I had been hoping for a chance to hunt chamois for a long time now, and in the space of just two weeks, I had been invited to two separate hunts.
This was the second hunt.
Marco had been to hunt with me last year for pigs and deer, and now, nearly a year later I was going to hunt chamois in the Italian Alps with him. We would be hunting the part of Italy that boarders with Slovenia and Austria. As it was to happen we would actually walk to the last ridge in the Italian territory.
We met on the road and made the last 2 hours of the drive up in the dark, picking up the warden who would accompany us, arriving at the foothills on dawn. From there we started driving and stopping to glass the sides of the high mountains jutting up around us as well as on the highplains we were now on.
Marco had said that he would go to where the chamois are, if necessary all the way to the tops of the mountains, but if an easy shot and recovery presented itself, we wouldn’t pass it up. This worried me some, since I had already had a great experience the week before and looked forward to climbing high into the mountains again.
Just a few minutes after we left the car, we found a group of 3 chamois on the face of a mountain opposite us. An old female and a younger “capra” with a kid. The old goat was a nice trophy, but it was a long shot, and we deemed the recovery as impossible. So we decided to climber higher. After a good 3 hours of steady, too steady hiking zig zag up the hills we cleared the treeline at around 2000m(6000ft) and started into the rock. Up on high the evergreen Mountain Mugo Pines still survived in patches where the sun shone and so did some other trees which were now bare against the snow and rock and ice falls and we wound our way up narrow trails following some fresh chamois tracks that conveniently led to where we were headed.
We were headed for a blind gully where the sun shone and the chamois had not been shot at for years, in the very corner between the 3 countries. Recovery there would be very difficult but Marco knew a passage that was mostly good, with only one short section that had a sheer drop down the side. While we glassed, 2 chamois appeared way off high and out of reach and shortly after Marco excitedly called me down from my spot on the ridge telling me there was a huge chamois on the opposite face, amongst the stunted Mountain Mugo pines. He said it was a medal trophy he’d been trying to get a shot at for the past 3 years. “You just shoot it then I’ll tell you what you’ve done!” He gave me the range as 330m and with some difficulty I finally found a comfortable place for a shot. I had the chamois in my sights for a good 10 minutes but never got a clear shot with so many tiny braches covering it like a spiderweb. We tried from every available position to get a clear shot, but any shot would have almost certainly hit something on the way to the mark, so with a philosophical “oh well” we had to let it go as it wondered into the thick Mugo pine out of sight after a half hour or so. We spotted some yearlings and other chamois, but nothing that interested up there, looking into Slovenia, where the bears are starting to filter in to Italy.
We decided to go check on the first group we had seen down below in the hope they had come down and might give us a shot in a position that would cause the chamois to fall down the mountain for us. They were in the same place as before, so we decided to try to get closer. Following a ridge on our side of the mountain we were able to get to 235m but the chamois were out of sight from that angle, so basically we gave up on them. Having nothing more to lose we decide to go see if there was indeed a way to get up the face. From the base, turned out there was a track the chamois use to get up, and it led to an easy pass, which was hidden from the frontal view. Once you got past the first 30 meters of vertical elevation, it would be easy going. Relatively easy anyway. It was getting late now but we decided that if the animals hadn’t moved by the time we got back to the original shooting position I would take the shot.
By the time we got back it was getting late. We watched them and took a few readings on range and wind. 428m, 22° incline. While the were doing this, the old female bedded down, and I resigned myself to the fact that we weren’t going to the shot after all.
As the light was starting to fade, Roberto, the game warden, taking one last look through his binos says she has got up again. I had move back a few more meters to get a clear shot and give Marco a few moments to get aways away to watch for impact through the spotting scope without being disturbed by the shot.
I had been carrying my 7mm-08 Remington Titanium with a Leupold 4.5-14x42 B&C reticle on my pack all day, it had been a pleasure, but now I was tired. I hadn’t checked the actual ballistics of this load at 400m but I had run the programs and knew it should have been at the 2nd crosshair down with the magnification set at 12X, instead of 14X. I had shot this load of a 162gn A-Max over 39gn H4895 plenty out to 340m at my home target and it seemed like a simple shot, there was just the tiny amount of uncertainty.
With little time to linger on the thought, the chamois was broadside and quartering a little towards me. She stopped still for a moment and the shot broke. I lost the sight picture for a fraction but caught it in time to see her collapse in a heap. The chamois was still, then dragged itself a few more meters. I hoped it would fall, but it just stopped with it’s head hanging down.
It was dark now so we decided to get back out there around 09:00 the next morning to recover the chamois. Marco had problems at work so we couldn’t get out there until nearly 15:00.
We checked through the spotting scope to see if the body was still there and found it laying as we’d left it. It was a 30 minute hike to the base of the cliff and we unloaded our packs at the bottom before starting off. The climbing was fairly easy to start with, just that there was a 30meter fall to certain death if you lost a footing. Just as we were reaching the hidden passage, which was covered with grass and chamois trails going up, we came to a stop. There was a small jump to make over a gap in footings, with only smooth, vertical rock in between us and the start of the easy part. All it was was a meter, a yard. But if you didn’t make it, you’d to go down and die. At that point we called it off, and I was not happy at the idea of hanging around thinking about a better way through with daylight fading.
We had to go home and make plans to get back with a friend who is an expert rock climber and set down some bolts and ropes. The next day the weather turned bad and it started to snow.
As I am writing this, my chamois is getting covered with snow, which is a good thing, because it means the predators can’t find it, but the meat will almost certainly spoil and all we’ll get is the head to remember the hunt.
I can hardly wait till weather clears, my gear is already packed and I’ll be off to go finish this job.
Until then, no money shot, but so far a very challenging hunt and the saga continues.