Browning Outdoor Ambassador, Alexandra Hellström, takes us on the journey of a lifetime – the hunt for the endemic Beceite Ibex, in the Spanish mountains.
In February this year I got the chance to go on a dream hunt. The hunt was after Beceite Ibex in Spain. My first Spanish ibex and my first time hunting in Spain. I was overexcited for the hunt and to learn more about these magnificent animals. Hunting is always a bit different from country to country, so I had a lot to learn from my trip!
I met up with my friend and hunting guide Fran Cortina in Madrid. From there we travelled around 4 hours by car to the hunting area in Teruel.
The weather was uncharacteristic for the season. Especially, the area where we were hunting only experiencing around 5-10 days of rain per year and it was raining most of the days we were there! The wind was blowing more than usual, which made the Ibex a lot harder to find. They dislike strong winds and rain, so they seek cover in the most dense parts of the forest, in which they can shelter. We had a challenge beyond the ordinary for us to find them.
We discovered a beautiful trophy-sized Ibex too late during our first day out and he fled with a group of females over the mountains. They are incredibly fast on the rocks. We had tried stalking after the group in the mountains which were covered by rosemary bushes and small conifers. The wind was spinning and it was hard to sneak up quietly when you are constantly stuck in the bushes, it was like walking in a quarry – lots of tiny stones on the wet ground. You had to take it slowly and carefully because the rain had made the ground softer and it was easier to lose a foothold on the rocks.
At just over 300 meters away I saw the Ibex go straight from us over some boulders. Surrounded by females and young ones. The wind got into our backs and my guides Fran Cortina and Jose Utrillas thought it was time to take us back when we saw them running onto the next mountain. The animals were too frightened to allow us to come closer and the wind was not in our favour. We had to be taken back to continue our search in a different area. The day gave no more chance of spotting a mature Ibex. The others we saw were too small or females with young ones. The area and the terrain they live in was fantastic to see. The first day gave no luck so we were eager to get out the next day. We went to bed early that evening to recharge for the next day of mountain hunting!
A storm raked in during the night. It was a big storm and the rain pattered on the roof all night long. Shortly after 08:00 in the morning we headed out in search of the area after a big breakfast. We waited for the sun to come up to try to capture a glimpse of the Ibex sunbathing in the mountains; after a cold and windy night, the guides thought that the odds would be on our side. It was blowing rather hard but still the clouds were sparse in the blue sky. It was not long before we saw the first groups of females and young ones grassing and sunbathing on the mountain slopes. But no major male animals with them! We continued our search for hours, but only coming into contact repeatedly with females.
We came to a mountain side where there was shelter. Finally, our bad luck started to turn.
The guides scout down the mountain side. Where the wind does not dance stand a whole group of Ibex of all different ages. The animals are sunbathing. They haven’t noticed our presence. We are more than 80 meters above them. We slowly creep up to the edge. I’m right behind Fran.
Just over a dozen Ibex are enjoying the sun’s rays. Among them is a fine trophy-sized representative of the species, such a trophy that we have been searching for the past few days! I try to get into a good shooting position to be ready for when the Ibex is relaxed and standing up presenting a clear shot. Rosemary bushes make it even more difficult to find an opportunity to get the Ibex lined in the crosshairs. When I almost get into a correct position, I suddenly hear a whisper behind from our other guide Jose. Suddenly, out of nowhere three more Ibex appear out behind us. An Ibex far bigger than the first one we had spotted with females for himself and a young one. Fran slowly whispers for me to keep up. I take the gun and crawl after him.
The male Ibex are close and after the ewes (females), as if they were in heat, which would be strange for this time of the season. They stopped about 80 meters away from us. We weren’t sure if they had noticed our presence, but they are headed straight towards a cliff. “If they go over, we will lose them!” whispers Fran. The animals begin to go up away from us. As soon as the ewes are in safe distance from the male Ibex, Fran says to me to take the shot. I take a deep breath and I focus on finding the right shot, just behind the shoulder. The ibex offers a very oblique broadside with the ewes having found the time to get over the cliff. My chance is presented, now or never. I take a deep breath to kill my pulse knowing the shot will go. I squeeze the trigger and I see the Ibex tumbling down over the cliff. I get a pat on the shoulder by Fran. “Good shot my friend !!” – my pulse getting reminded. The other group that was sunbathing on the rocks stands up and looks puzzled. They have not really understood what happened, so we kept a low profile until they withdrew. When Jose and Fran have packed up their backpacks again, we begin to climb down to find where my Ibex lay.
Since it rained heavily during the night, we had to be very careful on our way down. Once we found our way onto the edge of the cliff, where we saw the Ibex tumbling down, we saw that he was laying about 10 meters below. We crept slowly forward, the Ibex was dead.
After some intense hunting days in the mountains, we all had a smiles on on our faces when it came to taking photos and getting a closer look at the Ibex. It’s a beautiful, mature male around 8 years old, a perfect one too take out! The first one I was after was slightly younger, so he got the chance to get older and hopefully bigger! I am overwhelmed by the hunt and the beautiful scenery – a perfect end to my hunt in the Spanish mountains!
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