Wolf Hunting in Mongolia

By Derek On November 9, 2011 Under Failed Trades

As a mining analyst, part of my job is to go to weird places and look at mining assets. The weirdest place I have been to has to be Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia. I had a car while there and got to know my local driver a little. I was flown out to a mine in the middle of nowhere and when I came back to the “city” I had a weekend to kill. Friendly now with my driver, a burly guy who turned out to be one of Mongolia’s famous wrestlers, he invited me to go wolf hunting. It seems that is what one does in Mongolia and who was I to say no?

Being from the US, I know hunting involves getting a high powered rifle and wandering around the woods until you come across some unfortunate animal minding its own business whereupon you blast the thing out of existence. I hadn’t done much, if any of that, but the analyst in me was still interested in seeing the process. I got up at dawn and we met in the lobby of the hotel. The sky was just getting light and the air was freezing cold despite it being August. The driver took me across town to a military base and stopped. We were met by a soldier with a big gun. He was the hunter. Aha.

The Libations

Not knowing much Mongolian, I communicated with our gun toting friend in the back seat with smiles and sign language as we drove for a couple of hours over dirt roads across the green rolling hills. He was a chain smoking sniper and had been with the army 20 years. We finally stopped, surrounded by green rolling hills that looked just like the ones we had been passing through the last couple of hours. Why this place was THE place, I couldn’t tell. Now to begin our hunt. This is how it works. The driver opened a dusty box in the back to get food? ammo? a jacket? No, whiskey! He cracked opened a large bottle, poured me at least 2-3 shots worth in a big dirty glass and with a grin handed it over. He did the same for himself. With some faint sense of safety in mind, none was given to our man, Orion with the gun.

The Hunt

Then we got back in the car and began our drinking with me now sitting up front being toasted by my ever more ebullient driver. Orion sat in the back intently scanning the horizon looking for wolves, cigarette clamped firmly in mouth. About half an hour later, Orion tells us to stop and we pile out of the car. I’m starting to feel the whiskey and it looks like my red-faced driver is now far from sober. He carefully cradles another bottle of whiskey in the crook of his arm along with the two empty glasses as we follow our hunter toward some trees. The hunter stops to listen. Time for a shot …. of whiskey. We start walking. We stop. Another slug of juice. You get the idea. All of sudden Orion stops, squats and we follow, not making a sound. Having had about eight generous shots of Mongolian whiskey on an empty stomach I can say I was feeling a little drunk when Orion stands up quickly and begins firing rapidly into the trees. Silence. There was some muttering in Mongolian and back we traipsed to the car. Climbing in behind the wheel with a big smile my cheery driver hands me another generous helping of whiskey and we drove off to the next spot. It was pretty much the same exercise for the morning and I don’t remember much except we didn’t hit anything with the gun. The car had better aim though and hit just about every rock and hole on the dirt road as my driver and I continued our happy liquid diet. We drove back to town singing Mongolian herder songs which they tried to teach me but all I managed was to drink and laugh like an idiot. At least I found something I could do well.

The Goat

The hunting trip was a bust so we drove back to a market in town late afternoon and bought a goat. Yep, a real live bleating goat. I thought this wasn’t going to end well for the goat and it didn’t. We bounced along some back roads to the driver’s girlfriend’s house on the outskirts of town whereupon the unfortunate goat was killed and gutted. The fur was then burned off with a blow torch and the carcass filled with hot stones to cook it from the inside out. That was weird but the whiskey deadened any squeamishness I might have had. As the goat lay there sizzling and cooking with stones inside, my Mongolian friends walked over to the steaming pile of guts in the grass. Shouting and laughing like crazy, they began throwing goat guts up in the air! Dozens of hawks had gathered circling above in the sky and dove down to catch their grisly prize. Barely able to stand, I grabbed some steaming goat guts and tried the same but missed the sky – which had moved alarmingly fast – and plastered the hunter right in the face instead. I remember everyone thought this was hilarious and then I passed out.

I paid for my folly the next day with the world’s most crushing hangover. I also found out that wolves in Mongolia are an endangered species (!) and was glad we never found one. What a place.

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