Well, it finally looked as though I was finally going to be able to depart Canada and enter Spain for a Gredos Ibex Hunt which I had been scheduled to conduct two years previous, when it got cancelled by the horrible COVID 19 epidemic which caused so much pain and suffering in our world. I thought I had conducted my investigation into what was required as necessary documentation to both depart Canada, enter Spain and return to Canada. Nothing could have been further from the truth??? I am always early for every flight I am scheduled to fly on (probably my military training - smile) and this trip was no different. My investigation confirmed that I did not require any “new” documentation, so I did not question this. Upon arrival at the Vancouver International Airport (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), I approached the ticker agent in order to check my luggage and get my Boarding Pass. I was flying via Lufthansa Airlines and their agent asked for my vaccination proof. I produced my card which was a record of my two initial shots and my booster shot (on my case and being a resident of BC and being over the age of 70, I received the full dose). She looked at it and then asked me for my certificate on my cell. I quickly retrieved my cell and stumbled through the process of retrieving my “certification”. The Agent looked at it and stated that what I had was only good for British Columbia and I needed the international one. I immediately informed her that I was a real dummy when it comes to “new technology” and I didn’t have a clue how to get that document on my cell. She just smiled and put out her hand for my cell. It took about ½ hour, but she finally got the necessary certification on it. She then informed me that she was going off shift, but that before I would be allowed into Spain, I required a certificate on my cell which the Spanish Government required before I would be given authority to enter their country. She provided me with the necessary information in order for me to get this completed. Unfortunately, at least for me, I don’t have all the necessary programs on my cell necessary to enable me to retrieve the necessary information. So, I found myself in quire the quandary, with the proverbial clock ticking before take-off. I approached another Agent and she spent over one hour getting this document on my cell. I must admit both Agent went well beyond their normal job descriptions to help me get to Spain and it was much appreciated and that is why I like to fly with Lufthansa Airlines. I do not agree with their corporate policy of transporting firearms and mounted animals though.
Finally, I was sitting on the airplane, and we were on our way to Frankfurt, Germany. Great flight and the service was super. Once in Frankfurt, I ran to my connecting flight (also with Lufthansa Airlines) for the 2 ½ hour flight to Madrid, Spain. Once we landed there, I was like a lost puppy dog and went to the far end of the airport looking for my luggage. Finally, I located it and then headed out the exit, where Val (the Outfitter) was patiently awaiting my arrival. It certainly was nice to renew our friendship and Val is on heck of a great host and I enjoy his company thoroughly. Out we went to get his vehicle and made the 2 hour drive, north-west to the town of Madrigal de la Vera, where we would be staying for the hunt. The lodge we were going to be staying in was beautiful and looked like it had been standing for many years. Once in my room, I felt very comfortable as every convenience was present, except for one and that was entirely my fault. I usually carry an international electrical plug but had forgotten it on this trip!!!! Fortunately, I was able to utilize the cellphone charger Val had in his vehicle, so all was well.
We went to a restaurant across from the lodge for dinner and had a wonderful steak dinner - the steak was almost twice the size of one I would receive in a restaurant back home. Well, I had been awake for quite some time, so I wanted to get my head down in preparation for the upcoming hunt. Morning came too fast, but we headed to the restaurant for breakfast. I must comment here as to Val’s excellent service, as the restaurant did not open until around 10 am, yet he had planned with the owner for it to open much earlier so we could eat. The owner came in to cook breakfast for us and to prepare a sack lunch for our noon-time meal on the mountain. Great, filling breakfast and then we were off to meet with the Game Keeper. On our way, we stopped for me to check the zero on the rental rifle, which was a Sauer 101 in 7X64 Brenneke, topped with a Leupold scope 4.5-14X50 and shooting reloads of 140 Grains Nosler Accubond. I had used this dame rifle three years before when I had taken a Gold Medal Becites Ibex at 400+ yards, so was familiar with it. After placing a target at 111 yards the bullet hit exactly where I was aiming, so confidence rose considerably. I always ensure that I get to shoot the rifle I am going to use on any hunt before I venture into the hunting area.
The field we first stopped at to glass
We drove for another 15 minutes and came to a beautiful house and outbuildings and it was here we were going to meet with the Game Keeper. He and Val had established a great friendship over the years and Val informed me this gentleman (age 76) had been in these mountains for many, many years and knew the Gredos Ibex movement extremely well. For hand-built roads, I must admit they were in great shape and we steadily climbed until we came upon a large field located on the edge of a mountain, which provided us with an excellent view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Val had informed me that fog could be a real problem on this hunt and it could cost us hunting time. It is much like hunting sheep back in Canada, one can be tent bound due to weather conditions. The reason I had picked this particular time to hunt the Gredos Ibex was mainly due to the higher elevations had too much snow for the Ibex to stay there and therefore they had moved down to the middle of the mountains and were easier to find as they fed in the green fields at various times of the day. Looking down into the valley about 400 feet below us and 1200 yards away, there was a lone Gredos Ibex feeding by himself, which meant he had been driven out of the herd by the younger male. He was too big as I was scheduled to take a Bronze Medal level Gredo Ibex on this hunt. The head Game Keeper was in contact with two other Game Keepers who had been up in these mountains since first light looking for ibex. They had also seen the lone monarch and nothing else, so it was decide to climb higher as the fog had, as yet not started to come in.
