Hunting Ibex in Kyrgyzstan

30 caliber magnum heaven and unlimited wilderness

Ibex hunting is one of the most challenging hunts you can subscribe to in view of the remote areas they can be found. Ibex hunting in Kyrgyzstan is truly something else. We prepared this feature to give you a taste of what to expect if you decide to go to this country to pursue the mid-Asian Ibex. This article probably has the most beautiful pictures we ever had the pleasure to publish on rifletalks.com. This is the second hunt we are following with Mark and Mario for ibex. The other ibex hunt was in Spain. 

hunting ibex
Hunting ibex on horseback is the ultimate way of experiencing this hunt and there is no other way to do it, traditional way.

Hi Mario,

How you doing? Welcome back from your epic ibex hunt and congrats on the results! I hear you bagged what you were after!

We’re here to learn more about this super exciting trip hunting ibex in the far flung mountains of Kyrgyzstan, a place not many have had the fortune to explore.

Your experience will help others take on similar journeys and serves to assist them in making the right decisions when it comes to kit or general advice. What made you choose this central Asian country for your ultimate hunt of the ibex?

“I got the bug from Mark to hunt mountain goats. The Mid-Asian Ibex is one of the largest and in Kyrgyzstan it offers a real challenge. I am very keen on long range hunting and the terrain on the mountains offers the best opportunity.”

What’s so special about the Ibex that live in this area and are they endemic to this region of the world?

Like all Ibex these animals are excellent climbers and can go up near vertical mountain sides. These animals posses a very acute sense of smell, sight and hearing and stalking them is only possible if you follow the advice of your guides. I believe they are endemic in other neighbouring countries to Kyrgyzstan as well, but Mark would be the expert to reply to such a question.

Above: Zeroing the Mauser 300WM rifle topped with March 5-40×56 scope.

Where in Kyrgyzstan did you go exactly?

For our US readers, this place is about the size of South Dakota. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south, and the People’s Republic of China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. Mario and Mark travelled to Bishek.

Mark would provide the exact location where the base camp was sited but both of travelled to different areas to hunt. In my case I had a 4 hour ride in a 4×4 Subaru and then then a very long horse ride up in the mountains crossing streams and across plains and ravines for a good 4 hours. We stopped for a short rest and then continued to reach a sheltered area in between high mountains where we camped for the night. I must commend the two guides I had Icha and Max as well my horse which was very sure-footed even when passing over long stretches of pebbles, rocks and along the edges!! I gained confidence in my horse riding but still give all the credit to my steed!

ibex hunt in Kyrgyzstan
Ibex hunt in Kyrgyzstan is mostly done on horseback. Here the horses are being prepared ahead of our trip.

Firstly how did you get there, which airline did you choose given you were carrying your firearms and how was your experience with this Airline? It’s very important for hunters taking their expensive rifles to these places.

We travelled via Turkish Airlines and landed in Istanbul from where our 5 hour flight to Bishkek followed. We had no problems carrying ammo and rifles.

I know you have a beautiful rifle collection Mario, which rifle and caliber did you opt for this time? Did you opt for the same Mauser M18 wooden stocked in 300WM topped with the March scope?

My rifle of choice was the Mauser M18 with the custom walnut stock by Form Rifle Stocks of UK. The scope was the March 5-40×56 first focal plain and with MRAD turrets. I had it zeroed perfectly in Sicily and could take shots up to 1000metres. I took my Kestrel 5700 Elite as well as had STRELOK Pro and HORNADY 4 DOF Ballistic calculators on Apps on my mobile phone. I also had my LEICA GEOVID 3000 bino/range finder with an uploaded micro-SD card with the ballistic table for my ammo. My thanks here go to Roderick of Rifletalks.com for the patience he showed when bringing me up to date on the technical details related to the ballistics involved.

Above: Mario and yours truly during a trip to Sicily where we worked on the long range ballistics of Mario’s 300WM and my 300NM.

Mario, as you know, ammo is everything, ultimately all hangs on that that single bullet you will fire. Are you still hunting with the 220gr ELDX Hornady precision Hunter? I remember we had seen good performance with this ammo.

