Updated: Apr 27
The Ancient One
All their heads shot up and I knew it was now or never, the old swept back chamois ram was ready to bolt away and out of my life forever. As I started to take the slack out of my trigger the world just stopped and…..
It all started with a life long dream of hunting Bezoar Ibex in Turkey, the king of the goats. I had been fortunate to hunt many places around the U.S. and Canada, but the obsession to chase the species of the wild mountains of Asia was inspired by the pioneering of great men like Cambell, Yates, and Barr and the stories they told..
I had starting hunting mountain game as a young man. The dream was interrupted due to financial constraints, a young family, and a growing business. Now the dream was once once again within reach.
Walking past a friend’s booth in Dallas, I stopped to look at some photos of the beast that I pursued/pursued me in in my dreams. After about 15 minutes I knew there was no turning back and I would be on my way to Turkey in the fall. After getting my Gunwerks rifle sighted in for long range shooting, and rearranging some previously booked hunts, I was ready: I was set up to hunt Bezoar Ibex, Anatolian Gazelle, and Hybrid Ibex. About 5 weeks prior, I received a call that due to government regulation the hybrid ibex was off the table, but the Anatolian chamois was available. I reluctantly agreed, though I had been looking forward to crossing both ibex from Turkey off my list.
After learning more about the chamois, where it lived and the fact that it was on my mountain game list, my enthusiasm returned. All disappointment of not hunting the other ibex went away. Also, my friend who was guiding me in Turkey was certain we could get on some superb animals and he knows how picky I can be, so with a new-found will to hunt the chamois, my travel began. After a successful caribou hunt in Newfoundland, within less than 24 hours I was in an airport again, this time heading overseas.
Waiting to board with all the fears and worries of traveling to a Middle Eastern country, I heard my name called over the speaker to come to the podium. Two men in casual clothing flashed a Border Patrol badge and asked why I would travel to Adana Turkey and if I was going to join ISIS. I laughed nervously and explained that I was going there to pursue my dream of hunting and to promote the region to future hunters, as Asia is such an incredible place to hunt mountain game and the historic value of the visit would be everlasting. After some tense moments and a little education on hunting, the men seemed satisfied. I was on my way, much more nervous and apprehensive than before, but forging on nonetheless.
After a brief layover in Toronto, the long flight to Istanbul began. Fourteen plus hours later, my plane was making its descent into Istanbul. Wow, what a place!! Mosques and unique buildings with spires, wild architecture, and people galore. The rest was a whirlwind, with so many people- like sheep being herded up a chute- speaking every language imaginable, and a super long customs line. Security screamed about my spotting scope, and a guide had to patiently explain that it was an innocent tool of the hunt. Having a guide made it easier to navigate the language barrier! Two hours later I land in Trabzon and began the winding mountain ascent along the Black Sea to the mountain city of Artvin.
The next morning we finally started our hunt for chamois. The guides said that two rams that they had seen over the summer were both excellent, and one of them was even exceptional but in an impossible spot. For the first half of the day we pursued the easier of the two, with no luck spotting anything. From the bottom of the mountain to the top we searched to no avail. I suggest we try to locate the one in the rugged spot, and maybe he has moved from the recent heavy snows. With an hour to spare before dark, we spotted the large male with his group of females and another large male that is younger and not quite as big. The younger male had pushed the old boy from the group but the old boy hasn’t given up yet. We decide it is too late to try any type of either long shot or stalk and would come back the next morning at daybreak and see what happens. As I tossed and turned that night in my bed trying to wrap my head around what I wanted to do. I was torn, I knew I was capable of making the 800-yard shot and knew my gun could do it as well but I believe in ethical harvest of game and I wanted to close the gap some if I could.
The next day we arrive right at daybreak. The chamois are on the same impossible cliff face. After much pressure from me and me being stubborn about not wanting to go find another chamois, the guide agrees to try a stalk. We dropped down from our viewpoint and tried to cross a raging river to get closer, but realized quickly that there is no way up the sheer cliffs on the other side. The rocks were not only smooth but wet and slippery. As I struggled back, the spotter informed us that the big one is now missing from the group and no one knows where he went. I have just walked in a dangerous area for two hours without gaining any ground and the animal I want to harvest is now gone! I’m dejected.
