I’d always had a sense of adventure and just love hunting sheep and goats. Yep, mountain game is my current passion and focus. I’ve done the MacKenzies and Coastal BC Mountains, all of Spain, the French Alps, New Zealand, etc – but never hunted Asia. After getting references and chatting with both old and new friends in SCI and GSCO I became much better informed and many of the mysteries were unlocked. That’s one huge benefit of membership – access to a wealth of hunting hunting/travel knowledge & experience. I was considering several different hunts and after some research settled on Kamchatka Snow Sheep – to me they are just magnificent (like a cross between a RMBH & Stone), it’s a truly remote adventure, and seemingly a value buy in the international sheep hunting market (still expensive, but less than any North American Sheep Hunt). One catch is – although there is progress, bowhunting is not yet quite legal in Russia – same with many other countries throughout the world. So, I had to become OK with a rifle hunt. No problem, as I was really into having this hunting experience.
Hunters are very generous people, and most that I reached out to were very friendly and helpful, providing a depth of information about best areas, outfitter recommendations, tips and tricks, and pitfalls to avoid. With a handful of outfitters to follow up with, we exchanged emails and made arrangements to meet at upcoming sportman’s shows here in the U.S. – find there’s just no substitute for “facemail” when making these choices. All of a sudden it was no longer a dream but found myself writing a deposit check to Max Vorobiev and Professional Russian Outfitters. Travel to Russia is quite a bit more complex than most. There is a fairly detailed Visa application process, and you cannot just book a flight on Kayak or Orbitz if traveling with a weapon (needs pre-approval). Just followed all the steps in instructions and ensured that everything (especially concerning the weapon) was 100% complete and accurate and all was fine. In Russia they meticulously checked everything, but the good news was due to this tight control I was very confident my weapon would arrive with me at Petropavlovsk. I transited Moscow with the help of a company rep – no issues or problems and was shortly on my way to Petropavlovsk.
Petropavlovsk is a small but extremely busy airport, especially this time of year (need to show up way ahead of a flight). Of course, upon landing I heard quite a bit of English being spoken by fellow American hunters and fishermen also transiting PKC – the guys leaving telling stories and showing pics to the guys arriving. Quickly met up with Max, cleared weapons, and were off to the helicopter to camp. We would be in camp that afternoon. On the way Max told me that he’d gotten word that they’d already spotted two rams from camp. Then he showed me the trophy pic from the hunt just before mine – a huge 12year old with intact lamb tips taken on day 2 of the hunt – very impressive. We would be hunting another area, but I was praying we would also be so lucky. So far everything had gone exactly to plan, and things were looking very good.
Going to be following this one!
Bucket list hunt!
When we hit the mountains the change was immediate and dramatic. The elevations weren’t high, just 5-6,000ft but it was pretty much climbing up from sea level. The landscape was stunningly gorgeous with vivid green brush and alpine, mineral rich rock slides, snow patches, and numerous water-runs, all set against a deep blue sky.
Little did I know but the mountain pictured (as seen on the way into camp) is where we would eventually encounter the rams. Don’t know how the terrain looks in the picture, but I can attest it is no joke and much harder than it looks. A long journey and a thoroughly butt-kicking trek. From a distance it often appears like you can get right to where you want to go. But as mountain hunters know or find out, that’s sometimes not the case, or at best the terrain is much harder than it looked from a distance.
Camp was quite comfortable – had my own tent (the one closest to the water) and a separate mess tent. They’d picked a very good site too – water right there, out of the wind, and with a great view of most of the surrounding country. Also, the guys I was with were just great. Although Max was the only one who spoke English, they were fun, happy, positive guys who hunted very hard but also liked to have fun in camp. Food was also very good – mostly real authentic Russian food.
Things were looking very good when I arrived in camp. It was late afternoon on beautiful, clear day. After dropping my gear in front of my newly assigned quarters one of the guides showed me two rams on the closest mountain to camp, one of them looked like a shooter. The plan was simple. Put them to bed, get up in the morning, reacquire the rams and climb into position for a shot. But with a confirmed track record as a last-day/last-hour of the hunt kind of guy something in me doubted it would be that easy.
