TINY MACEDONIA IS A EUROPEAN GEM FOR ADVENTURE SEEKERS By Brittany Boddington
You may be scratching your head and trying to remember eighth-grade geography class to answer the question, where in the world is Macedonia?
It’s a small Balkan nation located directly above Greece and better known as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. The country is small but rich in culture and even has its own language, though there are only 2 million people who call it home.
I got the opportunity to hunt in Macedonia a few years ago, and I’ve decided to go back again – not just this year, but next year as well! I’m going back the first time to hunt the racka sheep and a big European boar, and next year I am going as the celebrity guest on a hunt going up for auction at the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits April 10-12 in Nashville. I encourage those of you who are attending the show to please drop by the auctions and show your support!
A BALKAN ADVENTURE My first trip to Macedonia focused on hunting the Balkan chamois. It was my first “chammy” hunt, and I was very excited to challenge myself with the fierce terrain that they inhabit.
We set out early in the morning, parked the car around daybreak and took off on foot. I was mentally prepared for an extremely long and arduous day. Less than an hour into our hike I bumped into my guide Toni Tonchev, who stopped short and pointed downhill.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I had not been paying attention to my surroundings: we found ourselves standing directly above a group of feeding chamois. We had just come to the bend in the hill and the animals were not yet spooked, so Toni carefully pointed to
the biggest of the group. It was obvious with the naked eye that this particular chammy was much bigger in horn than the rest.
Toni made sure that I had the right one picked out and then he bent forward and plugged his ears; he motioned for me to shoot off of his shoulder. The animals had spotted the movement so there was no time to argue. I did as I was told and dropped the chamois in its tracks. I was thrilled, and the long hard day just became a short wonderful day!
The chamois was even more spectacular up close, even bigger than the one my dad Craig had shot a few years before in the same area; that made me smile a little.
THE NEXT DAY we went to hunt in a different area, and there we sat in a blind. The blind overlooked some open fields dotted by a few scattered trees. Toni assured me that lots of animals came through the area as sunset nears. Sure enough, just around 4 p.m., the first group of animals came in, and there was a nice mouflon among them.
I had never shot a mouflon, so Toni checked it out through the binoculars and gave the go-ahead. This mouflon had lovely horns but also a beautiful skin and mane. Since we still had a couple hours of daylight, we hurried to take care of the mouflon and get back into the blind, hoping that we had not disturbed the area too terribly. About an hour went by with no movement, but then a group of European wild boar came trotting in. There were no giants in the group, but Toni’s friend needed a midsized boar for a barbeque, so we picked one that would cook up nicely
and added him to our collection.
BRITTANY AND THE WOLF The final and most exciting part of hunt in Macedonia was when we went after a wolf. I had never even thought of hunting wolves
before, since most of my hunting has occurred in areas that do not have them, but I was eager to give it a try. The hunt got more exciting when I found out that we would be using night vision.
We drove out to a remote area where a farmer had been having trouble with wolves and had set out a pig as bait. There was a burnedout old Volkswagen van sitting in the field that had probably been there for two decades at least. Since the animals in the area were already used to it, we used the vehicle as our blind. We settled in and got ready for what was most likely going to be an all-night wait.
About two hours into our sit, I heard a rustling and Toni heard it too. There were shadows moving around the van and toward the bait. We did not want to spook the wolves, so we let them get close to the bait before turning on the night vision. I could see somewhere between six and eight wolves moving around in the scope. They were close by, but I had never used night vision before, so it took me some time to figure out the front end of a wolf from its back.
Toni assured me that we had plenty of time, so I picked the one that looked the biggest to me and I found the ears and worked my way back on the body to where I thought the shoulder would be. The grass was high that time of year, so there was a fair amount of guesswork involved. I got steady and took my shot, and I was surprised to see the wolf somersault in my scope. It also let out a high-pitched noise that convinced us it was hit. We searched and searched, but the high grass hid the wolf too well on that dark night, so we went back sad and empty-handed.
The next morning Toni showed up with a big grin on his face: one of his friends had gone back that morning and found the wolf dead in the grass.
Macedonia is definitely off the beaten path, but it should be a consideration for those of us who like new adventures. The NRA Annual Meeting is just about a month away, so if you are thinking about this as a consideration, come to Nashville and bid on the hunt!
Larysa Switlyk, who last year appeared on the cover of California Sportsman and is a contributor to sister magazine Western Shooting Journal, will also be accompanying the winner to Macedonia for this amazing adventure. Don’t miss out on what could be the hunt of a lifetime! CS Editor’s notes: For more on hunting Macedonia, see huntingconsortium.com/europe-balkans.htm. Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more on her, check out brittanyboddington.com and facebook. com/brittanyboddington.com.