Since my first hunt to Europe with Ricardo Medem at Cazatur, I’ve been enthralled with the hunting heritage of Europe. I was looking for a reason to return when, at the convention, I talked with Srdja Dimitrijevic about an opportunity to hunt roe deer in Serbia. While there, I stayed at Kastel Ecka, a very old hotel with a lot of history.
The hunt was a fixed price and I could take 3, 5, or 10 roe deer bucks over a period of time. I signed-up for the mid-range hunt shortly after the season opened in April.
My flight was delayed by a huge snowstorm in Denver, but I finally made the overseas flight to Frankfurt, then Munich before landing in Belgrade. Sasha was there to pick me up but my bag didn’t make the flight. Although the clothes I had were OK to use to hunt, I had no boots, no socks and no change of clothes. Sasha had a friend who opened his hunting store in Zrenjanin after hours where we stopped on the way to Ecka. I soon had all the supplies from the store that I needed to continue on the hunt. We then drove on to Ecka to the Kastel. The Danube was over its banks for about a mile on either side due to a very wet spring and the winter wheat was about two feet high and plentiful throughout the area.
Nobleman Lazar Agoston opened the Kastel in 1820 on the left bank of the River Begaj with a grand fireworks display and more than 300 noble guests from Vienna to Budapest. On the third day of the opening, Franz Liszt, the “wunderkind” of that age, delighted the audience with his virtuosity. For many years the “Kastel” was a center of gatherings from Serbia and abroad. World War II did not spare the Kastel and, since 1990, it has been under the protection of the Institute for Cultural Monuments.
After checking in, it was a short night and at 4 a.m. we were in the car, heading north to Becej. There we picked up a member of the local hunting club that has hunting rights over 12,000 hectares of farmland, much of which was being tilled for crops. We started to see our quarry very soon after light broke. Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) is ubiquitous throughout Europe in woods, grasslands and forests. The deer is 4 feet long, 2 1/2 feet high at the shoulder and males weigh 75 pounds. They occur from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia and the British Isles to the Caucasus throughout Europe. The rut is July and August and the males may live to be 10 years old.
We walked and drove all morning before setting our sight on a very nice male. I borrowed a Remington 7mm Mag from the guide, Sasha. One shot at 175 yards had our first trophy on the ground. We quit hunting around 10 a.m. and headed back to the Kastel for a nap. We resumed hunting around 4 p.m. and hunted until dark. We had a late dinner and headed to bed. The next morning we were up early and on the go again. We could spot the animals from 1,000 yards, but couldn’t tell if there was a good male until we got up to about 500 yards and then had to close to 200 yards for the shot. The animals were in groups of three to10 animals and there were many eyes watching all the time. Although we didn’t collect any in the morning, we had an exciting afternoon, taking two bucks and a very high scoring one.
The next morning I got lucky again and took two more good bucks. It was one of the most amazing managed areas I have ever seen. We were seeing between 80 and 100 deer on each outing. This truly was roe deer heaven. That evening, I got lucky and scored on a jackal, one of the predators of Europe. My bag arrived that afternoon just in time to change clothes for the trip home the next morning. I said goodbye to Kastel Ecka, but hope to return.– R. Douglas Yajko M.D.