It is the end of the hunting season. Winter days are combined with a few scattered spring warmer ones. I am driving towards Zaragoza, which is one of the coldest cities in Spain. It sits below the Pyrenees and even if it gets really hot in summer, winters get icy cold winds bringing down the freezing effect from the mountains. The characteristic wind coming from the North is called “cierzo”.
Since the climatology is quite extreme, from far below 0 in winter to high thirties and even forties on summer, the landscape is formed by rocky hills and a tough resistant vegetation. However, the game population is quite rich, from abundant wild boars and roe deers, ibex, chamoix to some mouflon.
I had been invited by my friend “Chema” from Huntex. This guy, on top of being a weapons and optics true aficionado, he is an expert cook when it comes to game. He had told me about his hunting party around his ancestors hamlet. I arrived right after dawn. It is indeed a small village, no more than 15 buildings and since this is Spain, there is always one bar.
It is quite cold, so I rush into the bar. There are two strong contrasts: it is quite warm inside and it is incredibly loud, even if there are no more than 15 people arguing and laughing at the same time. Quick salute to everyone, a hot coffee and we are off to the cars. While driving to the posts, I inquire a couple of the locals about the village, the game and the local history. We are shy of 50 kilometres to Zaragoza but it feels like we are in an extremely inhospitable area of Spain. There are no electricity poles, no sings, old roads… I just glimpse a few windmills in the distance.
I am dropped on my post and told indications on where the game might come from. When I ask about the position of the rest of the hunters, I am answered with a smile: “we always cover a large hunting area so we are far away from each other, that is why we all use the radios”. I have no walkie so I prepare myself for a silent hunt.
The pack of dogs are composed of mostly hounds instead of the more montería typical “attack dogs”. Hence, I expect game to appear more silent and slower. After a few minutes I am bewitched by the scenery. I am positioned at the top of a hill and can see a narrow rocky gap just below me. At the bottom I can see a large emerald swamp crowned by a series of steep rock formations. It is amazing to be able to contemplate such a beauty through my Geovid. I spot a roe deer resting quietly. It is way too far even to hand my gun. Geovid indicates 1230 meters, not a chance.
I hear a few scattered shots during the hunt, no more than 15-20 and I start hearing voices in the distance: I am told the hunt is over. This is definitively very different from traditional monterias where there are hundreds of shots, barking runs… As I get to the cars, I see the other fellow hunters are gathered around cars and are chatting over the radios with the dog handlers: and old hound is lost.
They all are perfectly equipped, however no one caries binoculars. I take out my trusted Geovid and start scanning the huge landscape. I am pointed to an area of around 2 hectares of dimension. I manage to locate the dog. It is laying down in a narrow path. It would have been impossible to spot the dog without binoculars. I must provide indications to the handlers as the dog is not responding to their calls and they cannot locate the path without indications from the top of the hill. An old hunter turns to me and with sadness in his eyes mumbles: “what a pity! He has been a courageous animal. It is its last hunt. It will now guard the chickens and envy his mates every Saturday.
We finally arrive to the hunters shelter. It is extremely narrow and small. Even it is always quite cold in the summer, there are a couple of large windows and two fireplaces. One is meant for cooking and the other for tempering the lounge. There are three guys preparing the stew. I am told it is wild boar from last weeks hunt, few potatoes and some rice. We drink a few beers and taste some rich wild boar chorizo. The stew is tremendous. Soft and tasty meat with an strong sauce mixed with the boiled potatoes.
We can now see a few snowflakes through the windows and the nearby rocky hills are starting to accumulate a bit of white. Suddenly my eyes make me doubt. Is it possible that there are animals on the snow? I remain silent while staring. One of the old hunters smiles and asks me:
- Can you see them?
- Are those IBEX?
- Yes, they always approach the village when it gets snowy.
Amazing! It is 19.00 and lunch is about to conclude. One of the guys stands up and announces: “Ok gentlemen, we have harvested two roe deer and two wild boars, who wants meat?” Almost everyone raises their hand and requests specific cuts. Some of them argue on what cuts they should get and exchange jokes about it.
What an amazing day. This kind of collective hunt is now unusual in Spain. It is not only a group of lifetime friends who more than hunt, harvest the meat season, but also a true hunting brotherhood.