Recently a customer sent us a copy of the eighth edition of Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game (1922). While nice copies of this edition are now getting hard to find, this is by no means the rarest of the Records of Big Game series. Inside this particular copy, however, we found extensive annotations in two colors of ink as well as a pasted photo of a large Tibetan argali. The photo had this caption: “Captain Bishop’s Record Argali Sheep (Ovis ammon).” This head was not listed in the 1922 edition, but it appeared in the 1928 edition in the No. 2 spot. Its longest horn was 51.5 inches and the location was listed as Ladakh. According to the ink inscription in our copy, Bishop shot this Tibetan argali in 1924.
Almost unknown to modern hunters, this Mother of All Argalis is one of the great trophies not only of Asia but the entire world; indeed, hunters of old rightly considered the Tibetan argali to be the Holy Grail of mountain game in Asia. Today, TAs continue to hold this reputation by those in the know—even though they are currently mostly inaccessible to hunters. Most people think of the Marco Polo argali as the top sheep in Asia, but consider this fact: For every one sheep hunter who has a Tibetan argali to his name, there are 100 hunters who have a Marco Polo.
The Tibetan argali inhabits terrain at roughly the same elevation as the Marco Polo (14,000 to 16,000 feet), but there are simply far fewer TAs than there are MPs; moreover, the character of the mountains is far more challenging for the hunter of the TA than it is for those who hunt the MP because the haunts—the Tibetan High Plateau of India and China—of the TA are nearly impossible to reach. While nobody in his right mind would say that an MP is a pushover to hunt, the skittishness and almost neurotic character of the TA is legendary. Read any classic Asian hunting book on the TA to see what I mean.Multiple are the accounts of hunters spotting a good head one morning—after weeks of effort—making a near-perfect stalk lasting most of the day, only to be bitterly disappointed when they think they are within shooting range to find the quarry long since gone and two mountain ranges downwind because somehow the animals sensed the hunter.
The photo of the No. 2 Tibetan argali is a most unusual find, and it will certainly be one of the many images we intend to add to the upcoming record books on Africa and the Rest of the World, due out in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Do you have information or a photo of an exceptional trophy that is listed in or belongs in RW? If so, please send any information/photos you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org.