Find full article at http://huntspain.blogspot.com.es/ Hunting in Spain blog
We Spanish are a passionate lot to say the least and that passion most definitely extends to our love of nature and for hunting. Hunting traditions can be found entrenched in all levels of society and they are traditions that go back hundreds of years. In fact, some say that the landlocked, mountainous position of our capital Madrid, is due to the Kings of old and their passion for hunting. Today, we can enjoy the same experiences as we hunt the big game species that can be found in Spains's spectacular and diverse wilderness: Wild Boar, Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Roe Deer, Spanish Ibex, Pyrenese Ibex (that we call Rebeco or Sarrio), Muflon, Fox, Wolf, as well as some other mountain goat species as is the case of the Arrui can all be hunted. Big game hunting in Spain can be experienced in the following ways: - Stalking: Probably hunting in its most pure form. Consists of locating an animal, observing it, stalking it, and waiting for the best possible moment to harvest it. Stalks are done animal by animal, and with only one gun at a time. - Night Waits "Esperas": Only Wild Boar is hunted by this method which consists of waiting in the dead of night at the feeding ground, often timed for moonlit nights, where feeling the suspense and waiting for the right boar and the right moment to take the shot are something that all hunters should experience. - The “Monteria”: The quintessential Spanish form of big game hunting. It is a driven mountain hunt, with fixed pegs strategically positioned by the hunt organisers prior to the hunt. Groups of “rehalas” (groups of 25 dogs specialized for this type of hunt to drive game) make the game move around and out of the “mancha” - the designated area to hunt, which is often of extreme dense cover making in unpassable for the hunter. It is important to select with care which monterias you want to participate in. Being a foreigner, particular attention should be taken, as being a visitor in a country accustomed to tourism, usually results in unfairly overcharging the “tourista”.. Things to consider prior to a monteria hunt… • In a monteria shots are taken on the move, meaning that we shoot at running animals and normally at medium ranges (a maximum of 150m for a sure and safe kill). For this style of hunt, calibers with significant stopping power are far better suited than high velocity calibers. • You will have very little time to shoulder your weapon, take aim and fire very quickly. Knowing your weapon and equipment intimately is essential. • It is not normal to have to walk a significant amount, but sometime peg locations take time to access, and with everything you need for a four or five hour wait, you must be prepared. • In a typical monteria, you can expect to shoot 10 or 15 times if you have a lot of luck, but this, as in all forms of true hunting is in natures hands, and many a time a hunter has gone home disappointed but pleased to have been hunting without firing a single shot. • The hunt grounds are usually not open ground, so even first sighting the animal is no easy task. A hunters experience and insticts are put to the test. • The hunt season is from Autumn through winter, and although its Spain, you must come prepared for it can get cold, windy, rain and even snow. • You have to stay put at your peg for the entire duration of the monteria – 4 to 5 hours normally, with it being absolutely forbidden to abandon your post for safety reasons. • The dog packs “rehalas” are led by “rehaleros”, dog handlers, dressed in high visibility luminous colours as they advance with their dog packs through the cover driving the game and alerting hunters to the presence of game with typical shouts "alli va el guarro" a "there goes the boar"... • The pegs are numbered and a “hilera” or line of pegs forms an "armada" so that all pegs can be identified by the name of the armada and peg number. • The “postor” is a hunter that is also working the hunt to ensure the safe conduct of the hunt. They place each hunter on their given peg, peg by peg, and may or may not advise you as to the angle of shot permitted – its good practice to always ask and double check you understand where you can and above all cannot shoot. In a similar way, at the end of the monteria, it is the postor that comes to collect you from your peg.
The Day of the Monteria Hunters are usually called to meet at around 9am for a typical hearty monteria breakfast of “migas y huevos” – fried bread with eggs, and the all important ritual ballot for peg positions. On arrival, you register with the required documentation with the hunt organisers (the “organica”) at the main table. You confirm your presence and verify that you are on the list of hunters places in the ballot for pegs. Normally, breakfast is taken while you wait for fellow hunters to slowly arrive, and this is a really pleasurable wait as you greet and catch up with old friends and share the expectation of the coming days action. There are few breakfasts that are more in tune to the coming days events than that of “migas con huevos” with a glass of red wine (if desired..). After breakfast, the ballot for pegs begins.
This is a moment of high expectations as you listen for your name to be called out, and you find out your peg not knowing whether you’ll get a peg to your liking (open for longer shots or closed for very close action) or whether it’s a peg where for this “mancha” – hunting area, is a peg that normally sees a lot of game. The ballot normally has you approach the main table when your name is called, and you are asked to draw a ball from a bag (although there are many alternative ways to do this). You then select a closed unmarked envelop and find out which armada – line of pegs closing the hunting area, and which peg you have been allocated. It is important to ask to know who will be your “postor” – the hunt coordinator for your armada. Once the ballot is completed, the armadas gather together and the order of leaving for the hunting grounds is determined. In summary, there are generally two types of armadas, “los cierres” and “las travesias”. "Los Cierres": Comes from the Spanish verb “cerrar”, meaning to close, and these peg lines mark the external limits of the hunting grounds. These are the peg lines that are the first to be placed, so that with vehicle and other noise game doesn’t abandon the hunting grounds. Travesias: These are peg lines situated within the hunting grounds, normally in valleys so ensuring safety, and are the last to be placed.