Day two was much of the same, plenty of trekking and glassing, but no sheep. Had my InReach Mini on this trip and it was truly a gem. Not only was I able keep in touch and give live updates to family and friends but it also provided detailed weather reports for the exact spot on earth where we were standing. On this day it said there was a 20% chance of heavy rain in the afternoon. I quickly learned that anytime the device said a chance of rain, Kamchatka considered that a direct order from multi-star general. By 4pm the rain, fog and dropping temperature was not likely to relent so we headed back to camp.
By the afternoon of the third hunting day I was getting a bit tired of climbing until my quads burned, glassing until my eyes bled, and not seeing any sheep. It just didn’t make sense as the place was littered with sheep sign and tracks. To add some additional stress, the forecast for the coming days didn’t look very good. But I kind of expected that. Just like Alaska, its virtually impossible to hunt Kamchatka without getting wet. But what alarmed me even more was not physically feeling well, and by mid-afternoon I was miles from camp and violently ill – nausea, chills and shivering are really magnified while on a windy mountainside. We had to head back to camp. Literally every single step hurt and was a real physical challenge to overcome. And at the worst possible moment we spotted the rams from when we first landed in camp. One was obviously too young and the other had good mass but wasn’t quite full curl. With the moment upon us, bad weather coming, and no time to analyze the guys wanted me to take the ram.
I’d spent the better part of a year preparing for just this moment, but this was proof that God has a sense of humor, or it just wasn’t the outcome He had in mind. As a former “Range Officer” I certainly would have never let anyone handle a weapon when while in that condition -- I was visibly sick, nauseous and shivering, with the ram was over 440 yards away at an extreme uphill angle. But I had to try as the opportunity was there and might not come again. After calculating the ballistics I squeezed off the shot, but just couldn’t stop shaking - I was unsteady and missed. Now I was heading back to camp both sick and upset with myself for missing. But later, video confirmed the ram was one of those “tweener” animals, good mass and genetics but still young at 8 or 9 years old. He was a borderline shooter and if we had time to analyze through the scope would have had a pretty long discussion about whether to take him or not. Personally, I generally like pass on animals with his potential and let them grow to full maturity. But in the end I had mixed feelings as I really didn’t want to go home without a ram. Just maybe, the larger forces might have something better in mind.
I faced no criticism from the guides as everyone knew I was hurting, but I could see the disappointment. Their attention quickly turned to my health and they offered a plethora of Russian folk remedies (most included vodka to some degree – I didn’t bite). They were a bit eccentric, but at the same time very genuine. Yep, there was no denying it, I liked them quite a bit.
It was a good thing too as the weather took a nose-dive and for the next 4-5 days we were pretty much “socked-in” by rain and fog and unable to hunt. If there was a good time to be sick, this was it. Luckily, I had some Cipro with me, which quickly had me on the mend and ready to hunt again far before the weather broke. Even on the days the rain held off, the combination of fog and low-ceiling make it difficult to see the likely sheep hangouts on the mountains. During one clearing period we did go for a trek to one of the observation points, but within a few hours heavy fog rolled in and we headed back to camp.
Cipro. Don't leave home (civilization) without it.........
That frigin' brown bear looks HUGE even from that distance - look at that belly.
Wednesday morning was a welcome sight, sunny with clear skies. By 07:00 Alec once again found the rams and we were quickly staging and getting ready to head out. But the rams were many miles away and it was getting very late in the hunt (day 9). After today, we would have 2 days left at best, so this was pretty much an all-or-nothing journey to the distant mountain. Max estimated it would be 6-8 hours to get to the rams and prepped me that this would not be easy and we’d all have to fully commit. Also, even though it was sunny today all of the residual moisture had fog rising up from the valleys which may interfere with or even kill the effort. My take was, we had multiple rams spotted near the same area we’d seen them the day before. Without a defined plan B and time running short, we were about to dive into the deep end of the pool.
It took us many miles and about 9 hours over some of the steepest, nastiest terrain - rock slides, side-hilling over wet vegetation, facing swarms of blackflies, and a lot of brute force trekking-climbing to reach the rams. No idea how much elevation was gained, lost and regained along the way. But we were determined to reach the rams prior to them getting up for their afternoon feed. One big motivator was about ½ way there we found a good observation point where we could see part of where the rams had been. Max scoped one of them still bedded where we’d seen them earlier and he looked like a pretty good shooter. Bolstered with new confidence we continued the assault on the mountain.
