This is the story of one of the most intense, stunning and thrilling events I’ve been able to witness, enjoying the vastness of the mountain alone, with the unmistakable music in the background.
I wanted to write down that afternoon’s memories, a little bit because of sharing what I came to live with, and a little bit because sometimes I feel that one day if memory fails me, I’ll be able to go back to those lines and recall one of the most special moments of my hunting life.
After a few reconnaissance trips, it all began, trying to find a specimen that matched the characteristics we were looking for. The bellowing is the time of year in the mountains par excellence and a sensational management opportunity.
I know it’s going to be a tricky topic for some and I hope no one is offended, but I’ve always felt it’s best not to track down the biggest specimens, healthier and still with a lot of life ahead of them at this point, if not to let their genes continue to pass on and ensure a decent offspring.
Continuing with this idea, my goal was to find a deer already “fulfilled” using the term coined with regard to roe deer by Pablo Ortega, extending the scope of application to its older relatives.
That is, a deer already in regression, fulfilled in years, which during several bellowing years would have assured the transmission of its genes. The issue with the battle-hardened old warriors is that they came this far for something and that “something” was not absent-mindedness and recklessness, of course.
The big and old deer bellow suspiciously from the safety of the mountains in the area where they hunted, treading the battlefields of the rañas for just two or three days and taking great care to foolishly reveal themselves.
It was impossible for me to stalk at ease with the ground fully dry, particularly considering that with the bow, the gap had to be much smaller and a final approach seemed impossible without startling and emptying the stain.
My doubts were strengthened by my quest for an area of passage, an escape from the mountains that I thought was endearing and where the remains of many heathers were broken. I sat there and waited.
In no time, a rushed sprint brought me out of my reveries and, as if anyone were chasing them, a crowd of six mouflons and a young macho passed me by utterly unaware of my presence.
They were followed by a fox, who was about to make me laugh with moves worthy of a circus tightrope walker to rid himself of a torvisco (literally, that is, on top).
It sounded like heavenly music and lulled my thoughts during the wait, but the dry, harsh and far apart howls that resounded in the midi-skirt immediately put me on alert and made my skin crawl.
The roar of the bellowing and its fierce fight for the women. He realized he was going down, and he could appreciate the difference between the position from which the sound and the voice came, even though he howled every so often.
It was unmistakable. In the absence of painting them rubbing against the mountain, I was shocked by a young deer, with high pivots, a narrow neck and with the antlers still white.
In front of me, he seemed relaxed and committed himself to browse, not even attempting to open his mouth and howl once. We shared the haven of peace for more than forty minutes, in which I watched every step enraptured by him.
And shattering the tranquility in which even I had settled, he suddenly raised his head, stayed nailed, staring at a fixed point within the mountain, and started to run, losing himself in the middle of the rock rose.
Suddenly, in front of me, about 100 feet away, a hoarse, dry scream echoed. In the same direction, the air blew firm and steady, making me invisible and camouflaging my hyperventilation between its gusts.
And, at that distance, that sudden howl was about to cost me a heart attack.
Have you ever felt your heart pounding in your chest so hard that it doesn’t seem to let you hear it right? Well, that’s the way I’ve been, trying to regulate my pulse and listen to my heart’s fickle rhythm.
The wait seemed everlasting. The old warrior knew them all and did not scream again or take a step off the mountain until the last violet light did not lick the horizon. But when he did… he did…
This time, if I had thought before that I was close to cardiac arrest, I felt my chest constricting and nerve arrhythmias accentuated.
Again, he howled. Nearly veiled in darkness this time, with more confidence. With the autonomy that age gives and the courage of knowing that others, young and inexperienced, were fleeing before his presence, he started to take firm measures.
And again he howled. Sitting there on the floor, alone with a bow in my hand, before him, I felt horrified, amused, and even insignificant.
Again, he howled. The tension rose by the second and seemed to have stopped in the clearing at the same time, as though the world had been summed up with that deer and me, and nothing else.
I saw him then. Dark, very very dark hair, stained black with a wide neck from its own heat as well as from the gut. He stood about 25 meters ahead of me.
He bellowed again, and he lowered his head this time and started to shake it from side to side, reaching the heather, left and right. The howls started to become more intense and the light completely began to go out.
He came as far as 6 or 7 meters from where I was, and again he howled. Although the front shot is not suitable for the bow, I already felt that it was him or me at that distance.
He was so close that he was panicked by the opening movement of the arch and back about 10 meters, but as the air kept blowing in my favor and his hormones were playing against him, he stood up giving me his full hand, sticking down firmly and howling.
The arrow flew and the sound of the sharp blast, so typical of the impact, let me know that I had set a target.
He jumped out and lowered his head with his hands completely spread out, basically at the same moment that he began a wild race to break down the hill.
I heard rolling stones and the unmistakable sound of “kicking” in a matter of seconds, as they say in Montera slang, the product of the animal’s last gasps already on the ground.
At that moment, I was conscious that I had barely taken a breath from the moment I opened the arch.
I started to shake until my teeth were chattering, as I let the bow pass the proper time that should be given so that the animal would die without stress, in peace and without knowing what had happened, even though I knew it was practically withering.
The darkness was over, 30 minutes had passed and he couldn’t stop shivering. I went to the shooting site and found an arrow, lodged in the ground and coated with bubble-filled frothy blood, letting me know it had entered the lungs, and certainly the heart.
Accompanied by Leopoldo, my partner in battles and life, and Tango, our Bavarian hound, commonly known for his misdeeds at home, than for his charges following a trail, the property came after my message telling me what happened.
But it cost him little, and less to find the blood and, after a few meters, the deer, to show off his privileged nose. And as if I were still with him, totally alone, I crouched down beside him and cried. I’ve let out everything.
All the nerves, all the tension, all the excitement, all the adrenaline, all the exhaustion… And I thanked God for the chance we had arranged so that we would end up where we were that night of grumbling, traveling the road we had traveled.