Ibex trophy hunting in Hunza, Pakistan, is getting famous with the help of community-based conversation in northern areas of Pakistan. Here, I take you on an incredible journey of ibex trophy hunting in upper Hunza Valley.
How much time does it take to reach Hunza? Ultimate Guide on Ibex Hunting in Pakistan
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Around 3 pm, I started craving North, and in a couple of hours, I was almost ready to pack my bags and move towards Hunza. I had to make a few calls to get hold of my team & camerapersons. So it was a race against time. I have to go near Rawal Lake to Pick up a Drone Camera. That equipment has great value, and I will tell you why shortly.
So a thorough couple of hours, we touched the Hazara motorway. After the hustle of the Islamabad Expressway, Motorway offers you great comfort, and the journey to Besham is fairly easy. We reached Besham Town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in like 4 Hours. It was around midnight, so we stayed in Hotel.
We woke up around 7.30 am & took our breakfast with Milk, tea & eggs. Here Indus River starts our companionship as it flows rather calmly here. During winter, the color of the Indus River is devoid of any mud & slurpy dirt. In some areas, it shines like blue & somewhere near Dassu, it seems light green. However, small streams are always joining & merging in this river.
Does the Dassu dam site affect your Journey?
The journey from Besham to Dassu Town is easy. Dassu dam is being built, and crossing the dam site takes some time. It is tough to cross that area due to long delays and patchy roads. Dassu Dam shall be able to produce 4320 megawatts of electricity, which is surely a game changer.
We also had a brief stop at Samar Nala, a small town offering drivers much-needed rest and enjoying a cup of tea. During summer, this place attracts many tourists & commuters due to its refreshing water stream in Kohistan Region.
Is Shangrila Chilas the oldest hotel in Chilas Town?
After 6 Hours of driving, we arrived in Chilas, where we had lunch at the historical Shangril Chilas Hotel, which has been serving for the last 40 years. Interestingly, most staff members have been working there for 3 decades.
As we moved further, it started getting dark; it was almost night when we touched Hunza Road. Still, we could see the grandeur of Rakaposhi Peak standing tall at 7780 meters. We arrived in Aliabad around 8.30 pm in cold breezy weather. We immediately hit our rooms after light dinner.
Discussion about Ibex Trophy Hunting in Pakistan?
The morning was cold & hazy. After breakfast, we discussed trophy hunting in Pakistan & role of the community in its conservation. Here in Gilgit Baltistan, people like to embellish their hotels & guest houses with trophies. Our guest house also featured Himalayan Ibex at the arrival gate.
We then called our team member Javaid who had some intel on Ibex & snow Leopard. The previous night he advised us to arrive early in Passu as he had some surprises for Us. Once we reached the town of Passu, he informed us that a snow leopard had been spotted and he had also killed an ibex. As we all know, the Snow leopard is a rare & apex predator, and its sighting is rare.
We fixed our lenses and were lucky to spot a snow leopard guarding its kill there. We flew our drone and captured its majestic beauty. It had eaten most of Ibex overnight, and now he could not walk. Local villagers say snow leopards kill around 11 to 13 Ibex each year. The Forest division of Gilgit Baltistan claims that around 300-350 Snow leopards are present in GB. Furthermore, 7000 Ibex are flourishing in parts of various towns of GB.
Where & why did wildlife conservation of Ibex & Markhor start?
Let me take you a few years back on how it all started. People used to kill Ibex & blue sheep for meat & skin. This poor animal was killed in such abundance that its population started shrinking. It almost brought extinction when the people of Barr Village in the town of Chalt discussed conservation, so around 32 Years ago village committee was formed to protect the echo system.
Initially, many people could not understand the need for conservation, but some sane voices in Barr Village encouraged people to safeguard this rare animal. However, people were educated on this, while illegal hunting was discouraged. The geography of Chalt Valley is unique as it has Rakaposhi peak in the south, altar Valley on the eastern side, and various glaciers on the Northern side, making it an ideal habitat for Ibex & snow leopards.
