Business owner impresses with hunting skills, stories of world travel

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Pictured is Dave Zirbel with one of his trophies that fills his home near Gays Mills. (Photo by Rachel Mergen)

Pictured above is Zirbel on his hunt in Kyrgyzstan. For this hunt, he found himself with trophies of Hume Argali and Mid–Asian Ibex. (Photo by Profihunt)

By Rachel Mergen


Sixteen-thousand feet above the world, looking across the surrounding peaks, is unimaginable to most, but Gays Mills resident Dave Zirbel has experienced that dream while following his passion of international hunting. Kyrgyzstan’s mountations were just one of the many destinations some the construction business owner has visited during his frequent trips around the country and world. 

Zirbel started by simply raising cattle, but soon moved into the field of construction. He and his wife own the business Hidden Valley Builders, Inc., which specializes in insulating concrete form.

The couple’s family grew over time, now being the loving parents of three sons who have found great enjoyment in the opportunity to be able to join their parents on occasional trips that the average person only dream of. 

Zirbel sees his relationship with animals as very complex. He grew up with animals, learning to appreciate them from a very young age. To this day, he raises food plots for the local wild animals to enjoy. In his home though, which is defined by some in the community as a castle, hanging on the walls are found many taxedermied animals from around the globe, along with many hides in a variety of places, including rugs on the floor and covers on chairs. 

Zirbel “always had a fascination with hunting,” he said looking back on his early years. 

Over his time in the hobby, Zirbel has enjoyed visiting places like Africa, Russia, New Zealand, Greenland and Alaska, along with many other locations. 

New Zealand especially stood out to his children, as one of his sons decided to move there soon after the visit.

The average trip lasts at least 25 days for him and his wife, who almost always comes along, but does not hunt, instead touring the countries and learning their histories. 

The trips take approximately seven months to plan, which includes the search for a visa and the purchasing of plane and helicopter tickets. He must also have a translator available to accompany him, along with a tour guide.

In the past, he’s worked to plan his trips through the Russian company Profihunt, which organizes hunting trips around the world.

During his travels, which started as simple trips around the area and country for deer hunting before his thirst for international travel truly hit him, Zirbel has met an immense amount of people from many different cultures. 

Traveling is especially interesting to Zirbel due to the chance to “see how other people live in the world.” He realized “how fortunate we are for what we have.” From meeting many people around the world, he learned that Americans often have way too many unnecessary items.

The people he's met around the world have broken all stereotypes Americans have created of them. Zirbel noted that everyone he's met and worked with  have been very kind, no matter the country they were from.

Surprisngly, before the most recent presidential election, he recalls that the people he met in his travels would often ask who he was planning on voting for. Both he and his wife had thought that it would be the last thing anyone would ask of them and he was always cautious to answer. The people who he visited with often voiced their opinion on they liked best of the candidates.

His hunting hobby is not just for the trophies that decorate his home. He explained that around the world, animals are very closely watched and regulated to protect against overpopulation, which can lead to disease spreading through species, potentially killing much of the animal population. 

Zirbel explained that many people he's met earn their yearly salaries by helping hunters with their hunting journeys, noting that the business is very important to them. This field of work pushes them to protect even more against poachers, who harm animal populations with no real consideration given for the animals. 

For personal use, his family and him also enjoy to use the meat from the animals, with no carcass going to waste.

One of the hardest experiences for Zirbel during his years of hunting was once becoming ill from bad water overseas. This illness limited him from being able to leave the country for over 20 days. This event also stopped him from going on another hunting trip for an entire year.

In the future, Zirbel has plans to hunt again in Africa, Greenland, Russia and Spain, stating that he hopes to “see even more of the world” and has “a lot of places to go yet.”

He has no particular animals he is looking for in his future journeys, but will always enjoy the opportunity to hunt sheep, as this game is the most challenging in his eyes.

His work in construction still occupies many of his days, as does traveling for his job. Zirbel and his family also enjoy lands he owns in different locations around the United States.

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