At the end of September I found myself at Manchester airport en route to Nice in the south of France, after the usual hassle of checking the gun and ammo in I got through to the departure lounge with plenty of time to spare.
I met my guide Erwan at Nice airport and we headed off to the mountains for the chamois, only he got lost, I pointed out that whilst traversing roads with a drop that can be measured in the 1000's of feet it might be a good idea for me to do the map reading, we eventually arrived at our destination with enough time to check the rifle.
We were up early the next morning to start the ascent in darkness, I had always envisaged chamois country as being devoid of cover but the mountains were covered in scrub. Just after first light we were checking rock faces and rocky outcrops for chamois. The cloud kept obscuring our vision and we had to wait until it blew over. I saw my very first chamois standing on a tower of rock as the clouds opened up but it was a young male, after glassing several more groups and climbing across rocky outcrops we spied a herd with several good females. We made our way out onto a rocky projection inorder to set up for a shot. The range was only 220 metres and the wind had dropped to a breeze, but the female we were after was at an awkward angle, after much waiting she eventually turned broadside and I placed the shot in her chest. I expected her to drop instantly but her front end was still up, when we approached her she was hanging from a branch by her horns stone dead.
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We then moved to another location near the Italian border for the mouflon ram, there is no hunting allowed on Thursday or Friday so I had two days to kill, in which I ate and drank rather too much, we had quite a few hikes in the mountains glassing for suitable rams.
On the Saturday Morning we left in the pitch black to start the ascent, i walked out of my accommodation with the rifle on my shoulder and down the street to the path leading up to the summit, it felt strange walking through the street with my rifle but when in Rome. We were close to the summit just as it started to get light, we could hear the bleating coming from ewes ad young rams. As it got light the guide saw the ram directly below but it was out of sight for me, we made our way down slowly, and the ram began to move out of the cover and up the opposite slope, I quickly got prone and sent a shot into its chest, the ram collapsed at the shot, we waited 5 minutes and made our way down. After a few pictures one of the guides carried the ram down on his back, and we had a celebratory piss up.
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The Sunday I joined the locals for a driven boar hunt, I never got a shot but still enjoyed the experience it ended up with the customary piss up. Then in the afternoon an old boy took me to see the red rut, the mountains were reverberating with the constant roaring, i felt very privileged to have been able to hear it.
The hunt was organised through www.seladang.com, and I would highly recommend them. Prior to this trip I put a lot of effort into getting into shape by walking in the lakes everyweek, I'm glad I did as I found the walking ok, the chamois hunt was 7 hours of walking, the ground was very steep and included some hairy moments when navigating across rocky outcrops with a back pack and rifle, the Mouflon hunt took 4 hours as we were lucky to get a shot after first light.