By: Jen O’Hara
When Norissa and I arrived at SCI this year, we found out from our Producer/Cameraman Kappie that we had an opportunity to hunt in Spain this year! This was one of those hunts that both of us had always dreamed of going on. We had never hunted in Spain, and we were excited about the opportunity to hunt an Ibex! When we landed in Valencia, Spain, in March, we were both so excited to get started on our newest journey in a country that neither of us had been to. We have traveled filming a lot in South Africa, which is Kappie’s home country, and we both teased him because, for once, we knew more of the language then he did. Our Outfitter/Professional Hunter (PH) Vicente Gil and his translator Yonela were at the gate waiting for us to arrive. Vicente (pronounced Bee-then-te) spoke very little English, but Yonela a vibrant Romanian was fluent in several languages. She stayed with us the entire trip and communicated with Vicente for us in Spanish.
The journey started in the Eastern part of Spain in a little village called Puertomingalvo. There were only about 70 permanent residents in the village, and it was very quaint with cobblestone roads that only fit one car. We stayed in an updated flat in this quaint little village. There was one local restaurant that had the only Wi-Fi in town and where we would eat most of our meals and keep in touch with Girls with Guns Headquarters and our family once a day. Eating is what it seemed like we did almost the entire trip! The Spaniards definitely know how to eat. Each meal consisted of an appetizer, soup, at least 3 courses, and dessert. We would come in every night after a long day of hiking around 9 p.m. The hunting area was about 45 minutes east of the village. We would finish dinner around 12 a.m. and we woke up around 5:30 a.m. every morning. It made for long days. But the meal time was enjoyed by all of us! We were able to eat with the locals, and it was so refreshing to see large families out enjoying meals together. Norissa told me I fit in well with my loud voice as all of the Spaniards were whooping it up even on a Monday night.
Our first morning, we headed out around 6:30 a.m. with our sandwiches in hand and drove to our hunting concession. Vicente explained through Yonela that the areas were all government land and that he leased the property as the main outfitter. Each country and hunting area we visit has an outfitter who leases the property, and there are only so many animals that they harvest. They are monitored regularly by the government. It was so great to see how the money that is spent on hunts is put back into conservation in Spain, just like we do in the U.S.
Norissa and I sighted in our Ruger rifles. She was hunting for the first time with her Ruger 300 Win Mag, and I had my Ruger Hawkeye 300 RCM. We both chose lighter caliber ammunition--the Hornady 150-grain--knowing that we would be shooting longer ranges and that most shots would be over 250 yards. We didn’t want to shoot with a heavier bullet that would drop faster. We drove for over an hour, getting out and glassing different mountain tops. We stopped occasionally at beautiful old homesteads that had been abandoned many, many years before by residents who had left to move closer into town. It was so awesome to imagine the people who had once lived in those homes in the middle of nowhere. It was honestly one of my favorite parts of the trip!
At one Homestead on the second day, we spent 30 minutes glassing the mountainside. We spotted a herd of Ibex, but the only male in the group was not mature enough to harvest. As we were getting ready to leave that area, Vicente spotted over 1,000 yards away the tops of the horns of two of the Becite Ibex bedded down. I am still not sure how he saw them! We could tell after studying them for about 10 minutes that they were mature males, and we decided to hike in to get a closer look. We hiked up and down the side of the mountain for an hour trying to spot those same two Ibex. The guides and Vicente were walking in front of us, and one of them motioned for us to get down behind one of the bushes. They crawled back over to where we were, and as we were looking for the other two Ibex, they had spotted a HUGE Beceite Ibex. I could see Norissa’s excitement growing. Vicente kept saying in his broken English, “Super Gold, Super Gold!” He was referring to the SCI scoring system and telling Norissa that this was a high Gold Medal Ibex. Those types of Ibex don’t come along every day. I shared the same excitement for Norissa to have an opportunity to harvest such a beautiful and mature animal!
I stayed behind the bush where I had stopped, and began filming Norissa and Vicente belly crawling over to an opening in the trees. There was a huge gulch and the Ibex was bedded down over 300 yards away on the other side of it. The wind was howling at about 40 mph, and Norissa laid down in what looked like a very uncomfortable prone position. She sat on her scope for almost an hour waiting for the Ibex to stand up. I couldn’t see the Ibex from behind the bush, and I didn’t want to move in case he was looking our direction. Sometimes running the B Roll camera makes it to where we can’t see the animal, but I was still just as excited as she was for this opportunity on a Gold Medal Ibex!