So Barr Village, without any help from local or international organizations, started wildlife conservation with the help of villagers. Soon, many other villages of Hunza started ibex conservation. During the initial days, Markoon & Khyber villages took the lead. They educated natives about the benefits of conservation & protection of the ecosystem. Agha Khan’s Rural support program gave them a platform to organize their endeavors. However, Markhor’s price in Pakistan is USD 3500/-.
Who is Syed Yahya Shah & what was his rule in the community-based conservancy and ibex trophy hunting in Hunza Nagar?
Community-based trophy hunting was the idea of visionary Syed Yahya Shah – A local scholar & political figure who induced this idea. Initially, the government of GB banned any hunting of Ibex and Markhoor. Here, he discussed with locals to start conservation. He spent lots of time traveling from Minapin nagar to Barr Valley in Chalt to guide people through the advantages of conservation.
As we all know, the Ibex was being killed for meat and skin as it offered a much-needed food source. Surprisingly, the horns were much sought-after for sexual desire as medicine. However, after the great efforts of Syed Yahya Shah, people started a local conservancy. German writer Hermann Kruetzmann lauded his relentless work in his book ” Hunza Matters .”That book is a great piece of history that took around 20 years of research before publishing.
So with the collaborative effort of IUCN, Wildlife board, AKRSP & Syed Yahya Shah conservancy started, and it got famous that around 23 villages of Gilgit Baltistan also took the same route. Most importantly, awareness campaigns helped a great deal in Ibex conservancy.
When was the first legal Ibex trophy hunting in Pakistan done?
Soon after, trophy hunting started, and the first hunt was done in 1995, and the first permit was issued at 8000 Pak Rupees. Considering the success, other valleys also adopted conservancy. Over time, the echo system healed, and the number of animals grew.
While we were in Passu, Javaid – our guide- invited us to his home for a traditional dish. We accepted the invitation and showed up during the mid-day. His wife was making “Molida,” a special dish made of Milk, wheat & butter.
What are Wakhai-style houses?
Javaid lives in the old traditional Wakhai-style stone house in Passu village with Passu cons in the foreground along the Passu glacier in the backdrop. Sadly, these are the last few homes before solid RCC structures in the area, and urbanization is approaching fast.
After super lunch, we had a cup of the team, not with sugar but with salt. In the mountain, people used salt instead of sugar to avoid height sickness. Furthermore, sugar availability was nearly impossible in the old days as it used to come from Tibet or Kashmir operating the old silk route.
In the evening, we met locals and asked about community-based conservancies. Most of the people we met were in favor of conservancy. Therefore, trophy hunting provides them with great value for their efforts. All the money collected from trophy hunting is shared with the number of the villager in equal proportion.
What is the process of Ibex Trophy Hunting in Gilgit Baltistan?
The process of Ibex & markhoor trophy hunting is simple. First, bidding is done, upon which the Ibex Hunting permit in Pakistan is allowed to the highest bidder. Money is collected in government banks and distributed to the village council at 80%. Moreover, the rest of the 20% is also utilized for the same village by the GB government.
Thrift banks and credit society is the backbone of these allied services. Any member of a respective village can borrow from savings from trophy hunting the same day. Most interestingly, women are allowed a 20% quota to establish their businesses. Therefore, upper Hunza’s women-led start-ups manage small retail shops, guest houses, and restaurants.
The next few days, we spotted various herds of Ibex and were lucky enough to see packs of Ibex even crossing the road. Above all, Hunza is a magical place, and seeing Ibex on the road was one hell of an amazing experience. In addition, we enjoyed some local eateries that make some delicious food.
Are gastronomical experiences increasing tourism in Hunza & northern Pakistan?
Growing tourism is increasing culinary experiences as well. We could not get many food options a few years earlier, but now even in upper Hunza, you can easily find Biryani, mutton karahi, pulao, and even Kashmir tea. Local people were most interested in spicy food than ten years ago. I am against too much globalization, but tourism has also increased new possibilities for locals.
Who is Dr. Afsar Wariach?
