Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)

Posted by Greg Traynor - December 6, 2011 - Wild Game of the Month - 2 Comments

Chamois in English and French or Gams in German are native to rugged, high altitude, mountainous regions all across the Alps from the Pyrenees through Austria, Balkans, Carpathians, and even the Caucuses. Specimens range is size, shape, and color but generally average between 40-60 pounds (20-35 kg), close to three feet or one meter in height, and brown beige in summer and Gray black in winter. With shorter front legs than the rear and soft padded hooves, the Chamois is perfectly adapted to browsing on steep rocky terrain.

Figure 1 “Photo” A Chamois (Gams) in the wild.

With the same adult taxonomy as Roe Deer, males are bucks, females are known as doe and the young are called kids. They stay in small to medium herds while older bucks stay solitary until the breeding season. The rut is normally in November in Europe and May in New Zealand with young kids being born five months later.

Bucks and Does both have black horns that are not shed with the buck being thicker and more downward tipped while the doe or geiss has longer thinner horns that turn back but not down. Males also have a scent gland behind the horns.

When alerted the Chamois whistle loudly sounding similar to an eagle cry before running straight up the cliffs and steep mountain sides to watch from above, the whistles continue until they believe they are no longer threatened, young kids squeak to their mother if separated.

Nature Status: With two species and over seven sub species, the Chamois have healthy populations and are categorized as least concern by the confederation of worldwide conservation groups. Populations have now been introduced to New Zealand and are flourishing.

Natural Predators: Eagles, wolf, bear, lynx, and fox can all take their toll on wild populations of Chamois but generally y speaking, due to the lack of predators in westerns Europe the Alpine species do not suffer from wild predation. Balkan and Carpathian species share the land with several predators.
Life Span: Although Chamois can enjoy relatively long life spans of up to 20 years, animals are seldom found in the field over 11 or 12 years of age. Harsh winters, eagles, hunting pressure and even blindness take a toll on the wild Goat-Antelope.

Sickness/disease: The Chamois blindness is a disease that effects the eyes of this game animal. The eyes of the game will become clouded and the Chamois may eventually become totally blind and fall to their deaths. The disease is contagious and caused by a virus that can also affect some other sheep and ibex.

Habitat: Rugged, steep mountains, high elevations in the spring, summer and fall, winter forces the goats down to a lower elevation in search of food. Sleep in the forest, forage in the small grassy areas along cliffs.

Hunting: Walk, Stalk, and Glass. Long shots of 300-500 meters are common. You may see Chamois but it is unethical to shoot due to being almost impossible to recover them. It’s best to get up high and as early as possible since the Chamois don’t normally look up above for danger. They feed in the morning, sleep during the day, and browse again in the late afternoon. Walk slow and quiet; be careful not to expose yourself in the open trees while walking up. Be in shape, the stair master is your friend.

Gear: Short flat shooting rifle, good stiff mountain water proof boots, leggings or “Gators”, strong mountain walking stick “Berg Stalk” made from Hazel Nut wood that will bend but not break when digging in case of a slip. The Berg Stock also works as a shooting stick for offhand shots. Shoulder harness for Binoculars to keep them from banging off the rocks during your ascent and hurting your neck. Spotting scope and laser Range Finder. Rucksack with a blood liner to pack the whole animal out, the goat may be small and up to 50% of the animal’s weight may be in the entrails on literal goat trails but it’s a long way back down the mountain.

Trophy: A brush or “Gams Bart” worn on the hat made from the winter coat of mature bucks back hare along the spine. Shoulder or skull “Euro” mounts are also common. The skin is highly prized as “Shammy” leather but is usually tanned with the hair as a rug or wall hanging.

Figure 2 “Photo” A hunter and his first Gams Bock.

Action Card – The Chamois is one of the most widely distributed wild goat species in the world. Native to Europe and western Asia, it was introduced to the islands of New Zealand.

Preferred Calibers: .270 Winchester, 7×64, 7mm Remington Mag, .308 Winchester.

Rifles: Bolt action rifles are preferred

Archery: Due to the extreme terrain and distances, Archery is not a preferred method of hunting. Western European law also prohibits bow hunting due to lack of energy level.

Optics: Light weights high quality optics with a high magnification of 10-12×42 to allow for long range shots. Spotting scope and a laser range finder are a must.

Method: Preferred method is spot and stalk as they feed in the mornings and later afternoons.

Notes: The Rut may occur November in Europe and May in New Zealand.

*Disclaimer: Please contact the local game management office for exact details and regulations pertaining to the area you are hunting.

2 comments

  • Great write up Greg. That Bock also looks great on Mats wall in his home. They are a beautiful sight to see on the side of the mountains. Would love to go down and hunt them in the winter time. Henry

  • Ken Liston says:

    Ricky, I am thinking of writing an article about German/European hunt trophies and found this link in my research. I plan to submit it to the Montana Outdoors magazine of the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.
    I just commissioned a goldsmith friend of mine to make a bracelet and ring from some elk ‘ivories’ or ‘Grandel’ of the European red deer.
    I will share an image of it when completed.
    Ken Liston

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