Spanish roebuck – chasing the gold medal
Many dream of taking a gold-medal roebuck but for one hunter it is the pinnacle of all his stalking ambitions, says Thomas Nissen
The dream of shooting a gold-medal roebuck had already led Frank Olsen to Romania a couple of times. On the first occasion, he didn’t get a sniff at a deer worthy of any honour, but his second trip to the country — which is famed for its specimen beasts — was a different story.
Frank bagged a magnificent beast. The guides on the trip were certain the buck would score gold, but making a judgement in the field is tricky. Ultimately it was assessed at 126 points: a handsome silver-medal roebuck, for sure — and very much appreciated — but still four points
shy of Frank’s deep ambition.
Before long, the golden dream had lured the veteran stalker to Poland. Frank and his companion, Theis Olsen, had been tempted by rumours of a large number of award-winning roebucks. But the trip was in vain. The promised plethora of bucks never appeared and, while Theis succeeded in bringing home a silver-medal beast, the only thing Frank hauled home was an unfulfilled ambition and an even greater determination to succeed.
Attempt number four took him to Spain, a land of many regions that are famed for the quality of their roebuck antlers. The nation’s reputation buoyed Frank’s confidence and he felt sure that this time, he would shoot a buck that could rack up the magical 130 CIC points, regardless of who did the measuring.
Helping him in his quest was an acquaintance from Spain, Christian Müller, who had virtually guaranteed that Frank would collect his golden prize in the Spanish hinterland.
Christian had invited Frank to a territory in northern Spain that was a vein of pure gold for premium roebucks. Of course, he couldn’t offer a cast-iron assurance of success, but the expectation of a favourable outcome was so high that no payment terms had been agreed upon for the accommodation, transport, meals and guiding services should the dream not be fulfilled.
The day after Frank arrived, he and Christian were up and motoring towards the hunting site long before dawn. They reached the small village where they would meet their local guide before daybreak. It was quiet and still in the small car park where they’d been told to wait. After a few minutes, Christian fished out his mobile to see where the guide was and to check they were in the right spot.
Frank hid a smile when he saw the name that flashed up on Christian’s handset: ‘Ramon Big Trophy’. He hoped the guide would live up to this moniker. A few minutes later the man himself appeared. He had already spotted a fine buck and was eager to lead Frank and Christian to it.
After travelling a short distance, they left their cars on a small dirt road and began their stealthy walk into the area Ramon had picked out. A mere 200m from the vehicles, they encountered their first buck. It was young but, even at a distance, it was clear he was carrying a fine set of antlers. The beautiful six-pointer was far too young to be shot in this territory, so the trio continued.
Their path ran parallel to the dirt road for a while before heading away from the road towards one of the poplar plantations that characterise the area. A few hours and several kilometres later, they decided to head back to the cars. They hadn’t seen any new deer, but the warmth that had gradually crept into the morning, along with the soft calling of doves, soothed their spirits, imbuing the stalk with an almost African quality.
All such thoughts were abruptly chased away, however, when another roebuck appeared, again only a few hundred metres from the parked vehicles. It was visibly bigger than its pretty ‘little brother’ we’d seen earlier that morning, but whether it was a rock-solid gold-medal buck wasn’t clear. Unfortunately, Christian and Ramon had no chance to ponder the question before it fled.
While the morning didn’t offer Frank a chance for a roebuck, it wasn’t without its memorable moments. On the way back to the hotel for lunch and an afternoon siesta, the group spotted a dozen vultures by the side of a country lane squabbling over the last remnants of a roebuck carcass, presumably the result of a road accident. The birds took flight as the vehicles approached, leaving an unbearable stench from the decomposing animal hanging in the increasingly warm air — it was now around 20°C. The animal had clearly been dead for some time.
That evening the action was equally thin. In the golden hour immediately before darkness, Frank and his companions glimpsed two roebucks that might have been gold-medal candidates but, unfortunately, the animals disappeared into the woods before a shot could be fired.
The following morning, the stalkers were up before the sun. They had decided to concentrate on the area where they had seen the two strong bucks at sunset the night before. It wasn’t long before they caught sight of one of them, which was once again in the process of marking his territory. Two does were nearby, nibbling at the lush vegetation. Taking the stag would have been relatively easy if he were alone, but the females’ presence added an unwelcome element of uncertainty. The guides spent several minutes assessing the deer to see if it met all the requirements.
Frank was eyeballing it too, but he would leave it up to Christian to call the shot — after all, he was the one who had all but guaranteed Frank a gold-medal buck.
Eventually, Christian decided that Frank should take it. Unfortunately, one of the more alert does detected movement while the shooting stick was being set up. She immediately ran, pulling the other doe and the roebuck along with her. Christian grabbed the shooting stick and took five quick steps to the right. Frank was right behind him and almost threw the rifle up into the shooting stick just as Christian set it up. The buck had stopped at the edge of the oak grove, turning to assess the disturbance that had startled the doe.
Frank took the shot and, almost at the same moment, the roebuck seemed to stumble forwards, before vanishing behind a bush.
What had happened? Frank was pretty sure the shot was good, but it was all so fast and the deer’s movement looked a little strange. If it wasn’t lying in the undergrowth, Frank’s dream would quickly turn into a nightmare.
Nerves stretched like a tripwire, the trio quickly crossed to the shot site. Their quarry was lying dead 25m away. The shot had been good but had struck the animal further forward than Frank had intended, catching it in the shoulder region. Both shoulder bones had been damaged, which is why the stag had seemed to pitch forwards when he was shot.
But none of that mattered any more. As the group surveyed the animal, they had no doubt that, this time, Frank had secured his gold-medal roebuck and realised his long-held ambition. The trophy turned out to weigh 574g and was assessed as being worth 147.27 CIC points. The Spanish vein of gold had delivered a mighty nugget.