Featured

Yes that is it!

Can you take us through your adventure Mario, how did it roll from the day you arrived, what was Bishek like? You have travelled far and wide to hunt including Africa. How does Kyrgyzstan compare?

I have hunted in South Africa, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Sweden, Czech Republic, England, Scotland, Spain, France, Romania and Hungary, on plains, forests and in the Carpathian mountains, Pyrenees, Andalusia as well as Alicante and all places left pleasurable memories. However, Kyrgyzstan is in a class of its own. The raw, wild environment far away from civilization and the spectacular mountains are deeply imprinted in my memory.

My first experience to sleep in a tent out in the open and in below zero conditions did rattle me at first since my sleeping bag although it kept me warm was more like a body bag with straight jacket feeling. I did not sleep well for 5 nights but each time I looked up in the sky the stars were truly spectacular and I regret not taking any photos. The reason was mostly not to wake up my guides with my rummaging for the camera in the small tent where the three of us were like sardines.

Tell us more, what are the people you met like in this country and how difficult was it to communicate? You have a lot invested in this hunt so communication is paramount.

I had to resort to sign language to communicate with my two guides. Once I took my shot at around 400 m on the trophy ibex up on the mountain and the guides returned with the skin after several hours, having taken a ride with their horses to find a safer way to go up the mountain to retrieve the animal I offered them whisky from my flask and both refused and I realized that unlike the guides at Base Camp who were Russian these guys were devout Muslims!

Now I heard that you had to prepare for this hunt riding on horse back. How much horse back riding did you actually do once you got there?

I rode at least for 4 hours to camp site and in the morning rode for another two hours until we settled for five days. Going back to base camp I must have rode for more than 5 hours at a stretch until we reached a small village tucked away under mountains where the guides met with a family member who brought back the Subaru to drive the 3 or 4 hour drive to base camp. There I met Mark again who all through was getting rather worried since we never made contact. Use of mobile phones was largely restricted to just camera .

How did you prepare yourself for the shots you were likely to encounter over there? This region and type of hunt is known for open spaces and flat scenery which is hard to stalk the game on

Since in Malta there are no shooting ranges suitable for long distance shooting practice we went to neighboring Sicily where in Enna there is a 1000m shooting range. Malta is a small island state off the coast of Sicily and measures just 315km2, smallest member state of the EU with close relations to Italy and a former British colony and naval base. 

ibex stand shoot
During the course run by rifletalks.com, the hunters took trajectory validation shots to confirm their ballistics out to 700m. Here they engaged an ibex prop at 515m with a 300 Norma magnum

We prepared a few printed Ballistic tables for the conditions you were expecting. Did you use these or did you opt for Kestrel readings? I’m aware you also had the Leica 3000 Bino LRF with ballistic capability. Did you use this at all on this trip?

At base camp I used Kestrel, and STRELOK Apps for simulated long range shots even up to a 1006m on a piece of jutting out rock from the mountain mass. I managed to hit this 4 out of 4 shots using Hornady ELDX 200 grains bullets as well as Nosler ACCU-Bond bullet with same ballistic properties. The latter were in reserve since my stock of Hornady bullets was very low and buying these bullets was impossible. The Nosler were hand loaded by a friend Rennie Stivala and when passed through the chronograph were very consistent and just 10 m/s less than the Hornady ELDX of same weight. However grouping wise they were just as good.

However when I saw the Ibex climbing up the mountain and I used the bino to range it just as it slowed its pace, I used the uploaded ballistic data and just went for my Elevation turret to clicked 3.8 MRAD. Just before I squeezed the trigger I aimed slightly low to take in consideration the 20 deg incline….them bummmmm and I heard the distinct smack on flesh the bullet made. My guide were not sure of the hit and thought the ibex just ducked , but I was dead certain and nearly cried my eyes out because there was no way to climb the steep mount side.

