A friend of mine called me to ask if I was interested in a machos montes hunt. Macho montes is what they call Spanish ibex in Spain.
To be honest I wasn’t really interested in these animals because they aren’t a true ibex, just a goat, and I don’t find them to be as impressive as the ibex I hunted in Kyrgyzstan a few years back. The terrain doesn’t seem up to the challenge of the alps or true mountains, and add to this that the costs can be astronomical, I wasn’t interested. But he insisted and there turned out to be a few good deals, we hadn’t been on a hunt together for a while, so I decided to go for it.
We rolled into the little Spanish town after a 12 hour drive and met with our guide for dinner and talked about the hunt we had planned for the morning. It would be my turn to shoot first and we asked to get a chance to check our rifles before setting off. I was shooting my trued Ti action Rem 700 with a 25” Kreiger barrel chambered in 6.5-284 shooting a 140gn JLK at 3060fps. This turned out to be a good thing because mine was off by a full MIL, for reasons I still haven’t quite figured out.
Our hunt started as any mountain hunt, and the mountains were actually quite impressive. I was liking the look of things. As we climbed we would stop to glass and about halfway up the mountain I spotted an awesome looking beast stood on top of a boulder across the valley. Our guide put him at over 240 CIC points, which is well into a gold medal. Unfortunately there were no medal animals left on license so I just squeezed off a “click” on an empty chamber with the crosshairs centered on his shoulder and took the memory home with me.
On the top of the mountain things were starting to get wild and windy, with some rain mixed in. We were on top of the mountain, and by now I was totally sold on this kind of hunt. I’d had some misconceptions about it, but this is the real deal.
Seeing no ibex, we sat down for a bit of lunch perched atop a ridge overlooking valleys and mountains, with the Pyrenees visible to the north east, some 350km away. We decided to head back down to the trailhead and check out a different area.
This time the climb was much longer, and we were tired from the mornings’ effort. We reached the peak of the neighboring mountain by around 1600h, a gale force wind gaining strength the higher we went. By the time we reached the ridgeline, it was howling with the strongest gust I measured at 61mph!
We bumped a small group of goats from their beds and headed to a bowl on the lee side of the mountain.
Here we found the ibex. Small groups scattered everywhere with one just 170meters away that had a huge billy who was running through the herd in circles. I was exited to take him, but our guide ultimately said he was borderline, but would have made a bronze medal, so he was off limits. We kept glassing and waiting, decided to head back down. As we were leaving my friend Marco spotted another group of goats. After some scrutiny we found nothing we could or wanted to shoot, and this routine of getting up to leave to have another group of goats come out went on another couple of times, until one animal stood out by his black coat and long bread. It turned out he fit the description of the kind of animal we could take, which had to be over 10 years old but could not have reached medal size. However this old goat was just plain. Small horns, narrow, straight. I passed on him, sure I would regret it later.
We reached the car at dark, exhausted and sore.
The next day we would hunt separately with different guides in the hope of both getting our goats.
Our guides were waiting for us at 0630h and we headed off in the darkness to our respective areas.
At daybreak just 20 minutes from the vehicle we spotted a potential billy, but it was still too dark to get a good ID on him, they need to be able to count a minimum of 10 age rings and estimate the length at a maximum of 68cm, for it to be legal, so we missed that opportunity. We continued on and hiked up to glass over a wide hillside that held a few nannies and youngsters then decided to try another area after an hour of watching them. It’s hard to spot these animals, their coloration fits in perfectly with the mountain vegetation. When they are laying down they are impossible to spot, even out in the open.
After a couple of hours we gave up on the area and made a move to another area by car. Before we even parked the car we had spotted the goats from a half mile back.
We parked the car and moved in to a position where we could glass from. It wasn’t easy because they were up on a steep pinnacle of rock in the middle of thick vegetation. After a few different spots we finally settled on a location got the spotting scope out. The billy was bedded down chewing his cud, in full view but with his horns totally covered by brush. This frustration went on for a good half hour, during which I heard the distant sound of a rifle shot, which I knew had to have been Marco and I hoped it would cause the billy to stand or move, but he only stopped chewing for a second, then relaxed. The billy was only 310 meters, 340 yards away, and I was vexed. So close, yet so far. Of course, the need to identify the animals to such a level means that long range shooting is not allowed beyond the reach of the ability to count the rings on the horns, which usually limits it to the 300-350 meter mark.
All the while Joaquin, my guide watched through the spotting scope I scouted around trying to find a better vantage point, and got a glimpse of the billies’ horns, which to me looked great, but the problem remained counting the age rings. Suddenly the macho stood and jumped up onto a boulder, fixing on something across the mountain. I excitedly called Joaquin over and he got a better look, then said I could shoot. Now I couldn’t get a good position, with nearly 25 degrees of incline to shoot up. It took three hurried tries to setup backpacks and dirt so I could get up to the line of sight, all the while worried he would dash off at any moment.
I only had to give it 8 .1MIL clicks to reach 280m considering the incline and didn’t hesitate to squeeze the shot off. I lost the sight picture due to the makeshift rest and Joaquin was squinting intently through the spotting scope not saying anything. It was a tense moment until he grinned and held out his hand, and I was relived. The goat had collapsed and he was watching to make sure it didn’t get up.
Recovery was fairly difficult with a couple of hairy ledges to inch around before we found the billy piled up. Joaquin was extatic, because this billy would only be centimeters from a medal and was 12 years old. The lyre shaped horns curved up, out and back as is typical of the species and I had myself a very respectable animal.
We are already talking about going back either to try for a gold medal or for another hunt like this one, but hunting in Spain turned out to be a great experience, definitely worth repeating.
The last pics are show a split in the mountain that you can walk through and find yourself on the other side of the ridge. We were glassing for a possible third ibex or a female for meat when our guide mentioned that you can get through that split, so we decided to go check it out as the close a great hunt.