Shapley’s Long Wait for a Markhor and a Urial Ram!
Shapley decided over a year ago that he would like the opportunity to hunt a markhor on The Patio Ranch; he made the commitment and set a date for September 2015. The ranch has kept him updated periodically with pictures of the markhor in the pasture since that time. The slick body hair in contrast to the long, white neck mane makes the early fall timing of a hunt a great plan. In addition, Shapley had shown an interest in an old, large Urial ram since he had seen pictures last year and decided to add this ram to his “wish list”. Shapley made the trip with Matt (his outfitter and friend) and Chris (a friend and hunting companion). They had planned the hunt to allow plenty of time for the usually high difficulty hunt for sheep and wild goat species. After sharing a Manchurian Sika hunt with Chris earlier in the day (he drew the long straw and was entitled to the first hunt attempt), it was Shapley’s turn to search for his markhor and sheep.
The markhor took first priority, so the group started in that pasture. The hunting party had prepared for what is historically a long, difficult hunt. The wild goats are very intelligent and therefore evasive and secretive. They have been found hiding in the top of large oak trees, lying in the thick brush of downed juniper trees, running ahead of any stalk with amazing evasive maneuvers and just sometimes lying down in tall grass with their massive head & horns on the ground allowing hunters to walk past less than 15 yards away not ever aware that they were so close to their target. On this day, the wind was right and the hunters were quiet, allowing an accident of timing to put them in position for a shot on this amazing markhor in short order. As they topped a hill with the wind in their face and trees behind them to prevent being silhouetted by animals, a movement caught the eye of Matt and Chris. The herd of markhor were lounging and grazing down below with no hint that the hunters were watching them. With slow movements and hushed voices so as not to reveal their location, their target markhor was located as it slowly moved around the oak motte below searching for tender shoots of weeds and grass on which to feed. An eternity of 2-3 minutes brought the markhor to a safe shot area where there was not a chance to hit a non-target markhor and Shapley was ready. His heart could be heard pounding in his chest and breathing was rapid; but somehow he was able to calm down and his shot was true. The markhor ran a short distance and fell. The other males, confused by the commotion, finally chose an escape route and departed. As Shapley walked down to look at his markhor, the beauty of this wild goat took his breath away. Thanks were offered for this opportunity of a lifetime and the memories were recorded in many pictures taken.
After a short lunch, the search was started for the Urial ram…and a long search it turned out to be! The 350 acre pasture was scoured again and again with no sign of the sheep. All hiding places had seemingly been investigated without a sign. Dusk was fast approaching, so the hunters tried a last stalk. The truck was left near the gate into the pasture as the hunters started a final walk. They decided to head for a hilltop as a spotting platform for viewing a large part of the pasture. After a trek up over the rough, boulder-strewn slope, a slow stalk along the ridge began with careful viewing of all areas that came into view. The progress was slow and methodical in spite of the urgency brought on by the approaching sunset so as not to squander any possible opportunity that might be presented. Finally, a large herd of sheep was spotted and the target ram was in the group; the problem of 12-15 sets of sheep eyes became the next obstacle. A stalk toward these wary animals was made more difficult as the sheep were to the west and almost directly into the setting sun; the sheep would be able to see any movement highlighted by the last light of day and the hunters would need to deal with the glare of looking toward the sunset. With slow stalking interspersed with short bursts of fast walking in areas cloaked by shadow and trees, the hunters reached the end of the road for closing the distance. There was no cover or time remaining to get closer. The sheep were already nervous and over two hundred yards away. Shapley set up his shooting sticks with words of support and calming from Matt to slow Shapley’s heart rate after the last run and to calm his nervousness. The ram herd ran away again and stopped. A few nervous steps by the rams in front of the target ram provided a small window for a possible final shot attempt of the day…there would be no second chance today if this shot was not taken. Deep breaths and calming thoughts by Shapley brought the circular movement of the rifle scope to a manageable wobble. At over two hundred yards, Shapley would need every ounce of skill he possessed to make a successful shot. His shot rang out prompting the whole herd of rams to run behind an oak motte and out the other side. But, the large Urial could not be seen with the herd when they reappeared on the other side. The remainder of the large herd then disappeared again into the juniper-filled valley. After the rest of the herd departed, Shapley walked to a spot to view the shading oak motte behind which the large ram had disappeared…the large Urial ram was on the ground and still.
Shapley experienced both ends of the spectrum in regard to hunt difficulty; but the excitement was high in both instances as was the respect and honor shown to these animals by Shapley for the opportunity afforded to him. However, these hunt successes are not accidental; years of practice in shooting, stalking, hunting lore and learning about animals allows a hunter to make good shots and be presented with great opportunities. Please join us in congratulating Shapley on this memorable hunt as well as thanking him for the honor and respect that he shows to the animals that he has hunted. If the chance ever arises, ask Shapley or any other hunter about their experiences and I have no doubt that every one of those to whom the query is presented will no doubt ”…tell a different hunting story!!”
Best wishes for a hunting season that affords all that hunt with an opportunity to experience the same excitement as Shapley!