Part 1 – Chris Rogers, Leica hunting ambassador, has managed the deer on the Euston Estate in Suffolk for the past 11 years. Chris is also a CIC-certified measurer, meaning he is also responsible for measuring deer antlers and trophies in accordance with a set of strict guidelines. Chris has recently returned from an exciting trip to Croatia in an environment very different to home.
When someone offers you free hunting, you’re not going to say no are you? It doesn’t come along very often, but this is exactly what happened to me a couple of years ago. My good friend, Sean, who is also a deer stalking client of mine on the Euston estate, had arranged a trip to Croatia for red deer and wild boar. At the last minute, his travelling companion had to drop out and as a result, the invitation for the free space came my way and who is going to turn down an offer like that?
On that trip we enjoyed great hospitality from Sean’s Croatian friend, Mislav. The trip was a fantastic introduction to the country and both Sean and I shot several animals including red hinds, a young stag and a boar.
After such a successful first visit to the country, we were both hungry to return the following year. The only question was, what for? We both agreed that you can’t go to Croatia and not participate in a wild boar hunt, but following conversations with a number of friends and contacts we were keen to try for a mouflon ram.
As a general rule, I’m quite keen to hunt and shoot game in areas as close to their natural habitat as possible and mouflon originate from a costal, rocky and scrub-covered habitat that is found around the Mediterranean Sea. The Western coastline of Croatia offers mouflon an ideal home and in turn, this offers the hunter a great environment to hunt them in.
Decision made, Mislav duly made arrangements for our visit and already, I couldn’t wait to return. Bags packed, rifles secured and my faithful Leica Geovid HD-B 10x42s safely stowed, we made our way to the airport, keen for the adventure to begin. Waiting at the other end was Mislav and his friend Kruno where we loaded up his truck and hit the road – heading south towards the coast.
We learned en-route that we would be staying at Kruno’s family home in a mountain area, around a 40 minute-drive from our hunting area. Although dark, we could make out the mountains and terrain in the area as the moon lit up the hill sides which was truly spectacular. Due to our timings we would never see this area in the day light but it looked beautiful and a very different environment from the flat reed beds we had experienced the year before in the north-east of the country.
As with most countries I have visited, the locals were extremely hospitable and while staying at the house we ate and drank like kings. As a result, we slept like babies until the alarm went off on the first morning all too early.
It became clear upon arriving at the hunting area, that although the surrounding countryside looked sparsely populated by vegetation, it was a lot thicker once walking on foot. The area was covered with small shrubs, fruiting bushes and an occasional pine tree and it seemed like we would be woodland stalking up stony tracks running through the vegetation.
The only problem was, any sighting of a mouflon in the road ahead was going to be fleeting if we kept on the move as the road was wide enough to drive up. After heading up the incline away from where we had left the cars, it became clear what our real hunting style would be. Now stood on a high vantage point, we glassed open rocky areas between the undergrowth. Our guide explained that the larger rams would pick an open area to lie-up in during the day, giving them a good view of other rams and potential dangers – a much better hunting tactic.
And so it began, we walked the tracks from one spying point to another, hoping to find a good ram sunning himself in the early winter sun – a balmy 17 degrees.
After walking for a good couple of hours scouring the ground with my Geovids, hoping to spot a mature ram, we had only seen several groups of females with young and a couple of two to three-year-old rams, both moving across the tracks and lying-up in the open areas. Unfortunately as yet, we had not found anything old enough to shoot.
A little deflated, we decided to head to a local restaurant for some much needed sustenance. A couple of hours and a superb seafood meal later, we headed out again, ready and raring to go. Alas, luck wasn’t on my side that day and the afternoon’s outing in the Croatian countryside was spent much the same as the morning; walking the tracks and glassing the open areas desperately with my Geovids for good aged rams.
We had a bit more success in spotting the mouflon in these open areas the second time round, although it was still clear that we were not seeing any of the larger males. We had seen younger males within shootable distances earlier in the day, but I’d already decided to turn those down and at present, that was the policy I was sticking to.
Sean however, having seen plenty of young males in the morning, not being quite as fussy as me on the animal he shot and knowing that Kruno had promised a carcass to the villagers who still had to feed us that evening; took a shot at very last light, downing a three-year-old ram with his .308. By the time we got to him, the light had completely faded and with various torches coming from phones and headlamps, the guide set about recording the young ram’s horns for the records.
With the carcass loaded into Mislav’s pick-up truck we began the drive back to Kruno’s village where his friends had prepared yet another feast for us. While day one hadn’t gone entirely to plan, the best was yet to come on day two…