One of the Boulder Fields & Fog
After about 10 more minutes of driving, we saw a lone Gredos Ibex laying on a rock. The Game Keeper stopped the vehicle, but couldn’t seem to get a good look at this guy, so we went a bit higher, stopped once again and he still could not get eyes on him. We moved yet higher up the mountainside and came to a small trail leading away from the main road we had been traveling on, but headed towards where the ibex was located. The other two Game Keepers had caught up to us and the old guy and one of the young Game Keepers headed off down the trail. The other Game Keeper stayed with us. After about 10 minutes, they wanted us to move up to where they were located, as they had found the ibex and he was a shooter. Got our gear on and ambled up the trail. Once we got to the other two’s position, the old guy pointed toward a big rock and there stood a group of ibex numbering near 20, just milling around. We were going to have to wait until they separated before I was going to be able to shoot. The group was within 100 yards of us and were fully aware we were there. We moved to another position, as there was cover on both sides of the trail and no where to get a clear shot. Once in the new location, I placed my backpack on a large rock and placed the rifle on it. I have two pouches on the front of this backpack and it almost resembles the Caldwell Tack Driver. So, once set up, it was just a matter of settling in and waiting for them to move apart. The cover in which they were standing in also covered their bodies.
After approximately ½ hour of stating at us, they decided they did not like our company anymore, so decide to move to more private surroundings. They started to move away from my location and then one jumped up on a huge boulder and stood there surveying the valley below. Val gave me a nudge and motioned that I could shoot him. The scope was already on the herd and a slight adjustment had the crosshairs nestled just behind his shoulder. The sight picture was perfect and I started to squeeze the trigger. At the sound of the discharge, he leapt down the 8 feet to the ground and was gone, along with the rest of the herd. I immediately looked to Val and he was smiling. He had been watching the whole thing through his binos and said the ibex had jerked his front leg up, before jumping off the rock. Well, we all made our way over to the large bounder where he had been standing at the shot and started the search for him. No blood, now that is a very prominent problem. We spread out and started searching for either him or some sign of a hit. After three fruitless hours of looking, it was decided to call the search off and return to the vehicles for lunch. I spoke to Val and told him the dight picture had been perfect when the shot went off. But I told him three things bothered me, 1) there was no sound of the bullet hitting and we should have heard something, as the ibex was only 161 yards away; 2) when he jumped down about 8 feet from where he had been standing, he seemed to land naturally, but if had been hit and the shoulder damaged, he would have fallen or at least stumbled; and 3) from the height he had jumped, when he hit the ground, if there was any blood, it would have come off and landed on the ground with the sudden stop. I stated that I just could not believe I had missed??? Val just said, “That is why it is called hunting and not shooting.” He had watched me previously take a Becites Ibex at 400+ yards and a Pyrenees Chamois at 300+ yards on my last hunt with him, so he knew I could shoot.
Upon reaching the vehicles, the Game Keepers made a huge fire and began to eat. The fog started to roll in and with it came the cold. I was dressed warm in quilted overalls, but the walking, when searching for the missed ibex, had certainly got me well sweated-up and I was soaked. I kept moving, as I didn’t want a chill to set in. After about an hour for lunch, we mounted up and moved down the mountain to the lower elevations. Soon, we found ourselves once again in the huge field from where we had glassed earlier. Soon, the old Game Keeper (I use the word old, but he was in fantastic physical condition) pointed off in the distance in the valley below. Val let me know there was a group of ibex moving down a trail towards a small field of greenery, where they would feed for the next couple of hours. We mounted up and proceeded down towards the valley. When we arrived at a sharp corner the vehicle stopped and we got out, geared-up and the rest of the way would be on foot. We took our time, as the ibex were not going anywhere else for the next coupe of hours. We crossed a couple of narrow creeks and finally came up behind some large rocks. The group was carefully glassed over and it was decided there were several shooters.
Ian’s Gredos Ibex
The old Game Keeper placed my backpack on the rock and the ibex must have detected his movement, as they stampeded and raced toward the mountain. We just moved around the rock and they got me set up again, because as soon as the group had made the safety of the rocks, they stopped and milled around some. I had the rifle scope on the group once again and after about 15 minute they started filing through the boulder field and past through a couple of openings. Val was right beside me, as he usually was the whole time. He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “The dark coloured one standing by the tree is the one to take.” I ranged the distance and it was 168 yards to him. I git comfortable behind the rifle and placed the crosshairs just behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At the sound of the shot this time, this ibex just collapsed. The old Game Keeper had a wide grin on his face when I turned around and shook my hand vigorously. The younger Game Keeper walked back to get the truck, while the three of us headed to where the Gredos Ibex lay. Soon everyone was together and pictures were taken. Below are the people who made this hunt such a resounding success.
L to R: Miguel – Val (Outfitter) - Jesus - Andres
Soon the animal as loaded aboard the vehicle and taken back to the Game Keeper’s residence for skinning (full mount). I find one of the saddest times comes at the end of the hunt, as it doesn’t matter how many days are spent in the field, a true and lasting bond is formed between hunters, and the departure is unwanted by all, but a necessary fact of life.
I have already made a booking to return to Spain next year to hunt Rhonda and Southeastern Ibex. This will complete what is known as the Ibex Slam. I have thoroughly enjoyed hunting with Val and highly recommend his services to anyone wanting to enjoy a true outdoor hunting experience and to enjoy what Spain’s culture has to offer.