We have no idea what kind of hunting awaits us, and we only know that we are in the middle of the Balkan Mountains. We flew to Sofia with a stopover in Rome, and make our way to the hunting area late in the afternoon.
We are at the end of March and I am surprised to see that spring in the Bulgarian mountains is much more advanced than in the Spanish ones. Here the beeches and oaks have well-developed leaves, and the meadows have tall grass.
The greenness of the whole field is spectacular, and I gather that the volume of rainfall is greater. I look and unsuccessfully remove from the car all the corners of the meadows, the edges of the mountains … looking for a little corset. There is no way, and it surprises me.
On a similar trip in Spain I would have seen them with complete certainty. The next day Íñigo tells me that he has been doing exactly the same thing during the whole trip, without seeing any deer. What I do not understand is how hunters do not have more accidents since we can not avoid going where we should not go.
Our interpreter and driver is a young boy who has lived several years in Spain, and has even played in the lower categories of the Unión Deportiva Salamanca. He is a charming boy and tells us that we are going to open a newly built hotel at the foot of the mountains.
It tells us that it is all natural and wild, without fences or anything like that. When we ask him for the name of the hotel he stays for a while meditating and he answers: «Three fools». Angel is given by alluded, since we are three Spanish hunters who arrived, but quickly clarifies that the three partners who have founded are friends, dreamers, hunters and nature lovers who have chosen this original name.
It also tells us that the area we are going to, near the town of Ribaritsá, is a very touristy mountain area just two hours from Sofia, where you can practice different outdoor sports, and even trout fishing. Needless to say, I carry a small fly rod and all the belongings in my luggage.
THE DIFFICULTY OF HUNTING WITH ARCH
They touch diana before dawn. We embarked on an excellent SUV and headed towards the mountains. The day dawns very covered and with threat of rain.
As every weapon I carry my bow and arrows. We set out in silence along a path between oak woods and beech woods, although the truth is that we are a numerous procession that opposes the failure of archery hunting.
In addition to the guide and the hunter, Ángel Hidalgo and Stiliyan accompany us with the camera and the tripod. We see a pair of roe deer fleeing us as soon as we get out of the car. We are hunting on the purest slopes of the Balkans and I appreciate that it is a totally natural hunting, although a sixth sense tells me that it will be so authentic that … the chances of success with arc will be rather remote.
We try to throw some roe deer, which for me is probably the most complicated piece of archery. If it is difficult to approach the shooting distance and the animal does not fear while opening the bow, it also happens that very often the deer listens to the noise of the rope when releasing the arrow, looks towards the hunter and sees the arrow flying, giving him time to retreat and dodge it.
It’s something that has happened to me so often in Spain. Nor do we disdain the chances of a wild boar being misled during the stalking, and the abundant recent samples we observed during the stalking give us hope. I think the boar is a much more accessible piece than the roe deer for the hunter with an arc.
After a couple of hours I have concluded that we are in a very pure mountain area where the abundance of roe deer is lower than in most of the areas we reject in Spain. In addition to roe deer, there are deer, wild boar, wolves and bears.
There are no roe deers, the tracks are scarce and there are few areas that are cocked by the males. Throughout a whole morning we have had some chance of approaching a couple of copies, but it has not been possible.
I check that they have points where they probably provide food for deer and wild boar. They also have a salt stone on a trunk that is a little over one meter tall. When the stone is diluted with the rain, the salt falls down the trunk, and it is common for the roe deer to suck the salt from the wood itself.
After a copious lunch I ask you to take me to an area where I can try to catch some trout. I am surprised that they are quite lost, and despite being local peasants they have no idea where I can find fish. The area has a good looking main river and several tributaries.
They take me to a coffee in a lower area of the main river. Although it is pretty and I fish with nymphs, I quickly realize that, or there are no trout, or are very few. I fish practically in an urban center, with what I do not rule out that they are furtive and fished with all the possible formulas, as they later confirm to me.
In the afternoon it begins to drizzle, at first gently, but clearly in crescendo. Perhaps the guide himself has realized the difficulty of throwing a roe deer with bow and proposes to me to make a boar wait.
I accept enchanted because I know that in these parts you can find the pig of your life, besides that I see more chances than with roe deer. The problem is that the waiting turrets are designed for rifle and the nearest one is almost 50 meters from salt, water and food. But as it rains more and more and the guide can not accompany me, we leave Stiliyan and I accompanied by a young boy.
The presence of the animals is between 40 and 50 meters, which excludes the possibility of shooting at night. With the bow at that distance I can only do it during the day. I see a path to my nearest left, and I sense that if I enter through it I would have the possibility of a quicker shot closer.
The afternoon is falling and already in low light I see the shadow of a pig next to the baths. Bad luck, they are several and … accompanied by scratches. Three mothers begin to comission accompanied by a legion of tostoncillos that play and rub against oak trunks.
For twenty minutes, and as the day goes off and the rain rages, we enjoy watching them eat. Thunders sound loud and we are dazzled by the lightning flash. With the first the pigs get scared, but from then on they renew their carefree work.
At one point they disappear completely. A few minutes pass and I tell myself that if the shadow of a lonely pig appears I will throw it away. It is practically at night, and it does not have much explanation the fact that the females and the scratches have disappeared suddenly. Is it because of the presence of a male?
