I booked my marco polo hunt through Extreme Mountain Hunts, run by Mirbala Manafov. He helped me out with a very bad hunt in the past where NONE of my luggage arrived, including my gun, and saved the hunt for me. In Tajikistan, I hunted with Aidibek, out of the Murgab Camp My flights took 20 hours over 10 time zones and 10 hours waiting at airports and the 20 hours of driving: 12 hours one day and 8 hours the next. The narrow mountain passes that ran hundreds of miles along a deep and rapid river that separated us from Afghanistan really kept your interest. I never got car sickness till we traversed these "rugged" roads dynamited out of the sides of the mountains.
We would pass double long semi-trucks from China on roads where you would drop hundreds of feet if you even went only 3 feet off the main road.
I was accompanied throughout the trip, never felt confused or at ill ease. The guides were true professionals who all knew English well. In fact there were only two people in camp that could not understand me well, the cook and one of the drivers. They also were equipped even better than me and I actually had to look for someone to give my extra clothes to that I left behind.
Base camp was at 14,000 feet and I did not start my Diamox a week before. Big Mistake. With the jet lag, winding roads, a GI bug I picked up on a Canadian bear hunt that I finished less than a week before this hunt, the high altitude topped it off and I had no appetite and didn't sleep well for my entire stay (although it did start to improve). We hunted mostly by car and then, if any promising animals were seen, we would try to put a stalk on them. This was not easy over these widely spaced, fairly smooth mountains where there were no brush or trees for hundreds of miles in any direction.
I saw, with out exaggeration, about 1000 sheep the first day. All from a fairly long distance. They said there were no shooters but even from that distance over 100 of them (maybe 200) were at least as big or bigger that the one I shot before, elsewhere.
The second day started out with less sheep spotted but bigger rams. We saw about 8 "shooter" rams that morning. I understood a shooter was one that was over 50 inches and approaching 55.
That early afternoon after a "trial" walk we drove to a slightly different valley in the drainage and 7 rams were spotted . They looked good and a stalk was made. At 15,000 feet there is about 1/3 less oxygen than at sea level. I did fairly well on level ground but really sucked, both literally and figuratively, going up hill. We crept along for about 1 1/2 miles and rested behind a large boulder and waited for the sheep to come back down the mountain to feed in the evening. We waited about 3 hours and Sasha motioned me to join him. He had me view the sheep through his spotting scope, set up my gun on a level boulder told me it was 400 yards and for me to shoot the one on the far left.
That apparently is the standard distance over there and 300 yards is considered close. The temperature drops rapidly in the high mountains and what was the high 50's a couple hours before was now close to freezing . The distance, the cold and the wind were challenges but the wind was mostly coming straight to us. I put forth my best effort and BANG! I shot it in the back leg! Immediately both my guides were patting me on the back cheering and shaking my hand.
They explained that a sheep on three legs, in these high mountains won't go far and we would come back tomorrow and get it. Besides they have good dogs. The next day, after a breath taking hike we did just that.
Other than the tough long time it took me to get there and me not taking my Diamox early enough I don't think I could have asked for anything more from this hunt. I would advise very good binoculars and possibly a pair over 10 power (which is usually a mistake in other hunts) I really appreciated walking sticks, sun screen and the Diamox. A lot of hunters come two or three weeks later when the rut is on but then you are dividing up the guides more and the rams are now in larger groups of sheep with more eyes. And it is a lot colder. In mid winter it get to -40 to -60 below.
My sheep rough scored over 56 inches by 58 inches and had 16 inch bases, Quite an adventure.
Craig Bade MD