Bezoar and Giant Boars in Turkey by Tim Herald
Bezoar and Giant Boars in Turkey
by Tim Herald
In 2017, I lead a group of clients on a bezoar ibex hunt in Turkey, and we had an incredible experience. When I got home, I told so many people about it, that within a month, we had another group planned for December of 2019. There were eleven of us that went, thus we had to be scattered into a number of different hunting areas. I would be hunting in an area of Anatolia with a few others, and then I planned to fly further east and hunt the giant wild boars that the area is famous for.
My trip started out on a rough note. My rifle arrived in Istanbul, but my bag with clothing and ammunition did not. One of the other guys had the opposite, receiving his bag but no rifle, and a couple of the other hunters arrived on a delayed flight, so we could not connect to our flight to Anatolia. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about it as the hunting had been so good before, time was not a big concern. It also gave us most of the next day to go look around Istanbul and eat at one of my favorite restaurants in the entire world.
We stayed in old town and went to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia the next morning, and saw some of the ancient sites of Constantinople, before eating an incredible late lunch of delicious seafood right on the Sea of Marmara. The octopus and sea bass in Turkey are beyond compare.
Late that afternoon I retrieved my luggage, flew to Antalya and then made a late drive into the mountains where I met up with friends Cindy, Dale and Frazier. Cindy had taken a great ibex the day before, and Dale and Frazier had only hunted half a day at that point.
The next morning, we were high in the Taurus Mountains, and I must say the terrain was quite a bit steeper than where I had hunted before. I went with Frazier to an area where he and his guides had seen a nice billy the afternoon before. Within thirty minutes, we spotted a small band of ibex and began a slow move toward them. When we got to about 425 yards, we came to the edge of a large deep ravine that stopped our progress, so we glassed for the big billy. He popped up on a huge rock on the far side of the ravine behind a hot female, and quite quickly, Frazier made a fantastic shot, and he had his ibex.
I walked back to the truck with the game ranger and Frazier went with the guides over to the ibex. The plan was for us to take the truck up and around the ravine on the ridge, and the team would go skin and butcher the ibex and pack it to the top. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the rendezvous point, but it took the other guys over 6 hours to meet us. It was steep!
Glassing the Taurus Mountains for bezoar
Dale ended up killing a nice billy at the very bottom of the mountain, and he and his group didn’t make it back to the ridge until just a few minutes before sunset. I glassed a really great ibex across the massive canyon we were hunting, but there was literally no way to get to him. He was 1,000 yards away, but it would have taken two days, plenty of mountaineering gear, and a lot more skill than I have to go down and back up the cliffs that separated us.
The next morning, we tried the lower end of the canyon about 10 miles from where we had been the day before. We saw a few potential shooters, but they were all on the far side, and again, we couldn’t get there.
That afternoon we went back to the general area where Frazier had taken his billy, and we found another group of ibex. There were probably two dozen animals, and three decent looking males.
I told the guys I just wanted a solid 8 year-old or older billy. I wasn’t worried too much about horn measurement as I have a 48-incher on the wall from my previous trip.
Shooting conditions in the mountains can be challenging, good gear is a must!
We eventually belly crawled out onto a ledge where we overlooked a brushy hillside where the ibex were feeding. They had no idea we were there, we picked out the best billy (that was probably 43-44”), and I waited almost ten minutes for him to give me an open shot. I was prone, rifle on my pack, locked in and I felt rock steady with my target just over 300 yards. I squeezed the trigger and was ultimately confident in my shot, until my guide Cenk told me that I flat missed the ibex.
I have never professed to be more than an average shot, and I have missed plenty of animals, but my .338 topped with a Trijicon 5-20x50 AccuPoint scope and shooting hand-loaded CEB Lazer bullets is an absolute tack driver, and I felt as confident in the shot as I have any in the field that I can ever remember. I still have no idea what happened because I absolutely missed. We went to the range on the way back to the lodge, and the rifle and scope were dead on, so it was 100% user error.
As I said, I have missed plenty over the years, and it usually doesn’t bother me at all, but this one did. It made things worse that Cindy, Dale and Frazier had left that day to go do some sightseeing and begin their trip home. So that night I was alone at the lodge with nothing to do but beat myself up and obsess over the miss.
The next morning, we hit the mountain, and I had completely lost confidence in myself. We again saw some nice billies on the far side of the canyon, and one looked really good. We took a landmark or two, went back to the truck, and made a 1.5 hour drive around to the other side.
Thankfully we could drive to the ridge, and when we got to where the guides thought we should be, we headed over the edge. This mountain was as steep as any I have ever been on without being a sheer cliff. We made our way down about 300 yards, peaked over and we found the group of ibex below us. I got into position and we waited for the big billy to show up, but after 30 minutes, he had not appeared.
