Firstly my apologies in the delay in writing this report. Children, stalking and work seem to have been occupying my life!
However, I was fortunate enough to visit with a good friend in Spain just after Christmas. Now, unfortunately I teach. This means that I have a rather restricted ability to get abroad at peak hunting times and often have to fit hunting trips into a long weekend. The peak seasons just donít coincide with my holidays.
I took a Friday night flight from Stansted landing in Murcia. My host and friend Alfonso picked me up and we made the hour or so drive to his house. I was staying on the top floor of the property which is set up for his guests. The basement of the house has been converted into a rather large trophy room for his Asian, European and American trophies.
A quick bottle of wine and roast chicken was met with instructions to get some sleep as we would be leaving in two hours. Given that that would mean we were leaving at 2 am I was a little surprised but, anticipation was building for what we would be doing.
Blearily clambering into the Range Rover I was struck by how cold it was. The dashboard thermometer read -4C. Oddly it had been 30C when I landed the previous night. Still I had bought along my downjacket and snuggled into the seat for a snooze. I donít think I had shut my eyes before an elbow in the ribs awoke me. Instructions were issued that we were going to cruise the vineyards looking for a boar for me. Now Iíve shot boar before but never had a tusker and I had admired the 50 or so sets of trophy tusks Alfonso had in his trophy room. It transpired that I was to try for one too. We drove from olive grove to olive grove and foot stalked by moonlight, listening to see if we could hear the pigs feeding. Our route of progress was slow but exciting and sun up saw us pigless but at the foot of the hills after our true quarry a Granada Macho Montes (or Sierra Nevada Ibex as we call them in the UK and USA). These are a unique looking ibex with a beautiful rearward lyre shape to their horns. They have a lighter coloration then Gredos or Beceite Ibex.
A quick bite to eat of oranges and homemade boar and Barbary sheep salami was taken whilst we scanned the surrounding hills for Macho Montes. Now Iíve hunted Beceite Ibex before and really enjoyed the experience, and as a result knew where to look for the animals. Scanning away we quickly found a couple of small billies but, discounted these as being below 60cm which was the lower size limit allowed to be taken in the area. We moved on glassing and scanning and saw a staggering amount of nannies, kids and immature billies, but the big billies we were after were not in evidence yet. The rut should have been about over at this time, and my friend had warned me that we were not there in the best time and that it might be difficult. I honestly was getting worried by now. In order to get time away from the family (and at that time a heavily pregnant wife) took a serious amount of effort!
However, I shouldnít have worried! Coming around a bend on a track we decided to scan the opposing hill sides, and low and behold there was a band of billies. Several good ones that were of a huntable size were to be seen, although they were well over 1km away and with a very tricky approach. A quick debate on whether or not we should go for it was undertaken, although trust me it was very quick!
We started the climb and by mid-morning after several hours of climbing were in a position where we could crest a small rise and look across the hill side. Ibex tend to look down when looking for danger, and an ideal approach is always made from above but with this terrain it wasnít possible. We were sideways onto them and at just over 400m but with deadground between us and them a closer approach would not have been possible. Now Iíve shot mountain game that far away before, shoot a lot and was using a very heavy calibre. If a suitable animal presented itself I was happy to shoot, knowing that if I missed and they ran then they were likely to come towards us anyway.
We scanned the billies and identified one as a good medal class billy with about 70cm horns with the lovely shape and mass that old billies attain. He was feeding broadside to us, and would often stand still surveying his surroundings. Using the rucksacks as sandbags and a bipod I was able to get a very steady rest. Having adjusted the bullet drop compensator to the correct distance I gently squeezed the trigger. I had forgotten quite how loud a .338winmag is!
I had managed to collect a fine ibex, with the most beautiful cape. After a few moments quiet contemplation whilst soaking in the breath taking views and simply awesome animal it was down to business. I was desperate to full mount it, but settled for a shoulder mount due to my wifeís reaction when the last full mount arrived! Caping was carried out and a much heavier load featured in both our rucksacks on the way down the mountain.
Arriving back at the vehicle late afternoon we had lunch whilst I admired my prize. Alfonso grinned, tapped me on the shoulder and indicated we get back in the vehicle. I thought we were going for a few celebratory beers and slunk into a happy slumber. I was a little surprised to be woken up by being bumped along a farm track in what looked like a forest. Odd location for a bar was going through my mind when an arm gripped my shoulder and directed me to look out the window. What theÖ there was a Barbary sheep ewe and lamb feeding away in a clearing. Grinning away like a demented baboon, Alfonso asked if I would also like a trophy Barbary. It was one of the questions that didnít really need asking!
We parked up and set off on foot, looking across valleys at clearings trying to spot sheep. These things are huge but by goodness are they hard to spot. Their russet coloration seems to make them impossible to see. We had a fun filled hour or two searching but were only seeing young animals or ones that didnít quite make the grade. Trudging back to the vehicle we discussed whether to try for pigs again or get a good nights sleep and be out looking for Barbary in the morning. I have to say Barbary won!
With an early evening flight booked it was going to be quite a task to get an animal, get it caped and in the vehicle and get back to his house, with enough time to make the flight. We set ourselves a time limit of three pm to have shot. I know he usually asks guests to allow three days for a Barbary, so it was a big ask.
Given the time pressures he chose to go to an area of small rolling hills which were home to a good number of Barbary. The sheep were introduced here from their native North Africa and have done so well that they are now to be removed from areas as they outcompete the Ibex. The morning was hot, dusty and with a swirling wind. Wonderful to be out in and a joy after a cold British winter, but not ideal for hunting sheep. We did get set up for a shot but he caught our wind and left the area at speed.
To be honest, I was actually pleased that it had done that. I had had such a good time hunting here that I wanted an excuse to return and prior to catching my flight arranged to go back for the sheep this October together with a friend.