A shot was fired! My anticipation of the tell-tale signs of a downed animal quickly became feelings of disgust and disappointment when the only movement I heard on the vertical landscape of the mountain range was the whirring of the ever-present thermals and then Bruno yelling, “Oh no, you missed”!
How could this happen after noted Spanish guide, Bruno Rosich, had blessed me with a golden opportunity to hunt a world class Beceite ibex? Nearly two months prior to this shootist catastrophe, Bruno emailed an offer for this fair chase, free-range hunt on the fabled, ibex-laden mountains of Catalonia. The first week of December, 2013 was the time for this hunt and no other date, but it did carry a promise of a real chance at a “monster.” My schedule was free, and just like the ubiquitous refrain from Hawaii Five-O, my response was, “Book it!”
Upon arrival, I discovered that this was going to be the initial issuance of a permit to a non-resident hunter in the area. Bruno's gracious wife, Isabelle, suggested that he contact me with the opportunity, remembering that I was an existing client who could hunt on a short notice.
Morning one on these treacherous heights found me with Bruno, my son and videographer, Hunter, and of course, the game rangers who jealously hover over this free-range venue as do Swiss Grenadiers on Papa soil. The initial hike was not a killer, with Hunter and me only persevering as we followed the mountain goating of Bruno and the rangers. Noonish found us glassing a smoking ibex that would have easily reached into the lower gold medal range, but over the rangers' modest objections Bruno passed. He knew there were better billies to be had in this maze of vertical rocks.
Next, we were ever so lucky to enjoy two exhausting vertical ascents to the second highest point of the mountains, only to be followed by a dizzying descent heading home. The downward put us on another ibex, one of a world-class nature. Range: 185 yards just as the cold hand of darkness gripped us. Alas, we could not shoot because the brute was silhouetted, which left no background to catch a wayward shot. We determined then and there that we would return in the morning to seek this behemoth.
Daybreak found us once again struggling to gain altitude in hopes of finding the evening leftover. Arrival on the scene of the previous night's evacuation sadly but luckily resulted spotting only a ewe and a kid. The rangers and Bruno said we must go higher.
Pushing ever upward found us near one of the verticals from the day prior, and Hunter and I were quietly hoping against that sojourn again when a ranger spotted a Beceite some 225 yards below us. Bruno leaped for his binoculars and recited what any hunter hopes to hear. No slow judging, no, “It looks good,” no, “Probably ought to take that one.” He excitingly exclaimed “That is a hell of an ibex...shoot it!”
With the joy of a mom holding her first born, I responded affirmatively, and in such a rush that my unnecessarily hurried shot resulted in a miss so bad that no one to this day knows where it went, including the ibex. Bruno urged me to reload while I was racking the bolt. No movement from the ibex brought my second shot home, sending him on a 30-yard down and done run.
The shot was fired from atop a typical bare rock formation directed onto the sheer wall of a deep, dry canyon-like, brush-filled drainage. This describes in minutiae what our terrain encompassed. Just a word of caution to the would-be hunter in this “malpais”--one must be in shape to venture on the ascending mountain trails. The bad news is that the area is akin to the formations found in the “needles” country in Colorado. The good news is that it is game rich and rewarding to the intrepid.
We knew the ibex was hit, but not quite certain of the placement as he scurried downward into the brushline. Staying high to mark the last known location of the ibex, we anxiously awaited word from the rangers who had descended for a look-see. In short order, their raised arms and shouts replaced our anxiety with wild exuberance as we danced and hugged upon arrival of the news.
A quick glance at this fallen creature left no doubt as to its immensity. Accompanied by our eye-popping and jaw-dropping, the tape was immediately produced because the billy was exceptional. In addition to the measuring, the rangers collected the required blood samples. In short, after taping, we were all silenced by the fact that this unexcelled specimen was a new world record Beceite ibex eclipsing the specimen killed in 2007 by some six inches of horn. Photos and handshaking seemed to continue forever before we finally caped and carried this fine fellow off the mountain to a place of honor in his new home.
A final note punctuated this wonderful day. At our celebratory dinner that evening, the rangers informed us that this fourteen-year-old ibex had not been seen on the mountain for two years and was presumed perished. Presumptions be damned!--John Hoestenbach