I never lose the tension the night before each and every Monteria. Monterias start several days before the hunting day. Getting to know the area, looking for signs of previous hunts in the area, even looking at satellite pictures of the area to learn about the vegetation, trying to understand if the state is likely to offer longer shooting areas or close-range ones.
I have my own ritual for the hunting eve. I check my gun, my scope, double check the bullets, binoculars, folding lunch knife, large knife, clothes… I even take a few dry shots simulating a typical boar run. I always leave all the gear by the door together with my hunting permits, wallet and car keys. Inevitably, my sleep is always uneasy, waking up a couple of minutes before the alarm clock set time. I follow the same dressing process, quietly, slowly and then off to the kitchen to make the first morning coffee. No matter the time, my wife always wakes up to give me my goodbye and to remind me to be safe and accurate.
Roads are always deserted due to the early hours. When driving alone, there is just the monotonous engine sound, but my mind is full of previous hunting events, missed opportunities (mostly) and thoughts on the hunting area.
There was this day… I will always remember this precise day, there was a bit of morning fog, however, the sky was clear and promising, a warm mid-day and afternoon. After the traditional breakfast, the post draw and the prayers, I arrived at my designated hunting area. I was placed almost at the bottom of a hill where the slope was quite mild. The vegetation was light, but I still could identify boar frequented trails. There was nothing remarkably different on this Monteria over others. Or at least that is what I thought.
After a couple hours of typical Spanish driven hunting, I spotted an idle rehala dog about 80 meters from me. I could feel its glance. These warrior-like dogs are evasive with anyone other than their bidder even eluding to look at the hunter when passing nearby. The dog got closer to my post, maintaining a 30-meter distance, but still staring at me. I was having my mid-morning snack composed of bread, Iberian chorizo and cheese. These dogs hardly take anything from the hunters as they are well instructed only to eat at a certain time and place and only what is provided by their curator. I could feel its hunger and I showed him a piece of bread. Got closer… ears backwards and tail between its legs… fearful or shy, or both… I threw a piece of bread in the middle between his stance and mine. The dog slowly circled the bread getting closer to the piece of bread, never losing eye contact with me.
Finally, and in a quick movement, it grabbed the piece of bread and walked away a few tens of meters. It kept on looking at me, still, motionless. I got another slice of bread and threw it a few meters closer to my stand. The dog slowly started walking towards me. It grabbed the bread and walked away, this time turning towards me only around 15 meters away. Unfortunately, I had no more bread and unconsciously, I showed him my empty hands. The dog wandered off till I could not spot him anymore due to the low vegetation.
These dogs avoid any human contact. They ignore whistles or calls from any others but their beaters. A few minutes later, the dog reappears again and stares at me. As the Monteria was quite idle, I could not do anything but stare back. Slowly, the dog commenced wandering towards me… getting closer and closer… When it was only a few meters away, I can see it’s carrying something in its mouth. It is not the bread surely! When it is only a couple of meters away from me, the dog lowers its head and drops what appears to be a short dry branch. As the dog now runs away from me, I walk a couple of steps to check out the branch. Initially I am confused and immediately shocked, it is not a branch, but a roe deer dry antler! After a few moments of amazement, I can’t help but smile. I look for the thankful dog, but it is long gone. I feel like it’s a thank you present or a “payment” for the bread.
These dogs have always had my most profound respect, but after this day, I am still puzzled and amazed by their intelligence and courage. I reckon it might sound like one of those “hunter’s stories” (which are hard to believe sometimes), but the antler has found its place in my library and I consider it one of my most precious “trophies”.