For the third time in three years, my wife Jan and I returned to the beautiful
mountains of Spain to hunt ibex with our good friend and owner of Caza Hispanica,
Vicente Gil. The nine-hour flight on Thursday, March 12 from Dallas to Madrid
tempered our excitement a bit, but the anticipation to hunt elevated once again on the
comfortably short flight from Madrid to Almeria located on the southeastern coast on the
Mediterranean Sea and our temporary residence for the next five nights. A mid-day
arrival following check-in at the Marriott located in the middle of the impeccably clean
and colorful city provided Jan with a target-rich shopping environment within walking
distance of our hotel. By 7 on our first evening, we relaxed while dining in one of the
ubiquitous tapas bars located throughout the city.
Our second day, Sunday, began with Mass just a stone’s throw from our room
followed by lunch and a casual walk along the Mediterranean shoreline, followed by a
visit to the historic Moorish fortress, Alcazaba, providing us a glimpse of life in Almeria
10 centuries ago.
On Monday morning Vicente Gil and our interpreter Ionela Scoarta picked us up
at the hotel, and we made the hour-long drive west to Velefique, a tiny village situated in
the second largest mountain range in Europe, the Sierra de los Filabres Mountains.
Following breakfast at a quaint yet busy little restaurant with our second guide, Gasper,
we drove the narrow, winding road to the top of the 7,000-feet tall mountain. The steep,
verdant slopes, littered with rocky outcrops, were home to the southeastern species of
ibex, one of four subspecies that occur in Spain and smaller horned than the gredos and
beceite ibex which I have taken over the previous two years.
A sunny, clear morning, we drove to several ideal observation points, glassed for
rams, and enjoyed little luck, but were rewarded with panoramic views of white
flowering almond trees sprinkled over the vibrant green landscape. Just before noon we
hiked along the top of one of the many ridges peering downward in an attempt to locate
ibex bedding down amongst the boulders during the warmer part of the day. Negotiating
our way through one of the many pine stands, we spotted a group of rams on an opposing
rocky slope, but upon our approach, Vicente felt they were not what we were after, so we
continued to investigate other rocky portions visible from the
mountainside we traversed.
A second hike was initiated later in the afternoon when Gaspar and I negotiated
our way along a boulder-ridden mountainside for almost a mile before we spotted a
single ram of average horn size feeding below us. Since the rams consolidate at this time
of year, we remained in position hoping others would join the single animal, but as we
did, clouds from below began to encroach on the area and before I knew it, the entire
mountainside was inundated by clouds, eliminating our visibility. Hoping the wind
would clear out the cloud cover, we remained for almost an hour, and as the clouds
dissipated to a degree, we spotted nine more rams working their way down the opposing
mountainside as well as the single ram we saw earlier, but before we could critique horn
size of the additional rams, the clouds returned and my first day of hunting was over.