The Ibex finally stood up, walked behind some brush, and stood facing our direction. I leaned out just a bit and saw how massive his horns were compared to the rest of his body. Vicente didn’t want Norissa to take a frontal shot at 300 yards with the wind howling so badly, so he told her to wait until he was broadside. Another 45 minutes went by. I could see Norissa trying to stay still, but her neck was crinked and she looked super uncomfortable. I tried to help her and give her support from where I was by whispering suggestions and encouragement to her. Finally, the “Super Gold” turned broadside, and Norissa squeezed the trigger. The wind was howling so badly that it carried her bullet left and she shot in front of the Ibex. She reloaded as he hadn’t seen movement and didn’t know where the noise came from, so it took him a moment to move out of our view and behind some brush. I could see the disappointment in her face. She had just spent almost 2 hours trying to get a shot at this beautiful mature animal.
We hiked down the mountainside that night empty-handed, but still in surprisingly good spirits. Vicente took us to his friends restaurant that evening where we celebrated finding that beautiful Ibex and planning on going back after him again the next day. Norissa never got another shot at “Super Gold,” but she did harvest a beautiful high Silver class Beceite Ibex and I was able to harvest a great representative as well.
We headed out the next morning to the South Eastern part of Spain and spent an entire day driving. We arrived around 10 p.m. that evening to what looked to me like a city, but the Spanish still call it a village. We ate dinner and prepared for the next morning’s hunt. We awoke early the next morning with two days left to hunt. We were in search of a Southeastern Ibex. The Southeastern Ibex is smaller and lighter in color than the Beceite and Gredos types, but larger and darker than the Ronda type. The area we were hunting was as beautiful as the previous area, but completely different. The terrain consisted of slate rock and barely any cover for us to hike around. Most of our hunting consisted of driving the roads and trying to spot Ibex herds from hundreds of yards away.
We got lucky the first morning out and got on a good herd of Ibex right away. Vicente had told me that it was much harder to hunt the Southeastern Ibex. I was excited for the challenge, and I knew this could be my only chance. Unfortunately, since there was no cover except a pile of rocks, the herd spotted us and bolted over the side of the mountain. I was bummed, but I knew that I had a good day-and-a-half of hunting left and that I may still have a chance. We hunted hard until dark that evening and we were up bright and early the next day. My goal was to get half way to my Spanish Grand Slam on this trip. Vicente had explained it to me: In Spain, four Ibex roam the mountain ranges, distinct and isolated in four very different environments. Over time, this situation has permitted the Ibex in each of these habitats to develop distinctly different features, including body size, skin color, and especially the shape and size of the horns. These distinctions justify their separation into four hunting categories which make up the Spanish Grand Slam: Beceite, Gredos, Southeastern, and the smallest of the Ibex species, the Ronda.
The next morning was our last day to hunt in Spain. I woke up with a heavy heart as I always do when our trip is nearing an end. So many new friends on this journey that Norissa and I have been on the past 3 years, hunting and filming for our TV Show, Universal Huntress. Even if I didn’t go home with a Southeastern Ibex, I had made two amazing new friends in Vicente and Yonela. But our timing was right and before 10 a.m., we had spotted the same bachelor herd that we had seen the morning before. Vicente and I crept with Norissa, Yonela, and Kappie in tow. By this time, Vicente and I had our own communication down with me picking up a little Spanish and him speaking more English to me. We whispered as we neared the herd that was bedded down just over 100 yards around a cliff we had been glassing from. After spending 10 minutes finding the most mature male in the group, I set my sights on him and waited for Kappie to give me the go ahead that we were looking at the same animal (him with the camera). He whispered for me to take the shot, and I made a perfect frontal shot on a beautiful Southeastern Ibex! My goal for that trip was complete! I was now halfway to my Spanish Grand Slam! We all hugged, we were so happy for a successful harvest on the last day of our hunt. We sat up top of the high mountain side, looking at a part of Spain that I may never see again. It was a great time to reflect on the beauty of this trip and the coming trips that we get to share with our audience in 2016 on Universal Huntress TV on the Pursuit Channel, Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. EST. Be sure to check out Universal Huntress on our social sites to stay up to date on our journey!