When we hit the last big pull up the steepest part of the mountain my gas tank was already empty. It was sheer willpower now, but I kept thinking – “all I have to do is make it to the top – there are rams up there.” It was grueling, but one step at a time I finally crested the hill, dropped my pack, and took a well-deserved breather. While sitting I noticed that my t-shirt was completely saturated and stuck to me like plastic-wrap. But even though we’d crested the vertical we weren’t quite there yet. Next we had to cross several hundred meters of loose rock on the back side of a cliff. It was bad. Not a single piece was stable, even the huge rocks moved. As we crossed, in addition to the threat of breaking my neck, I was worried that the noise and tumbling rocks would spook the rams. But perhaps the mountain would shield the noise. (wanted to take a pic, but figured if I let go with even one hand the final snapshot of the hunt would be of me face-planting into the rocks on a steep sidehill).
Finally!!! Many grueling mountain miles after spotting them, we first laid eyes on the bedded rams. There was no shot yet, but we were well positioned on the hunting chessboard. Now the rams had the next move. After catching my breath, I began getting set up for a possible shot. But just then, the rising fog that had been steadily following us up the mountain had arrived and completely obscured our view. As fate would have it the rams had risen from their beds and through the mist, I caught a brief glimpse of a huge ram and his buddy walking out of our lives. I overheard my guide Max softly say, “that’s a big one.”
Nobody needed to say a word. Our expressions captured it all. The same rain and fog that had been thwarting our every move for the past 5 days was now threatening to kill this marathon stalk as well. But today was different. This time the sun was fighting back as the fog was rolling in. So, we waited as the larger forces slugged it out, hoping to get some sign of where the rams had gone and a fighting chance at a shot. But as the fog cleared there was no sign of the rams.
Best info I have from people in the know is that it has not yet passed all legal hurdles and no implementation standards have even been drafted - but do you’all want to hear the rest of the story, or argue about something not yet resolved by the proper authority?
Just kidding, eager for the rest of the story.
The current challenge was they were now about 500 yards away. Although this was much further than I wanted to shoot, they continued feeding toward us, but after feeding around for quite a while they didn’t move very far and bedded again at about 480. We were concealed on a rock ledge above the rams. But the ground between us was wide-open and started with another big rockslide. There was just no way to get any closer without being busted, so this was likely the best opportunity we were going to get. The first ram was certainly a shooter in his own right, but even if he came closer nobody would ever forgive me if I took him over the big ram. The excited chatter among the guides barely died down since the first good look at the second ram. Then Max and I had a quick chat.
It was late in the hunt (day 9) and we’d need a recovery period before climbing this mountain again. So, with the threat of more fog or the rams walking out even further, we decided that I’d take the shot when the big ram stood. I would shoot for 480 and there really didn’t seem to be enough wind to do any doping. So, I set up with a pretty “rock solid” rest and readied for the shot. As if on que the big ram stood up, quartered slightly away and began feeding.
I settled the BRH reticle and meticulously squeezed off the shot. As the rifle reported Max confirmed, “you hit him.” We watched as the two rams ran about 100 yards, then Ram #1 continued up the mountain, but the big guy turned and ran down a ravine. However, by the ram’s reaction, I knew he was hit hard but also that something wasn’t quite right with the shot. As we pursued, we were shocked to find about a 20-25mph crosswind cutting across the valley where the rams had been standing, mystery solved! It was a long sneak following up on the ram and all sorts of doubt began running through my mind.
Words cannot adequately describe all of the emotions felt as I first stood over this hard-won trophy. He was an absolutely gorgeous old warrior – a broomed, 13 year old, who was certainly the king of this mountain. This was the ram I came to Russia for, made all the more special by all we had to endure to make it all come together. The sweetest things in life, lasting friendships and triumphant memories, are often born from the greatest challenges. Some things are at their best when truly earned.
hate to see it end.
Took it to the wire and made it happen.
Yes, you certainly earned that one!
Congrats man. That’s a tremendous story. Thanks for the post
Spiral Horn's Link
The Ram taken here is probably about the median-average taken, 10-11 year old with good mass - very nice trophy.. I just got lucky and we found an old-timer. They took this Ram on day 1 or 2 of Eduardo’s hunt. Mine was on day 9. Max mentions it was a marathon in the mountains. We did 15+ miles RT the day we took my Ram.
Anyway, I think it’s a great video that gives a good perspective. Enjoy!!!