Every hunter has his own ideas as to what species of big game makes the finest trophy. But every sheep hunter would undoubtedly agree that elusive wild sheep always produce the greatest thrill. Amongst all kinds, Altai (Ovis amon amon) subspecies of argali are the world’s largest sheep thus is referred to as “King of the sheep”. There are indeed few species of big game that appeal more to the heart of the hunter than an old Altai argali ram in his upland solitude.
Although do not grow as long as Marco Polo horns (Amon poli horns) do in average, Ovis Amon support horns that are more massive than anything else in this contest. In many cases, first time viewers of an argali ram find it difficult to believe its massive horn growth. Horns are relatively light colored and strongly ridged. The longest Altai argali horn measurement ever recorded is 716/8 inches (182,3cm) with a base circumference of 21 in (53,3cm). Both Rowland Ward and SCI record books indicate that many of exceptional trophies (65 inch and over) were taken before 1980. However trophy quality has increased significantly in recent years. With todays standards, rams in the 53-55 inch range can be considered average while any trophy over 60 inch mark should be accepted as outstanding. Collecting a 55 inch plus Altai argali trophy is more likely today than it was ten years ago. Furthermore, collecting a 60 inch plus Altai ram is not a dream.
The base measurements for Altai argali horns can vary anywhere between 18-21 inches, average being 19-20 in. The biggest ever recorded was 226/8 inches (58cm) in girth. These huge set of argali horns can weigh considereably heavy. Apart from the magnificent horns Altai argali carries, his unrivalled wariness tests the resources of the hunter to the utmost. All these qualities makes him highly desirable and greatly sought by trophy hunters.
Although neighboring Russia is also home to Ovis ammon amon, the Mongolian Altai is the stronghold of this subspecies of argali and the only place they can be hunted. Altai argali inhabit the exposed hills and rocky pockets between the snow capped peaks of Altai range which is the longest and most prominent of the three great ranges that dominate the Mongolian territory. This huge and very picturesque piece of land is the home for the father of all sheep, the Altai argali.
SEASON & WEATHER
The legal revisions made in 2012 significantly changed the management of nearly all aspects of the trophy hunting system in Mongolia. With the new revisions, hunting season for argali was shifted to a time frame between July 1 – September 30. The revised 2012 system allows only 3 months of hunting which does not include the rutting period in November. On the other hand hunting season for ibex starts 15 days after the argali season kicks off and continius 2 more weeks after the sheep hunting season comes to an end.
The climate in Mongolia is unstable, so from year to year, there may be significant variations in temperature and precipitation. The climate is strongly continental, with long, frigid winters and short, warm summers. The temperature range between winter and summer is definitely wide. Because the country is so far removed from the regulating influence of any oceans, the continental Mongolia climate brings great extremes in weather.
Warm and mostly dry weather can be expected in July with some thunderstorm. July is the hottest month of the year for Mongolians. The day temperature vary between 15°C to 22°C in the mountainous areas. Overall temperature in August is warm enough although later part of the month sees cooler temperatures and more rain or even snow.
By mid September the weather in Mongolia starts to cool but is far more predictable than in Spring time. Days can be sunny but the mountains start getting pretty chilly, even some snow fall can be observed.
AREA & ALTITUDE
The Mongolian Altai Mountains constitute a major and central part of the Altai mountain range located at the junction of Central Asia and Siberia. The Mongol Altai has many summits around or even exceeding 4000 meters above sea level and stretches for some 900 kilometres from the north-western part of the country to the south, through the territories of Bayan-Ulgii and Khovd provinces. Over 20 peaks are capped with eternal snow in the Mongol Altai Mountain Range. This huge, very picturesque piece of land is the home for the largest of the Ovis family, the Altai argali.
Mongolia is a vast mountainous plateau sloping from west to east. 80% of the country is above 3,300 feet (1000 meters) altitude. However the average altitude of Mongolia is about 5,180 feet (1,580 metres) above sea level. The highest of all three major mountain ranges in Mongolia is the Altai Mountains, spread from the west to the south-west. The main peaks are concentrated in this region, with an average altitude over 2000 m. Altai argali hunts take place in this region.
Towards the southeast, the Mongol Altai Mountain Range gets smaller and transitions into the Govi-Altai mountain range.
The 2012 revisions restricted trophy hunting to specific hunting reserve areas. Before these revisions, hunting companies could lead hunts anywhere, except in protected areas where hunting was never allowed. There are currently 58 hunting regions in Mongolia, 40 of which were awarded trophy hunting permits. Throughout Mongolia, each of these hunting reserve areas has a management body, which can be a local non-governmental organization (NGO), a community-based organization, a partnership between the local community and a trophy hunting company, or a trophy hunting company alone.
ACCOMMODATIONS & HUNTING METHOD
Circular felt tents with a wooden frame which are called “yurts” or “ger” are utilised to accommodate hunters. These well insulated tents are the traditional home for the Mongolian nomads and even in extereme weather they prove to be very comfortable and serviable.
Most yurts are furnished with a wood-burning iron stove in the middle and a comfortable bed. Yurts are ideally suited to Mongolian steppe biomme. The circular shape of yurts makes them able to resist winds from any direction and also allows them to be easily and efficiently heated and cooled. Argali hunting camps are typically consist of a number of these dome-shaped traditional gers.
Almost all hunting camps across Mongolia are equipped with a small generator and electricy is produced by these devices. The power supply and the types of power outlets may differ between countries as there is no international standard. The power supply in Mongolia is 220 volt. There is always a Professional cook in the camp and in some cases they prove to be very good.
Most camps and terrain in the Altai argali areas allow for the use of 4-wheel drive vehicles which makes hunting quite easy. Horses may be used also in other areas to move hunters from the sheep camps into the mountains where the aragli graze.
Typical to sheep hunting, extensive glassing is required to initally locate rams and quite often the white rump patches of the sheep are a giveaway to their location. Mountain basins are scanned for bands of sheep that are up and feeding or bedded down until a desired size ram is located.
Sometimes barrel streching shots may be required when there is no way to get any closer. but our local guides and PHs are committed to success and will always try to get as close as possible to ensure a well placed shot