I’m aware your hunting buddy Mark brought his 300RUM along with him. I loaded the ammo for Mark’s Sendero on this hunt and I’ve seen what that rifle can do. The loads are a clone of the factory ELDx 220gr option. Did you feel under gunned at any time with your 300winmag Mario? The caliber selection will remain a hotly debated topic but do you believe you need a bigger magnum for such a hunt on an animal this size?

I think that a 300 win mag can do the job even up to extreme range as long as a vital area in the ibex body is hit. With Mark’s 300 RUM the extra powder charge would make it even more lethal with heavy bullets such as the ELDX 220 grains. Maybe even more forgiving if non vital areas are hit in the case of the RUM and would allow a second shot at very long range.

When it comes to gear what did you use and was it sufficient for the purpose you had in mind?

We knew we would have problems to keep our mobile phones , torches on charge but 3 heavy duty battery packs helped. I even had a portable solar panel set which I forgot at base camp!

Did you take with you anything else besides your rifle or did the outfitter supply everything else?

Thick clothing, and proper footwear are a must. All camping equipment except sleeping bed and mat were provided by the outfitter.

What struck you most on this ibex hunting adventure Mario? You’ve spent a few days out there in the wilderness and you waited eagerly for this trip. Was it worthwhile?

It was the best ibex hunting experience I ever had during hunting. For me at 64 it was a challenge however pulling the trigger was the easiest part of the adventure.

Is there anything you would recommend to our readers to do before embarking on such a trip in hindsight?

Smoking and overweight would be a problem high up in the mountain were the low density of the air makes breathing difficult.

Thanks for being with us on rifletalks.com, to more great ibex hunting adventures!

Hunting Ibex with Mark from Marktaxidermy.com

Hey Mark

Welcome onboard. Glad to see you here with us after this adventure for the mid-Asian Ibex hunt.

 

What made you choose this central Asian country for your ultimate hunt of the ibex?

As a Capra hunter my goal is to hunt all 14 huntable Ibex species , one of this year’s targets was the Mid Asian Ibex that ranges from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan , China and Kyrgyzstan. Knowing a Kyrgish outfitter with a very good reputation made it an easy choice. ( CENTRAL ASIAN SAFARI CLUB )

What’s so special about the Ibex that live in this area and are they endemic to this region of the world?

Like all capra species they live in the most difficult terrain you can imagine, high altitude, dangerous mountains and if you want to hunt certain species you have to go where they are ! You need to be careful  to stalk them successfully. Range explained above.

hunting ibex in Kyrgyzstan
Follow us on this journey

Where in Kyrgyzstan did you go exactly? For our US readers, this place is about the size of South Dakota. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south, and the People’s Republic of China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. Mario and Mark travelled to Bishek.

We landed in Bishkek, drove about 5 hrs to Karakol from there another 3 hrs to base camp in the                            area

Firstly how did you get there, which airline did you choose given you were carrying your firearms and how was your experience with this Airline? It’s very important for hunters taking their expensive rifles to these places.

Both flights were with Turkish airlines  and everything was fine even on our return flight with only 45 minutes lay over our luggage, guns and trophies made it in time!

Remington Sendero in 300 RUM

Mark, how was your experience with the Remington Sendero in 300RUM? We worked on your rifle to tune it and duplicate the hunting ammo from Hornady using Vihtavuori N570 powder to replicate the hornady load with 88grains of that magic powder and the 220gr Eld-x bullet. I had read great reports about this rifle on www.longrangehunting.com which is an invaluable source for those looking for hunting info and rifle setup specifically with the goal to bag game.

300RUM hunting rifle for Ibex in Kyrgyzstan
Hunting Ibex in Kyrgyzstan with the 300RUM. The right environment for such a long range caliber.

If you want to read more about the feats of the 300RUM, I suggest you read the post of Stefan Van Der Heide who did very well with the 300RUM at the king of 1 mile competition in France.

