After completing my ibex hunt, I traveled back to Barcelona with the rest of my hunt group then hopped the high-velocity train to Madrid. I did some sight-seeing around the city as well as went on a tour of the town of Toledo to the southwest of Madrid. This is a ‘must see’ for any tourists in this part of Spain as it has an amazing cathedral and sites dating back to time of Arab occupation of the Iberian peninsula. I also met up with a couple of clients that had hunted cats with me two winters ago and connected for a fabulous, traditional Spanish supper. My one client Rafael is also a forester and I was very interested to see what he did in his job duties and how it compared to what I do as a forester in British Columbia. He graciously invited me to accompany him the next day on a road trip to visit a couple of the estates he manages. I was to learn that most of his job entails intensive management of the wildlife resources on the properties he oversees in addition to management of agricultural crops and timber species such as Monterey pine and various types of oaks.
At the first estate we went to they were in the process of ’rounding up’ their yearling red stags (termed ‘spikers’), inoculating them and selecting a small group of the stags with the best genetics for antler growth to use as their future breeding stock. These superior stags were kept in paddocks for the breeding program and all the other stags were released into the main part of the estate to live the rest of their lives in a ‘wild’ state. Even those these estates are mostly high-fenced, they are generally very large with thick brush, so the animals live in a relatively natural state. The mouflon breeding stock are generally kept in paddocks their entire lives, with the yearling males released to the main part of the estate to also live the rest of their lives in a natural state. This was a very interesting visit for me.
We then drove about 1 hour for Rafael to have a quick meeting with a client and then off another 2 hours to a different estate he manages. On the way he asked me if I would be interested in possibly hunting mouflon at this next estate. I thought about it for maybe 1 second, said ‘yes’ and we came to terms for a possible hunt. Upon arriving at this estate we met the manager and quickly got changed into hunting clothes and jumped in the 4X4 to look for mouflon. The manager dropped Rafael and I off in a strategic location and we started hiking and glassing for mouflon. Within about 20 to 30 minutes we located a herd of about 15 rams approximately 1200 yards to our south. We hiked towards them to get a better look, but when we topped a ridge about 500 yards from where they had been, we could not locate them. We kept glassing then found the herd moving quite quickly to the west. I asked Rafa if he thought we had spooked them, but he said probably not, they just move around a lot for no apparent reason. We tried to keep track of the herd, but they quickly made it over a distant ridge and we had to radio the manager to come and pick us and relocate us closer to where the rams had disappeared. We got to where we thought they had gone and started a hike to try and locate them. We located them alright; at about 40 yards in the thick brush and all we saw were horns and various body parts as the rams took off. We kept hiking to relocate them, and probably went close to a mile before we were able to spot them again. It appeared they had hooked up with a few more rams as the herd was even larger. We made another attempt to get into shooting range of this big herd, but spooked them one more time. We did a big circle around where we thought they had gone and got the wind in our favour and started working slowly through the brush. We were able to make out a few animals only about 100 yards ahead of us, but again one of them made us and the whole herd took off. This was getting a bit frustrating… We made another quick loop to try and get ahead of the herd, and as we came over one small ridge, could see a whole bunch of rams heading up a fairly open slope across a gully from us. Rafa quickly assessed the rams he could see and said the top ram in one small opening was good one and to take the shot if I could. I got a quick rest on a small tree branch and lined up on the ram with the Mannlicher 7X64 the estate had lent me. I had a pretty steady hold and let the shot off. The ram immediately jumped and ran uphill. Rafa said ‘You hit him’, but couldn’t tell how well. I quickly moved to the side to try and see where the ram went and could see him do a bit of a summersault and roll down the hill, obviously dead. High-fives and back-slaps ensued and we radioed the manager our location to come and pick us up. We located the ram in the thick brush with the aid of Rafa’s Jack Russell terrier, Gus. We went back to the historic hacienda on the estate for a great dinner and a few cocktails by the fireplace then off to a deep sleep.
Rafael dropped me the next day at a train terminal and I went back to Madrid while he continued his business trip. I spent that day in Madrid touring a museum and their version of ‘Central Park’ and then Rafa picked me up the next day to accompany him on a roe deer hunt. We went to a large concession he leased for his own personal hunting trips in north-central Spain. He was after one specific trophy buck he knew lived in the area and we tried to located him the first evening. The wind was swirling and made it difficult of Rafa to figure out which way we should approach the known hang-out of this buck. We did our best to sneak into the area carefully, but within about 15 minutes of leaving the truck, jumped a small buck and doe out of their beds. They ran off and then we saw the big buck get up and run off with another doe. Not good. We tried to circle ahead of the big buck and set up a stand overlooking a couple of small fields he liked to feed in, but never saw him again. We moved to a different, remote field just before dark and glassed a couple of small bucks and then saw a pretty good buck come out of the brush just at dark only about 100 yards from us. Rafa looked him over as closely as possible in the low-light, but opted to pass as he was fairly sure it was only 3-year old buck.
We stayed in the local town that night, had another fabulous meal that included traditional, cold partridge salad and red wine that Spain is famous for. We were up very early the next morning to try a different part of the concession. We climbed onto a small hill at first light and could glass several different roe deer as well as one wild boar. Rafa asked me if I wanted to try and shoot the boar and I said, ‘no’ we should concentrate on a roe buck for him while the deer were still out in the open feeding. He insisted we try for the boar and I didn’t want to compromise his hunt, so I was a bit apprehensive. While we were debating, though, we saw the boar suddenly take off running for the thick bush. I asked Rafa what was up. He said the wind had shifted and the boar had smelled us from over a half-mile away. I now have a new respect for these animals!
We hunted the remainder of the morning but saw no shooter bucks then we headed back to Madrid where Rafael dropped me off at the train station so I could make my way back to Barcelona and catch a flight back to Canada the next day. That completed an excellent adventure in Spain. I am already looking forward to going back and next time trying for red stag, fallow deer, roe deer and boar.