A Critical Review Of Kri-Kri Ibex Hunting in Greece and Macedonia

If you didn’t know there was such a thing as a Kri-Kri ibex or that they can only be hunted in Greece and Macedonia, don’t feel bad. Until Craig Boddington’s 2006 article in Petersen’s Hunting, few if any international hunters had ever even heard of the Kri-Kri ibex. Now everyone who considers himself a mountain hunter wants to collect one. And while a Kri-Kri ibex is certainly a desirable trophy, the only two available hunting opportunities for this species have some serious caveats. One of these hunts takes place in Greece and is the one Boddington wrote about. The other is in neighboring Macedonia. Before you set off on either of these hunts, there are some things you should know about each opportunity.

For those unfamiliar with the Kri-Kri ibex, this is a species of ibex native to the island of Crete. According to some Greek myths, a Kri-Kri nanny nursed the god Zeus as an infant. For this reason, the ibex was sacred in ancient Greece. Unfortunately, the Kri-Kri has been hybridized with domestic goats in most places in Greece. Today, there are only a handful of populations that are still pure-bred Kri-Kri ibex.

Seeking to protect the Kri-Kri, the Greek government transplanted a number of ibex to two islands. One is the island of Atalanti, located east of Athens in the North Evvian Gulf of the Aegean Sea. The other is Sapienza Island, off the southwestern coast of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. Both islands are managed by the Greek government’s equivalent of the department of the interior, which oversees wildlife and national parks. The rules governing access and hunting on the islands are very strict and doggedly enforced.

Atalanti allows hunting from September through February but only on Fridays. The public is not allowed to overnight on the island. On Fridays, the island is closed off to sightseeing to allow for hunting to take place. Hunters are taken to the island from the mainland by boat. If the seas are rough, which is often the case in the Aegean and its gulfs, the boat trip is cancelled. Hunting starts at 9 am and shuts down at 3 pm. Because of the one-hunting-day restriction, Atalanti is a better destination for local hunters than international hunters.

That leaves the hunt on Sapienza Island, which has its own restrictions. The hunting on Sapienza is open only in November, although it is allowed five days a week. However, the park rangers must be on the island during the hunts and they usually have Mondays and Thursdays off, so there is no hunting on those days. Hunters typically get four days of hunting, but that can vary depending on inclement weather. Also, the time frame allowed is 9 am to 3 pm, when the last boat leaves the island. There is no flexibility or variation from this schedule. Again, if the rangers decide the seas are too rough, the morning boat ride to the island is cancelled. There are no public facilities on the island either.

The other important restriction is that the Greek government prohibits the use of rifles and scopes on both Sapienza and Atalanti. Hunters, foreign and resident, are limited to open-sight shotguns only and must shoot slugs. The reason for this restriction is not really known, according to the operator taking foreign hunters there.

Further complicating things is that both Atalanti and Sapienza are covered in thick brush, which means that stalking the game is impracticable, except along the trails and paths made by the ibex or cut for day hikers. That means hunters must hike to a vantage point to spot ibex traveling the trails and try to get a shot at one. Using a shotgun, of course, means one’s shooting range is severely limited. In all practicality, hunters should plan on 40 to 50-yard shots, although Boddington managed to take his trophy at 100 yards.

Hunters may see rams up to 36 inches, but an ibex in the low to mid-30-inch range is considered a good trophy. Ibex in the upper 20-inch range are considered representative. Be aware that hunters who pass on a representative ibex holding out for a 30-something-incher run the real chance of going home empty-handed.

Although this hunt is not physically demanding, with only 300- to 400-foot elevations, the limitations of the firearm and the brush make this a difficult hunt. The time limitations and inflexibility of the rangers can also contribute to complications. Last season Hunting Report subscriber Ed Yates went home empty-handed because the rangers would not make minor accommodations for the weather. According to Yates, the extraordinary heat he experienced during his hunt kept the ibex in the heavy cover during hunting hours. The rangers refused to shift the hunting hours so that they could arrive on the island earlier when it was still cool enough that the game would be moving in the open. Yates is returning again this year at a reduced cost to try again. Hunting Report subscriber Rex Baker also did this hunt last November and succeeded in taking a 26-inch ram, which is ranked number four in the free-range category of the Safari Club International record book. (See photo in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site.) He says the brush on Sapienza Island makes hunting in the alders look easy. An experienced mountain hunter, Baker says the hunt is as difficult as any sheep or ibex hunt in Spain.