I’m very satisfied with the rifle and also the caliber. Apart from the long range shooting training in Sicily ( that was awesome ) we did some practice shots at base camp, put all data on the STRELOK PRO app and was ready for action ! 

editor’s note: Mark’s previous rifle was a Browning Maral which is mainly a driven hunt rifle but we had already did a fair amount of long range shooting with it to 600m and the gun really shoots. it’s in 30-06 shooting 178eld-x. Read about the Maral in 30-06 while hunting european mouflon.

factory long range hunting rifles browning maral

I had covered some of these long range hunting rifles in this post. Mark had found the unbraked Maral a little heavy on recoil so when he said he’s getting the 300RUM, I had some initial concerns about the recoil management. Surprisingly Mark had no issues with the standard rifle. We only added a Tier one bipod which is carbon fibre and a Leica PRS scope in mrad.

browning Maral swarovski z8i 3.5-28x50 PBrowning maral 30-06 groups

Above the Maral in 30-06 topped with Swarovski scope. Above you can see some 600m groups with this rifle and Hornady precision hunter ammo.

magneto speed on browning maral 30-06
Measuring bullet muzzle velocity using magneto speed on browning maral 30-06 with Hornady 178gr ELDx bullets and TierOne Bipod made in the UK.

Hunting Ibex with the 300RUM. 

300RUM hunting load development process and preparation.

Editor’s note: Here some work we did to replicate these Hornady loads. First we shot a box of Hornady Precision hunter 300RUM with the 220gr bullet and measured velocity with the Magneto Speed. At 21 Celcius and 29.81inhg, they shot around 895m/s. They shot well so we figured it’s a good starting point to replicate this so Mark could opt for handloads or factory loads in case the ammo should not arrive.

I also pulled a box of this ammo apart to check variations in the powder charge. I wanted to see how consistent they were and what variation there would be in velocity at this powder charge discrepancy. At 500m this causes a discrepancy of about 8cm.

300RUM Precision hunter pulled charges
300RUM Precision hunter pulled charges discrepancy.

300 RUM

Then we ran a ladder test with the Vihtavuori powder after running some data on Quickload. I picked 88.1gr as the velocity here as well as in the load before and after stayed in the same window. In this charge window, 0.5 grain difference makes virtually no difference.

300RUM Quickload data
300RUM Quickload data. I had checked VV 20N29 and N170. When that didn’t give the pressure I wanted, we went with N570.

There were another 2 nodes at a higher charge load of 89.3 and 89.6 that gave the same numbers but if I can achieve the same velocity with less powder, I will. Also keeping in consideration that the bullet here is being seated significantly into the case which starts to get some light powder crunching.

300RUM load development

 

300RUM ibex hunting ammo before bullet seating.

300RUM
Seating depths with the standard COAL of the 300 RUM eats much of the powder space although there is no shortage with such a large case.

We also had some work to do on the brass. During first firings from the Hornady ammo, we noticed the bolt was scratching the rim of the brass and had some issues extracting.

300RUM rim issue

We FL sized the Hornady brass but the issue persisted. We then measured all the rims of the Hornady brass and compared this against a box of Remington brass we had which was cycling easily. The Remington brass measure 0.525-0.528 while the Hornady where 0.530-0.534″.

We decided to skim the rim just slightly and turned them on lathe to measure all 0.527″ (13.36mm) just like the Remington. This was the easiest option rather than doing the bolt face which we had no time for given the hunt was approaching fast. It worked and they cycled easily.

300 RUM Ballistic sheets

I printed a few ballistic graphs for Mark to try his ammo with out to 1000m in Sicily for 21 degrees celcius. Mark reported these were spot on out to 700m on a plate sized target which resembles the kill zone for the Ibex. On targets further out, it was shooting flatter than predicted. Mark had to true his trajectory at this point to match his real world firing scenario.

From these conditions Mark went to hunting conditions that were as follows below.

Mark had tested his ammo at 21 Deg Celsius in Italy to 5 Degrees Celsius in Kyrgyzstan. Pressure changed from 29.67inHg in Italy to 21.39inHg in Kyrgyzstan. The drop in pressure results in flatter shooting ammo in Kyrgyzstan however the drop in temperature also effects the velocity of the ammo. He lost 35m/s in these weather conditions based on data from the base camp shooting tests. Remember that the cold bore tends to loose an additional 10m/s as well. You need to gather this data to know it.

