The passion behind the ‘trophy hunter’

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As I sit waiting for him to arrive, I look around his office at the immaculate sight of the trophies that hang on the walls. All these years, the achievements (as he likes to call them) hang with that much pride around his humble abode. As he finally arrives, he gestures for me to sit on a comfortable sofa-cum-bed, where I realise I’m going to spend a lot of interesting hours questioning him about his experiences.

“I’ve held the record for World’s biggest trophy hunter for years now, unchallenged and unbeaten up to date,” Amjad Gilani tells me, lighting up a cigarette and sipping on a glass of Coke; there are fresh kebabs too. “I am an ordinary man, nothing out-of-this-world, but I believe that once you have the will power to do anything, you become anything but average,” he chuckles, and I realise immediately that this man is not your every-day hunter to be messed with.

Taking up the art and acquiring it as heritage (hunting being a sport played by his father and grandfather), the love of animals runs in his veins. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t into the sport, yes sport I call it, and it should be treated as such; unfortunately we don’t have a lot being done in Pakistan for the purpose,” he exclaims.

Taking up the art and acquiring it as heritage (hunting being a sport played by his father and grandfather), the love of animals runs in his veins
Being a member of ‘Safari Club International’ which is a wildlife group acting internationally, Amjad has been rewarded certificates for his various achievements all over the world. From South Africa’s remote areas to New Zealand to Scotland and back to Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan), Amjad has gone to every nook and corner in search of wild life that excites him to the utmost.

“When you eat meat, you sacrifice a goat or cow for it, why is this any different? People all over the world preserve their beloved animals after their deaths through the process of taxidermies; they hire professionals to preserve their animals for them that they keep with them throughout their lives,”he adds, giving me a questioning look as if to see if I’m satisfied with his answer or not.

“You know the most expensive trophies are in our own country, and basically the reason why so many foreigners come here in search of Markhor,” he tells me this as his eyes light up with passion for the wild beauties he has seen around the world. “Blue sheep expeditions have made them rich, and all of the hunts have been by foreigners. I was the first Pakistani to go up in the Alps searching for them, and came closest but it was an unsuccessful hunt. It’s alright I guess, as I went in extreme weather of January when everyone told me it would be dangerous, considering that I’m diabetic and there was a lot of climbing involved,” he laughed at the thought of him getting really sick in those areas and not being able to travel at all.

Stressing on the need for conservation, he delights us with the thought of also conserving our animals, and restricting people from only shooting animals and not letting reproduction take place. “We need to conserve our wildlife, like they do in other countries. We need to bring forward the idea of conservation of animals and plants in our country; we can do wonders if this is acted upon,” he claims, informing me that there are no active wild life groups in Pakistan as yet, except for the one he is well acquainted with in Gilgit-Baltistan. “You know what those people do? They have set up their own committee; foreigners get a permit for a couple of bucks, and that money is spent on conservation or on solving their community’s personal issues: getting a couple married, financial aid for education, hospital funds, you name it.”

People all over the world preserve their beloved animals after their deaths through the process of taxidermies; they hire professionals to preserve their animals for them that they keep with them throughout their lives
“I spent 10 days in Shimshaal village, a place near Passu, which comes when you cross Gilgit. The area is hilly and uneven terrain doesn’t let cars pass, so we went by foot. We (friends) climbed one of the highest mountain peak of the world, the expedition was entirely new to us; we did not catch the blue sheep but we learnt a lot,” he adds.

The only Pakistani having his expeditions shown at the International Safari Club Convention held in the United States every year, Amjad Gilani tells us that this isn’t the end to his achievements, there’s more. “I’ve been teaching my sons to shoot a rifle correctly, and they’ve learnt a great deal with time. My brother owns a club in London and he teaches people to professionally shoot and hold the rifle. It’s in our blood, like I said. We are proud learners, and now we are teachers too,” he smiles, figuring that we are nearing the end of our oh-so-interesting conversation. “I hunted 17 species in South Africa on a provincial level, and the antelope that I hunt is still the biggest to date. 39 inches is the size of its horns (being measured by horn-size), and the largest in the world is 41 inches, that I slightly missed while shooting this one. I could’ve been in the Guiness Book of world records you know,” he lets out a meager laugh, a laugh of a passionate man who has not been lucky enough, but lucky still. “Although now, I focus more on teaching people and my own two sons hold records up in the mountains too. I give my students (sons) training on gun safety, how to hold a rifle, how they’re supposed to deal with accidents if God forbid they occur, and how to play the game in general. Rules and regulations apply everywhere, you cannot reach any place without them.”

I thank him for his hospitality and the really tasty kebabs and Coke combo. This has been one of the most interesting conversations I have had up till date, with one of the most amazingly strong and passionate (not to mention fully charged on will power) men that I have ever met, and I hope his ideas of hunting as a sport, the idea of conservation, training and teaching for the rules and regulations of the game and overall crux of achievement enlightens every weak mind in the world; if a diabetic can climb up mountain peaks with only will power and passion, in search of his sunrise, then so can you.

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