Barbary Sheep in Spain

Barbary Sheep from SW Spain

Barbary Sheep from SW Spain

I had a unique opportunity a few weeks back to participate in a semi-‘trial’ hunt for Barbary sheep in southwest Spain. Some friends in Spain were aware of a landowner whom had a good population of free-range Barbary sheep that he was interested in trying to market to sportsmen. To my knowledge, it is the only free-range Barbary sheep hunt anywhere outside of the southwest US. I was very interested as it is as close as one can hunt to the sheep’s native range in northern Africa. I was warned ahead of time, though, that it would be very challenging as the brush is very thick and open ground was limited. Exactly what I wanted to hear! – I signed up right away. The hunt turned out to be very challenging indeed as the sheep were not hard to glass (we were seeing up to 50 sheep per day), but the thick brush resulted in very limited opportunity to get close enough for a good shot. On day 3 we came extremely close to shooting a huge ram as it fed by us at only 40 yards, but we could only see the top of his horns in the brush and boulders. Our guide/spotter was going insane as he could see both the sheep and us in the binos at he same time and couldn’t figure out why we weren’t shooting. Very frustrating for all. This was the biggest ram the game keeper had ever seen on the property. On our eighth trip out we managed to score on a representative ram, so the hunt was a success and proved very exciting.

I also had the opportunity to hunt roe deer with a friend in two different parts of Spain. He has an exceptional lease for roe buck and we both shot huge bucks on day 1 and 2. I also was given a chance to shoot a buck in northern Spain. The scenery there was fantastic, even though trophy quality of deer is nothing like on his lease in central Spain. Another great trip to Spain!

Rare non-typical roe buck

Rare non-typical roe buck

 

Combo Hunt for Czech Hunters

 

Big whitetail for Jan

Big whitetail for Jan

Jan Divis of the Czech Republic hunter with Bearcat earlier in 2014 and scored on a huge cougar and bobcat. His friend Petr Vlasak really wanted a trophy cougar as well, so Jan scheduled a trip for he and Petr to return this November and do a combo trip. Jan wanted deer and lynx if possible and Petr was to primarily target cougar. The hunt started off with a snag as their luggage was misplaced in Frankfurt, so we had to start our hunt with the clients borrowing clothes and gear. It didn’t slow us down, though, as we got a very good whitetail for Jan on day 1. The hunt continued with their own gear arriving on day 2 which made things much more comfortable. We continued hunting deer for the first few days as we had no snow, then we got a decent dump on day 3. We then shifted priorities to cats. We ran a lynx on day 4 which was a long, hard race and leaving the lynx to go his merry way and hunters and dogs tired. Assistant guide Colin Edney did cut a good cougar track, though, just before dark on day 4 and we knew where we would be starting our hunt on day 5. The conditions were poor on day five with fairly heavy snow falling in the morning, but we kept pounding the area we last saw the big cougar track and as luck goes sometimes when hunting, the tom travelled in the middle of the day and we cut his track that was only about 20 minutes old. Hunt on! The dogs were released and after about 1 hour, the big cat was treed. We made our way to the tree with the clients and Petr harvested his fantastic trophy. Petr had a chance later in the hunt on a huge whitetail that Jan and I had spotted, but by the time he and Colin made it to where the buck was holed up with a couple of does, the buck broke cover at too great of distance for him to make a confident shot. Peter and Colin chased a couple different bobcats the remainder of the trip but were not able to tree one. Jan and I mostly hunted mule deer but didn’t find a trophy buck and passed on a young 4X3. We all had a great time with two good trophies for the boys to take home to Czech.

Petr's big tom.

Petr’s big tom.

