This October has been particularly cold, windy and wet compared to the previous five years. Although the general hunting season starts in early October, high temperatures are not optimal for the Spanish driven hunt, the Monteria. This year I decided to wait till November for the start of my hunting season.
Monterias have a terrible perception amongst central European hunters, and in few abhorred occasions, this perception is unfortunately well deserved. Monteria is a tradition in Spain, having its origins back in the XII century. In those early days, Monteria was an exclusive event where only aristocrats were invited. With the years, the Monteria has democratized and now there is a large spectrum of events dictated by the quality and amount of game.
Opposing other European driven hunts, Monterias have certain particularities: the hunting area is only covered once a year and the hunting dogs have a predominant character. Dogs hunt in packs of 20-25 and each pack is driven by a dog guard. Depending on the thickness of the vegetation and the orography, more packs are employed. A 500 hectare area is covered by 15 to 20 rehalas, that is 300 to 400 dogs.
This first Monteria of the season was organized by a good friend of mine, Lolo. Lolo is a singular character in the Spanish hunting circles: chatty, direct and resoundingly sincere. He is probably one of the best Monteria captains. You could picture him as a combination of an eighteenth century Spanish novel character and a “matador”: smart, courteous but decided, driven and courageous.
It was a typical November morning, cloudy with a persistent drizzle and a touch of mist at the top of the mountain ranges. Early in the morning, we had our traditional Montero breakfast “migas” (garlic fried breadcrumbs with olive oil and sweet paprika) with “chorizo, fried peppers and a fried egg on the top. Right after breakfast, we had the stand raffle (all monterias are organized in “armadas”. An armada is a line of hunters, each one occupying a previously set post). All monterias raffle the post so that each hunter has equal opportunities for the best and the not so great hunting posts. Once we say our prayers and remember the fallen colleagues, each armada starts its route.
My luck has brought me to a close distance shooting post. I love this kind of posts as hearing becomes as important as your sight. From a pack of dogs barking towards you, pumping adrenaline through your veins, to full silence only broken by isolated breaking branches noises. In this particular occasion, my shooting area is 360º wide, only limited by the horizon (shooting above the horizon line is strictly forbidden under any circumstances). The morning starts with several dog races and few shots in the vicinity.
As the morning progresses, I detect some muffled movement in my back, just a few faint rock noises. Slowly, I shoulder my rifle and direct it to the noise source. Today I am testing the new Leica Tempus red dot. I admit I am either open sights or scope fan, but I always welcome testing new gear. I must say keeping both eyes open is quite an advantage in this kind of post as the animal will only be fully visible for 4-5 meters.
After a couple of long minutes, I see a wild boar silhouette through the undergrowth. The animal seems to be aware of my presence as it almost jumps from a thick bush to an even thicker bush. It stops, rests and awaits the right time to move, or decides to hide in that bush forever. Unexpectedly, a small sniffer dog starts barking its way to my post and the boar decides it is time to make a move. With a swift action, it runs downhill to cross the narrow path ahead of me.
I follow though, taking comfortable aim. In microseconds, I decide it is only going to be one shot, but it must be a perfect shot. I wait for the animal to run through the leveled terrain on the path and take the shot. I had less than 4 meters of shooting area, and the distance was to the target was below 20 meters, I aimed at the center of the head in order to hit the animal on the “codillo” (lung area). Perfect and definitive shot. The dog reaches the boar a few seconds later. I action the bolt slowly to recover the empty cartridge. I must say, I am impressed with the red dot! It is incredibly intuitive.
After a pack of hinds crosses my post the forest goes quiet. Time for a small improvised but tasty brunch: a bit of “Iberico” Ham, some mature “manchego cheese” and a warm meat broth. The morning continues with several distant shots and the preceding dog chases. The sun hides under some dense dark grey clouds and the breeze turns stronger bringing down the temperature by a few noticeable degrees. Unexpectedly, a thick fog starts descending from the hill above my post and in less than 10 minutes it is embracing me. Time to button up the coat. As the visibility is reduced to less than 50 meters, precaution becomes the main priority.
I can feel movement coming downhill towards the path ahead of me. I shoulder my rifle making as little noise as possible. I can sense a big size boar coming out to the middle of the path, idle, almost staring at me. As the Tempus allows me to have both eyes opened, I can also see a few young boars behind the boar, just hiding in the border of the path. I disengage the rifle, slowly, hoping not to scare them away. It only lasts a few seconds, but the scene is delightful. As a general rule, youngsters and females with cubs are not to be shot.
The Monteria is prematurely ended due to the poor visibility. I carry the widest smile as I drive down the mountain to the state house. Time to meet the fellow hunters and enjoy a warm stew by the chimney. Every hunter tells his stories about the day, in most cases, exaggerating the size of the animals or finding excuses for a missed shot. As the Royal Monteria Club motto states: “hunting is not killing”, boy it is so true!