Hunting Afghanistan

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Seeing the mess of a country that is now Afghanistan, it’s hard to imagine that it was once one of the premiere hunting areas in the world. Snow leopard, Asiatic cheetah, several species of gazelle, and two species of markhor were once targeted in the country’s varied landscape by hunters from around the world. But one of the most impressive hunts from Afghanistan’s past was one that only the country’s elite participated in. Only several decades ago, wealthy Afghans hunted pasang, known outside of Afghanistan as bezoar ibex, with specially trained greyhounds.
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Wanting to know about this elite sport of kings, I contacted Outdoor Life friend and Afghan stationed Army Captain Hunter “The Captain” Whirley with some ideas for research. I sent him a picture of a pasang and a greyhound and asked him to find a local who knew something about this hunt of old.
The results were comical, frightening, and very telling of a hopeful future. Click forward to see The Captain’s interviews.
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Mumtoz: I have seen photos of this animal, and it would be very hard to hunt.
Captain: Why is that?
Mumtoz: It is up way high in the mountains of Nuristan. Why hunt that high when there are goats everywhere?
Captain: Good point.
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Jamshidi: I know that hunting like this went on in northern Afghanistan, but they did not use greyhounds. They use a dog called the Afghan Hound.
Me: Have you ever seen one of these hunts?
Jamshidi: No, when I was a child in the north we had bigger problems.
Captain: Like what?
Jamshidi: The Russians.
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Bari: I have never hunted, but I have seen the skin and horns of such animals in the markets.
Captain: How much do they go for?
Bari: About $1,000
Captain: Are you joking?
Bari: Yeah, I have no idea how much they are. I have never tried to buy them.
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These men agreed that pasang are found mostly in northeast Afghanistan, but only the Major (center) had ever seen a greyhound while in Germany.
“I saw some of these dogs in Germany,” the Major said. “… and lots and lots of pretty women.”
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Captain: “My buddy Gayne said you guys hunt mountain goats with dogs.”
Them: “Who’s Gayne?”
Captain: “He’s a writer.”
Them: “Never heard of him.”
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“Don’t ask me another question about goats or dogs!”
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Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad was extremely knowledgeable concerning hunting.
“Hunters either use dogs to run these animals down and then shoot them with AK-47s or shotguns, or they trap them…”
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Captain: “You mean they run the animals into pens or snares?”
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad: “No like this…” he said, drawing a steel bear trap.
Captain: “That’ll do it”
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“These dogs are not found normally found in Afghanistan, but my father had a pair when I was a small boy,” Lieutenant Colonel Baseer said. “We used them as guard dogs. They were so strong and fast.”
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Sergeant Major Nasir: “There have been some sightings of these animals in the Ghor Province in the past three years. We thought they had all been killed 40 years ago.”
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Sergeant Major Nasir, an Afghan conservationist: “The old men used to see these mountain goats all of the time. Now, people should not hunt them until there are more of them.”
Captain: “Sergeant Major, that is the most awesome thing you have ever said to me.”
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My thanks to The Captain and all his Afghan buddies.
And yes, there was no picture of the beautiful Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai in the gallery this time. I purposely did not include one out of respect to the Afghan soldiers that will undoubtedly be reading this piece. After all, they’re our friends.
Except for maybe that one guy. He looked like he wanted to beat the heck out of someone.