Shortly after daylight we glassed a group of tahr from the cabin in the valley. Most were females, drab brown, but there were a couple of younger males with them, darker in the body and lighter in the cape…and even in the distance visibly larger. The Continue reading A Perfect Day on the Mountain
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.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
I 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.
We 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.
As 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
Though it was June, I packed as I would for Kentucky deer stand hunting during the really cold, late muzzleloader season, as it was the middle of winter in New Zealand where I was headed. After 24 hours in the air and multiple layovers on the ground, Clay (my brother), Mamaw and Pap (my grandparents, a.k.a. Alice and Sam Monarch), and I arrived in Christ Church, New Zealand, where our outfitter, Ewan Bennie, greeted us warmly. We were going to be Ewan’s last hunters as he had sold his hunting business, Hollyburn Trophy Hunting, to another outfitter, Steve Millard, who would be hunting with us.
The drive to the “hut” where we would meet our guides was gorgeous with one side of the road being “Iowa flat” and the other supporting beautiful, snow-covered, straight up mountains. We would be hunting on foot in the Cook Mountains and while I knew they were steep, I hadn’t visualized that they were straight up. I was ecstatic. The chance of taking a tahr on foot with a muzzleloader was slim, but I was excited to be hunting and excited to be a “big time hunter” heading out on foot with my backpack, my “hunter’s briefcase.”
As we pulled up to the hut, we were again greeted warmly, this time by our guides, Don Greg and Greg Maw. After talking with them for a few minutes, I knew we were going to have a good time.
Later, as we made our way up a winding, narrow road cut into the mountain, Don spotted a herd of tahr in the tussock (snow grass). We stopped abruptly, grabbed our binoculars and rolled out to have a better look. Soon Clay, Ewan and Steve were beside us, all with binoculars pointing straight up. From a distance of 1,000 yards, the professionals were discussing horn length to within a quarter of an inch while Clay and I were just glad we could see the tahr.
Ewan and Don agreed that the big male would go 12 1/2 inches, but we were looking for a 13-inch bull, so we moved on. I wondered how we would have gotten to that tahr anyway — the mountain looked straight up, and I could see no way to stalk within 150 yards. Clay and I hunt with muzzleloaders and we have a self-imposed 150-yard maximum range. We had practiced at every opportunity and were comfortable taking shots out to 150 yards, but that bull was 1,000 yards away — straight up!
Five of us would be hunting: Don led the way, followed by Clay, then me, with Steve and Greg walking side by side. We spotted several tahr but nothing that met our minimum. The walking was bearable, and I thought tahr hunting on foot was going to be easy–no serious climbing; we were just going to follow this creek until we saw something big up close. Then, I heard the guides talking about Clay, Steve and Greg climbing the mountain, and Don and me following the creek before going up.
We soon reached an icy waterfall and began our climb straight up beside it. The climb was extremely steep and there was nothing to hold on to. When I finally reached the top and caught up to Don, I spotted a tahr. I was excited and Don was impressed.
I was seriously hot after the climb, so when we stopped for an early lunch, I shed a few layers. After lunch, Don pointed straight up and said, “We are going up there.”
Don easily stayed twenty feet ahead of me. He was not even sweating, but I was soaking wet and struggling to keep up. An avid hunter, Alan Kirschenbaum, had warned me that I should exercise on a stair climber before this hunt, but I thought I was physically fit. After all, I’m sixteen years old, on my school’s wrestling team and run track.
I should have listened to Alan.
The weather was freezing, I was dripping wet with sweat and my feet were squishing in my boots. I shed another layer and when we stopped, I was freezing!
About two-thirds of the way up, we reached a ridge with a good vantage point where we waited to see what the weather would do. Soon a cloud engulfed us in an icy mist, making me wet inside from sweat and wet outside from the icy mist. After a while, we decided to keep moving in the cloud. The higher we climbed, the harder it became and the more I slipped.
Walking the ridgeline was not as steep, but the snow was deeper, making us work harder to get our feet high enough to clear it. We continued walking the ridgeline until about dark and at times, snow came at us sideways with blizzard force. Just as we were about to turn downhill, Don spotted a tahr ten yards below us. I could have jumped on its back!
After Don studied the tahr, he whispered that it was too small.
With that assessment, we started down and I gave a sigh of relief, thinking that going downhill would be easy, but I was wrong. Walking down was almost as hard as climbing up.
When we met Clay and his guides, their report was like ours — plenty of nannies and small bulls but no shooters.
