This four part blog series features the adventures of WTA Client Earl Peterson, who recently traveled to Mongolia in search of Gobi Argali, Hangai Argali and Gobi Ibex.
PART 4 – GOBI IBEX
I am a near 70 year old hunter and chose Mongolia on the recommendation of my son, Mark Peterson, owner and consultant at WTA. I wanted an adventure but I also wanted a hunt that was doable for me. Mongolia is truly a land that time forgot. Nomads still live in gers and herd their sheep and goats across the steppes. Thus far, my Mongolian adventure was fantastic, successful and I was having the time my life enjoying the friendly people and historic culture of Mongolia. After hunting Gobi Argali and Hangai Argali in Eastern Mongolia, we set out traveling to West Central Mongolia in our Lexus 4×4 vehicles. We were in the last part of our two week hunting trip to Mongolia.
Our final animal that we were hunting for was the Gobi Ibex and they are located in Western Mongolia. Our outfitter and guide would not commit on how long the trip would take, but that said that it was more than a day. Mongolia is an extremely large country and we set out to driving straight west from our earlier camps. The roads, for the first legs of the trip, were paved but frequently had crater size pot holes. Our vehicles were comfortable and we stopped often for meals at restaurants and the food, served with many courses at a single meal, was excellent. The first night we stopped in a mid-size city that had a lot of buildings left from the Soviet era fifty years before. We stayed in a comfortable hotel and learned that we would meet my son-in-law, Eric Schlukebir, sometime the next morning. Eric and I had been hunting separately for the major portion of the trip as we each were in areas where we had the only Gobi Argali and Hangai Argali permits. Now we were joining together and would hunt our Gobi Ibex from the same camp.
The Gobi Ibex is a close relative to the other ibex, the Altai Ibex, found in Mongolia. The Gobi is the smaller relative and we were told that you don’t find both ibex in the same area. The Gobi Ibex is pale brown in color with a light patch underbelly and between its legs. The male stands a bit over 3 feet tall and weighs over 250 pounds. The horns are slimmer and shorter than its cousin and a good one is 33” or more. Due to the heat of the day during the summer, the ibex are up feeding in the early morning and evening, while they tend to lay in the shade during the heat of the day.
Mid-morning on our second day of travel, we met Eric and his team waiting for us alongside the road. Part of his crew headed back to Ulan Bator, as he joined us in our Lexus as we continued the trip to camp. We spent the next several hours relating our stories of our first 10 days in Mongolia to each other. Soon the paved roads were gone and we were on two tracks across the grasslands. As we drove, there seemed to be two tracks heading all over and there were no road signs. This definitely led to some confusion and, at times, some back tracking, trying to find the correct two track road. By late afternoon we were in a beautiful area with rivers, small mountains and beautiful valleys. The country was definitely different from Eastern Mongolia as the mountainous areas were much larger and the broad grasslands were gone. The nomads had their herds concentrated in the valleys and alongside the rivers. The herds seemed larger than we saw in Eastern Mongolia and the grass was lush and longer. Camp was two gers in a valley surrounded by mountains. We met our four local guides who were joining us. The plan was that Eric and I would each head out in the morning with a guide, a driver and two local guides. We were told that there were numerous Gobi Ibex in the area and that we should each see a shooter during the first day. After soup, a meal and dessert, we went to sleep at dusk.
Morning arrived a bit before 4 AM and after a quick breakfast we headed out. The area we were hunting was about an hour from the camp and the terrain became steeper and looked to be perfect for Ibex. Our vehicles separated and Eric and I both wished each other luck. Hunting was similar to hunting argali but involved more walking as our vehicles had to stay in the valleys as we walked up to high spots for glassing. We could see great distances and spotted moving ibex at several thousand yards. As the morning progressed, we did not see a shooter we wanted to go after. But, in the distance, we heard a single shot. Undoubtedly, Eric had his opportunity. Later we learned that Eric and his team had found a group of fourteen ibex and were able to work themselves to a shooting position. Eric made a great, long distance shot and he had scored on his Gobi Ibex. The herd was now thirteen.
