When you tell someone you’re going to hunt Himalayan Snowcock, most people look at you funny because they either don’t know what it is, or think you’re about to travel halfway around the world to hunt some sort of mythical creature.. While you don’t have to travel around the world, at least I didn’t, they ARE somewhat of a mythical creature.
I could type out the little I know about the bird, but for some cool info, give them a good google.
All I knew was that there’s a small circle of individuals who have been successful in being able to locate and successfully bag one of these incredible birds.
For that reason, and out of respect for the locals who enjoy them, and the elitists that hunt them and don’t tell anyone about it, I’ll leave quite a bit of location information aside. It’s not difficult to figure it out, but I’ll let anyone hoping for an ‘easy button’ on the subject search elsewhere.
A year prior to hunting them myself, good friends Derek and Alan ventured into the rugged mountains these birds inhabit and were fortunate enough to be successful early on. I had opted to pass on the hunt simply because I hadn’t filled my archery elk tag yet and well.. A freezer full of elk eats a little bit longer than a large bird. Man, did I miss out. They both killed awesome birds!
Fast forward to this season and we plotted, schemed, planned and shared mapping info all summer in preparation for the adventure.
Finally the day came after months of prepping, packing and repacking again, we were loaded in the truck, on our way for an epic adventure!
We spent an entire day hiking back into the area we would be hunting the next 3 days. With everything loaded in our backpacks, we ran as light as possible and planned to bivy hunt and run as light as possible. Fortunately because these guys had hunted the area before, we knew there’d be water, which was a HUGE weight saver on the hike in.
After a full day of hiking, a mid afternoon nap before a major rock scaling feat and a couple sketchy moments, we arrived at where we planned to start our hunt from.
The next few hours were spent working on camp prep and hauling/filtering water from snow runoff that was seeping through the boulders in a rockslide nearby.
It was an awesome setting and we couldn’t wait to get after it the following day. I don’t think anyone slept that night.
We woke early the next morning, had a quick breakfast and coffee and took off to a spot where we hoped to be able to see a long distance and hopefully hear the birds as they called from their roosts and started the day feeding.
We were met by silence.
Knowing that ‘they are where you find them’ we began traversing the boulder fields and scaling through cliffs in hopes of relocating and being able to hear or see any kind of sign.
While hiking a few miles we found a spent shell or two, hope they got lucky, and some old sign.. But no birds.
The first day ended with hopes that we’d have better luck the following day.
Day two came and went with little to no sightings, but we were rewarded with several mountain goat and bighorn sheep sightings. Such beautiful animals!
As we laid in our sleeping bags that night, we discussed what we’d be doing on our last day of hunting, come morning.
As the phone alarms went off and we rubbed our eyes and quietly looked at eachother, transparently a little hesitant to get up after two days of getting our butts kicked, Derek hopped out and began his morning coffee ritual.
I opened my phone to text my wife and say good morning before we took off when Derek fell to the ground like he’d just been picked off by an American Sniper!
“THEY’RE RIGHT THERE!”Derek exclaimed as he belly crawled back to us in his underwear.
A mad scramble ensued.
No sooner had the words left Derek's mouth than each of us were hiding behind rocks, putting on our boots and trying to get our shotguns loaded.
If you can picture three grown men in their underwear, with mountain boots on and shotguns in their hands, you can probably imagine how silly we looked.. Actually don’t ruin your day and picture us lol.
“Where are they?”, I asked.
“100 yards away on the ridge, skylined”, Derek replied.
We put together a quick redneck plan, peeked over the rocks to glass with our binos and upon not seeing them, assumed we needed to spread out in an even line and slowly progress our way towards their last known location.
So there we went, three Elmer Fudd looking bird hunters, praying for an opportunity to get a shot.
As we reached the bottom of the small rise Derek had seen the birds on, we decided to go straight towards the ridge, in case they were just over the rise.
We no sooner took the next few steps when the hillside below us, to the left, erupted.
I can’t honestly recount how many birds there were but I vividly remember barely seeing their white wing tips flap as they jumped off the cliffs and flew away.
We stood there in disbelief.. No one said a word.
A quick decision was made to attempt to relocate the birds. Some had swung left, some straight down and others to the right.
Hoping that they’d get vocal as they attempt to relocate and find one another, we each went after a different group and hoped for the best.
Much to our distaste, none of us ever caught or saw the birds. We couldn’t believe it.
How did we go from getting an opportunity right outside our camp to doofing it up? And on our last morning! How cool would that have been?
We sauntered back to camp like kicked dogs and finally completed getting dressed for the day.
I told them I was going to hike up the hill to a glassing point I’d been on the evening before and see if I could relocate them with my binos.
I took off and was quickly joined by them as we started to pick apart the hillside and attempt to see the most well camouflaged bird any of us had ever seen.
By the grace of the Upland gods, I spotted a bird standing on a cliff edge feeding. He worked his way up the hill and as I continued to observe, I started to see multiple birds! What luck!
Observing the terrain, we knew belly crawling the open hillsides and through the scree fields would be about as long of a shot as any of us would dare take on a stock. But, what did we have to lose?
Both Derek and Alan, being the incredible friends they are, told me that because they had already been successful the year prior, they wanted me to take the opportunity. I couldn’t ask for better friends and hunting partners.
The next hour was spent belly crawling, glassing and carefully, but quickly covering the distance to the birds, knowing that they wouldn’t remain in an approachable location.
After putting myself in a position where I knew birds could very easily be in range, I peeked over a boulder in front of me and saw a tree that two birds had been by earlier. Pulling my rangefinder out, I ranged the tree and it read a mere 40 yards..
If they were there.. They were in range..
I no sooner put my range finder back into its pouch than I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, right where I’d just ranged!
Instincts kicked in and what I like to call “code black” took over and the next thing I knew my gun's bead was on the bird and I fired my first shot.
BOOM! The Snowcock took a 3” 1 1/4oz of #5’s like a tank.
I stood up and the bird started to run! I couldn’t believe it!
BOOM! Another yellow shell ejected out the side of my gun. Fortunately, it was the last one I needed.
I tripped, fell a few times as I raced towards the bird to ensure it didn’t fall off the cliff it was mere feet away from.
I darn near tackled the thing, though not necessary, because I was so pumped full of adrenaline.
As soon as I put my hands on the bird I couldn’t hold in a loud victory war cry. I looked back to my friends up the canyon and could see them jumping up and down, fist pumping in the air.
What an awesome feeling. You would have thought we’d just killed a 200” mule deer. It was so rad!
I hiked back to my friends to share the story. They’d been able to enjoy a front row seat as they observed through their binoculars.
We smiled, high fived and celebrated our team success. I can still remember those feelings now as I write this almost 8 months later.
We made our way back to camp and with the success of the day still high on our shoulders, we decided it was the perfect way to end the hunt and headed down the mountain.. All smiles.. All stoked.. Eager for the day we’d be back chasing the Himalayan Snowcock again.