The unapproachable Kri-kri of Gary Bogner
Text: Sani Doncheva
Photographes: Sani Doncheva, Vladimir Donchev
The thick hard-rock vegetation was painfully pricking us and sticking at every step we made. Lefteri was walking ahead and was hardly forcing his way through this dry and thorny forest wall facing us. He was armed with a saw and vineyard scissors and could barely take his breath while cutting. We approached slowly and very noisily. The sounds of cutting and breaking branches, as well as of the stones rolling down our steps could be heard far away. And despite all hunting logic – we were aiming exactly at this – being heard.
It was past eleven. We have been struggling for two hours and a half to get to the planned high rock. There ten Ibexes were walking and looking down in royal manner at the land stretched in their hooves. They were moving, stepping on some protruding rock and gazing in the direction from which noise was heard. That is why we tried notifying them of our arrival – we hoped that our curious Kri Kri would stay around and look in our direction, so that we could approach it.
Gary needed a distance of some 40-50 meters, something that is unthinkable for an Ibex. But we knew that this was our chance – remaining hidden in the forest and making all efforts not to be seen.
Suddenly some slit opened up in the forest in front of us, not larger than three meter diameter, and right above it a two-meter rock was raising up. We slightly crept onto it. Suddenly our PH Lefteri lowered his body, gave us a sign that there is a Kri-kri above us and Gary immediately put an arrow in his bow. I lifted my eyes and the camera upwards – at exactly 45 meters from us, on a rock overgrown with greenery, a male was standing that fortunately was looking in totally different direction. Gary stretched his bow. Our movements attracted animal’s look and it was already trying to figure out what we are. Gary released the trigger of his string and the arrow flew up. This was followed by the characteristic sound of a hit onto a body and the immediate leap of the Ibex that hid in the shrubs of the nearby rock with an elegant movement.
From my perspective I could not be quite sure what actually happened. Gary was standing unhappily and with brokenly sunken shoulders as he thought that maybe his shot was not good. Lefteri didn’t stop whispering that he saw the shot and it was precise. Vlado supported this statement of his and I was frenetically trying to rewind the record to a pause in order to find out what actually happened.
The PH is a real hunter, young and energetic, former green barrette of the Greek army and incredibly honest and honourable person – something incredible for a Greek. As soon as our first hunting day Lefteri headed us to the cloister of this Kri Kri – he managed to get great navigation in animals’ movement – something extremely difficult because of the fact that Ibex hunt is held on unpopulated island, with the lighthouse being the only building on it glowing through the night for the ships.
Every week since the beginning of November until the first week of December there are four Kri Kri hunting days – from Wednesday until Saturday inclusive. Each of these hunting days starts at 8 a.m. in the morning at the Town of Methoni quay where together with the forestry and hunting reserve representative and all the hunters we get on board of the only officially licensed boat and go hunting. Depending on our wish and the sea wave height, the captain leaves us at one of the small quays. Our arrival is around 8.30-8.50 a.m. and meanwhile sun is already steeply climbing up in the sky and sets its warm rays on almost everything. During the day temperatures go up to 20-25 degrees and each year I get back from Greece with pleasant dusky tan acquired during the everyday island crossing. The island is the only place in the world where the purest Kri Kri are believed to live. Their origin is Cretan and hence their name, but there centuries ago they mixed their genes with the freely walking domestic goats of the local population. That is why all Kri Kri that inhabit some parts of Greece are hybrid and quite larger, of different colour and horns larger than the ones to be seen on our island. Due to the fact that the island is a reserve inhabited only by Kri Kri and Mouflons, staying here after 14.30 is strictly prohibited. Nobody can stay there overnight. And the time during which hunting is permitted consists of the narrow periods from 8.30 to 14.30 on four days of the week, only if weather is nice and there are no high waves that could hinder reaching it by boat.
My hunting guide Lefteri has energy and passion for hunting proved the key to our success. On the first hunting day Lefteri, Vlado, me and Gary walked for long time, pathway was steep, mud was sticky and slippery making our movement even slower. When we arrived to the highly located plateau, several rocks appeared in front of us. On some of them we were soon to notice movement and decided to attempt approaching the animals. Gary was firmly decided to do everything he is capable of to get back home with the dream trophy. It was relatively early, but wind was getting stronger, it was coming in gusts and me and Gary were worried that this would not be in favour of some future bow shoot. Arrows got shifted by the strong wind and he could not rely on their precision. Clouds started piling on black heaps up in the sky and we didn’t like that at all. Lefteri impatiently signalled us to follow him and the three of us with Gary and Vlado headed along a new pathway in the direction of the Ibexes we noticed. We were about to undertake a long march. We were sneaking amid the thorny bushes and the prickles were grabbing our skin and clothes. We started climbing with great efforts the hill foot when Lefteri’s phone rang and he had a short conversation. His face frowned and he told us that the captain called to say to get back to the boat as soon as possible because waves lifted up very much and he was sincerely worried about our getting back to the shore. Lefteri insisted that we continue further up and that half an hour could bring us luck. Me and Gary looked at each other and unanimously, almost in a single voice said that we should immediately head back. Both of us knew the sea strength. But we knew where to come the next day – on the same spot. In hunting it is important to be skilful in waiting. We were about to do this.
