I was born lucky where hunting is concerned. I got my first chance to hunt Africa when I was in my early twenties and after some years of hard work, that led to my gaining my first Professional Hunting licence and that in turn led me to 32 years of hunting many of the finest true wilderness areas of Africa and also allowed me to make many fine friends over the years.
In the fullness of time, my increasing years, the changing political situation on the dark continent and increasing collapse of law and order in Africa made my better half and I decide it was time for us to leave Africa and head for pastures new so we upped sticks and in 2011 and moved from South Africa to central Portugal.
Quite honestly, I thought the move to a strange land would probably mean my big game hunting days were more or less over but I'm glad to say, I was very wrong indeed.
Soon after our arrival in Portugal I was lucky enough to meet a man called Edgar Cordeiro and he in turn introduced me to his friends Manuel Vassalo and Gilberto Fernandes.
Not only are this trio of fine gentlemen fine hunters and good men, one is also a highly experienced Professional Hunter in Mozambique and the other two are also soon to be qualified Professional Hunters as well so we had an awful lot in common and with typical Portuguese generosity, they invited me to take a look at their extensive areas in the Castelo Branco region of Portugal that borders Spain.
To say that I felt immediately at home there would be a dramatic understatement. The rolling hills, the knarled trees, the low bush, the high (though different) game populations and the bright sunshine all shouted of my beloved Africa. Soon afterwards, they also invited me to take my first Iberian red deer stag (I told you I was born lucky!) and needless to say, I jumped at the chance.
A week or two later saw us back in their hunting areas and I was introduced to the rifle I was to use because my own are still in Africa awaiting import permits and in any case, would have been too large a calibre for such shooting. The rifle was a restored and reworked Mauser K98 in 8 x 57 with open sights which other than having the bolt on the wrong side, suited me just right because I've hardly shot a scoped rifle in more than three decades due to my profession had always called for an open sighted, large calibre charge stopper.
The day didn't start well because of heavy rain but we thought we'd give it a go anyway and as it happened, we saw lots of deer but most were tucked away in the thick stuff trying to stay dry. After a few hours, the rain became intermittent and we began to see the deer slowly emerging into the more open areas. As the clouds cleared, we spotted a very fine stag amongst his harem and started to discuss tactics, wind and range. Vassalo's rangefinder told us the animal was 183 metres or 200 yards away and our eyes told us we probably couldn't get any closer without being spotted.
I looked at the range and thought I'll get the rifle on the sticks and just see how the situation looks from there. As soon as I saw how clearly defined the Mauser open sights were, I knew I could handle the shot from where I stood so I just told them I could make the shot and waited for the stag to present a suitable shot.
The herd had no idea we were there and after a few minutes the stag began to walk into the open but at the last moment, began to turn to follow a female that was off to his right so I knew time was running out. I quickly checked the angles and realised I'd be taking a radically raking shot that was not far off of being a Texas heart shot but the target area although reducing in size, still looked comfortable to me and I took it.
170 grains of Hornady Interlock round nose left the muzzle at 2750 FPS and entered somewhat behind the ribs on the left side of the stag, travelled a few inches below the spine, along the neck and exited an inch or two below the right antler and the animal was dead in his tracks with hardly a kick of it's legs so by any experienced hunter's standards, it was a perfect (albeit unusual) killing shot.
I judge my trophies by the quality of the stalk, the accuracy of the shot and company I share the hunt with and I'd been 200% successful in all of those criteria and so was delighted with the entire experience. I have to admit to still following the old African tradition of stroking the slain animal as soon as I got to him and apologising (in Ki-Swahili) for taking his life. I'll guess that's a habit I'll never get out of and to honest, never want to get out of. This was my first Iberian red deer and indeed my first hunt in Portugal but it surely won't be my last.
Portugal must be the best kept secret in the hunting world and I simply can't begin to understand why. It has phenomenal red and fallow deer stalking, excellent wild boar hunting, wingshooting (flighted, driven and walked up over pointers) and no end of beautiful lakes and rivers for excellent fishing opportunities and yet relatively few overseas hunters have visited to take advantage of these.
Authors note: I don't consider myself a particularly great shot and would say my shooting abilities are no more than average but virtually all my shooting life has been spent shooting over open sights so therefore simple experience will mean I know what I can and can't achieve with an open sighted rifle.
Many readers might think that a 200 yard shot over open sights is inadvisable but please remember I've been shooting open sighted rifles for several decades and am very used to them indeed. This particular firearm had excellent (open) sights and the German army were shooting these particular rifles at far great ranges than I did and to great effect throughout WWII. Therefore my shooting skills are no more than average when compared to the men of that generation.