 

 

 

 

Meat Moose for Randy

Randy's bull

Randy’s bull

Randy Bell got a big Shiras bull with Bearcat last October. The plan was for him to come back the first week of Oct. this fall and try and get him another big bull. Randy’s busy work schedule meant he had to cancel the plan for early October. We were able to reschedule for mid-October, which isn’t the greatest time for a moose hunt since the bulls have gone into post-rut doldrums, but we would have to do our best to make things work. We put in a lot of hours scouring the country and glassing hard, but it wasn’t until day 7 that we glassed a small bull feeding in a cutblock across the valley from one of our favourite lookouts. We quickly closed the distance on the bull and as we rounded a corner in the logging road, spotted the bull still feeding at about 240 yards. Randy got set and put a perfect shot on the bull with his .300 Mag. Meat moose down! We had our work cut out getting the bull into the pick-up, but all part of the adventure. The trophy in this animal is in the meat and Randy and family will have some great eating this winter.

 

 

First Day 6-Points

6-points

First Day Elk

I just got back from my annual pilgrimage to northern BC. It was a long drive and a serious ATV ride into our chosen hunting area for myself and my posse, but the effort proved worthwhile. Day 1 of the hunt was very rewarding with two 6-point elk being called in to close range and harvested. The rest of the trip did not result in any further elk being harvested, but a caribou was added to the bag as a ‘bonus’ animal. Weather was great and we all had a great trip. Looking forward to another successful trip next year. It is now time to change focus to moose hunting and the Oct. 1 opener!

2 elk, 1 caribou

Northern BC harvest

 

Dream Hunt in Kyrgistan

Good Hume argali.

Neil with Marco Polo ram.

I had an opportunity at the end of February to go on an adventure I have been dreaming of since I was a kid. I recall as a youngster reading of sportsmen hunting the mighty Marco Polo sheep in Asia and had always hoped it was a species I would pursue on day. This winter, I had an opportunity presented by a friend and booking agent in Europe whom indicated he could organize a last-minute Marco Polo and ibex hunt in Kyrgistan. I had a hard look at it, did some research, looked at my schedule, negotiated a price and said ‘What the hell, this opportunity isn’t going to come around every day.’ So, in February I was on a plane heading to Kyrgistan! It was a long trip, but I landed in Bishek (capital of Kyrgistan) in the middle of the night and was met by my interpreter/assistant whom eased my transition to this very foreign land. We immediately headed out of the city and started on the long drive to the hunting concession. I was amazed by the beauty of the country but also a little awed by the poverty of the people living in the rural areas. It is a very poor country and are still finding their own way since breaking from the USSR in 1991. Due to this apparent poverty, I was also apprehensive if the locals would have overhunted the game for sustenance and income. This worry was to be quickly laid to rest.

