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The Fourth Ibex Was A Gold Medal Trip

The Ibexes taken by Lanceine so far were from faraway places in remote mountains that included Mongolia, Turkey and Tajikistan.  We thought “What the heck!”  Spain isn’t exactly next door!  We were fortunate to meet Fernando of Iber Hunts at the 2019 SCI Convention in the booth of Safari Outfitters.  We were looking for our next adventure into the world of hunting and it was once again Lanceine’ s turn at the trigger as I was the hunter the previous year.   

First impressions are usually the right ones and it proved so with Fernando.  His invitation to hunt Spain was too good to pass up, as Lanceine could continue her Ibex adventures in the mountain terrain that she so enjoys.  Spain has four different species of Ibex and the Gredos was the one that Lanceine liked.  Just to mix up the hunt, she also decided that a Pyrenees chamois would be a hunt to remember and look great with her chamois taken in New Zealand. 

Arrival in Madrid was carefree, as Lanceine had decided to use Fernando’s camp rifle instead of the hassle of bringing her own. I must admit it was nice not to pack the extra weight, let alone all the forms. We spent the night in Madrid on arrival at the designated motel. Fernando was right on time for pickup the next morning at 6 a.m. sharp.

 We stopped for coffee and rolls about two hours into the trip south of Madrid. Continuing on for another hour, we arrived at a small stone house where Fernando requested we change quickly into our hunting gear.  After changing, we jumped back into the vehicle and headed upwards in rough country. 

At road’s end we met two more fellas with a couple of horses.  It seemed Lanceine and I were to ride and the others would walk.  Not a plan that I would refuse.  Being gray haired I never pass up a horse and Lanceine loves them as she has eight at home.  The black horse I quickly named Zorro and Lanceine’s paint horse would be remembered as Apache.  I was impressed with how easily Fernando and the other men on foot were as we started up in very steep rocky country. It seemed little effort to them.  Weather was overcast cold and the rain didn’t start for the first 45 minutes.  After that it would be our constant companion for the rest of the day.  

It wasn’t long after the rain started that Fernando and the others started spotting Ibex.  Lanceine’ s eyes have always been exceptional, and she also began spotting them.  We saw several great looking male ibex, along with females, just over an hour into the hunt. We kept moving until Fernando spotted two males fighting a long way off on the side of a rocky ridge.  Fernando thought we should check out the two fighting ibexes, as one appeared exceptional. 

After tying up the horses, we started climbing the ridge, keeping out of sight, to see if we could close the distance on the two fighting ibex.  After quite a climb we looked over the ridge.  Sure enough, they were still at it, but still a long way off.  We backed out of sight again and started back up the ridge.  I’m sure my age was showing, but I was determined to keep up with Lanceine.  I have this saying that keeps me always motivated. I must hasten after her for I am her leader!  

After another 30 minutes or so, we crept over the ridge once more but couldn’t locate the fighting Ibexes.  You could tell by Fernando’s whispering and motions to the guides that another ibex had been spotted.   I couldn’t see the ibex but could tell by all the excitement that it was a good one.  It was raining which wasn’t helping me on spotting. At least that was my excuse.

Fernando motioned to Lanceine to move to a large boulder for a good rifle rest. Fernando called the distance at 310 yards as he adjusted the Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x scope for the yardage.  Lanceine was having a problem getting the ibex in the scope on 28 power.  She adjusted the scope to six power and picked the ibex up.  The distance would be no problem for the Blaser rifle in a .300 Winchester Magnum with 180-grain bullets. 

I again asked one of the guys to point out the Ibex for me, but no way could I see it.  The Blaser broke the silence, along with Fernando’s “Great Shot!” The high fives were flying around.  Lanceine was excited.  Everyone was excited as we started up in the steady rain to the ibex.  I honestly never saw this ibex until I walked up on him.  Wow! He was a dandy, with beautiful color and exceptional horns. 

The rain kept coming, but it was a lot easier to tolerate with the ibex on the ground.  The trip off the mountain was a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal on slippery wet rocks.  Zorro and Apache, our trusty steeds, had an easy walk off the mountain with no riders, due to the slick conditions. That was alright by me, as the only way I could stay warm was to walk.

The rain gear I had leaked like a sieve.  Another lesson.  You can’t expect lightweight rain gear to last forever. This gear had too many previous trips. It was great to finally see the vehicle in the distance. The thought of a warm fire and hot meal made the drive down to the lodge even more enjoyable.

Our sleeping facility at the lodge was exceptional, with a bathroom that would go in any mansion, let alone a lodge.  After a quick bath it was a short walk to the dining lodge.  The warming fire, along with a drink in hand, was quite relaxing as the day’s adventures were revisited.  The meal prepared by two ladies at the lodge was great.