Meanwhile, our group had separated so we could glass over more areas. We saw small groups but none contained the shooter we were looking for. Late morning our outfitter met Grant, our guide and me and told us he had found a small group of males resting in the shade. The group contained a shooter. The hike across the mountain sides was between one and two miles and our trail, as we approached the group, was narrow and had lots of loose rocks. Our outfitter wanted us to get to the shooting position one at a time, as quietly as possible. He led. I followed. And Grant, my cameraman, was third. It was not a quiet approach and by the time I arrived to the shooting spot, the Ibex were aware that something was going on and they were on their feet. My outfitter said to shoot the one in the middle and I said “no”. He said “why”. And, I said “because Grant is not here to film”. If it is one thing that my son, Mark, who is host of the Cabela’s Instinct show, has taught me it is that we must have our shots on film as any of our hunting adventures might be on the show. This led to a tense moment as most outfitters and guides want the shot more than they care if it is filmed or not. I explained to my outfitter that Grant and I had had the same experience a couple of months earlier, hunting in Zimbabwe. I had a beautiful six year old male standing broadside at 55 yards and would not shoot because Grant was not on site yet. My PH found it hard that I wouldn’t shoot, but after twelve more days of hard hunting, we did get a shot, with Grant at my side. In Zimbabwe, passing up on the lion worked as we later shot a truly magnificent old lion. Hopefully, as I explained to my outfitter, we will find an even larger ibex later.
That afternoon was not to be. We would see a small group, hike long distances to get within shooting range, and the wind would swirl and they were gone. We did see a herd of thirteen (later finding out that Eric had shot the largest out of it) but the shooter was at 550 yards and I was not comfortable with the shot. We hiked for hours until late evening and came close to getting a shot several times but the wind was unpredictable and the slightest noise would send the ibex off on a dead run. As we drove back to camp, our 4×4 was quiet. That night Eric told us his stories about the day and we were all in bed early.
On day two of our Gobi Ibex hunt my outfitter said that he had a plan. We were going to split up in small groups and try to find the right shooter and then move to get into range. Eric joined us, along with all of his staff, so that there was to be some serious glassing of the mountains. Once in the same mountain area, we split into several groups and headed for the high country. There were eyes all over miles of mountains. We received word that there were three nice males bedded down near a mountain top several miles to the northeast. We took off at a fast walk and made our way across mountain sides and arrived near the site about 90 minutes later. Through hand signals we knew about where they were but could not see them. I was in shooting position and we waited and waited. Then we saw one of the local guides about 1500 yards away. He started howling like a wolf, which is the only true predator, other than man, faced by the ibex. He was still 1500 yards away and threw a single rock. My outfitter and local guide had me ready. They showed me the three places they thought the animals would cross in front of us. They came out low, on the run, and started moving left to right on the mountain side across the valley in front of us. They were on a full run but I waited and had my scope on the largest one. I was beginning to think they would not slow down, when he did. I shot and all three disappeared. Eric said “you got him”, but my guide did not seem so sure. As we crested over the edge, my ibex was down and not moving. This Gobi Ibex was much larger than the one I passed on the previous day. All was forgiven as the animal was cleaned and he was carried down about a mile to one of our vehicles. Patience did pay off and this trophy, and the difficulty of the hunt, was the highlight of my trip to Mongolia.
In my two days hunting my Gobi Ibex, I hiked an estimated fifteen miles across the mountains. But, these are mountains that a senior hunter can do. I wasn’t roped together climbing up snowy cliffs. If a senior hunter is in reasonably good shape, this is a true adventure that he can do. I know that my Mongolian adventure is one that I will never forget. In fact, I am planning in a couple of years, to return to Mongolia after my Altai Argali, Altai Ibex, Maral Stag and hopefully, Mongolian Wolf. Thanks to TugSo and staff in Mongolia. Thanks to Mark and thanks to everyone at WTA for making my trip to Mongolia such a success.