The drive to base camp was slow and some poor roads covered. This camp was extremely remote and required crossing a military-type checkpoint to gain access. When asked why this checkpoint was necessary, I learned it was because we would be close to the border of China and also to strictly control access due to the wildlife values of the area. This gave me a good idea how strictly they control their hunting and part of the reason I was to see so much game in the area. When we arrived, I found it to be very comfortable and had exotic, yet good food. I proceeded to sight-in my borrowed rifle for the trip (a nice Remington SPS in .300 Mag), had dinner and headed to bed for some well-needed rest. The next morning we jumped in a Russian jeep and slowly made our way into spike camp where we would base out of for our hunt. Once in spike camp, we immediately headed out hunting. Game on and I was stoked! We rode the little Kyrgz ponies about 45 minutes and set up to glass on a high vantage south of camp. Within minutes we had spotted several herds of sheep and ibex! My fears of depleted game populations were quickly laid to rest. We immediately started a stalk on a herd of Marco Polo. The first herd had no good rams, so we kept riding. We kept seeing herd after herd of sheep throughout the day. No real big rams were spotted on day 1, but it was apparent that with this many sheep, it was only a matter of time before we spotted ‘the’ ram. Day 2 was basically the same – ride and glass and put several stalks on rams. At one point we glassed a herd of about 25 rams across the valley from us, and decided to ride over to that side and get a better  look. Where they ride their horses is simply amazing. They are small horses by North American standards, but extremely strong and sure-footed. We slowly made our way to where we saw the big herd of rams and eventually relocated them, but just as we were easing over a ridge to make a final assessment for big rams, the wind shifted on us and they took off in a huge cloud of dust and rolling rocks. We could see, though, that there were at least 2 big rams in the group. We were very disappointed, but made a huge circle around the mountain and one of the guides and I went ahead on foot to see if we could locate the herd again. After a long hike, we were almost back to the valley floor where we were to meet the other guides and the horses, when my guide excitedly pointed uphill where we could see a small group of rams. We got down into rocks and got positioned for a possible shot, but could see they were only young rams. Where was the rest of the herd? We kept watching and the young rams got nervous and took off uphill to the left then kind of hooked around and started downhill to the valley floor. Hmmm… Looking down below these rams, we saw the rest of the rams from the large herd walk out into the open. Holy crap about 20 rams knotted up in a bunch! A quick assessment revealed a good ram out in the open a bit to the left of the group. I quickly got the rifle around and my bipod kind of level on a small rock shelf and contorted my body to get steady. My guide was very excited and urged me to hurry up. Easy for him to say, but I know what it is like to be the guide in that situation. I am sure it was only a few seconds, but seemed like it was taking quite a bit of time to get organized for the shot, then there he was, large-as-life in my scope and boom! Ouch…scope came back and nailed me. I can’t see where my ram went since my eyes are watering badly, blood is obviously pouring down my face and there are sheep running everywhere. I was confident in my shot, so was not too worried and proceeded to apply pressure to my wound while my guide sprinted down the hill to see where the ram went. Within a minute he was whooping and hollering and waving frantically to me. I sort of got the bleeding stopped then made my way down to see my ram. What a beauty! I was thrilled.

The next morning it was off to hunt ibex. The guides rode us through the bottoms of very steep canyons and we kept scanning the canyon walls for ibex. We some several groups before one of the guides excitedly exclaimed something in Russian and soon they were spurring the hell out of the horses and we all raced up the frozen stream bed. Certainly not how I expecting to be hunting ibex. Oh well, go with what the guides do and hang on! I could quickly see the cause of the excitement – a large group of ibex billies we running parallel to us on the canyon wall and only about 100 yards up from the bottom. It was also obvious that there were a least several shooters in the group. We gained on the billies and once beside them, everyone bailed off the horses and they beckoned me to quickly get set up for the shot. I scrambled for a rest and one of the guides dropped down on his butt ahead of me and beckoned me to rest on his shoulder. OK…your ears. I picked out a good billy and got on him as he was running across the scree. Give him a bit of lead and hit the trigger. Crap, must of missed. Crank another round in. Just as he was about to clear a small ridge and gain safety, I got on him and let rip. Sounded good, but couldn’t see what happened as he immediately disappeared. I gather myself and calmed down a bit and watched as the guides quickly rode ahead to see where the ibex had gone. Within a few seconds they were whooping and hollering again, so it was evident I had made the second shot count. I rode up on them and could see a great billy lying at the toe of the slope where he had obviously fell at least 300 vertical feet to land on the ice. What a sight!

This ended the hunting portion of my trip. I spent a day in base camp and relaxed while the camp taxidermist prepared my trophies. We then made the long trip back to Bishek where I spent a couple of days sight seeing. I had a number of days to kill since the actual hunt was a lot shorter than I had anticipated, so I changed my flights a bit and then headed to Istanbul, where I also spent a couple of days of sight seeing. I had a great trip and fulfilled a life-long dream. The outfitter was extremely well organized, has been in business for over 20 years and has great concessions to hunt. I highly recommend this adventure and if anyone is interested, I would gladly assist them in getting their own trip organized.

39 inch billy.

Great mid-Asian ibex.

 

Two Toms for Jan

Potential B&C tom.

Jan with very large tom.

