In Munich, I met up with Rob Turner, one of my buddies from Australia, so our flight to Romania was filled with old hunting stories and hopes of new adventures. On the quick drive to the hotel with one of our head hunters, Ciprian, we got filled in on all the possibilities awaiting us on opening day of roebuck.
Once at the quaint Hotel Slavia, we were met by another old friend, Dennis Salerno. The last of our group to arrive was my partner of more than twenty-five years, Mr. Toni Torok, who coordinated the two Beretta Gallery hunts we had for week one. During dinner we met up with Florin, the head man of the entire hunting area, and made our plan for opening day.
My driver is Nello and my guide, Mickey. Our group saw a big roebuck in the first five minutes of driving into our designated area. He was a bit young, but sported a large pair of antlers. We drove on, passing a female with a small buck and as we left the truck for a walk through a small cool wood, a lone male jumped out in front of us. Once again, a bit young for our taste. In a thirty minute walk, we saw 23 roe deer, of which five were males.
Our trio was circling back to the truck when Nello spotted a pair of deer. One was female, but the other was a very old buck with abnormal antlers. We were in luck as we had trees for cover and they were out grazing in a vast open field giving me plenty of time to get my rangefinder out as Mickey got my BOG sticks set up.
I brought my Sako 85 in .30-’06 with a Steiner 3-15×56 scope into battery. I squeezed the trigger ever so slowly and sent a 165-grain Federal Nosler Partition on its way. As the buck collapsed and fell to the ground, I was already preparing for a second shot. This is something I do on all game, as I have watched more than one “dead” animal come to life and sprint away. The buck had seen eight seasons and many battle scars to show for his longevity.
The pressure was now off, so no matter what happened the rest of the week, my trip was a success in my mind. Opening day in Romania is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Just seeing the sheer number of animals is well-worth the trip for any real deer hunter.
In just four hours we must have encountered 75 to 80 deer. Dennis saw close to a hundred, and Rob sixty or so. If our eyes saw that many deer, can you imagine how many more were ahead of us or blending into the landscape?
The reason for plentiful game was explained in great detail by Toni. The management programs are done with great care, as not to put any pressure on the roe deer and other game. Poaching, unlike in Africa, is held to a minimum. Gamekeepers and locals always keep an eye open for anyone bent on taking away an income source from the local economy.
We next decided to head for a treestand where Nello said a big buck liked to hang around about that time of the day. One small boar, one badger, a pair of pheasants and hare were my only visitors, as night was about to take command. Suddenly, I spotted a female coming out of the tall grass; my gun already on the exit area she had just stepped out from. A second, third, fourth and fifth doe followed.
Just then my pulse quickened, as a very big antlered buck appeared. I waited for Mickey to give the OK, which is da in Romanian. He motioned, and I acted. The shot was true. The buck staggered and I hit him again just to make sure he was not going to make it back into the thick black forest!
Opening day always seems to yield an extra buck or two, but as each day of the season goes on, the big boys get smarter and smarter. They don’t get old by being dumb, that’s for sure.
Dennis had the best luck on day one with three bucks. Rob had a couple, one being a Gold Medal. That first night both Rob and Dennis sat for wild boar. They saw several, but all small — great for a barbecue, but not a tusk mount.
As the week moved on, the team took some really mature heads, as we had the unique opportunity to look over a plethora of bucks and everyone took a gold medal buck by the third day of hard hunting.
With my roebuck down, I switched my attention to my favorite European game, sus scrofa, the mighty wild boar. The best seasons for boar are fall and winter. Snow helps immensely as anything you see that is black and moving in the woods is very likely to be a wild boar. Unless, of course, a European brown bear happens to fly by.
I had been studying all the tracks I could while out stalking or just riding in the truck. Most of the forests, whether big or small, seemed to harbor a fair number of boar. The population of these denizens of the deep forest has gone up drastically in many countries of Europe, especially in the past five years or so.
We headed out to the forest at 6:00 p.m. to hit our stand by 6:45. As Toni and I slowly made our way through the woods, we saw fresh tracks almost immediately. It was extremely dark in all the thick brush that cradled our game path, which makes your senses go into high alert. One never knows when you might step a bit too close to a big nasty female with young. As long as a lone male smells you, he will almost always opt for a quick getaway. But you only need one 350-pound miniature locomotive bearing down on you at thirty miles an hour to be the exception.
We soon came upon a female and two young males at about 150 yards. As we were looking solely for a mature male, we made a large loop around them to get to our stand. The stands are about twenty feet high and covered. They are usually centered in the middle of two roads, so you get optimal shooting lanes.
We settled in checking our rifles, binoculars and direction of the wind. With two sets of eyes, you cover all open areas quite nicely. It was dead silent, when suddenly a big boar must have caught our scent as he grunted and crashed off just behind us once again putting our adrenaline into overdrive. You learn quickly to stay completely still, making no sudden movements, hoping to catch a glimpse of something black in a sea of greens and browns.
At about 9:15 p.m., we lost safe shooting light. Dennis was nearby and saw only two small bucks and several wild dogs. It seems our only reward was good conversation over some delicious Romanian cooking. Rob faced bad rain and mud, but those could not stop him from taking a medal class buck at 260 plus yards in a heavy deluge.
The next morning Dennis came back with a silver medal buck, and Rob had more stories of the big one that got away. Every day Rob searched for this elusive buck, and every day he would either disappear or be just out of range. Eventually, Rob got a shot, and the buck was more than worth the four-day effort.
On the last evening, I decided to try again for wild boar. In a remote field we climbed into a high seat by 7:45 p.m. There were 21 roe deer in the field including two large bucks. As we were waiting for a boar, I gave a pass to all, including a silver medal class buck.
The next day we said adieu. Rob went to London and Dennis to Italy. I went to see the accommodations and hunting area around Bethlen-Haller Castle for the second hunt. This restored masterpiece was once the home of a Prince of Transylvania and now serves as headquarters to one of the largest wineries in Romania.
There I spent seven hours looking for roe deer and found myself walking in a cool forest escaping the heat of the field. We walked a good mile to a sturdy stand about fifteen feet high giving one a full 360-degree view of the area. Soon the temperature dropped and the sunlight faded. The stillness was now almost deafening.
At about 9:25 p.m., something moved up the hill in the trees. It is a boar. He walked in one route, then turned and went out another direction, trying to catch all the wind’s direction. At about 9:45 pm we heard a crack of a fallen tree branch and at 10:00 p.m., the boar ventured out into the open field.
He made the mistake of stepping into an area where moonlight was my friend. Slowly and ever so slightly I squeezed the trigger. There was the sweet sound of a solid hit, as the boar ran off into the blackness. We move to the area where he was hit and find good blood. We follow the trail into a nearby thicket, not 75 yards from the first encounter.
After a quick flight from Lasi to Cluj, I was ready for my last group of hunters from Texas, which involved private tours and plenty of game from Mures down to the Bulgarian border. These cowboys sure know how to hunt. I have slept in sheepherders’ huts and traveled by horse-drawn carts, but I must say, I could get used to big boy hunting with very little persuasion.–Peter Lewis Horn ll SCICF Past President