(Editor Note: The government of Nepal has finally issued hunting permits and the first foreign hunter - subscriber J.Y. Jones - has gone afield. Here is the whole scoop, directly from Jones. Thanks, J.Y. for letting the rest of us know how the hunt went.)
I am still at the Yak & Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu as I begin writing this. I’m filing this report as a service to the hunting community, as I’m the first foreigner to hunt Nepal since its closure in 2002. Let me begin by saying that this was without doubt tougher than any hunt I’ve ever been on. It wasn’t just the terrain or the altitude; it was the atrocious weather. In combination, they created conditions that were truly life-threatening. You need to be in absolutely top physical condition to go on this hunt.
I hunted with Mahesh Busnyat of Himalayan Safaris, and I arranged the trip through Bob Kern at The Hunting Consortium (540-955-0090; www.huntcon.com). Busnyat has a concession in the huge and remote Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in western Nepal. Kern and his crew did an outstanding job of arranging almost everything. The few things that did go wrong were to be expected when you’re the first one into a place after a six-year closure. At least I didn’t suffer the terrible indignity fellow subscriber Ed Yates did last year, when he waited in a Kathmandu hotel for nine days only to have Nepalese officials ultimately refuse to issue him a hunt permit!
As for the hunt, it took 3½ days of walking from the nearest sizable village to reach our base camp. The village was at 8,500 feet; base camp was at 12,800 feet, and we hunted upward from there to as high as 15,200 feet (these are actual altimeter readings, not estimates). The circumstances of this hunt were extremely difficult. We walked seven to 10 miles each day. Busnyat estimates we walked about 60 miles total. That may not sound very far, but you must consider the altitude and the weather. The day we climbed to our highest elevation we were driven down by an inch-an-hour blast of snow that made it hard to move around, much less see where you were going. I was literally snowed out except for parts of four days.
This time of year it’s supposed to be mostly snow-free below 14,000 feet, except on the north faces where it doesn’t completely melt off until later in the year. Indeed, the area was snow-free when we pitched camp at 12,800 feet on March 28. But when we left, there was a foot of snow on the ground.
We hunted the day after we set up camp, and I missed a pretty nice blue sheep at 478 yards. No excuses. I simply failed to account for a 30- to 40-knot wind from my back, plus the 14,000 feet of elevation, and I shot slightly over the animal. We were weathered in by snow every day after that, with very limited hunting opportunities, so Busnyat postponed my helicopter pickup by a day to give me a bit of extra time.
That last day, we trudged under blue skies for 15 hours through snow that varied between a foot deep and three feet deep in conditions that would kill most men, and almost killed me. We eventually found ourselves in a big valley that last day with sheep on the opposite side, including some decent rams. Kern had said to be prepared for long shots, and he was right. The closest we could get was 658 yards (I’m not kidding), but it was try or die, and maybe both. It was already 3:15 pm, and we were six hours from camp, so I had to make a decision — no sheep or an impossible shot. I prayed a little, took a deep breath and tried. My first two shots were clean misses, but five rams spooked our way....