Hunter Jan Divis of the Czech Republic had an extremely successful hunt with Bearcat Outfitters in February. He had originally booked the hunt in January, but due to very poor snow conditions we re-booked the hunt for mid-February. Fortunately Jan had the flexibility in his schedule to re-book the hunt and this proved to be a very good decision by all. The hunt started with extremely cold temperatures of -30 Celsius, but we all made the best of it and persevered. The first two days were spent covering large areas on the snowmobiles, but no big tom tracks were cut. We cut one tom track, but it appeared to be small- to medium-size and we didn’t release the hounds on it. On day three, the local trapper told us of a cat that had been destroying his trap sets, so we located the fresh tracks and let the hounds go to see if we could help him out a bit. The hounds treed the cat in fairly short order, but when we got to the tree we looked the cat over closely and it was a female that appeared to be pregnant. It was a legal cat to harvest, but as a group we made the call to let it go. We kept scouting for a good tom track and later that afternoon, I cut the track of a large tom and we spent the remainder of that day and the morning of day 4 unsuccessfully trying to ‘box’ this cat in. The afternoon of day 4, though, we tried getting ahead of the cat by scouting some new areas and my guide Shane Brady cut the tom’s track. It appeared to have hooked-up with a female cougar, so we knew where we would be on the morning of day 5! The next morning we converged where we last saw the tom track and walked the hounds in on leashes to see if we could freshen the track up. Sure enough, we only went about 500 yards and found where the tom and the female had killed a mule deer and had bedded nearby. We sorted out the tracks to make sure we were on the tom’s track and released the hounds. They went about 1 km. and treed the large tom. Jan made a great shot and the cat was in the bag. The tom has a huge skull and looks like it may well qualify for the Boone & Crocket record book. We then went on to hunt bobcat on day 6. We let the hounds go on a bobcat track that looked smoking-fresh, but after about 2 or 3 hours we caught up to the hounds as they were slowly working on the track and the track didn’t look any fresher than when we first let the dogs go on it. We had to admit defeat and surmised that it was a tom bobcat that was ‘lining out’ simply looking for a receptive female. Oh well, we still had one last day of hunting to try and close the deal on a bobcat. On day 7, I cut a big bobcat track in fresh snow and again the hounds were release. The hounds trailed the cat for only about 1 hour and then we heard them baying ‘treed.’ We hiked into the dogs, but could not locate the bobcat in the tree. We spent at least an hour carefully glassing the trees with binoculars to see if we could see the cat. Finally, Shane saw something out of place at the very top of a huge Douglas-fir. We put the binoculars on it and sure enough, there was the bobcat laying out on a limb about 20 feet from the stem of the tree! Jan made a difficult shot and hit it perfectly and we had a very large tom bobcat to add to Jan’s trophy collection. This ended our cat hunt with two great toms for Jan.

30 pound bobcat.

Great tom bobcat for Jan.

11th. Hour Cat

11th. hour cat.

Norbert’s cougar.

Client Norbert Wenninger came over from Germany last week to hunt for cougar. We worked hard through his 7-day hunt to put a cougar up a tree for Mr. Wenninger, but cat movement was slow and conditions were a bit challenging. We had located a nice cat on day 5, released the dogs on the fresh track, but they quickly came to sheer cliffs and were not able to follow the cat. Seems this cat knew what to do when chased by the dogs. We checked the same area on day 6, but no fresh tracks. We hunted some other areas with no luck, and Norbert had already packed up his stuff about noon on day 7 and was ready to head to the airport. We decided we better check one more time for the cat from day 5 as it was sort of on the way back to the Kamloops airport. Sure enough, guide Shane Brady cut the cat’s fresh tracks and radioed us to get over to where he was. Norbert and I got there about 2:00 and I went with Shane to sort the cougar tracks out. We found it’s last ‘exit’ track and let the hounds go. I radioed Norbert to get his hunting clothes back on as the chase was on! The hounds followed the cougar for about 1.5 km. and we could hear them jump the cat out of it’s day bed and the chase went into ‘fast’ mode for a short while then sort of stopped. We didn’t know what had happened so we hiked into where the dogs were. It turns out one of the dogs had fallen off a big pile of brush and had gotten it’s foot caught in some branches and was hanging by one foot about 4 feet off the ground! The other dog was at the base of some cliffs and couldn’t make it any farther on the track. I hiked around to the top of the cliffs and found where the cougar had gotten up through the cliffs and taken off to the south. We got the one dog untangled and I caught the other dog and led it around the cliffs to where I had seen the cougar’s tracks leaving the area. The race was back on and within about 1 km. the dogs had the cat up a tree. By the time we made it to the treed cat, it was almost dark and Norbert had to make a tricky shot on the cat. It came out of the tree and literally hit the ground within 2 feet of Shane. Definite excitement and Norbert had his 11th. hour cougar.