It was 11.30 a.m. and we were rapidly walking down the slippery hill and under the pouring rain. At one of the deviations we met the other two – they were also coming back with empty arms. The travel back was thrilling. Waves were huge – the captain believed they were about 7-8 meters. The boat we were travelling by was small. The captain – young and tall, was hunched at his captain’s seat in his attempts to get us safe and sound to the shore. Waves were highest right at the town, so we headed to the breakwater where all boats were securely anchored.
Poor weather reigned for the next two days. Each morning we woke up and got prepared for hunting while waiting for captain’s call. Thus every morning we heard we were not going. We had the opportunity to use these two hunting days on Monday and Tuesday the next week. Sunday was holiday and there was no force that could make the Greek clerks work then.
We could visit all castles and strongholds surrounding us. We had travelled along the entire Peloponnese peninsula full of so many ruins and towns made famous by my favourite ancient Greek mythology. I was so happy when I saw Mycenae and the golden mask of Agamemnon, Argo and its proud stronghold, from where the Argonauts headed in their search for the Golden fleece, we had visited Nafplio as well – the old capital of Greece – a beautiful town with marble-paved streets in the old town and three large and marvellously preserved strongholds.
Another options were Ancient Olympia from where the Olympic Games originated or Ancient Messene. Messene won the competition for our Sunday walk since it was closer. It was a whole town with beautiful amphitheatre with mosaics and huge stadium with preserved colonnade.
We had already spent three days in Greece and we went hunting for just half a day. On Monday weather was promisingly good and we self-confidently got on board of the boat. Sea was calm and smooth. We went back to our old hunting place. Lefteri promised that he would guide Gary through the forest without having to get through the thickly interwoven branches.
Thus we got in this situation where we got on the small rock from which Gary shot at the Ibex and later on it disappeared in the nearby shrubs. I played and paused my new camera in the attempt to see whether the arrow is in the animal’s body. It was not an easy task but at a moment one could clearly see the Kri Kri jumping towards the neighbouring rock and in this flight of its one could clearly distinguish the orange feathers of the arrow stuck in its body. Vlado was sure even before that that Gary aimed well. Naturally – he is much taller than me and he was a meter ahead of me. His visual angle at the time was better but my camera has 60х optic approximation so we decided me to shoot the animal’s reaction and Vlado was shooting Gary while he was taking his aim. We were about to get just another great movie!
I showed Gary the stop-flash. It was a very good shot. All this was happening very fast – in less than a minute or two. We were standing silently on our places since the bow archers’ main rule was not to make any noise in the next half an hour or an hour. We had to leave the animal in peace because it had stopped somewhere nearby in its attempt to figure out what happened to it. Suddenly we heard a rolling noise and then marked dying wheeze. You cannot make a mistake with that sound – the Kri Kri died in less than three minutes after the shot. I threw myself at Gary and embraced him strongly. This was one of the happiest moments of my hunting career! Lefteri was overwhelmingly happy and could not help it but be embraced by me and Gary. It was a very emotional moment, because this great hunter aged 72 coped with himself and his age, his lack of balance and confidence along this unstable mountainous terrain; he trained every day so that he could hunt exactly with his 80-pound bow and got the victory!
Namely this spirit is what makes the winner stand out, this unlimited will to get over yourself and the treacherous body that slowly and mercilessly shows the marks of time! Gary is a real hunter who still inspires much younger bow hunters.
We found the Kri Kri that has fallen right below the rock. Its leg was broken. The arrow pierced the heart area and got out from the other side of its body, from the guts. It was a lethal shot that didn’t leave the animal much time to agonize.
The beautiful view from our place contributed for the unforgettable recording. Our tired but cheering faces, the bright blue sky and the dream trophy - priceless!
In the next two weeks in which we kept hunting together with Lefteri on the island many things happened and one of them was our success to approach at a one shot distance of the future Kri Kri world record.
All this is forthcoming in my next story about the incredibly thrilling and almost impossible Kri Kri hunting in Greece.