Like most hunters, I have always had a desire to go on a hunting adventure overseas. I have the good fortune of being born and raised in British Columbia and I have been on many trips for a diverse number of species that most hunters in the world dream of. Even so, I still yearn for adventures in foreign lands for exotic species.
I knew I would have a bit of a break in my normally busy schedule this late winter, so I really put my mind to where I would like to go on an international hunting trip in March or April. There are many places to potentially go, even though this time of year is outside of the core hunting period in much of the northern hemisphere. I started some research and come up with options of New Zealand, Africa, South America as well as parts of Asia and Europe. I have always desired a trip to Spain and did some inquiries with some contacts in Europe and found an opening for Beicite ibex in east-central Spain with a group of hunters from Slovakia and Czech Republic. I jumped at the opportunity, and soon found myself booked for ibex in early April.
I flew to Barcelona where I met my fellow hunters. We were shuttled to our ‘camp’ in Morella and arrived very late at night. Morella is an ancient walled city and we were booked into a beautiful, 5-star hotel. The next morning all the hunters were paired with their local guides and we all went in separate directions in search of ibex. We toured a number of rough four-wheel drive trails that cut through the local mountains. The terrain was very rocky and broken and covered with scrub oak and some Sylvester pine in the moister hollows and north-facing slopes. Many old, abandoned homesteads are scattered across the region and a few active farms still remain in the areas with the most productive soils. The ibex could be found anywhere, but they seemed to concentrate near small, cleared fields that had new spring grass emerging.
At about 10:00 AM we spotted a group of three rams leaving a small field and heading up into the thick brush. We quickly got out of the 4X4 and scrambled to get ahead of the rams and into shooting position. We cut the distance to about 200 yards and the guide determined which of the rams was the best trophy and got his pack set up on a rock for me to shoot off of. I readied myself with the borrowed Blaser in 7 mm. Remington Mag and let a shot go. The shot went just over his back and the rams headed for safer cover. I couldn’t believe I had missed such a good opportunity! Only three hours sleep, severe jet lag, borrowed rifle I had never shot… List of excuses, but bottom-line is I pulled the shot and plain missed. I uttered ’so liento’ to my guide several times to apologize for my brutal shooting, but he indicated minor concern and assured me there would be other chances.
The search continued and a couple hours later we glassed what appeared to be a pretty good ram high on a rocky ridge. We tried to get within shooting range unnoticed, but we never saw him again. We kept covering ground and did lots of glassing from good vantages, but it wasn’t until late in the afternoon that we spotted more rams. We glassed three rams in a lush pasture that a herd of goats and sheep had been grazing in the morning. It was obvious that one of the rams was a very good trophy and we quickly determined wind direction and started a stalk. We hiked in about half a mile and came over a small ridge where we could look down on the field where the rams had been feeding. They were nowhere to be seen so we kept creeping forward and glassing. After a tense 15 minutes or so, my guide Lucas motioned me down and pointed earnestly to a rocky slope north of the fields where they had been. Sure enough, we could see the 3 rams on a rock outcrop and determined the top one top be the big ram. I quickly got a bit of a rest on the branch of a juniper tree and this time squeezed off the shot at the ram 150 yards distant. Perfect hit on the point of the shoulder and the ram folded instantly and rolled down the hill. We were very excited and I felt a bit of redemption in my shooting ability.
We did a bit of sight seeing in the area for the next couple of days as the other hunters harvested their ibex and I toured an amazing ancient castle and cathedral in Morella. I then travelled to meet a couple of friends in Madrid and hunted for mouflon and roe deer, but that will be covered in another story.