– Story by Brant Wade –
Early last year, my wife and I started planning a long-anticipated vacation to Europe. Pandemic restrictions and concerns had subsided and the time was right. And since we were going to Europe, the next logical step for me was to call my good friends at High Adventure Company and see what opportunities there were to hunt! Dallis took my call and we began looking at options.
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by these rugged animals I had seen in other hunter’s pictures – but I never imagined myself hunting. Maybe this European trip would provide the opportunity to finally pursue the majestic Spanish Ibex! I asked Dallis if they had a contact for an ibex hunt. The answer, of course, was yes! He said we would be working with one of the oldest and most respected hunting organizations in Spain – owned and operated by Fernando Saiz. But before it was game on, the most important question had to be answered – is this a Christine-compatible hunt? The answer to this question will require a consult with John and Drew who know my wife well. Christine loves adventure and has gone on many hunts with me – including our honeymoon! They are well aware there is a certain level of comfort required for Christine. The answer was a resounding yes. Christine knows my love for hunting and she gracefully agreed. The Fernando Saiz organization is very comfortable accommodating non-hunting wives. While I am hunting, Christine will be provided with her own personal guide for sightseeing, shopping, sampling local wines, and dining.
There are four different types of Spanish Ibex, and I would be targeting the Gredos. The hunting area is about a 2 1/2 hour drive west from Madrid. We were met at the airport by our guides – Santi and Beatriz. Both are native to Spain and very knowledgeable of the culture and history. Our trek out of Madrid carried us westward leaving the big city behind. I started feeling more at home as the terrain changed to rolling hills and farmland. We stopped for an enjoyable lunch about an hour out and then continued on to our destination in the Gredos Mountains. After checking in and relaxing for a while, we joined Santi and Beatriz for another outstanding meal. Plans were made for the morning and good nights were said.
I was up early and met Santi for breakfast. Christine and Beatriz would start their adventure a little later. Santi and I headed to the hunting area to meet the gamekeeper who would be joining us. The gamekeepers who manage the herd are intimately knowledgeable of the ibex in their charge. The herd is expertly managed for health and to ensure ongoing trophy quality. For me, one of the most attractive features of this hunt was the fact that the keepers are in the field daily – so they have a good idea of where we will have a chance of finding the ibex. Time away is a big factor for me and the pre-scout is invaluable for concentrating hunt time. In addition to the gamekeeper with Santi and myself, there will be three others scoping different areas on our hunt to maximize the amount of ground covered.
We arrived at the keeper station, our paperwork was checked and we drove into the hunting area. The road ended and our walk began. The altitude was about 3500 – 4500 feet where we would be hunting and the terrain was steep in places and very rocky. The wind was howling so a long-distance shot would be risky. All agreed on minimizing shooting distance to limit the effects of the wind. The first ridge was crested and we descended into the next valley. The strategy was to find open vantage points to thoroughly glass for animals. The keeper with us was in constant contact with his colleagues who were simultaneously glassing adjacent areas. A group of ibex had been sighted in and around this valley recently with several possible shooters. Unfortunately, the herd must have been advised of our plan as they were nowhere to be seen today. There was a sense of urgency for a first-day shot as the weather forecast was calling for rain and fog on day two – definitely not favorable. Several ibex were spotted, but none were the trophy quality we were looking for. We kept moving and glassing as the hours and miles continued to add up. About 2:00 we were quite a way out and the decision was made to start working our way back to the vehicle. After a short break for lunch, we continued on. We were about 3 1/2 miles from the vehicle when the radio call came through of a possible shooter sighted. They didn’t get to see the animal completely and the ibex was between us and the vehicle. Not long after this, the tip of a horn flashed a couple hundred yards ahead. We immediately hit the deck and all glasses were up. However, upon closer inspection, once again, not what we were looking for. We continued on with a revised plan of driving around to the far side of the valley and searching there. The extra keepers would remain on this side and glass below us as our road elevated on the opposite side. Shadows were getting longer as the hours ticked away.
We drove to the opposite side of the valley and began glassing again. This was definitely proving to be challenging. Then another call came through – definite shooter ahead and below us. The keepers on the far side were looking at the ibex through their spotting scope. There was a group of three walking toward us. We couldn’t see them but they could. Hurriedly we scrambled down the ridge to get to an open area. But the ibex had no intention of waiting for us to get in position. Radio said they were immediately below us. The ridge was very steep and we were lying down looking over the edge of a flat rock. Then, the ibex stepped out from behind a rocky outcropping only 75 yards away. “That’s him,” whispered Santi. The crosshairs moved to the shoulder and settled, breathe out, squeeze, and pin the trigger – the .300 Win Mag exploded, and the ibex disappeared. Where did he go? The far keepers radioed, “He’s down!” What a feeling! We located him about 50 yards away. What a tough animal! His horns displayed the results of years of battles. Congratulations and smiles were all around. What a day, what a beautiful place, what a beautiful animal – I gave thanks to God.
Oh – and while we were chasing ibex in the gusty winds in the valley, Christine and Beatriz were having their own adventure battling 50+ mph winds at the top of the mountain as they explored an ancient monastery! They also had an awesome day taking in the local flavors of Spain. It makes the hunt even more enjoyable for me knowing that Christine is well taken care of and having a great time also. And that is one feature that makes High Adventure such a great fit for us – their ability to merge an amazing experience for a hunter and non-hunter on the same trip. All the people at High Adventure have always treated me not as a client, but as a friend – special thanks to John, Drew, and Dallis! Geographically, I have now hunted on 4 continents with High Adventure and next year will make 5 as we will travel deep into Africa – once again at a Christine-approved lodge!