Chamois Hunting

Swarovski Optik invite Peter Jones to hunt Chamois in the high Halltal region of Austria.

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I could hardly have anticipated just how fortuitous a meeting it would be, when one evening last summer, I bumped into Peter Antoniou from Swarovski at a barbeque organised to celebrate the launch of a major London rifle maker. 

I had met Peter before and so as we chatted leisurely over a beer or two and a burger, the conversation soon turned to optics and a proposed trip that was to take place in September to the Swarovski factory in Austria.

Austria300Now I have always been a fan of Swarovski Optik and so I don’t suppose that Peter had any difficulty in noticing that he had well and truly piqued my interest. None the less with no firm promises made I confined thoughts of a possible visit to the back of my mind. It was with huge delight therefore when just a few weeks later a letter arrived on my door step cordially inviting me to visit the factory. This however was not to be the full extent of the invitation, as I read on it became clear that the trip would also involve a hunt for Chamois!

And so it was that in early September I found myself departing London Heathrow destined for the high Halltal region of Austria in company with Kate Gallagher of the Shooting Times, another lucky recipient of what would prove to be a hugely memorable trip.

Arriving in the region the evening before the hunt we were put up for the duration of our stay in the delightful Hotel Speckbacher which is nestled picturesquely in the foothills of the neighbouring mountains. With an early start due the following morning and a tour of the Swarovski factory scheduled for the day after I settled in for an early night.

Chamois Buck shale

(Above: right/centre of the picture our Chamois Buck is photographed lying up on the shale)

The following morning whilst still dark, I dressed and hurried excitedly downstairs to await the arrival of my guide. The weather was fine and the air fresh, and as if to serve as a reminder of where I was, I could hear the faint quintessentially Austrian chime of cow bells as nearby animals grazed the local hillside, this was undoubtedly rural Austria at its best.   

A few minutes later and my guide arrived, old woollen hat pulled down close about his face, time worn clothing hanging loose about his wiry frame and what was to become a trade mark pipe protruding from his mouth, here stood Thomas, the embodiment of no fewer than 47 years of chamois hunting experience. Oozing quiet confidence, we set off into the mountains on a short drive to the main hunting grounds.

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(Above: With pipe protruding unceasingly form his face my guide Thomas surveys the mountainside)

With what was an uncharacteristically warm September, the mountains remained free from snow, none the less, the threat of winter was in the air and the dangers of heavy snow and avalanche evident in the semi demolished and derelict mining buildings, that bore the scars of the tidal wave of snow that frequently cascade down the mountain side.

With a Blaser R93 rifle now loaded with a few rounds of ammunition and a pair of, you guessed it, Swarovski binoculars slung around my neck, we set off on foot.

Now any experienced hunter will acknowledge that what happened next is worthy of mention and so please excuse my vanity when I proclaim, that despite my not having previously hunted Chamois, indeed never having seen them in the wild, I was the first to spy our beast! Scarcely able to believe my eyes, through the Swarovski 10x42 EL Range finders I glassed a magnificent Buck laying on the loose shale around 150 yards below us. With my guide oblivious to my having paused and still marching on unaware, I was forced to hurry after him in order to get his attention. None the less it wasn’t long before I had a surprised Thomas returning with me to the mountain trail, from which vantage point we could view our Chamois against a stunning alpine backdrop.  

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(Above: Close up of our Chamois, rear end on and no shot yet available)

With our chosen Chamois laying rear end toward us and showing no sign of presenting a shot, we settled down to watch. Thomas puffed calmly on his pipe, a pipe that had protruded unceasingly from his face for the last few hours. With our buck not looking like he was going anywhere for some time and Thomas only understanding basic English I struck up a stilted conversation. “You enjoy your pipe?”  I lamely enquired. “I don’t smoke when I sleep” came the gravely response, a smirk of amusement showing in the corners of his mouth. Long minutes pass.... “I think it is that he has had a busy night in the discotheque” Thomas remarked to my amusement. Indeed it was true, an hour gone and our buck was not budging, appearing content to languish lazily on the mountain side. “You enjoy your job?” I enquired. “As long as person not Bullsh*t shooter” Thomas quipped, seemingly unaware of the pressure implied by this casual comment!

Now I have been in these situations before and in my experience, and thankfully it would appear in that of Thomas’s experience, trying to force the situation does not usually end well. The only thing for it, is to wait until your quarry eventually chooses to stand, at this point you hope that a shot will be presented. Well on this occasion after a ridiculously long wait my buck did indeed stand, but frustratingly only to promptly walk straight off into cover, showing nothing more than his rear end before vanishing from view.

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(Above: Success at last, a fine Chamois Buck)

Further anxious long minutes passed with us scanning the hill side, before once again at just under 200 yards, and way below us at a sharp downward trajectory, we picked up movement. There he was, browsing at the growth into which he had disappeared. This time however, although still moving, he was at last broadside. Lying prone on the mountain trail I steadied my aim and tried to collect myself, this was to be my first Chamois and with Thomas’s blunt remark still echoing in my ears, I most certainly didn’t want to be reduced in my guides mind to a “bullsh*t shooter!”

Long moments.....then at last he stood still, a superb specimen, strong and proud....gently I exhaled half a breath and placed the illuminated reticule on his shoulder. Squeeze....the report from the unmoderated 7mm Remington Magnum boomed around the mountainside.

Anyone who has shot unmoderated, heavy recoiling magnum calibres in lightweight rifles will testify that what happens next is a complete loss of target acquisition, this is where a spotter or guide is invaluable. By the time I had again found my animal in the scope and cycled the bolt, my Chamois was careering headlong down the mountain side, a second or two later and it stood, “Again?” I enquired, “No, no, it is good” just as those reassuring words were spoken my Chamois rocked back on its heels and collapsed.

Innsbruck300Unashamedly relieved I slapped Thomas on the shoulder and warmly pumped his hand in my own. One does not want to fly all the way to Austria to be found wanting at the crucial moment.

(Left: The Swarovski factory is situated near the stunning Austrian town of Innsbruck. More on which will be revealed in future articles)

With adrenalin still coursing through my body, again came calm. Thomas sat back and puffed steadily on his Pipe seemingly completely at ease. Having been advised of a customarily long wait between shot and follow up, I too had come prepared, to the obvious delight of my old guide, I lit up my own smoke in the form of a Cohiba Siglo I for a very welcome 15 min respite, allowing my pounding heart time to gradually return to a resting beat.

With my smoke over and Thomas’s pipe still hanging from his mouth, we traversed unsteadily across the loose shale to retrieve our Buck, and what a buck. Thomas declared this one of the finest bucks taken off the mountain this season. And so as Austrian hunting custom dictates, my guide congratulated me with the customary salutation of “Weidmannsheil” before preparing the Chamois’s last bite and an accompanying sprig of vegetation for my cap.

Sometime later and with my Chamois now extracted from the mountain and ready for the taxidermist, it was back to the hotel bar with my old guide for the customary Schnapps and the, I suspect, less than customary beer or two whilst Thomas recounted previous memorable hunts amidst an ever growing cloud of pipe smoke. 

If you'd like to read more about the calibre that I was using then click on the following link: 7mm-remington-magnum

Alternatively to read more about the Swarovski rifle scope that I used click here: swarovski-z6i-review

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