Flashback Friday – A Question of Quarry

SafariSO96CoverEditor’s note: On Friday we dig through the Safari Club archives and bring back a story from past hunts. This week, we join Henning Olsen from Denmark on a hunt for wapiti in Kazakhstan that instead, produced a record book ibex. This story first appeared in the September/October issue of Safari Magazine.

Henning Olsen and his Austrian friend boarded the plane for the flight to Kazakhstan. Both were in the euphoric state of excitement that precedes any hunt, this particular one being for Tian Shan wapiti. The pair had confidence that the hunt would go off without a hitch.

The hunting camp was about 4,000 feet above sea level, and the ground rose slowly to an 11,500 foot plateau that provided a perfect vantage point to spot and stalk the large stags. They knew the area also supported Siberian roe deer and ibex, but their primary prey was wapiti.

The camp was well-constructed and offered simple and rugged amenities. The guides spoke in Russian and in the universal sign language of hunters everywhere. The slopes were far too steep for vehicles above the camp so travel was restricted to the sturdy ponies of the region. No matter how surefooted and well mannered the mount, the two hunters soon ached in spots they had forgotten they had.

flashbackfridaykazakhstanhuntEarly the next morning, they saddled up and slowly rode their horses up the slope. After 45 minutes of glassing they spotted their first game. The herd of wapiti numbered about 30 or 40 but all cows, calves and young bulls. A few minutes later, they found ibex, but only ewes and lambs.

The guides and hunters decided to split up and continue their trek to the top of the mountain. It took Henning five hours to reach the end of the plateau. Each step the pony took opened up a new vista of the steep, rocky face of the mountain below. Henning and his guide were constantly glassing the slopes looking for that elusive wapiti stag. On one of the glassing stops they both spotted game at the same time, not the wapiti bull they were searching for, but a giant of an ibex ram lying among the boulders. The wapiti bull was forgotten now as they decided to stalk the ibex from above to avoid being seen. This meant they would have to circle to a spot above the ram, a route of about three miles.

A foot too far in the stirrup and misstep from the horse almost ended the stalk before it began. Horse, rider and rifle tumbled down the slope a few yards but all three scrambled back up, none the worse for wear.

They tied their horses at a safe distance and continued the stalk on flashbackfridaykazakhstanguidefoot, taking extra care to not dislodge any debris or stone while they moved. After 30 minutes, they carefully peered over the edge and studied the slope, but the ibex wasn’t there. Correcting their bearings they sneaked up to the edge again. This time when the guide peaked over the edge he scooted suddenly back. It was there! Straight down and 180 yards away. Henning quietly fed a round into the chamber of his .308 and gingerly crawled up to the edge. Aiming nearly straight down he set the crosshairs on the ram’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At the shot the ram wavered a bit an turned 180 degrees. He took a hurried second shot, aiming again at the ram’s shoulder. The ram disappeared at the shot. Suddenly the guide grabbed Henning’s rifle and slid down the slope. Bewildered, Henning followed and as he reached the spot where the guide had gone, saw the ram escape over the next ravine. When the guide made it back to the top he shrugged his shoulders, “Too bad. Nice ram.”

flashbackfridayibexkazakhstanBoth men sat on the edge of the plateau thinking about the recent events. Henning was replaying the scene in his head and was thinking he definitely saw the ram wobble with the first shot. Had the tumble from the horse earlier knocked his scope off that much? He insisted they both climb down to where the ram had been when the shot was fired. The guide’s face showed he thought this was an exercise in futility, but soon changed when they climbed down and were rewarded with the sight of ibex horns behind a boulder. The animal was magnificent and the shots had gone exactly where he had aimed. The second ibex that ran off after the shots had deceived them completely.

Henning didn’t have long to savor the victory as light was fading and the long haul of transporting the animal back to camp loomed before them.

Once in camp, the excitement of the stalk was told and retold. The tale of the tape gave a green measure of 53 7/8” for each horn.—Dr. Karl-Heinz Betz

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