Moreover, our valued friend from South Carolina – Dr. Afsar Warriach– arrives after a long flight and 14 hours on the Karakoram, fully exhausted but still deeply loving northern Pakistan. On the other hand, our team was still scouring through mountains for a great hunt. Although, Ibex is great in numbers still, finding a big trophy is essential.
A good hunter values local tradition and considers wildlife conservancy before his whims. However, sometimes despite the collective effort, a big trophy is not found, and many hunters don’t attempt even after days in such high altitudes. While mountains are scenic, it also presents various challenges to trekkers. More than hunting, the journey fascinates adventure lovers in northern Pakistan.
The day before a final expedition, I reached Aliabad, the biggest market in the whole of Hunza. Along with Dr. Afsar Warriach, we carefully crafted a list of items needed to make the ascent in the Batura glacier’s highlands as we conducted our hunt in those remote lands.
What is the to-do list before any expedition in northern Pakistan?
We purchased old shoes that can withstand weather as well as snow. Furthermore, we also managed to purchase bread, tea, sun-dried tomatoes, egg, tissue, potatoes, and other essentials. Indeed, we were all excited on that particular day.
The very next morning, around 6 am, we were on the move and reached Passu Village, where our team of porters, under the leadership of Javaid, was waiting for us. Therefore, the team of 9 people started moving toward Batura Glacier. Most of our hunting guides were hunters. Upon asking, Javaid told us he had hunted around 200 Ibex overall before conservancy.
Is trophy hunting bad for the local community, as per local hunters?
All elders of that region have such scores for respective hunts. While walking in Karimabad Bazar, we encountered Mr. Shafqat Karaim, who runs the roadway gift shop. Moreover, he makes musical instruments as well. Above all, he is a taxidermy expert in Hunza. He believes legal trophy hunting is getting expensive for locals, and paying such a hefty permit fee is impossible.
In all honesty, we also believe it to be true. The government of Gilgit Baltistan should introduce a new bracket for natives of that region so that they can also hunt animals to preserve their traditional values as it is the customs of their forefathers. Furthermore, some ibex hunting permits in Pakistan should be issued at a very nominal fee to those natives at relatively low prices. The Ibex Trophy Price in Pakistan is almost USD 12000/- of any size. Moreover, we all firmly believe that trophy hunting in Pakistan has great potential.
How were things moving before the expedition?
On the other hand, trekking was in full swing. We started around early morning for Batura Glacier as it falls under the territory of Hussaini village. Therefore, porters with our supplies were the first ones to make the ascent, and soon they vanished in thin air as they walked rather quickly.
If you ask about me, the first 15 minutes were easy, but as trekking got tough, I started feeling height sickness, and sadly enough, within the first 30 minutes, I was gasping badly. Most of the team was already miles apart from me. Consequently, I tried to make the pace, but height got the better of me, and I encountered a deep blackout.
Under that circumstance, even taking one step felt gigantic. Our porter, Mr. Ibrar from Hussaini village, helped me recover, and in a few minutes, I was on my feet, trying to go slowly. At the same time, the trek became easier and flatter as well.
What is the length of the Batura Glacier?
Batura glacier is a 57 km long glacier with great biodiversity. Within no time, we spotted a few Ibex and footsteps of snow leopards. Nonetheless, the magnificence of Batura is exceptional. Furthermore, we reached Summer house after 01 hours of trekking & walking. Surprisingly, the summer house was equally impressive.
What does a summer house look like on a glacier?
Additionally, we were welcomed by much-needed tea in that Rocky clay room with windows showcasing the Batura glacier in the foreground. Therefore, we rested there for about 15 minutes and discussed so far experiences with Dr. Afsar Warriach, who had no signs of any fatigue.
What facilities are present in camp 01 on Batura glacier?
Tea was brilliant in this particular summer house. So, we resumed our journey. Now, we were aiming for Camp 01. It took us a fraction of the time to reach Camp 01. However, our porters had already reached there; thus, they settled in with supplies and started preparing lunch. In addition, we were told that we would eat ibex liver, which was hunted a couple of days ago. Accordingly, every hunt is first brought to Camp 01, and some meat is placed here as part of the ritual.