Great Start to Cat Season

Large tom cougar.

Big tom cougar for Steve.

We had a significant dump of snow in mid-November which afforded us great tracking conditions for cougar. While out scouting, I cut the track of a large tom cougar. I started following the big cat to see where he was headed and it was quickly evident this cat was putting on a lot of miles each night. I enlisted the help of local houndsman and outfitter Abe Dougan to help me track this cat down. Abe had a client on-call in the event that we located a big cougar, so the hunt was on to figure out exactly where this cat was and hopefully release the hounds on him. Client Steve Small is a very busy businessman and had limited available time, so such a hunt arrangement worked well for him to collect a trophy cougar. Abe and I tracked the cat for an additional 2 days after my first day of tracking and we were able to follow him and knew we were starting to get close behind him. It was difficult to follow this cat as he was travelling at least 10 miles per night! The tom was making scratch piles and urinating on them about every 200 yards. He was also crossing the tracks of female cougars every night. What was he looking for and why go so far each night? Something only a tom cougar will know, I guess. After the third day of tracking, we figured we were close enough to the cat to call Steve up and get him driving to Kamloops. We had a final location on the cat once the client arrived to Kamloops, so it was time to let the hounds go and see if we could put him up a tree. I had Steve with me and Abe was in the field with the dogs to try and sort the track out. The cougar had gone into a maze of blow-down, dead pine and it was very difficult for dogs and handler to figure out where he had gone exactly. After a couple of hours, though, the hounds got into very fresh scent and the race suddenly went into ‘fast mode.’ It wasn’t long then before the hounds were baying ‘treed’ and I knew Steve and I could start heading to where the action had ended. We all converged to a big Douglas-fir and could see the huge tom about 40 feet up the tree! Steve made a fine shot and we had the beautiful cat on the ground. We took picture and dragged the cat out to the nearest road. Steve was a very happy hunter, but could only enjoy the time with his trophy for a short while before having to get back on the road to attend to pressing business issues. Way to go Steve!

Hunt in Slovakia

Perfect fallow deer area.

Typical hunting country in Slovakia.

I recently had the opportunity to go on a hunting trip to Slovakia. Bearcat clients Dusan and Matus Ondreicka hunted cats with me last winter and generously invited me to hunt with them in Slovakia. I accepted the opportunity and flew there in late October to see how they hunted over there. The weather was freakishly warm for late October, which did not make the hunting easy, but we had a great trip and I was able to harvest a 2-year-old red deer.

2-year old red deer.

Red deer harvested by Neil.

We also tried hunting fallow deer and wild boar. We employed a wide range of hunting methods while I was there, including stalking, drives by people, drives by hounds, road hunting and night hunting from high seat. My hosts the Ondreicka’s as well as their close friend Tomas Kabana worked extremely hard to ensure I had a successful trip and to show me how it is done over there. I was very impressed with their organization and work ethic. One of the things that draws me to hunt in other parts of the world is to see the local culture, experience their foods and traditions and to see how they hunt. I had all these desires fulfilled on this trip and had a fantastic experience.