The next day our hunting parties again split, with Don and me heading straight up another mountain. I wasn’t slipping as much, but as we moved up, the ridge became steeper and doubled in height.
Ewan had advised wearing fewer clothes, which I did, but I was already dripping wet from head to toe. The sweat made my socks so mushy that it felt like I was walking on sponges. Snow was waist deep in places but only ankle deep in others; consequently, walking was strenuous, as I never knew if I’d be waist or ankle deep. I didn’t know how far we’d climbed, but I was elated when we reached the top of the mountain and Don turned to me and said, “Only the most dedicated hunters come back this far.” Don had included me in the “most dedicated hunters” category.
Don spotted a mob of tahr about 600 yards away, slightly downhill.
As we moved along the ridgeline, the winds picked up and blew yesterday’s snow in our faces, but the nearby tahr kept me focused. When we reached a good vantage point, we discovered dozens of nannies with a half-dozen bulls mixed in. We crept down the face of the mountain to get a closer look and got within 25 yards of a nice bull, but he wasn’t a shooter.
As it was beginning to get dark, we began to work our way down. Soon, we came to what appeared to be a huge gravel slide or “shingle scree.” Don stepped next to the scree and said, “Just dig your heels in and lean back and you’ll slide right down.” And with that, Don stepped in and was gone.
A feeling of insecurity — no, panic — hit me. Don was gone and I had to follow. As I stepped into the scree, I clutched my rifle in front of me and said a little prayer. I was externally composed, but internally, I was losing it. I slid about 10 feet and came to an abrupt stop. I had leaned too far forward. As I leaned back, I discovered that if I did a sliding into home baseball stance, I moved quite nicely and soon caught up to Don.
Day Three was to be a true spot-and-stalk day with both hunting parties: Ewan, Mamaw and Pap glassing for tahr in a new area. We glassed the crevasses and rocky spots for a couple of hours and saw several tahr, but no shooters. As we rounded a bend, Ewan stopped abruptly, grabbed his binocular, and began looking straight up. Steve, Don and Greg quickly joined Ewan and I could hear the excitement in their voices. They were looking at a tahr they thought would go 12 3/4 inches with good bases. I quickly gathered my gear as it was decided that Don, Greg and I would go on the stalk.
We continued along the mountain and glassed to see what we could find. We soon spotted another herd of tahr and the stalk was on again. I opined that we should go low as there was intermittent cover, but the guides echoed an earlier comment by Ewan, “Tahr look down for danger and they rarely look up,” so we took the high route. When we reached the top of the ridge, we spotted a nice bull, but it was too far for the muzzleloader and we were stuck. We couldn’t get any closer because the rock face was too steep, and we would be busted if we moved in the other direction.
Severe weather was in the forecast, so on Day Four, Clay, Greg and Steve headed back to the first mountain, while Don and I went after the big tahr from the day before. Some time later, we located him and the stalk was on. We walked up the same creek and made our way through the same woods. I was excited and had high hopes that today would be the day. Except for the blisters on my feet, my body was adjusting to climbing and we seemed to move faster than the day before.
As we worked into range, we heard one of the nannies whistle so we set up quickly. The range finder read 194 yards and the big bull moved another six yards. When The tahr was broadside and my muzzleloader fell steady, eight inches above his back. When smoke filled the air, I knew it was a good shot. The tahr moved to the left and I saw him fall. I was relieved. I was proud. I had taken a tahr on foot in the mountains with the muzzleloader.
Don was excited, too. He immediately radioed Ewan, “Tell Sam he was right! You have to hold 15 inches high at 200 yards.” Don confirmed that it was a big, old tahr. It had a beautiful long, blonde mane that faded into black down his back. He had big, thick bases that curled back, with one horn having a “kick” on the end. The tahr was breathtaking.
The difficulty of the two-hour climb down was overpowered by the elation of taking my tahr.
When we reached the bottom of the mountain, I was greeted warmly with hugs and smiles from my grandparents and Ewan. I could see the pride in Pap’s face as he told me, “You and Clay are hunting tahr the right way. You are hunting them on foot.” The hunt had been very difficult, but it was very rewarding.
As we headed to the hut to meet Clay, the anxiousness of whether he had a tahr was growing. Clay and I went back and forth.
“Did you get one?” Clay quizzed.
“Did you get one?” I responded.
After the third exchange, I said, “I got one!” The smiles on their faces told the rest of the story. Clay had a tahr. We were overwhelmed. We had gone in different directions, climbed different mountains, hunted with different guides, and both tahr were magnificent.–Tom Monarch