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Photo Essay: Athletes in Azerbaijan

BIG GAME / 8.18.2016

Cole Kramer and Dustin Roe have been talking about Hunting Dagestan Tur for years. When they finally said they were leaving on an adventure, we wanted to see a little of what they saw. So we sent photographer Steven Drake along.

“As guides, Cole and I don't get to hunt for ourselves as much as we wish we could. But we are very fortunate to go on hunts for a living and help make others’ dreams come true. This year, we planned a trip for Dagestan Tur, a goat species that only lives in the Caucasus Mountains of Azerbaijan, where we would switch roles from guide to hunter.” - Athlete Dustin Roe

“After 40 hours of air travel we spent two days in the city of Baku, Azerbaijan, waiting for my luggage to arrive. With that much international travel we added a few extra days onto the trip anticipating such delays. While we waited, we wasted no time and immersed ourselves right into Baku.” - Athlete Dustin Roe

“The city of Baku is a major coastal port on the Caspian Sea. We were expecting a developing, economically challenged region, but oil wealth was prominent everywhere we looked. The city and its architecture was gorgeous, and the U.S. dollar was strong. Cab rides cost $1 to $2 U.S, allowing us to get out and explore. Baku ranks right up there with one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited” - Photographer Steven Drake


“By the second night, some of my gear showed up, but the rest was still MIA. Between Cole and Steve we pieced enough gear together so I could hunt. We couldn’t wait in Baku any longer and drove through the night, making it to the town of Sheki at sunrise.” - Athlete Dustin Roe


"Our saddles were a far cry from western leather saddles. They resembled a mini pack saddle with a pillow for a seat. The stirrups were metal, and instead of riding with our feet down to the sides, we rode with feet up to the front. It was different but surprisingly comfortable. At least I thought so.” - Photographer Steven Drake


“The fog was so dense for our first few days hunting that we had no idea what we were climbing into. A short break in the weather on day two revealed a huge group of billies across the valley, and so began our approach. Dustin and his guides went high up the mountain to cut them off after I would hopefully get a shot opportunity from below. My guides, Steve, and I dropped 4,000 feet off the mountain then gained all that elevation back to get in on the Tur. We dumped some serious sweat on our six-hour approach.” - Athlete Cole Kramer


“As we climbed high into the fog, we crested a ridge into a small basin where we saw an old shepherd’s hut built into the talus. The billies weren’t too much further but the fog and weather became severe, so we crawled in the shepherd’s hut and waited for the weather to clear. As we sat, we couldn't help but notice all the names and dates etched into the rocks, which multiplied our livespans several times over.” - Athlete Cole Kramer

 


When the fog lifted, the group of billies was dead ahead at 700 yards. With dozens of wary eyes, Steve and I belly crawled into 420 yards. My guides, Tural and Osimon, stayed back as to not draw too much attention. One shot and the best billy of the group was down. Dustin was on the opposite mountain in a pinch point hoping the billies would move his way. They took a different route. His hunt would continue.” - Athlete Cole Kramer


“After Cole harvested his Tur, we crossed the gnarliest mountain face I’ve ever seen. We crept along the mountain for nearly five hours in the dark, amidst a blowing snow storm to get back to camp. I took this photo the morning prior and thought it was impossible for a human to navigate such terrain. One very calculated step at a time, with micro spikes and using all fours, proved otherwise. It was harried five hours. I don’t intend to get into terrain like this again, but if it does happen, it’s nice to know that it is possible.” - Photographer Steven Drake

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