Its generally good to find out from the postor what type of peg you’ve obtained in the ballot. For example, there could be open pegs with longer clear shots where its recommended to have a scope, or you could have a closed firebreak peg where shots can be at extremely close distance and where you hunt more by sound and instinct than by sight. Depending on your peg, you may wish to change the only one weapon that is permitted from say a rifle to a shotgun with slugs. In these pegs, where the actionnia close, you get the excitement of hearing game come nearer and nearer, breaking through and giving you very few seconds to take the shot. In these pegs, a scope or shooting sticks are more of a hindrance than an aide.
At around 10:00 am (in the earliest cases) the armadas begin their way to each peg, almost always by car from the location of the breakfast and ballot. Peg by peg, the postor will position each hunter (and accompanying person if present) signaling where the dog packs will come from and where you can and cannot shoot. This placement of each hunter is done with the minimal amount of noise possible, taking care with car doors and normally whispering to your fellow hunter a message of good luck as you leave him behind on his peg to get set and prepared. Once at your peg, the very first thing is to do is to know the location of your neighbouring pegs, and make a signal to acknowledge that you have seen them, and they know also where you are. In the best circumstances, the pegs cannot be seen by one another, so maximizing safety. Once this is done, we load our rifles first, and then start looking at possible animal paths, trails, gaps where game could potentially pass. This is where a hunters experience and instincts start to come to the surface. In these early minutes, before the dogs are released, the game usually moves a lot and we get the first opportunity to see game and perhaps take our first shot. They are moment of high tension where adrenalin takes over and you think that you sense game and movement behind almost every shrub, bush, and tree in front of your peg. Once all pegs are in place, the dog packs are released! It’s a magical moment in the Spanish monteria when you start to hear the dogs barking and making their way into the hunting grounds looking for and picking up the scent of game. These first barks are of pure excitement from the dogs as there are set free to run after game. Its good to pay attention to the sound of the dogs; when they are high pitched they are passing through neighbouring pegs, but when they are together and become a growl, we know instantly that the dogs are onto game, not just the scent, but they have visual contact and are in pursuit. In many cases and where the dog packs are highly trained, the dogs catch up with and hold down game in an “agarre”. Varios dogs start to pin the game down until one summons up the bravery to try to launch a lethal attack. With both deer and wild boar they are tremendous encounters, with nothing surrendered, and where game normally escapes at full speed, offering incredible high excitement hunting for the lucky peg in question. These animals move at an incredible speed, breaking through the cover as fast as they can. With the adrenaline running high, you can be forgiven to feel that the whole ground is shaking. It’s the moment when the hunter is on foot and is in the animals territory. It’s the moment when the Spanish monteria confirms its unique place as one of the great hunting experiences. Injured or older animals that can’t escape, end up facing their pursuers. An “agarre” with a big tusker can end the life of several dogs in a question of seconds. In these situations, the dog handlers, or the hunter if its near their peg, has to assess the situation, and enter the hunting ground to make the kill by hand with a knife. Never ever ever do you shoot at game that is held down. Firstly, due to the possibility of injuring ourselves or the dogs, secondly as a close range shot produces a terrible shock in the dogs, and many a time they develop a fear thereafter to hold down game ever again. These are not situations that are common nor easy to handle, in fact although they are a few seconds, they are seconds of great risk. In cases where you don’t know exactly what to do, it’s always better to wait for someone who does although the priority after safety is to dispatch the animal with the minimal suffering by locating the heart and with a special purpose double-edged knife that you should carry.
In these chases of dogs running after driven game, the game passes by or through the peg positions giving shooting opportunities to the hunters. The dogs usually conduct a well planned route going and returning, ensuring that all the game possible is driven around the hunting grounds. At the end of the day’s hunting, at around 3pm or 4pm, you begin to hear the sound of the conch shells, the noise that each dog handler has to summon and gather his dogs. You will then see Spain’s famous hunting dogs emerge, tired, weary, often bloodied and wounded … the heroes of the day. You don’t leave your peg until the postor comes to collect you and lets you know its time to collect your things. You then start the route back to the place where lunch is awaiting and where all the harvested game is brought together in the “junta de carnes” for the posterior compulsory veterinary checks and then butchering for the meat to be sold and distributed. The route back to lunch is typically the moment where first impressions between hunters are exchanged, about game seen, shots fired, game that has passed from one peg to another, or if the neighbouring pegs have seen a lot of action (or nothing at all!).
Lunch typically comprises of a warm Spanish “ladel” dish that after a winters day hunt, is very welcomed. Lunch is where you sit down with friends and share experiences, observations, and is where the infamous “hunter’s tall tales” are born, where on the day a shot at 80m gets progressively longer as the weeks go by, and the animal harvested serms to grows in size! The Spanish monteria is all about passion and emotion and all your 5 senses are put to the test in the most intense of ways. The Spanish monteria is most definitely the timeless form of hunting in Spain and one where excitement is guaranteed. If you are a true hunter, a well organised monteria is something that should definitely be on your wish list. More often than not t will have you coming back for more and more… Hunt safe, Happy Hunting! Hunt Spain.