping platform, cut some bamboo for a sleeping pad, then ate some tahr.  I put on all my clothes and raingear, and managed to sleep pretty well until daylight.

At daybreak, we continued down the ravine, my legs sore and tired, one step at a time, to the bottom.  Then we hiked up through the jungle, up, up, and up; climbing out of the hole we were in to the main ridge and back to camp after a grueling 36-hour hunt.

After a long, dusty day returning to Dhorpatan, I was grateful that a village woman thoughtfully brought us delicious Tibetan bread and tea.   I was now finished hunting, with five days left for Toby to do the same.  Around 2 p.m. the next day, Toby’s crew came into the village with a very nice 13-inch tahr.  That evening they went muntjac hunting, but a severe hailstorm forced them back to camp.  The next evening, Toby killed a top 10 SCI muntjac, and again we enjoyed fresh shish kabob.

IMG_2596_-MyersAs the helicopter could not come early, we had ample time to properly dry and salt our trophies.  Local voodoo dancers and singers entertained us one afternoon.  The next day we walked east a couple of hours to tour the Bompo Monastery, which is also a traditional Tibetan herbal medical school.  The final day in Dhorpatan, we completed our trophy preparations, and Maj. Thapa presented us with a bottle of wine for dinner, as everyone celebrated our adventure and success.

The helicopter arrived the next day about 10:30 a.m., and we were back at the Yak & Yeti in Kathmandu by 2 p.m., where I enjoyed and appreciated a long hot shower, an ice-cold beer, fresh food, and a clean bed. After lunch with the Singh’s on the following day, we concluded the final paperwork on our trophies.

So, another long flight home, with plenty of time to reflect on my hunt in Nepal, “the Roof of the World;” the majestic Himalayan mountains, unique trophies, friendly people, and expert teamwork and warm hospitality from Nepal Wildlife Adventure’s Staff.– George Latham Myers, II

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