Above: Weather data from Kyrgyzstan. Notice how they vary from those below. This will make changes to your ballistics.

hunting ibex kestrel weather conditions
Weather meter is very helpful to prepare you for the hunt although you can do without it if you know the exact conditions you will find at hunting location. This data was from his Italy ammo tests.

Can you take us through your adventure Mark, how did it roll from the day you arrived, what was Bishek like? You have travelled far and wide to hunt including Africa. How does Kyrgyzstan compare?

I’ve already hunted in Spain, France, Iceland, Switzerland, Scotland, England and everywhere is a different experience, but being in the spectacular Tien Shan mountains far away from civilization, far away from my comfort zone make other hunts look like a walk in the park ! Altitude is very hard and it’s a MUST to train well for it!

Tell us more, what are the people you met like in this country and how difficult was it to communicate? You have alot invested in this hunt so communication is paramount.

At base camp the owner she speaks good English but once you’re out on your hunt with the guides it’s a wise idea to learn some useful Russian words before! Months ago, I started learning some Russian ( hunting related ) words so it will be slightly easier to communicate during hunting.

Tell us abit about your horse riding skills, I heard that you had to prepare for this hunt riding on horse back. How much horse back riding did you actually do once you got there?

I was in a way lucky, as soon as we arrived at a cabin to get the horses we immediately saw a group of billies about 2.5 km, around 6 hrs total horseback.

How did you prepare yourself for the shots you were likely to encounter over there? This region and type of hunt is known for open spaces and flat scenery which is hard to stalk the game on.

We prepared for this environment in Sicily, Italy. There are some amazing ranges there where to stretch your rifle to 2kms. The tables I had were for a different temperature and pressure so there I used Strelok Pro app.

Bill engaging 1 mile in sicily

We train in Sicily Italy, which offers similar distances as we can encounter on these hunts. It’s as good as you can get to reality.

The caliber selection will remain a hotly debated topic but do you believe you need a big magnum for such a hunt on an animal this size?

300 RUM works very fine for such hunt as I was prepared for a long distance shot that didn’t happen as I shot my ibex at about 85 meters !

Tell us about how you came about the first Ibex you shot, can you describe the moment you encountered it and how you came about to take the shot?

As we arrived at the cabin to get on the horses, we saw a group of billies about 2.5 km away and the guide told me we need to be quick !! So we started horse riding towards them. They were on top of a mountain side so we started our ascent at an incline of 45  plus degrees. Reaching their altitude but from a hidden point, we got down from the horses to make the final 100 meters on foot and take the shot, a guide called us on radio to inform us that the ibex went over the top of the mountain to the other side. So the last 150 meters vertical to the top we made it on foot and I felt helpless and breathless going up at 3700 meters altitude at an incline of 45 plus degrees.

Finally reached the top and the head guide looked over the other side and saw the billies going away about 100 meters from us but I couldn’t shoot. We got back on the horses and galloped about 250 meters on our side of the mountain. This was my scariest moment.  We stopped again and as soon as we looked carefully at the other slope of the mountain the billies were 60 meters below us, I chose what seemed to be the largest one and pulled the trigger! The ibex fell immediately and  rolled down a 600 meter slope!! This was the first 2 hours of the hunt, baptism of fire!

When it comes to gear what did you use and was it sufficient for the purpose you had in mind?

Battery packs are a must to charge torches  and mobile phone. Good clothing .

What struck you most on this adventure Mark? You’ve spent a few days out there in the wilderness and you waited eagerly for this trip. Was it worthwhile?

It was years waiting for this dream hunt and finally I was there, not the exact way  I imagined as it was a very quick hunt but still happy I achieved it and with a good result, an 11 year old Mid Asian Ibex . It was a true hunt !  Meeting local people seeing the simple way they live peacefully in nature without stress. That is something.

Is there anything you would recommend to our readers to do before embarking on such a trip in hindsight?

Definitely be in good physical condition and train for altitude !! Mountain climbing training helps a lot cos you need your legs there!!

Stay tuned for more adventures by liking our page @Rifletalks

 

 

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