A photo of a group of rams an OI hunter took on a recent Marco polo sheep hunting expedition.

Marco Polo Sheep Hunting

Of all the sheep species, the Marco Polo is arguably one of the most popular to sportsman, especially among die hard sheep hunters. They can be found in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Their most notable characteristic is their large spiraling horns. They were named for Marco Polo because he described them in one of his books. Here are some Marco Polo sheep hunting facts.

Herd of Tian Shan Argali aka Marco Polo sheep

Marco Polo Sheep Hunting

Hunting Marco Polo sheep gained popularity in the hunting world in the 1950’s, but were initially only allowed to be hunted by Afghan royalty. It wasn’t until the late 1960’s when the first American Hunters were allowed to hunt them. One of the most fascinating things about them is how big they can actually get. The world record Marco Polo was 71 7/8 inches on one side and 73 inches on the other with a whopping final score of 256″. The Godfather of Marco Polo Sheep hunting is a man by the name of Hossein “Soudy” Golabchi. He is the proud owner of seven of the 10 largest Marco Polo ever harvested.

Marco Polo Hunting Tajikistan
Your base camp will often be over 10,000 feet on a Marco Polo sheep hunt.

Marco Polo Sheep Range

Marco Polo sheep are found in Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The war in Afghanistan precludes hunting there at present, and China closed the door on Marco Polo sheep hunting there as well. Now only Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are viable choices for a Marco Polo sheep hunt. Kyrgyzstan Marco Polo hunts are cheaper than Tajikistan hunts. They are done at slightly lower elevations, and result in somewhat smaller trophies as a rule. The World Record Marco Polo came from Tajikistan.

A Marco Polo sheep hunt is a high altitude endeavor.

They can be found in elevations from 10,000 feet to almost 16,000, feet. They will typically stay in groups of a few dozen sheep during the winter and break up into smaller groups during the summer months. During the rut, adolescent rams steer clear, as only mature rams fight for the right to pick their ewes.

Generally hunting camps are located around 10,000 feet above sea level, with the actual hunting taking place at elevations up to 15,000 feet or more. Acclimatization, or adjusting to altitude, requires special techniques and medication. Experts recommend really taking it easy the first few days at altitude, and for the duration of the hunt, drink plenty of liquids and take prescription medication Diamox or generic form Acetazolamide, 250 mg tablet each morning and each evening. And a couple 200 mg Ibuprofen tablets each morning and evening as needed will help with headaches and sore muscles.

This is an extremely physical hunt and requires the hunter to be in peak physical condition. The altitude alone is enough to humble even toughest guys. It is recommended that you use something which limits your oxygen while training up for this hunt as that will be one of your biggest hurdles.

Marco Polo sheep are usually hunted using small, sturdy, surefooted horses, especially in Kyrgyzstan.
Marco Polo sheep are usually hunted using small, sturdy, surefooted horses, especially in Kyrgyzstan

You’ll usually be hunting from horseback.

Marco Polo sheep are usually hunted using small, sturdy, surefooted horses, especially in Kyrgyzstan. Be sure that you pack a rifle scabbard in your hunting gear, else you will spend many days bouncing around in the saddle with your rifle slung on your back, and this is definitely not comfortable. If you are hunting with horses, you’ll find these people to be remarkable horsemen. These little horses are incredibly tough, and in some cases, they can get the hunter right to the animal.

In Tajikistan, you’ll probably be hunting from a Russian jeep called a Bigfoot. Be sure to pack a white camo outer garment as most, if not all, of your hunting will be done in snow.

Ibex hunting in Kyrgyzstan

Most hunters combo their Marco Polo hunting trip with Mid-Asian Ibex.

Hunters typically see many Mid-Asian ibex on a Marco Polo sheep hunt. Game densities are generally quite high and vary from area to area. Making your hunt a Marco Polo, Ibex combo is a good idea, especially if you want to get it done all in one trip.

Guides with a big ram.Best Caliber for Hunting Marco Polo Sheep

The hunting terrain consists of very high and wide alpine valleys separated by mountain ridges. Rams are often spotted in locations where it is impossible to get real close, forcing the hunter to make shots of 300 to 500 yards or more. Considering that a wounded and lost ram ends the hunt, practice as much long range shooting as possible before leaving home. Experts recommend calibers of .270 Winchester or higher, with some of the belted cartridges such as 300 and 338 magnums being ideal.

Marco Polo Hunting Permits and Licenses

Marco Polo sheep are CITES trophies, requiring a great deal of permit and license preparation be done before a Marco Polo hunt can actually take place.

  • Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan guides must purchase a hunting licence for every individual hunter they take afield.
  • Then they must insure that every US hunter’s name is on the Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan List of Official Hunters which is sent to US Fish & Wildlife each spring.
  • Each US hunter must then apply for an Argali Import Permit costing $100 from US Fish & Wildlife Permitting Office.
  • The outfitter must secure a CITES Export Document and a Veterinary Certificate after you take your ram.

Importing Your Trophy into the United States

Requirements for importing a Marco Polo trophy into the United States:

  1. Hunting License
  2. Cites Export Permit
  3. Argali Import Permit
  4. Veterinary Certificate

Are you interested in hunting Marco Polo sheep?

If you’re looking for a challenge, and these mountain monarchs are on your list, then this is a great time to go after Marco Polo sheep. And we just happen to have some of the best Marco Polo hunts in the world!

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Outdoors International

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Outdoors International has a team of hand-selected hunting experts to help you book your next hunt. Our job it is to help you in researching, booking and planning a great hunting trip with one of our amazing outfitter partners around the world.

My hunt was absolutely top notch.

The outfitter is a fantastic man and incredibly hard working and knowledgeable, there is no doubt he will do everything within his power to make peoples hunts successful and enjoyable. I plan to do it again with him next year for sure.

Wade Zuver

Our hunt was excellent.

We saw bucks every day along with all other sorts of wildlife. Mountain goats, bears, and foxes were common sights. Fishing and crabbing was special bonus. The food was excellent, the crew was amazing. Outdoors International did a great job of finding exactly what we were looking for.

Jesse Neveau

What an amazing experience!

The hunting lodge was out of this world!, Rooms, food and the scenery were all A+. Our guide was exceptional and had us on Shiras moose all five days. We saw over 30 total with at least 10 bulls. They had a plan for everything including taxidermy and game processing.

Kayla Redmon

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6 thoughts on “Marco Polo Sheep Hunting

  1. Cory Glauner says:

    Justin Sparks maybe….. a Marco Polo would be a nice bit of icing on the cake.

  2. Muhammad Haris Qureshi says:

    My name is haris qureshi and I am 14 & i.
    hope some day that I am hunting.

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