Hunting in the mountains – on argali in Kyrgyzstan
We can say that our journey began with the arrival at Bishkek airport. I flew to Kyrgyzstan with a group of Poles who ordered a capricorn and a ram Marco Polo. The plane arrived early in the morning, when it was still night in Moscow. We passed the border and customs control still half asleep, and the meeting with the Kyrgyz partners finally awakened. While the hunters in the VIP-room drank tea and coffee, Ermek and I discussed a new “introduction”. Usually, all the organizational aspects of hunting in the mountains are decided in advance, but it happens that you need to make adjustments to the already drawn up plan. This time, one of the three hunters, Witold Gzhsyak, who came to me not for the first time, wanted to hunt the argali first, and the other two preferred the capricorns. So we agreed to split up – Ermek and two will go to one camp, and I with Witold to the other, distant.
The road to the sheep land is always very long, taking from a third to half a day. We reached Naryn by an old Audi. There they were transferred to a hunting UAZ 452 loaded with food and everything necessary for life outside of civilization, and he ran slowly along a mountain road, winding and climbing higher and higher …
The exhausting road in a small camp, equipped on the site of the shepherds settlement, has ended. They warmly greeted, seated at the table. But we didn’t bother to sleep after two almost sleepless days, we went to sleep. Only to sleep turned out to be quite difficult. The camp was located at an altitude of 3600 meters, and hypoxia affected. The dream was very sensitive, intermittent and restless. In people unfamiliar in general it is a common occurrence in such cases – miner – shortness of breath, headaches and nausea.
The mountains always hit the night sky. It is the color of anthracite with an almost elusive bluish tinge, all covered with bright stars in an amount that will never be seen from the plain. Contemplation of such a sky is always fascinating and for some reason soothes.
Early in the morning, when the first rays of the sun had just marked the mountain peaks in the west, we were already rocking in the saddles, moving along the bottom of one of the gorges. For mountains, there is always a big difference between day and night temperatures. It was the middle of October, and this difference was about 25-30 degrees: from – 20 at night to + 5-8 in the afternoon. If you sit still on a horse, you quickly freeze, so when the road is long, you have to periodically dismount to disperse the blood a little. But in the first days because of hypoxia, it is extremely difficult to do – you quickly suffocate.
The tactics of ram hunting are always about the same. We must go to the ridge, from which the places where these secretive animals graze will be visible. Then we choose the tactics of approach or surge on the arrow. I always defend the approach as a more sporty and gambling way of hunting, when the result of eighty percent depends only on you.
Success on the first day is rare. And this time was no exception. We saw various animals – ibex, female argali, foxes and even a wolf. We did not meet only the captured ram Marco Polo.
We had no luck in the following days, although we made daily ascents on mountain ranges, saw whole herds of females with young. Sometimes 150-200 heads. It is only necessary to note that we did not climb on the hills, but on horseback. Without them would have had a very hard time. True, there were enough problems with them – one had to always be on the alert, in order to react in time if the horse got into the hole or on a mountain talus. Only “cheek” helped a little.
Once we left a frozen gorge on a slope warmed by the sun. The snow and ice melted here, the steepness was breathtaking. As usual in such cases, I took out my feet from the stirrups. Still, he “reacted” only in flight over the horse’s head. It turned out that, having slipped on the thawed soil, she fell on her front legs. I was lucky that I made somersault on the slope going upwards. He got up, shook himself off, looked with a smile into the rounded eyes of the conductors, Almaz and Bischenbek, jumped into the saddle again, and we moved on. And then a really serious incident happened. Bishenbek led us away from a landslide, and Witold landed in another trap. As soon as his horse stepped into the deep snow, I heard forged hooves pounding on the cliffs. The horse stumbled, and immediately a large mass of snow beneath it stumbled and rode down with a stone scree. The horse with Witold began to unfold, and she spread her legs wide apart, trying to brake. But she did not succeed. I shouted to Witold to jump off his horse. But he could not do it. The horse crashed on its side along with the hunter … But, really, it immediately rose and finally stopped. Stopped and the whole mass of snow and stones. Witold managed to get out of the stirrups and jumped off his horse. I imagined with horror what it would be like if they fell into the gorge. Having recovered in about fifteen minutes, we continued to climb. But already on foot.