While we were resting, Dr. Afsar took photos and some amazing drone shots. In addition, two porters under the command of Javaid advanced towards camp 2 to spot good size male ibex. Soon, we also followed them while I was advised to rest there.
What are the difficulties you face during ibex trophy hunting in Pakistan?
So three team members were busy preparing lunch, and others were marching towards camp 2. Soon, I joined them there as well. It took around 2 hours to reach camp 2, surrounded by thick snow & bushes. Camp 2 was merely a small room under a massive boulder.
Some new rules were also introduced when I arrived in the higher camp. Firstly, not speaking and movement should be obtained as we were near the herd of Ibex. Thus, the advance team returned with news that they had seen some nice trophies. Additionally, the gun was taken out of the box. In all honesty, it was done rather quickly.
I had hoped we would stay in higher camps for a few days. We covered around 17km of trekking that day, and Javaid was pushing Dr. Afsar to move even further. On the same day, they saw around 12 Ibex. Indeed, it was a solid adventure. Immediately, our team used zooming lenses and binoculars to get a close shot of spotted Ibex.
How was the Ibex trophy spotted?
I was not expecting to have a perfect shot of Ibex the same day, as it was almost sundown. Surprisingly, I was following the team, and they managed to find a place where they could spot the trophy. Without a doubt, the hunt was on. Finally, the team was in position; Javaid – our guide, handed a gun to Dr. Afsar. Meanwhile, our camera operator was wheezing. In all honesty, it was too much for him and even for me.
I thought we would only patrol the Batura glacier in the first place, but having a trophy game on the same day was also a surprise. Finally, Javaid gave the final go-ahead to Dr. Afsar Warriach, who had positioned his gun on a boulder. Moreover, the Ibex was 350 meters away, some passing from the narrow corridor.
Consequently, most of the group passed while one male, Ibex, while crossing, halted its march. Indeed, it was the moment. Thus, Javaid gave the final go-ahead, and Dr. Afsar pulled the trigger. Boom! It hit the male Ibex, and we could hear the joyous voice of Javaid saying, ” hogaya hogaya. ”
Finally, it was done, and I saw the animal rolling down from 350 meters to around 25 meters in front of us. As per teamed, it was a 42-inch trophy, and to our great surprise, even though it had fallen from a great distance, yet horns were not damaged.
Soon, our team scrambled to get around Ibex, who was motionless. Moreover, everyone tried to take some photos while I was a bit away, so I could not take pictures on time, alas! Lastly, a remaining team of porters arrived, and they were swift to dissect meat from the skin. First of all, the trophy along the skin was safeguarded. Concurrently, the rest of the flesh was rolled over the shoulder.
Soon, we were in Camp 2, where we recollected our memories and enjoyed a late lunch. In a short while, we moved towards Camp 01, where we were supposed to spend the night. Most porters were there fairly quickly. It took more time for us to reach our destination as it was dark and cold. Moreover, the terrain was challenging.
Festivity & lavish dinner after Trophy Hunting
Upon our arrival, we were greeted again with hot tea. Camp 01 was like a fully operational guest house. To be honest, I was pretty amazed to witness activities there. In brief, there was electricity using solar accompanied by batteries. Moreover, a fully functional kitchen and a small antenna to catch mobile signals thought signals were relatively weak.
I noted all porters were lying down in the common room. Further, two guys were preparing dinner. At this point, I was convinced we were not in some high camp; instead, it seemed more like Wakahi’s home. It had a good kitchen with all essentials. At this point, some team members were bringing in wood for a fire, and the other team cut the meat of a fresh hunt. Certainly, it was an amazing experience.
Bukhari – Natural fireplace working as the stove to cook our meat. Furthermore, I realized that some team members were already fast asleep. At this time, I started asking some questions while I was too tired. Hence, Dr. Afsar was kind enough to tell us that he has hunted around 75 different animals in various parts of the world.
Thereafter, dinner was ready; undeniably, it was a unique experience.
Have you ever been to Trophy Ibex Hunting in Pakistan? If yes! share your comments below: