April 10, 2012
It's the spring of the Spanish goat for me this year. It seems like an odd time of year to be chasing goats but I'm on the island of Mallorca de Palma in the Mediterranean as I write this. I just wrapped up taping an episode on Balearian Boc for Boddington's new show "The Boddington Experience" with local hunter Tomeu Blanquer and a buddy of Boddo's named Saso Ivanov. At the moment it's o dark thirty, the fog is thick on the island and I'm waiting for Craig in the hotel lobby so we can fly to the mainland and hunt Beceite ibex. In a few weeks I'll return to Madrid with Mike Schoby to hunt Beceite ibex again.
The Phoenecians (you remember those guys) released the Balearian Boc here about 4000 years ago and the locals are working hard to prevent feral goats from ruining the genetics. A true Balearian Boc is very red with short hair and a black cross that runs up its spine and down its front shoulders. It's the only big game allowed on the island. All other goats are culled on sight.
We drove a series of switchbacks that were so numerous and tight it could be a practical joke. The roads are lined by rock walls built over the past thousands of years to contain animals and terrace the land for agriculture. It is stunning to see how even the walls are in dimension when they are created by so many various shaped rocks. Very old, abandoned farm houses and sheds stand on both sides of a road so narrow, the truck's mirrors must be pulled in to pass through some of the gates. At the end of the road in a small valley Tomeu stopped the truck and we begin to hike.
The perception of Balearian Boc hunting is in short; "petting zoo" with jokes like "the world record is 11 minutes." As with many species it can be, if that's what you want. But our excellent host Tomeu Blanquer showed us how the locals do it. Tomeu is a world-class hunter with a large piece of mountainous property. Following his plan, we laced up our boots, left the truck behind and hiked the stony, rosemary-covered hill to Tomeu's favorite area.
Wearing worn out and loose borrowed boots due to the lost luggage meant many extra dance steps for me on the way up the foggy goat hill. I've been up many a goat mountain and this was a goat hill, a solid climb but far from arduous. We topped out on the mountain and the fog surrounded us. Deeper and deeper into the fog we climbed until the visibility dropped to under 75 yards at times. Maillorca de Palma is an island with mountains ascending sharply to as much as 5000 feet above sea level, so it's expected that weather would hang up on these spires protruding from the sea.
It was clear that Tomeu held little hope for us due to the fog. Spaniards overall strike me as a pessimistic people. I tried to bolster his enthusiasm with some good ol' 'merican optimism. "Craig and I are lucky, really lucky. Don't worry, we make miracles." We sat. We hoped. The wind blew and the sun melted fog like the defroster on the windshield of Baal's pickup truck. I followed the whine of a kid. We found boks and Craig shot his goat at about 4300 feet. We started down the mountain.
This is where my day is no longer another day at the office. We popped over and down a short crumbling rocky crest. Granpappy Balearian Boc, ancient and long-horned, looked up at us. We stood in a clear circle with clouds moving around and below. Tomeu asked if I'd like to take him. "Thud" went my camera as I robbed Craig of his Blaser R93. I laid my borrowed pink backpack on a rock, worked a round into the chamber and settled in to watch the old-timer through the Zeiss Victory 3 to 12. His hair was long, his front left leg was broken and his ribs protruded. These are details Tomeu's expert eyes certainly gathered before he green lighted me.
This area experienced little pressure and the old-timer stood calmly. The nearly 200 yard shot brought him down instantly where he stood.
We approached to see his long horns weren't yet broomed but were worn. Tomeu estimated his age to be 12 or 13. The coming harsh summer certainly would have been his last. The genuine joy of Tomeu, Gaspar and Craig at my luck made me grateful again that I work with the folks I do.
My job is one of intense highs and lows. There is exhaustion and frustration. And there are days like this where I win the lottery without buying a ticket. Of all the great trophies I've taken as a hunting cameraman, there is not one I thought of taking when I crawled out of bed the day I shot it. They were all gifts, one hunter to another, just like this.
If you're curious about hunting the Balearian Boc you can check it out here: www.bocdesteix.com or email my new best friend Tomeu Blanquer at BBLANQUER@GMAIL.COM
I snapped some snapshots of the hunt. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." I'm limited to a thousand words per blog and I'm at 938 right now. So, I'm going to cheat, and squeeze in 12,000 more: