Story and photos by: Rob Braig
October 2019 - We had recently completed a fabulous hunt for Altai Ibex in Mongolia.
With a couple a days remaining, our attention turned to fishing and predator hunting. The guides were eager to show us more of the country and we were itching to get out of camp.
The plan on this particular morning was to leave camp at 3am and drive nearly two hours toward Russia on secondary roads. Our destination was large mountain valley known to have wolves periodically passing through after nights of hunting in the lowlands. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Not really. The reality was five guys packed in a land cruiser bouncing on bad roads in the dark, 50 miles from the nearest town. That’s not exciting. That’s tolerable.
We stopped the vehicle somewhere along the valley and my hunting partner, along with his guide exited into the darkness. I continued on for a few miles with another guide and the driver of the land cruiser. Our plan was to sit on top of a mountain and watch the massive valley for wandering wolves. Wolves are very difficult to hunt. Their travel is un-predictable and they are very vigilant. I have spent many hours looking for wolves and wasn’t expecting much action. I was however, very prepared for a beautiful day in Mongolia. The weather was below freezing and of course the wind was brisk.
When we reached our destination, we had a short climb to some rocks on the crest overlooking the upper end of the valley. Bundled in the latest technology, I sat in the rocks and waited. An hour or so of glassing produced the same result as most wolf hunts. Nothing. Suddenly, the guide was tapping my shoulder and pointing to the far side of the valley. Sure enough, two wolves were cresting a low ridge and making their way toward us. They were two miles away and we waited. The cold was replaced by anticipation. At the base of the mountain, the wolves veered to the side and started to move around the mountain toward the next valley. Still out of range, we watched and my guide made a plan.
In just a few moments my guide decided that we needed to run down the backside of the mountain and use the vehicle to cut the wolves off at the next valley. Piling into the land cruiser, we took off in the direction the wolves were headed. At this point, we were traveling at a high rate of speed across open terrain. There are few rocks and no vegetation in this part of Mongolia. We were all looking to the right hoping to either spot the wolves or find the right place to start a stalk from, all while still traveling very quickly. Suddenly, the driver swerved hard to the right as we all saw the ditch in front of us. Thankfully, we didn’t hit it head on. As it was, my head took out the rear-view mirror and my ribs bent the center console.
It was a sudden stop and the land cruiser was nearly on its side. All three of us climbed out and considered our situation.
The vehicle was not moving. Lodged in the ditch and nearly on its side, all three of us tried pushing the Land Cruiser but it was no use. We were bruised and shaken, stuck in a ditch 50 miles literally in the middle of nowhere. The guide suggested walking back to town to get help. I suggested staying in the safety of the vehicle and waiting for help. That’s when we parted ways. I had a backpack full of clothes, food and water. Boy Scout training had paid off. I was prepared to spend the night in sub-zero weather. Surely, help would arrive within 24 hours….
The guide disappeared over the mountain in search of help while the driver and I started filling the ditch with rocks. A few hours later and much to my surprise, our friends, who we had dropped off many miles down valley that morning, walked over the hill. After their own wolf hunt, they got concerned when we failed to pick them up and started walking in our direction. I still can’t believe they found us and I still can’t believe they had a satellite phone. What luck. A few calls and a few hours was all it took for help to arrive and retrieve the vehicle. Dark found us slowly driving back to town. Another adventure in the memory banks!