It seems that I have sensed it. Without any light, I glimpse a shadow on the path to the left. The guide and Stiliyan practically doze and as I know that these sets have to be fast I am determined to throw.
I open the bow and the animal must intuit something strange and stands at the foot of a tree that had previously measured: 30 meters. As it is at night, before opening I turned on the light of the crosshair, and at the moment of shooting … it goes out by itself! Too late, it’s not time to relax and turn it on again.
I have the bow open and I sense that the pin is well placed in the chest of the pig. I drop the arrow to scare and absolute bewilderment of Stiliyan and the guide, who I think can not even imagine what is happening.
After the shot the wild boar starts vertical uphill, which seems a bad sign and does not presage that it is seriously injured. We wait a few minutes and go searching. Diluvia.
At the scene my powerful flashlight says he does not want to work and I have to stay at the expense of what the guide does with his. At two minutes he pronounces some words in his language and he gives me an elbow. There is blood, enough blood. I try to follow her but the boy tells me that he is very dangerous and he will not let me.
At the moment he finds the arrow. Almost no longer has blood because of the heavy rain that rages, but enough to realize that the animal is traversed. He calls a companion on the cell phone and a quarter of an hour later another boy appears with a Hanoverian hound.
We are soaked but the tracking begins. We do not have to advance 20 meters. There is the dead pig. It is clear that by choosing flight uphill with a lethal shot, death has come much closer than if he had fled downhill. Joy because the cast was not easy and has been resolved perfectly, but disappointment because it is another filthy.
WAITES OF JABALÍES
The idea was to make a pig wait with a rifle in the last hour of the day, which is very attractive. We have been shown some trophies of wild boar hunted by them in recent years.
However, to the astonishment of the guide, we began to discuss why Íñigo insists that he does not want to throw more for today and that he hands me the weapon gently. I tell him that I am happy to record him and enjoying as much or more than him, but there is no way.
After a tug of war plows the rifle and we left for a turret located in a high hill completely snowed. The place is beautiful and we see the fresh tracks of two wolves in the snow. They tell us that they frequent this place, increasing the excitement of waiting.
The feeder is about 90 meters in the snow. Still with some light comes a pig from the mountain. Íñigo and I throw our binoculars to our faces and simultaneously say: “macho!”
It is not large in body, nor do you see razors on the outside, but you can clearly see the brush. The animal, very cautious, surrounds the feeder and walks in an extensive arc until it meets our trail. The guide, to all this, remains impassive observing with the binoculars, but without saying anything.
The boar is visibly disturbed by contact with our smell and for a few moments he does not know whether to decide to flee in the direction of one side or the other of the pass. At last he does it for ours, initiating a light trot.
When he is 30 meters from the forest, the guide mumbles: “shoot!” What a ballot, I do not even have the rifle in my hands. I take it as fast as I can and make a lucky shot that slays the piggy on the snow. When we arrived at the body we observed the shot in the neck, but also that it has excellent defenses, which surprised us and made us happy. One of the knives was broken, but it was a precious boar.
Encouraged by the success, and by what the trap cameras show us that they have set for the mount, Íñigo decides to bet on the boar. The guide and managers have well controlled animals with trap cameras arranged in strategic locations. They tell me that wolves are hardly photographed because they are scared of the slight infrared light that the camera’s flash emits at night.
The wolves distrust, and even barely pass by that place during the day. Something similar happens to bears, although they have some videos and photos of spectacular outrages.
The big pigs are probably the biggest attraction of hunters in these rugged areas: Íñigo measured the trophy that shows us, proving that it is one of the largest in the world
But perhaps what impressed us most were the photos of the giant pigs.
This, together with the wild boar trophies that they had charged in recent years, made us see that the most attractive could be the pigs.
They also charge large deer in rutting: European deer of few points but of a huge thickness and weight.
Angel had been trying for two days to throw a roe deer with rifle in stalking
. It gives idea of the relative scarcity of the same the fact that in two days did not manage to throw.
On the third day I tried to fish in the stream that passed right through the hotel, doing bingo.
After having searched for trout several kilometers without success, it turns out that at the door of the house there were, and of a size somewhat higher than what I expected.
It was a small, well-grown stream of water, which I assumed would be almost dry in the summer and therefore would not have trout, or if there were, they would be very small.
But I got pleasant surprises with the size. The first ones I fished with nymphs I freed them, but Íñigo told me that he would like to dine trout.
It seems that the idea did not displease Angel, who after a while asked me for another one. In the end we took one for each and one for Stiliyan, and the truth is that very fried were delicious.
That same night Íñigo got a good pig waiting, big body and beautiful defenses, but not a great trophy.
The last day I accompanied Angel, who got his roe deer, a nice specimen in an enviable mountain environment. The place gave me an excellent impression.
He had hunted in Bulgaria previously but in fenced farm and in different circumstances. No doubt that area of the Balkans is one of the most rugged and authentic hunting sanctuaries remaining in Europe. Adjoins the Central Balkan National Park, which has no less than 72,000 hectares and flourishing populations of bears, wolves, chamois and other species.
Sporadically, bears and wolves are hunted, according to the permits granted by the Administration, and great pigs and even deer are snuffed out.