One of the local guides slipped around the mountain and came back and said that he could see the big guy in some heavy brush with a female, and we should move to have a better shooting angle when he did emerge into the open. We went down another hundred yards, and I got setup.
I wasn’t nearly as comfortable as I had been on my miss the day before, but you can’t always choose your spot.
After ten minutes, the female stepped out into the open on a big rocky slide area and worked toward some of the other ibex.
Momentarily, I saw the billy step out. He was still in the shade of the brush, but he was magnificent with long curving horns and a beautiful blonde hide with dark saddle over his shoulders. There was no doubt, this was a big boy and a trophy in anyone’s book.
He was standing almost broadside, and I cranked the scope up to 20 power, settled the Trijicon’s crosshairs and tiny green illuminated aiming point just behind his shoulder and sent the 225 grain CEB Lazer on its way. The ibex showed no sign of being hit, dashed out into the open slide as I looked at Cenk and asked, “Did I miss him too?” Just as he was about to answer, the big billy began to stumble, and then he crashed for good. He hadn’t gone 40 yards. What a relief!
We couldn’t go straight to the downed billy, so we had to climb back to the ridge, and it was almost straight up. We had skipped lunch, and it was about 3PM, so we had a quick lunch of walnuts, cold meat, cheese and olives, and then after walking half a mile down the ridge, we dropped off and headed toward the ibex.
The guides tried to get me to stay at the truck, but there was no way I wasn’t going to go down and help recover the prized ibex. The farther down we stumbled and slid, the more I second guessed my decision to go with the team. When we finally got to the billy, he was better than I thought (a solid 46.5”), and we admired him and struggled to take some photos. The angle was so severe, we had to wedge the ibex in place with rocks, and we all continually slid down whether in or taking the photos. Did I mention this mountain was steep?
Tim and his 46” Bezoar ibex
After skinning and deboning and a solid hour hike, sometimes on hands and knees, we got back to the truck just after dark. That evening, one of the other hunters, Chad, came and stayed at the lodge as he had taken a nice ibex that day on the cliffs right above the Mediterranean. He and I went back to Antalya the next morning, and we walked around the harbor area and sampled food in a number of local restaurants, did a bit of shopping and just relaxed.
Chad with a beautiful billy taken in a breathtaking location.
The next morning, we flew to Elazig in the interior of Turkey where friends Serkan Mert and Cemgil Cevahir picked us up and took us to the area where we would hunt giant Eurasian boars. Turkey produces some of the world’s largest wild hogs, and I had been dying to hunt them for years.
We went out late afternoon and just drove the countryside. I was with Serkan and Chad went with Cemgil. Serkan explained that the population of hogs was so high in the area, that the swine regularly come out of the mountains and can be seen at night in the streets of the town where we were staying (a small city of 33,000).
Just before dark, we spotted a group of pigs about 800 yards away on a hillside that had a few openings but was mostly covered in thick oak brush and small trees. We quickly made our way toward them, and the wind was perfect. We were able to use the terrain to hide our approach, and then popped up just above the animals. Most of them were in the brush, but a smallish pig was in the open. It was almost dark, but we had a full moon and I had my 50 mm objective Trijicon scope. Visibility was excellent.
A puff of wind hit the back of my neck, the small pig grunted and ran into the brushy ravine, and then a big boar ran out the far side and up the other side of the hill. Serkan told me to shoot, and I swung on the fleeing pig. In the low light he just looked like a big black blob, so when the green dot in my Trijicon swung just past him, I touched off the .338 Win, and the boar did a back flip and tumbled down the hill. The Lazer bullet had hit him square in the shoulder and chilled him on the spot.
I absolutely could not believe the size of the boar when we got to him. He was massive and solid end to end. He had good tusks, but it was the huge body and long shaggy coat that really impressed me. I think he was as big as a couple of the grizzly bears I have shot. It took four of him to drag him downhill to a place where we could get the truck, and loading him was a serious chore.
We got a message a little while later that Chad had also connected on a nice boar, so we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. The next day, we met up with some of Serkan and Cem’s ibex hunters from Texas who had taken great billies with bow, and we took daylight photos and had a big cookout on the mountain. It was truly one of the highlights of the trip. Different people from different cultures sharing food, hunting stories and camaraderie is what traveling around the world is all about for me.
The next evening, I was able to take another nice boar, and that ended the trip. Chad and I departed the next day for home. Our group was 10 for 11 on ibex, and Chad and I got three great boars. Turkey is a super hunting destination with wonderful and inviting people, great food, lots of history, and high game populations. I have been twice now, and I sure hope to be able to visit again in the future.