A LOT OF IBEX

Boddingtonibexhuntforever022814We were perched on some rimrock, and a small group of males had just gone over the next ridge. Only one remained, a nice billy but still too far. As soon as he went over the top we could make a fairly direct approach, and we would probably at least see what was in the group from fairly close range.
The only problem was this last ibex was in no hurry. He ambled back and forth right on the top, feeding among the rocks, so for the moment we were stuck. I took my pack off and got comfortable, and, using the ridge we were on for cover from the ibex we knew about, my hunting team shifted around to look into draws fanning out to our right. Yes, there were ibex there as well, a fairly big group bedded across a canyon and partway up the next slope. By now our sentry ibex had gotten comfortable and bedded among the highest rocks.
We weren’t going that way any time soon but I figured we had ibex in sight and it was important to go look at them. In time I’m sure we would have eventually, but my Shikar-Safari team knew this area well. What I didn’t understand was that they weren’t at all fixed on the group we’d seen—they knew there were more around. So they spread out to look in some canyons fanning out below us and quickly spotted another group bedded on the far slope. We slipped down for a closer look and two extra-large wolves came up out of the canyon below us. Wolves are protected in Turkey, so instead of an opportunity it was a marvelous sight as they worked their way up the far slope in the sunlight, wind rippling their coats.
I was in some tall mountains in southeastern Turkey, not far from the Syrian border. This area is not known for really big Bezoar goat. Instead this is where the “hybrid ibex” are found, with some influence from domestic goats. This makes them a grab bag: Some males look exactly like ibex from other parts of Turkey; others show different coloration in body and face. Those that show clear hybridization generally have horns that curve outward at the tips.
I’d already figured out that picking such nuances out of a group wouldn’t be easy! There was nothing interesting in the new group across the valley, but it wasn’t long before the local game guard dropped off another point farther east and started waving frantically. Guides Celal and Cenk loped to him while I picked my way carefully across the jumbled scree.
So, Celal was now on a little outcropping looking down, and as I approached he kept motioning for me to get down. I didn’t get it. The ibex we’d been looking at on the far ridge were up and looking, but there was no way to get out of their sight. I skirted a bit wider, and clambered up the rocks to him. And then he signed that there were ibex right there, right below him.
I crawled over the last couple of rocks and carefully peeked over. Good Lord! It looked like the scene from Zulu Dawn when the mounted scout finds the Zulu army hidden in a depression. The slope below was packed with ibex, all males. A handful were bedded just 60 yards below us; the main mass started at about twice that distance and stretched downslope, a jumbled forest of bodies and horns. Celal and Cenk both thought the herd was 250 to 300 strong! In all the mountain hunting I’ve done I have never seen such a sight—but I understood instantly that it would be next to impossible to sort through them! There would surely be good ones, and the guides could certainly pick them out. The question was whether I would be able to understand which one, and then get a clear shot.
The clock was running. The nearest ibex were already up and nervous. I thought it wasn’t going to work…we were just too close and there were too many ibex. But as the herd started to shift I was rested over a boulder while Celal glassed. Lots of ibex, lots of horns, drifting across our front in a mass, not running, not significantly increasing distance, but also not separating. Then we got lucky. On the far right of the herd, now directly below us, what appeared to be a really big ibex brought up the rear. Celal pointed him out, big in the body with great horns. As I got on him he turned upslope toward us. Celal saw the flaring horn tips and immediately gave me the go-ahead. The big billy turned broadside and I shot him on the shoulder. We saw him go down, and then watched the amazing spectacle as that incredible mass of ibex moved up the far slope and dropped over the skyline.–Craig Boddington

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