I was not able to harvest a fallow deer due to some complicating issues, but saw a number of bucks and was able to hear them actively ‘grunting’ as I caught the tail-end of their rut. This was extremely exciting and left me with a huge desire to return one day and harvest one of these magnificent animals. I hunted with Tomas Kabana on a night hunt from high seat and was about 300 metres from Tomas when he harvested a nice wild boar. This was a great experience for me. I would have never thought I would be interested in hunting at night, but once having done it, I wanted to do it again! We were mostly hunting in mature, deciduous forest and the carpet of leaves on the ground made it obvious when there was game approaching. It was like hunting with your ears and was a great sensory experience. We also hunted with traditional Slovakian hounds, the Kopoj. One hunt resulted in the harvest of a nice 6-point red deer for the hunter immediately beside me. I elected to pass on the shot as the deer were directly between me and the adjacent hunter, but he was able to get a clear shot and take down the nice stag.

Kopoj hound.

Slovakian hound with Kevlar vest used when hunting boar.

Dusan Ondreicka invited me to return to Slovakia in the future and see if we can accomplish my goal to harvest a fallow deer and possibly a wild boar and hunt for a big red deer. I am honoured by the generous invite and plan on returning next September if possible as Dusan feels this would be the best to hunt fallow deer and to pursue red deer in the peak of the ‘roar.’

I would like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to the Ondreicka’s for allowing me this experience!

Mixed-Bag Hunt for Randy

40 inch Shiras moose

Randy with big Shiras bull

Randy Bell of San Angelo, Texas just completed his mixed-bag hunt with Bearcat Outfitters. Shiras moose was the primary quarry so we concentrated on this species first. Day 1 and 2 of the hunt resulted in a few cow sightings and a brief opportunity on a 2-year-old bull, but Randy was holding out for a 3-year-old bull or better. Day 3 was slow in the morning, but in the afternoon we spotted a pretty decent bear and Randy decided he would be happy to harvest him. The boar was taken and we had our first animal in the bag.

Randy with black bear

Nice black boar

Day 4 started out with clear, blue skies and a temperature of about -7 at the high elevations – perfect hunting conditions for moose. We snuck into a small meadow at first light and did a bit of calling with no luck. We then decided to try an area a little further to the south and as we were driving to that spot, we sighted two cows in a meadow. We moved ahead a bit so we were out of sight, parked and snuck down to the end of the meadow to get a better look at the cows and to see if there was a bull with them. When we get to the edge of the meadow we could see a number of other cows plus one large bull chasing one of the cows. We moved a bit closer to close the shooting distance and got Randy set up on his shooting sticks. We watched the bull breed the one cow and once he was off her, Randy made the shot. The bullet from his .338 Ultra Mag connected but didn’t kill the bull quickly, so a couple of more follow-up shots were required. We later determined we must have had a misreading on the range finder and the range was over 300 yards, not the 260 yards we thought and the first shot hit low in the shoulder. It all ended well, though, and we just sat and watched the sight in the meadow once the big bull was down for good. We saw about 15 moose total including two other bulls chasing and breeding cows over the next 20 minutes. One of the bulls appeared after we shot our bull and was at least as big as the one we harvested. It was a sight both of us will never forget. The rest of the day was spent getting the huge animal into the truck. It was a big job and when we later weighed him at the butcher, his carcass weight was 625 pounds. That is about as big as a Shiras moose gets. No wonder we had so much trouble getting him out! We spent the rest of the trip looking for a decent mulie buck for Randy, but did not spot any good ones. We saw a number of one- and two-year old bucks every day, but never saw a mature buck Randy wanted to take. We did do a bit of grouse hunting and managed to get a nice pair of blue grouse one afternoon, which added some good action and some very nice eating.

Nice blue grouse.

Randy with brace of blue grouse.