A Tip-Laden Report on Hunting in Turkey
By J.Y. Jones
If you are eyeing a hunt in Turkey, you'll be interested in a letter we received from subscriber J.Y. Jones. It is packed with useful and important tips for the would-be hunter in Turkey. He writes:
"I write this as I fly back home from a bezoar ibex hunt in Turkey. Quite a number of items stand out that should be shared with the hunting community. First, Turkey is a world-class destination, a beautiful country with friendly people, good food and great hunting. I hunted with Safari Tours, booked through Ron Simmons of Four Star Adventures (Tel. 540-459-2247. Web: www.fourstaradventures.com). The hunt was well worth the price. I took a good ibex on the third day, after some unexpectedly grueling legwork.
"For the hunter not in the best of shape, there are places the guides can take you in Turkey where you should be able to take your animal. The mountains are incredibly steep, rocky and treacherous, but there are roads that go near the top of many, and one can walk the ridges and look down on some of the best spots with minimal exertion. I worked from the bottom up the first two days, but took my ibex from one of these accessible ridges late on the third day.
"Getting in and out of Turkey is tough, but Safari Tours never lets you do anything alone. They have their man there all the time, and he knows his business. Expect to have your rifle inspected several times at every airline stop, on both ends of any leg. You must take a rifle with you to hunt in Turkey, by the way, as it is illegal to hunt with a borrowed rifle here.
"Security is tight in Turkey because of fear of a Kurd uprising. Airport security people scrutinize you repeatedly by x-ray and by hands-on baggage inspection. The only security like this I've seen anywhere else is in Israel. Still, the inspectors are mostly courteous and lukewarm friendly, and I found that most Turks seem to hold no detectable ill feelings towards Americans.
"Expect some extra expenses in several areas. First, ibex are measured in centimeters of horn length, and it costs $100 per centimeter ($254 per inch) over 90 centimeters. Fortunately, the guides here are very adept at estimating horn length on the hoof, so you shouldn't wind up shooting away $3,000 on a 120-centimeter ibex unless you want to do so. I paid an extra $400 for my ibex. The longest horn is used to calculate this figure, so don't plan to average it between the two.
"The language barrier was my biggest problem in the field. I had an interpreter one day, but the other two days it was sign language only, which cost me a couple of opportunities due to miscommunication. I speak three languages, but Turkish is not one of them, nor does it resemble any of them. Perhaps that's why they thought I could get by without an interpreter, but it's actually a major handicap if you're accustomed to speaking to your guides in their own language, and you're suddenly reduced to unfamiliar sign language. Insist that the outfitter provide you an interpreter, even in the field.
"Tips are a really big thing in Turkey. You're expected to tip everyone who handles your bags, feeds you, cleans your room, etc., in addition to the guide, assistants and other personnel of Safari Tours. My tip bill was about $700, all voluntary but certainly all expected by the recipients. They did a good job, so I'm not complaining.
"Food is included in the hunt price, but beverages, even tea and coffee, are extra. If you want to save money, drink bottled water only. I had seven glasses of wine during the hunt, plus coffee in the morning and tea while I wrote up the story of the hunt, and my bill was $66. Again, no complaints, just an item the hunter should know up front.
"Istanbul should not be skipped, and I did an attenuated tour that came nowhere close to doing the city justice. It is rich in history and has fabulous restaurants, shopping and sightseeing, as well as 13 million people and seemingly that many cars. When you go shopping, let me warn you: You will buy something. There is so much that is unique in Turkey that even a non-shopper like me can get carried away.
"I flew Delta from JFK and back and had zero airline problems. A representative from Fauna and Flora (718-977-7700) was there waiting to help clear my trophies (I had also hunted Slovakia and Macedonia). However, on arrival at JFK, I encountered the full force of US bureaucracy, which one might think would be more friendly and efficient than Turkey's. They aren't at all friendly, though, and their efficiency is directed toward delaying the hunter until he misses his outbound flight home. I tried, in a very friendly, non-threatening way, to let them know my next flight was only so many minutes away, and this turned out to be a mistake. By simply holding my customs declaration form for the appropriate amount of time, for no detectable reason, they were able to accomplish this. I wound up taking an expensive taxi ride to La Guardia Airport to catch an alternative flight, and made it home at 2 am instead of 8:30 pm. Congratulations to our public servants at the USDA!"