A Royal Sport, Hunting in Nepal

Royals in Nepal, and elsewhere too for that matter, have always been enthusiastic hunters. We’ve all seen plenty of old black and white photographs of some royal or the other dressed in hunters’ garb and holding a long barreled gun in his hands, posing proudly with one well-booted foot resting on a dead tiger or some other big game. Stuffed animals and tiger and leopard skins have graced palaces since time immemorial. The erstwhile royal palace in Kathmandu (now a museum) has plenty of such things, as do the residences of princes of yore.

Well, one might think that the sport of hunting is now a thing of the past, what with the hue and cry about animal rights and all, but hold on, you can still do a bit of hunting in Nepal. You may not be a royal but you can certainly have an experience of royalty’s favorite pastime. There are plenty of forests still around in the country, never mind that many have suffered encroachment to a degree that would bring tears to the eyes of a conservationist. Anyway, suffice it to say that there’s enough to provide home and hearth to many kinds of wild animals, some of whom you will be allowed to hunt.

There’s a hunting reserve as well so that you don’t do anything illegal, like going after game in protected areas. Actually, it must be said here that there’s a lot of poaching that goes on in these places since game is obviously plentiful, but you wouldn’t want to be so tempted. So, what do you do? You go to Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Established in 1983, this 1,325 sq km reserve adjoins Myagdi and Baglung districts in western Nepal. It has an interesting topography ranging from 3,000 m to 7,000 meters, and naturally, you’ll find many varieties of wildlife as well. One of the most prized animals to be found at this reserve is the blue sheep, while other animals include ghoral, serow, Himalayan tahr, black bear, pheasant, and partridge.

Getting there is an adventure too. You drive down from Kathmandu to Tansen-Tamgash, Gulmi, from where you hike for three days via Burtibang to reach the reserve. Alternately, you could fly to Pokhara and then drive to Baglung from where a four-day walk via Beni-Darbang-Lumsung-Jaljala takes you there. If you are loaded, charter a helicopter. The hunting season is from October to mid-April, although February-April and August-October are good times otherwise.

There are seven specified hunting blocks in the reserve within which you are allowed to hunt various kinds of wildlife. Naturally, blue sheep is the favorite for most hunters. These animals weigh around 60 kg and are about three feet tall, and they are found grazing at heights between 3,000 and 5,500 meters. Their salty blue skin color is the reason for their moniker, and their cylindrical curved horns make them excellent trophy animals. Another animal that is also prized is the Himalayan tahr which lives in small herds in the high mountain woods of Dhorpatan. You get a lot of deer in this reserve as well and they are a challenge as well due to their being pretty shy animals that are difficult to spot.  Wild boar, too, are fair game, but they can be quite mean spirited, and savage to the core, so caution is called for when going after them.

Well, that’s it then, if it’s what gives you a kick, then so be it. Happy hunting!

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