The Pyrenees Mountains were to be the next destination for chamois and they lay clear to the north side of Spain by the French border.   We left the ibex hunting ground early the next morning and proceeded north to Fernando’s hometown of Zaragoza, where we checked into a great hotel and had a quiet evening after the day’s drive.   

The next morning, we got to meet Fernando’s girlfriend and had a personal tour of the old part of Zaragoza.  It caused Lanceine and me to realize how young the USA really is.  Buildings from the Roman times were still standing.  We left Zaragoza after lunch and headed toward the Pyrenees.  The lodge that evening was the Boltana Hotel Monasterio.  Sounds fancy and it was.  A monastery converted to a hotel.  The focus the next morning at 5 a.m. was the chamois hunt ahead. 

We traveled a short distance from Boltana to another village and changed over to a local guide’s vehicle.  We then drove up to another village and everyone again changed over to a different vehicle.  It was a comfortable and cozy ride with Lanceine, me and three guides in the vehicle.   The dirt roads continued to shrink as we drove higher in the mountains.  In fact, a lot of places you didn’t want to slide off.  I would call it cliff steep. 

The narrow road ended at a stone shed and the mountains just kept going.  Changing to hunting gear, we proceeded on foot in snow.  Fortunately, it was only six to eight inches deep and was decent footing.  But when you are going up in steep conditions any snow is a detriment.

 It was a beautiful morning in the mountains, but it was cold as all clear mornings this time of year are.  The scenery was stunning!  Snow covered mountains everywhere you looked.  I noticed some footprints in the snow from a couple of days previous and figured the local guides had been doing their scouting.  It wasn’t long when the guides stopped and glassed for chamois. 

Chamois are easy to see if you have a snow-white background and that we had.  It wasn’t long and the guides began the desired pointing and talking. Fernando motioned us on, and we slowly continued up. There wasn’t a lot to hide behind except an occasional bush or small tree.  The guides stopped once more and the binoculars were raised.  They motioned us to stop and get ready to shoot. 

The ground was really steep and the chamois was 250 yards above and moving.  Fernando indicated it was a good one and to take a shot if the opportunity came.  Lanceine dropped to her belly next to some brush, but with the angle of the ground she couldn’t get a steady rest, even with backpacks for support.  I tried blocking her feet with mine to keep her from sliding downhill as she tried to get to a good prone shooting position.  Try as she might, it just wasn’t working.  “Not steady,” Lanceine said. “Not a good shot!”  The chamois simply walked out of sight. 

Fernando made the decision to move.  With no words spoken, everyone started up.  The thought was that the chamois might walk back out, but it was the last we would see of that chamois.  In the upward hike there was a small tree. From this tree, another good male was spotted, moving among females.  Fernando again advised to “get ready to shoot.”

Lanceine once again dropped to her belly, but the angle wasn’t as steep as before and she indicated it was a better shooting position than the first one.  There was a scrub tree that Lanceine used for a rest that didn’t look all that comfortable. The other problem with this shot was the distance: 375 meters (412 yards). 

Chamois are not large animals and at that range, they are really small.  Lanceine had to drop the power on the scope to find the chamois.  She found the chamois on six power just as he stopped.  The Blazer barked, but the shot missed.   “Was I low?” Lanceine asked.  “Just barely,” replied Fernando. The Chamois bolted forward and off the rock but couldn’t really tell what direction the shot came from.

Fernando started talking.  “Watch him, watch him.  He is going back on the rock.  He’s back basically where he was. He’s on top of the rock moving to the right.” 

Lanceine replied: “I see him, I see him.  He’s moving.”  Fernando kept talking continually.  “Walking to the right with head down.”  Stopped and now walking again.  He stopped again with head up.” 

“I see him,” replied Lanceine.  Once again, the Blaser broke the silence and Fernando’s ‘Wow, perfect, nice shot, very nice shot” said it all.   “He’s down and rolling.”  “Beautiful animal,” remarked Fernando.  The chamois was everything Lanceine had hoped for.  Lots of color with great horns. This chamois in our trophy room will always remind us of the beautiful Pyrenees hunt. 

We had a couple of extra days in Barcelona before departing for the States.  Just Lanceine and me enjoying the culture and people.  After a great hunt it doesn’t get any better. Two great animals and fantastic people.  The ibex and chamois were Gold Medal.  The trip was also nothing but a Gold Medal adventure.  Thanks again to Safari Outfitters of Powell, Wyoming and Fernando of Iber Hunts of Spain.  If you haven’t hunted Spain, book it!–Jon E. Ziegler

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