Balearean boc – conserving an indigenous species
Nathan Little takes on the heat and mountainous terrain of Mallorca as he learns the story of the Balearean boc and a new hunting culture
The island of Mallorca; not only a hotspot for tourists and partygoers but also a stunning island steeped in tradition, beautiful architecture and breathtaking scenery. It’s a place that has seen diverse influence over the millennia, but for me it’s an island with a huge number of passionate hunters with a long history of hunting guided by conservation.
Just a few weeks ago I was very fortunate to hunt in Mallorca. Up until that point, I’ll admit, Mallorca had not been on my radar as I naively assumed, like many, that it was a small party island with lovely beaches. That was until I met Carlos Vidal of The Hunters Corner. Carlos and I had been chatting for a few months, initially through Instagram, getting to know one another and discussing hunting both here in the UK and in Mallorca.
We spoke about our mutual passion for hunting and the places we have been, but also how Mallorca is quite unique when it comes to hunting. It is the only place in the world to have the Balearean boc, a type of wild goat. The Balearean boc is black and brick red, with horns not too dissimilar to that of a kudu (spiralled), only parallel from the side of their heads. Carlos and I chatted about this intriguing species and how hunting and conservation in mutual partnership have been key, not only to their survival but to them now thriving on the island.
From our conversations it quickly became very clear to me that Carlos, while a passionate hunter, was equally as passionate about his country and the conservation of these awesome animals. He explained how his management plans have extended some 20 years and how the culling of feral goats to prevent the dilution of the bocs’ genetics is key to maintaining the purity of this iconic animal.
After a number of calls, WhatsApps and Instagram messages, we made a plan for a somewhat last-minute exploratory trip for me to participate in the feral goat cull and to see the work that Carlos has been doing. Thankfully, EasyJet offers regular cheap flights from Manchester and, with the ability to travel with a rifle, it was a no-brainer. As the saying goes: “Have Merkel, will travel.”
I arrived late in the evening on the first day, but within an hour of touching down on the island I was eating and drinking with Carlos and his partner, who were very kindly hosting me. An early start the following morning and we were on the road for 7am. Even by this time I could feel the heat, especially given that all my sport abroad to this point had been in minus temperatures.
The mountain range for what is a rather small island is impressive. As we approached the mountain — with Carlos’s amazing country Western playlist as soundtrack — I was very excited for the day ahead. We were here to shoot feral goats and to assist with Carlos’s management plan, but I was here mostly to learn and enjoy a new hunting culture.
The climb was steep, the ground hard and rocky underfoot and the sun already baking. We meandered up the side of the mountain, making regular stops to glass the surrounding areas for goats. It didn’t take long before we found our first group but they were fast on the hoof and we couldn’t clearly identify them. As we scaled the mountain, I thought back to everyone who said this would be an easy hunt — it certainly wasn’t.
Dripping in sweat and having already consumed my bodyweight in water, I was questioning why I had put myself in this situation. I’m clearly bonkers. As we neared the top, the tree canopy was well below us and the views justified just how worthwhile the climb had been. To hunt in such a stunning location was a real privilege, with the coast just below and the smell of wild rosemary hanging in the air. I did chuckle at the irony that we were hunting goat while surrounded by its most perfect seasoning.
As is always the case on these hunts, we chatted about the hopes Carlos has for his areas. While he is a hunting outfitter and takes clients out, we focused more on his passion for conservation.
More than just the bocs, Carlos talked excitedly of his firm belief that everything has its place. We spoke about his woodcock tagging programme on the island and how he also helps the vulture population by supplementing their feed with some of the goats he takes. He explained how the vultures break open the feral carcasses, the crows and kites are then able to eat, the by-product then attracts insects which in turn attract smaller birds and even woodcock. It was a truly fascinating insight to the island’s food chain.
We were out for at least five hours on the first day. It was exhausting work but rewarding to see so many animals, though not a single feral goat we could approach. It became a running joke that Carlos has so few feral goats that they may be rarer than the bocs these days.
Following a gruelling first day, I’ll be the first to admit that I was petrified as to what Carlos had in store for me on day two. He teased, pointing out distant mountains that we were going to climb and quite frankly I was all for sitting in the car and just watching. Thankfully our destination, while hilly, was beautiful ground that was much easier underfoot.
This particular area had been under Carlos’s control for around 16 years and immediately I was blown away. The number of animals was incredible; they were all clearly healthy and wild examples of the species. It was obvious that the work Carlos and his team are doing here is paying dividends.
With the heat of the first day on our mind (and clearly on my face), opting for an earlier start was a wise move. We were able to see much more activity and get around the ground before the midday heat, as animals fed early before taking shelter in the shade. They weren’t bothered by us as they needed to feed as soon as they could.
We were here on management grounds — to cull feral goats and to remove the poor genetics. It was great to be able to take the time to assess each animal and move on, something the weather this time helped with. The bocs seemed too preoccupied with eating to be fussed with us. It was as if they knew we weren’t hunting them.
As we came across each new group, Carlos and I would glass and look carefully at every animal for even the smallest telltale signs of it being feral. It was quite tricky, as many look very similar with only a fleeting glimpse of a flash of white fur. Spotting a nanny with two kids was a bigger giveaway, as bocs typically only have one kid. Having been out for around an hour we came across a group of boc rams, all of which would class as gold medals, if not more. They were some distance out, but using the new Leupold spotting scope and a bit of jiggery-pokery with my iPhone camera, I was able to get some pretty cool footage of them jostling about.
Closeness to nature
On the second morning I was successful in taking two animals, a feral nanny and a kid. While pleased to have done something to contribute to Carlos’s work, I felt a sense of sadness. I adore hunting and everything about it, but pulling the trigger signals the end of a fantastic experience, and while necessary it’s never a pleasant moment taking a life. This is hard for those who don’t hunt, shoot or fish to appreciate. Hunters don’t like killing, we enjoy the closeness to nature and respect that I believe only hunting can truly bring.
Hunting with Carlos was a real eye-opener. He is a gentleman who is not only passionate about his hunting and conservation but also about his home, culture and wildlife. In two days he shared so much that I am so grateful for, while offering an amazing sporting experience. But most importantly, I feel I have made a friend for life doing what we both love most in the world: hunting and conservation.