American Trophy Hunter Triggers Controversy After Shooting Protected Goat In Pakistan


As many of you know, I am no fan of such trophy hunts.  I often hike in remote spots to see bears and other animals in their natural habitat. We have previously followed the controversy over the shooting of “Cecil the Lion” by an American dentist Walter Palmer from Minnesota as well as  subsequent controversies of an Idaho hunter taunting animal advocates and killing giant elephants or giraffes  or famed wolves for trophies. Now, American trophy hunter Bryan Kinsel Harlan, an entrepreneur from Texas, has triggered an outcry in Pakistan after paying over $100,000 for the joy of shooting a rare mountain goat (a national symbol of Pakistan).

I cannot understand the joy of killing one of these animals or the challenge of shooting them with a high-powered rifle.  I seek out these animals and take pictures with the same ease it would be to kill them.  Yet, many feel a tremendous release in killing these animals and posing with their dead bodies. As I have previously stated, as an avid hiker, I often go many miles to see such animals in their natural habitat. The idea of then pulling out a rifle to kill one of them is as foreign a notion for me as would be cutting a painting out of its frame at a museum to possess it. 

The markhor is a magnificent species of wild goat with long hair and spiralled horns. It is a protected species in Pakistan but Harlan paid for the thrill of killing one in the Sassi-Harmosh community conservation area in Sassi village of Gilgit. Harlan went up a hill and shot a mountain goat with a high-powered rifle and then bragged about it. He said “it was an easy and close shot and I am pleased to take this trophy.” I bet it was. It was a mountain goat grazing when he blew it away for the thrill kill.

The video shows Harlan being helped up the mountain by numerous guides and then positioned to shoot the goat. He then expresses joy at the rather unimpressive act of shooting a grazing animal.

There is of course nothing illegal in what Harlan did. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped trophy hunters return with these animals by changing their status from endangered to threatened. Pakistan has an awful record on such hunts. We previously discussed how officials allowed Saudi princes to massacre rare birds in such a hunt.

As a result, the markhor populace had rebounded enough by 2015 that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature upgraded the species from endangered to “near-threatened.” According to the conservationist website Green Global Travel, the comeback of the markhor is “one of the world’s great but little known conservation success stories.”

The money raised from trophy hunters goes to the locals. I can understand their interest in getting a huge amount of money. I just do not understand the joy on Harlan’s face like he just accomplished something by pulling a trigger from a safe distance from a goat. However, I watched this video repeatedly to try to understand the thrill in killing such a defenseless animal.

64 thoughts on “American Trophy Hunter Triggers Controversy After Shooting Protected Goat In Pakistan”

  1. I find myself wondering what a horrible SOB I must be. I put in for archery bull elk here in AZ this fall for the first time in about 4 years. This is a trophy hunt. It is a lottery draw. The odds of me getting drawn are pretty low. The odds of a rifle cow elk tag, a “meat” hunt, aren’t much better. I am not going to fool myself into thinking I will have the time to build a hickory backed Ipe longbow for this hunt like I have in the past. I’m listening to my 4 month old fighting going to sleep in the bedroom right now, which is why I have time to even write this response. I will hunt with a fiber glass longbow a buddy built for me years ago instead. If I get drawn of course.

    I read a lot on this blog about the difference between “trophy” hunting vs hunting for meat. With the rare exception, it is all “trophy” hunting these days. The last cow elk I killed cost me money. I would have been better off selling my hunting gear and buying beef, from an economic standpoint. But I used the knowledge I gained “trophy” hunting the same area. I killed that cow with a high powered rifle. I field dressed her. I aged the quarters. I butchered the meat, and ate it. I did the same thing with the bull elk I killed with a longbow about 6 years earlier. I spent weeks scouting for the bull. It took more time to get the shot. Obviously I had to get closer. I could take that time and work that much harder for the bull because I was younger, single, and had no children.

    I feel a very strong drive to start “trophy” hunting again. Reading this blog makes me wonder why I am so driven to kill this animal due to my apparent blood lust. I would be far better off selling of all my guns and buying meat from the grocery store. (By the time I count my time, gas, equipment, etc., prime rib would look like spam from a money angle.) In this way I could kill the same number of animals in a much more economical way. It must be worth it to me to kill the animal.

    It’s true that when I hunt I work hard to kill the animal I am after. It is the object or the goal. Whether the kill is the object or goal of the hunt depends on wether it is a “trophy” hunt or not. With the cow mentioned above, the kill was the goal. I had a limited amount of time due to work and family obligations. I squeezed as much of the experience into that time as I could, with about 150lbs of meat to help offset the cost. Cheaper and less fulfilling than the earlier “trophy” hunt, but I am not I ashamed. With a trophy hunt, the kill is the object, but not the goal. I was able to take my time and take the entire hunt. In the years between these two hunts, there was another where I was “trophy “ hunting. I achieved the goal but not the object. I am batting 1.000 on “meat” hunts. About .500 on “trophy “ hunts.

    Another explanation for my blood lust, far fetched as some might think, is that the overall experience of the hunt is the point. The kill included. It is more often than not about the work and toil in difficult circumstances. It is the adrenaline rush of seeing that work pay off with the shot. And the indescribable duopoly of elation and sorrow of the kill. I pity those who have not experienced this. I have a great deal of respect for Professor Turley, but I can tell by just his writing that he has no idea what I am talking about because he hikes and takes pictures. I have never taken a bite of a store bought steak that I did not consider the sacrifice the animal made to make this possible. Based on the Professor’s words and the comments of others, I can say confidently they can not say the same thing.

    Nobody here has any idea about what happened on either side of this video. It is only s small snapshot of this hunters experience. Maybe he is a pig. Maybe he is a newbie who has more money than experience. Maybe he has been climbing these Pakistani mountains for days, puking once or twice, to get this easy shot with a high powered rifle.

    I have no desire to go to Pakistan and hunt this pticular goat. There are others that I would if I had the cash. I can only imagine the experience. I do not have the cash so I put in for lottery hunts in my home state. If you have the energy to type a response on this blog , then you have killed to perpetuate your life. Almost certainly without considering the death you caused. Maybe, before you gut and quarter somebody for hunting in a way you do not understand, you should put your soul where your keypad is, and try it.

    1. “I am in no way supportive of hunting for trophies or sport – would never do it and don’t like it that others do.


      ― Anthony Bourdain

  2. Mr Turly, at least this time you admit you don’t understand it. In this case there was little “thrill”. As the hunter commented it was a fairly easy shot. The “thrill” that this hunter got was probably mostly from his contemporaries, not for having achieved some sort of difficult hunt, but by making such a huge contribution to conservation, for having traveled and hiked in such a remote area, and for putting yet one more species on the wall.

    You state that you enjoy nature, and hiking. I do too. I’ve hiked for months in the arctic in the winter and through unmapped mountains and rivers with just one other person in the forests of the Lao/Burmese border. The mountains of Wyoming/Colorado/Idaho/Montana/and Utah. I spent most of my third decade in the mountains, both working and recreating. I too used to have a bigoted view of hunters. When I came to understand more, and when I began hunting, I expanded my knowledge of and comfort in nature and wildlife considerably. I suggest you suspend judgement and try to understand it a little more.

  3. You haven’t had any real fun until you’ve hunted prey that hunts back.

    “War is Hell…

    Combat is a Mother——!”

    – Anonymous

  4. I live in a place where deer hunting is common and I understand that. Most who kill them eat them. And they overpopulate without hunting seasons. While I wouldn’t do it I don’t fault those who want to. I have no idea why anyone would choose to hunt rare species in setups as described here. Seems chickenshit to me.

  5. “You don’t understand” is a choice. To understand one must experience. Many are hunters and many are not. It is not either’s necessity to judge the other. Your understanding might be…to not judge.

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