According to booking agent Ken Wilson of Sportsmen on Film, Yates was the only one of six hunters who went to Sapienza last year and did not kill an ibex. Another wounded and lost his ibex. The hunt organizer says that he has hosted a total of 13 hunters now, and most have taken several unsuccessful shots before collecting an ibex. Hunters who do not kill an ibex within the four hunting days should ask for an extension of their hunt while they are still in Greece. The operator has been willing to make such arrangements for clients who have struck out in the time allotted to them.

The hunt is organized by Christos Liatas, who arranges all of the permits with the Greek government. Outfitter/guide Yanis Pappa- dopolous collects hunters at their hotel, accompanies them to the island and gets them situated to spot ibex. Hunting is allowed anywhere on the island, and Pappadopolous will move hunters if they do not see ibex. Be aware that Pappadopolous does not speak English.

Hunters stay in a little hotel in the town of Methoni, located on the southern tip of the Peloponnesus near the site where the ancient Olympiads competed. November, when the hunting takes place, is also the harvest of the olives, and other historic sites are a short drive of Methoni, making this destination a good place for a non-hunting spouse.

Wilson says the hunt was previously organized for an arrival on Thursday. Now, he says they have hunters arriving on Saturday, hunting Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday with days off on Monday and Thursday. When this hunt first opened to international hunters, the limit was two ibex. Now hunters are allowed only one animal. A maximum of six to eight foreign hunters and 20 resident hunters are allowed each season. The hunt is expensive at €7,500 (about $10,200 US), not including accommodations and meals, which Wilson says can range up to $100 a day.

Wilson says this hunt is strictly for experienced hunters who have collected the other capra species and are looking for something different. Everyone else, he says, should look for more typical mountain hunting experiences for ibex or chamois that typically cost less and do not have the restrictions that are imposed on the Kri-Kri hunt.

The only other opportunity to hunt Kri-Kri ibex is in the neighboring country of Macedonia to the north of Greece. I first reported on this opportunity in 2007 (See Article ID 1883), when Sergio Dimitrijevic of Safari International began booking this hunt. It takes place in southern Macedonia on a private estate called the Lakavica Reserve. The estate consists of 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres), with about 2,500 hectares (6,000 acres) behind a fence. The ibex were introduced into the fenced area about seven years ago. They started with 10 ibex and currently have an estimated 60 animals. According to Dimitrijevic, the program has experienced a few hiccups, not the least of which is the Kri-Kri’s ability to climb the two-meter (6½-foot) fence. The second year of the program saw one ram captured by shepherds among their domestic goats 30 kilometers from the reserve. Another ram was found outside the fence eaten by wolves, which Dimitrijevic says is the major reason for fencing the reserve. Hunting Report subscriber J. Alan Smith hunted Lakavica in November 2007 (see Report ID 6411) and reports actually seeing the ibex climbing the fences to get in and out of the reserve. Still, the purist may consider this as an unacceptable feature on this hunt.

The area is composed of mountainous terrain with altitudes of 400 to 1,000 meters (1,312 to 3,280 feet). Nannies and kids congregate in the thick vegetation most of the year, while the rams form small bachelor groups of three to six animals that are most often found in deep canyons amidst heavy brush. Dimitrijevic says they rarely venture out into the open, but during the hunting season of November through February he says a patient hunter can find them feeding where a shot is possible. Hunting is done by spotting and stalking on foot and sometimes by driving the game. But Dimitrijevic says Kri-Kri ibex do not drive well, as they have a tendency to double back on the drivers and keep them going in circles in the same 25 to 35 acres. The Kri-Kri’s wary nature and tendency to stick to heavy cover, says Dimitri- jevic, makes this hunt a real challenge, even inside the fence.

Despite the difficulties of the hunt, Dimitrijevic says hunters have taken several large trophies at Lakavica, including a 43-inch monster taken this last season by Hector Cuellar. (See photo in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site.) Dimitrijevic says it is the potential new world record for an estate Kri-Kri ibex. Other clients, says Dimitrijevic, have managed to take rams over 39 inches. When Dimitrijevic began booking this hunt in 2007, he says the reserve was taking four ibex a year. In the near future, he says they will be increasing the quota to 10 rams, due to the growth of the herd and the number of mature rams available.

Again, this hunt is not cheap. The trophy fee for an ibex of any size is €8,000 ($10,902). The rate for the recommended five nights and four days of hunting is an additional €1,600 ($2,180). That includes accommodations at the lodge on the Lakavica Reserve. Subscriber Bill Paulin stayed there during a chamois and wild boar hunt he did last October (see Report ID 6452), and he describes the facilities as nice enough for a non-hunting companion to enjoy. The rate also includes pick-up and drop-off at the Skopje airport, guiding and trophy prep. An interpreter is available for another €60 ($82) a day.