For some 15 years now I have been visiting Spain during the Winter months to partake in their traditional big game hunt, the Monteria. In Scotland the deer population is managed on an ongoing basis, over a period of months during the season. In Spain it is typical for the owners of an estate to host a day of Monteria. This is a gathering of 15 – 30 guns who are spread out through the estate on stands or positions and each given a quota of game to hunt. The quota might be 2 stags, 3 hinds, 1 mouflon and unlimited boar. It is very dependent on the individual estate and the management of the game population required. Once the guns are in position, packs of dogs with handlers are let loose to ‘move the game’ and when the game passes your stand you decide to shoot or not. The area covered by the hunt will be many 100’s of acres.
A traditional Monteria breakfast is served on arrival. A pile of breadcrumbs toasted with garlic and sausage, topped with fried eggs and washed down with a glass of Rioja. After breakfast the safety briefing is the first and most important aspect of the day. 20 rifles out in the field together requires that all bullets are travelling into the ground, no game on the skyline! Following the safety lecture and prayers, comes the draw. Here you select your stand by picking a card, a random but fair process. You will then be driven to the vicinity of your stand and a short walk will follow to get you to your final position. The stand may be at the top of a hill so you shoot into a valley, or perhaps on the side of a hill and you are shooting across and into the other side.
The dogs on the Monteria cover many miles and work hard moving the game, here a short break whilst the pack is gathered together. The Monteria lasts about 4 hours, from 11am until 3pm, and once the horn is sounded to notify the guns to unload, the game is recovered by staff using horses to drag the game from the hills. Once down from the hill the stories begin over a glass of wine or whiskey. The game is brought to the Estate house and unloaded for display and for traditional prayers of thanks for the days harvest.
The Monteria is both a unique and very enjoyable hunt, it is very sociable, this past weekend our team comprised of hunters from USA, Russia, France, England, South Africa, Spain and the Middle East. The great thing about hunting is you can mix all these nationalities and everyone normally gets on well, they are all hunters and thus have something in common. New friends are always made.
The adrenalin runs fast as you wait on your stand on high alert, any moment a magnificent trophy may coming running past, a large stag or a huge boar. I know that as soon as you sit and relax you miss the opportunity, I have done it many times. Much of the shooting is ‘on the run’ so a moving target so practise is essential to enjoying your day. During the day you will be accompanied by a local ‘Secretario’ who will help you identify the best game and find it with you after the drive. Insist like I do on an English speaking one and it makes the day much more enjoyable, if you manage to get an avid hunter also who can spot the better game on the run that helps enormously also.