Grand slam of ibex near completion for local man

Hermiston resident Graham Derbyshire, right, along with Euro Hunts guide Alvaro Villegas pose with Derbyshire's Ronda ibex he harvested in late October in southern Spain. Out of 14 species of ibex found worldwide, this is Derbyshire's seventh he has harvested.

 In October, I traveled to Spain to hunt the Cantabrian chamois, located in the Cantabrian mountains in northwestern Spain. After the hunt, Alvaro Villegas, drove me back to Madrid where we picked up my wife who was sightseeing with Alvaro’s girlfriend Elisa and proceeded to drive to a small town in the very southern part of Spain called Alozaina to begin my Ronda ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) hunt. Alozaina is located between the valley and the Serrania de Ronda mountain range. The village was named the most beautiful village in Spain. This origin of the village dates back to Roman times of which relics can be found in the center of town.

The Ronda ibex is the smallest species of the 14 species of ibex found worldwide. If harvested this would give me seven species of ibex found worldwide. Ibex belong to the genus Capra, and if I was to be successful, my count of goats worldwide would be nine.              

Before this hunt, I had hunted British Columbia for seven days and climbed six mountains and never fired a round. Mountain goats are the only species of goat found in North America. Believe me, this mountain goat hunt was an ordeal in itself. There is no easy way to reach the elevation that the goats are at but climb vertically. The longest time was a 6.5-hour climb. Every fiber of your body and soul is tested beyond what the average hunter will ever experience in his lifetime.

On the first morning of the hunt we met Carlos, the local game keeper of the area, and another helper named Pedro. After traveling about 15 minutes up into the Rondas, we stopped at a rock quarry and continued to glass the mountain for ibex. Soon we spotted about a dozen females and two good males feeding up on the side of the mountain.

They weren’t in a place that we could approach them for an ethical shot, so the game keeper said theywould stay there all day and in the afternoon they may move, giving me the opportunity to stalk them. For the rest of the day we continued up the road and saw lots of ibex but no males compared to the two we saw earlier in the morning.

Just before dark, as we were driving down the mountain, Alvaro spotted one of the males we saw earlier. Alvaro decided to hunt him from below and see if we could get closer for a quality shot. I always let my guide call the shots; I never guide my guide.

At the beginning of the hunt I always tell my guide that he is a better judge of quality animals than I am and when he communicates to me to begin the stalk, and then to shot, I will do as he says. Never is there any disagreement between the guide, who has seen hundreds if not thousands of ibex, and the hunter.

All I want is to harvested a good representation of the species. I know that I’m not going to shoot the biggest ibex ever recorded, but I’m not going to shoot an animal of inferior size, either.

As Alvaro and I continued to move upward toward the male ibex, the animal knew the gig was up and started to move parallel to us.

He finally stopped by a rather large rock at 300 yards. To my left was a large Spanish fir tree that I could use as a rest, so I proceeded to get steady and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the rock but missed the ibex. I would of rather hit the ibex and missed the rock.

This is why they call this hunting. I felt bad about missing the shot but Alvaro assured me that the shot was a difficult shot and I would have another chance tomorrow to redeem myself. He also said that on the next day I would harvest a Ronda ibex just before dark. On the Cantabrain chamois hunt and this one, every shot was in the afternoon just before dark. I’ve been told that things happen in threes.

On day two, our crew traveled to the other side of the mountain where we had hunted the first day. Alvaro said he had taken someone else to thie area, and an ibex was harvested. While there we glassed and saw lots of ibex, but no big males. There were some domesticated  dogs barking and chasing ibex in the canyon to our right. Alvaro said these dogs harass the local ibex population from time to time.  

After glassing the mountain for several hours, Alvaro and the game keeper decided to drive back to the same mountain that we had hunted the first day. We drove to the end of the road and proceeded to have lunch.

After lunch we decided to hike up the long ridge to the right of the Land Rover and see if we could find my quarry. The hike wasn’t too strenuous — but finding the ibex was a different story.

Now a general consensus by the three minds was to go back to the rock quarry where we had glassed ibex the first day and watch the hillside. My three amigos said that if there was any males in the canyon where the dogs were, they would move over the ridge in the afternoon to chased the females who were starting to come into estrous.

Just before dark we spotted two males moving across the hillside and Alvaro said we could get into position for a shot. Again, we moved up onto the hillside that they were moving across and positioned ourselves within 150 yards of the two males.

The biggest male was standing on a rock and the other was standing half-hidden by some brush. Alvaro told me to shoot the male standing on the rock and again to my left was a large Spanish fir tree to use for a rest. Deja vu, all over again.

This time I had an audience of three watching my effort to shoot straight and to harvest my seventh species of ibex. I steadied my rifle against the tree, took a deep breath and  slowly pulled the trigger on the 270 WSM. The Ronda ibex collapsed at the base of the rock that he was standing on.

Again, I feel very fortunate to have harvested this ibex with a rented rifle that I had never shot before this trip to Spain. I have learned a great lesson while in Spain — always bring your own rifle, no matter what the circumstances,

I now only have the Gredos ibex to complete my Grand Slam of Spanish ibex (Southeastern, Beceite, Ronda, and Gredos). Maybe next year I can come back.

The Ourdoor Journal is a reader-driven feature that appears when material is received. E-mail your story to Billy Gates at the Hermiston Herald, bgates@hermistonherald.com.

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