February 10, 2022
Lucas Paugh is an engineer in the petroleum industry, so his days are filled with the challenges of sourcing black gold. But when he’s not busy at work in California, his calendar is filled with worldwide hunting adventures. From Alaska, to Africa, to South America, and even New Zealand, Paugh has hunted big game across the globe. But his most recent big game hunting adventure has taken him all the way to the peaks of the Tien Shan Mountain range of Kyrgyzstan in pursuit of Mid-Asian Ibex.
“I enjoy the cultures internationally, I enjoy the people, I enjoy the food, everything about international travel I enjoy,” said Paugh, “To me the hunting is always kind of a bonus to that.”
Like many other international travelers, Paugh didn’t get out of the country in 2020. So, in that downtime, he began looking for other hunting opportunities.
“I was contacted through my booking agency (World of Hunting Adventure, Jack Brittingham) that I use about Kyrgyzstan. They had an opportunity for me to go and do an extreme mountain hunt, and I’ve always wanted to go and do ibex or a marco polo hunt.”
With plenty of ibex permits, Paugh and the outfitter started picking dates in early September for their hunt. But then, out of nowhere, the Stone Sheep hunt in northern British Columbia that Paugh had booked back in 2018 finally came through. After a spell of banned Canadian travel, the border was now opened. So, Paugh headed North to sheep hunt knowing that he’d only have three days in between his Canadian and Asian hunting adventures.
Upon returning to the U.S., none of Paugh’s bags made it back home from Canada. With only two days between trips, he had no other option but to borrow the needed hunting gear from his friend Ryan Olsen.
“I called Ryan and he drove up that day.” says Paugh. “He pulled everything out of his closet, put in the back of his truck and told me, ‘Take whatever you want’.”
From pants to base layers, every piece of Kuiu gear for Paugh’s ibex adventure was borrowed—including the Gunwerks 28 Nosler he was shooting. Once outfitted, Paugh and his friend Andy Moeckel, the “Flip Flop Guy”, along with cameraman Justin Geike, took off for the mountain peaks of Kyrgyzstan.
“Once we arrived, it was pretty surreal,” said Paugh. “The valley is cut by a river and all the mountains surrounding it are straight up. It’s rather intimidating looking up. We had dinner and emptied out our packs and clothes. We had a short night. We were very tired from the 26 hours of air travel and 13 hours of car travel.”
On that first night of the hunt, the group turned up a huge group of billies, and the anticipation made for a sleepless first night.
On the first day of the hunt, Moeckel had a shot opportunity at the first ibex of the trip, unfortunately, the shot didn’t meet its mark. The hunters quickly learned that they had no choice but to build a custom ballistic profile for proper windage and elevation adjustments. They used Paugh’s phone app to calculate and record the needed corrections and set themselves up for a more accurate shot. Once corrected, the group rode to a higher elevation and moved in on more big billies.
“This time, I did a line-of-sight yardage (537) with an estimated horizontal range (511), said Paugh.” We went with 510 on the turret and let it rip. Andy smoked a really good billy and he didn’t move an inch after the shot. We celebrated and congratulated Andy on a very well-placed one-shot kill.”
With the help of the guides, the group got trophy pictures, began the caping, and prepped for the pack out.
The next day, the group turned up a band of billies early in the morning and moved into position.
“The guides were speaking but [we] couldn’t understand them,” recounts Paugh. “I picked out the best one I could see and sent my first round. I missed! That opened the mad rush and they all scattered. I was able to relocate the big billy and sent one as he was moving. I put another cartridge in the chamber and waited for him to stop or slow down. He didn’t. So, I ranged again at 450, set the turret, and squeezed my third shot off, which proved to be vital.”
Within less than 48 hours, Moeckel and Paugh each had a Mid Asian Ibex. They returned to camp and filled their bodies with a fire-side dinner and even found the time to record a podcast. Then they planned for more hunting.
The Mental Battle Begins
The permits they held in Kyrgyzstan are all based on a government permit allocation process, and because the two previous years had zero hunters, many of the permits had spilled over. So, with plenty of tags to fill, the group buckled down and searched for more.
By day three, Paugh had already taken 22,627 steps and traveled 10.90 Miles. But he and the others continued to traverse the arduous terrain in search of more mature ibex. Soon, Moeckel was back behind his rifle, but he shot and missed. The group double checked for blood and wrapped up a difficult day of unsuccessful hunting.
A Double Header
Battling through the misses in his head, Moeckel carried on with the hunt and took to the rifle first thing the next morning.
“We stopped for a brief moment,” said Paugh. “And rolling over the top was three nice billies within shooting range. We changed courses and made our way up the mountain towards them. The three ibex tucked behind some rocks, so we made our move to close the distance. There was one standing there looking down at us. Andy spotted him and I immediately saw him, too. When I ranged, it was a 340-yard line of sight corrected to 310. I made the call at 300 and the first shot buried in the front shoulder.”
By 8:00 a.m. that day, Moeckel had shot and killed his second ibex.
The group was busy cleaning out Andy’s ibex when they noticed another group of ibex off in the distance. The animals were moving on a high mountain peak atop a glacier, and the guides noted that they were big billies. So, the hunters returned to camp, on the other side of the mountain, packed up their gear, and replaced it in a better position to get in on the big group of ibex.
Once camp was set, the hunters were off on another stalk.
“It was crazy! They came off this glacier and started playing right to me,” said Paugh. “They literally ended up running right to where I was. We closed the distance a little bit and got to 285 yards. I took a shot and I missed, again! Now they’re on the run. So, I set the turret at 400 and shot. Somehow, I got a bullet through his shoulder and out his neck. You could hear screams and cheers echoing across the mountain.”
The group made their way to the downed ibex as the snow began to fall. Paugh’s second billy ended up being a little over 50-inches—a top tier ibex. A supergiant. The group packed him up and celebrated with shots of schnapps as they rode off the mountain that night.
When the hunters finally made it back to camp, the welcoming they received was surreal.
“They greeted us on the horses, they were singing, and as soon as they pulled the ibex off, they all pulled out their measuring tapes and started measuring them. It was like you were an emperor and you came back home after saving the world.”
Lucas Paugh’s Kyrgyzstani hunting adventure is the type of hunt many dream about, but for one dedicated big game hunter, it was a real-life adventure. Thankfully Paugh understood this fact, and the records he kept of his hunt are what provided the chance to share this incredible story. But Paugh didn’t fail to mention to me over the phone that, “Photos are good, journaling is good, but getting it on video and getting a production is just the next level.”
If you’d like to see more from this hunt, be sure to stay tuned to The Experience and the White Bone Creations YouTube channels, where Paugh and his team will be airing the final version of their hunting video.