After the Punjab Urial hunt, my brother-in-law Eric Schlukebir , my friend/cameraman Grant Boring and I drove back to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. To get to the Blue Sheep hunting area was not an easy task. On the first day, we drove from Islamabad to Besham and there we stayed the night. On the second day, we continued from Besham to Passu, where we again stayed the night. On the third day of our journey to the Blue Sheep area, we drove from Passu to the small village of Shimshal, which was located at the base of the mountains. After sleeping in Shimshal, we were ready to tackle the mountains.
Hunting Blue Sheep in the Karakoram Mountains cannot be done from a vehicle. It becomes an expedition. We had a team of 26 porters to assist us on our way up and through the mountains. The porters carried all of our gear and the food we needed for our multi-day trek. Our guides told us it was going to take two days of hard hiking, along the ridges of mountains, until we were able to reach our hunting destination for Blue Sheep. On night out #1, we set up a spike camp in a wedge between two mountains. We were at 11,000 feet elevation and the wind was brutal. The temperatures dropped below zero that night. The wind blew through our tents and there was no way to stay warm. I have spent many cold nights camping in the field, but the combo there of wind, temperature, elevation and no heat made this the coldest night I ever spent on a mountain. When morning came, we were near frostbite but really ready to walk again.
After that night we continued up the mountains for another partial day and reached our base camp for Blue Sheep, which was a stone hut. This hut had not a single modern convenience; it could have been built 500 years ago. We were now at 13,500 feet of elevation and we would even be going higher in search of the perfect, old Blue Sheep ram.
Hiking and hunting through the Karakoram Mountains was like nothing I have ever experienced. It was so steep and dangerous that we were, just like extreme mountain climbers, roped together. If someone slipped and fell, the others would hold on to him and bring him back up to the tiny, slippery trail. At the peak of our hikes for Blue Sheep we reached 14,500 feet of elevation and we were never without snow and slippery, slippery ice. When we were walking along the ridges of the mountains, a single misstep could lead to a slide down a cliff. Our porters, who regularly hiked these mountains, were remarkable and we would not have been able to do this Blue Sheep hunt without them. During the day the wind was always blowing and temperatures ranged from zero to a positive 20. The wind chill was always below zero. During the days, we would find short refuge behind large rocks and fires would be built to warm us a bit and the cook fire, made from nearby brush, would warm us some milk tea and ramen soup. Dinner back at the stone hut was always chicken and rice.
While using the stone hut as our base, we did not see our perfect Blue Sheep ram until the third day. He was an old beauty and my shot was clean. Unfortunately when he was hit, he slipped and fell down an extremely icy area. This required us to assemble a team so we could go down and pull the Blue Sheep out. One man was tied to a rope and he was lowered by the team down to the ram. With a lot of effort he secured the ram and the other members of the team pulled him and the ram back up.
I can’t say enough about the skill and helpfulness of our guides and porters. It is safe for me to say that this hunt for my Blue Sheep, after all of the days of travel and hiking, all of the challenges because of the icy mountainous terrain, and all of the potential dangers was one of my most rewarding hunting experiences of all time.
In addition to harvesting our Blue Sheep, our trek to secure our ram was the first successful Blue Sheep hunt ever filmed in Pakistan. After experiencing the Karakoram Mountains, we know why no one has ever done this before. It is, truly, a once in a lifetime experience.
Going up the mountains was one experience but going back down was just as treacherous. It took us two hard days, roped together, to make it the 12 miles back to Shimshal. A successful Blue Sheep hunt was one that was celebrated across Shimshal. The village leaders invited us to a presentation and ceremony. We ate with the leadership during the ceremony and had, of course, milk tea. To our surprise, the leaders presented us with traditional celebration garments from their culture. Their hospitality was genuine and we greatly appreciate the friendships we established. The people of Pakistan, living in very tough conditions, were warm and welcoming to us.
After our reception in Shimshal, it was back in our vehicles for the two and one-half day trip return to Islamabad. There we spent a night at a hotel and enjoyed our first warm showers in quite a while. And, finally we were back in the air for a long series of flights back to Michigan.
When I get old and gray, and my conditioning is not what it is today, I will look back at my Blue Sheep hunt in Pakistan and marvel at our successes. The weather was tough. The terrain was tough. But, we succeeded in harvesting a magnificent Blue sheep ram. More importantly, we were the first ever to bare the hardships and actually get our successful Pakistan Blue Sheep hunt on film. The hunt will air on Cabela’s Instinct, hosted by myself, in the near future.
The hunt was tough. The accommodations, while not luxurious, were actually better than expected. And, considering the conditions we were hunting in, I would rate them very good. Our guides and porters did everything they could to keep us safe and then locate our ram. I cannot thank them enough. Our hunt would not have been successful without their guidance and assistance.
And, we got the entire Pakistan Blue Sheep hunt on FILM!
Mark V. Peterson