Through my interpreter, I pleaded and ask if there is any other way to get up to the animals to get a closer look. Finally, one of the guides thinks he can see an old game trail that gets us across the river. It will require a walk about 3 miles down the river to cross to it, then 3 miles back. And even so, we still may not be able to climb the near vertical cliffs to get a visual because once on the other side, the angle would be so great we would be relying solely on our spotter for even a path to take. So away we go down the river, up the game trail and then a hand-over-hand climb up a slide for about 900 vertical feet. Once we are there- which was about as hairy as this flatlander would like to do -we have to slide out on a cliff face, grab a root of a side growing tree and pull ourselves up about a 15 foot face with only death behind us to a flat spot where we could see the ledge the chamois were on earlier. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m good in the mountains until it gets dangerous, and then I get nervous. I am a big tough boy, but put me in a step right or die spot and I can be as scared as a 5 year old in the dark. So, it was all I could do to get the courage to trust a root and a pine branch to pull myself up to the small flat area I can shoot from. After my nerves calmed, and my heart rate went back to normal from 1000 beats a minute, I found myself lying prone and glassing the group of chamois about 385 yards away and a little above. All of them were there, besides our old male.
The guide said, “The younger one is right there. He is a great one, will score very high gold if you want him”. I declined. I wanted the one I set my sights on from the beginning, and, as I said, I am stubborn most of the time. Well, we waited for an hour and scoured for the old chamois. By now it was about 30 minutes until dark and we still needed to get down the cliff face and back down the shale slide and head to the vehicle, which was miles away. Just as we were calling it quits,our spotter starts hollering on the radio. It seemed the big male was coming back to have one more go to get back his females.
As I set back up, got the gun straightened back around, the chamois all started moving to the right and up. I made sure we were filming and that I was on the right animal: it was late and the two males were very close together.As I settled in and on them, my ram walked behind a bush. Just then- an alert bark! All their heads shot up and I knew it was now or never. That old swept back chamois ram was ready to bolt away and out of my life forever. As I started to take the slack out of my trigger, the world just stopped. Even though he was partially obscured by the bush, I had a clear view of the vitals. BOOM!!! The .28 Nosler goes off and I see the impact from the 180-grain bullet through the scope and I knew right then I had harvested the animal I had hunted so hard for. As we very carefully descended from our perch and the evening turned to night I couldn’t wait to see this amazing animal up close. All the miles, all the climbing, all the sore knees and feet were so worth it once I got to put my hands on my prize with well over 10” horns and 3.5-4” bases this chamois could possibly be the New World Record!
I was in disbelief. Here I am in these rugged mountains, after struggling up and down the snowy slopes and I’m finally holding my prize. There were so many things involved in the hunt that were so satisfying; from the calories burned before and during the hunt, to the tip I gave my guide which will help him give his family a better life, the life-long friends made, and the campfire stories I will live to tell my kids and grandkids and anyone else who will listen. Not to mention, such a prize puts money into the local economy of this region where tourism hunting is a primary source of income. This is why I hunt; this is why I live for it! Still, never in my wildest dreams thought I could be blessed to join the group of hunters who held a world record.
As I inspected my prize further, I realized that he had lived for 13 years and was starting to rot at the hooves and almost had no teeth to speak of. Not only was I blessed to take such an amazing animal, but I spared this animal from dying through the winter while suffering from either infected hooves or starvation due to his teeth. Being a conservationist brings a satisfying sense that we are part of the cycle of life. As I drove in the car with a giant smile from ear to ear back to where we stayed I was happy to hear how the money from hunters in this area not only kept the chamois alive but also was the sole reason that the smaller towns even existed in this rural part of Turkey. People came from miles around to see the new “record” as they all kept calling it in broken English. I was so happy to share the excitement with these people at having harvested a true giant and to revel in the story about how it came about. After the many high fives, fist bumps, and head butts (a Turkish thing) I was off to bed to dream of my next adventure in the snowy mountains.