Outfitter Critique: Wolf, Chamois Hunt with Established Macedonia Operator

In Report 10977, subscriber Dr. Marinos Petratos says that he found a good value on excellent free-range hunting in Macedonia with Safari International Macedonia (+011-389-70-219-080; www.interhunts.com). Petratos hunted four days with local guides for Balkan chamois, wolf and wild boar, visiting two different areas. This is our second report on Safari International Macedonia (not to be confused with Srjda Dimitrijevic’s Safari International), following Robert Duhadaway’s report on a Kri-Kri ibex hunt on the Greek isle of Atalanti in 2016. Petratos booked his hunt directly with owner Zlatko Sokolik.

“One of the most pleasant and productive hunts I have taken in Europe,” writes Petratos. “Safari International Macedonia made good accommodations for my age (81) and planned an excellent trip with no surprises and great food and lodging. Both of my guides were excellent.” Petratos told us more about his hunt over the phone.

“I had plans to be in Greece during the month of Sept., and I have been wanting to hunt Balkan chamois. Macedonia is easy to get to from Greece and I contacted Zlatko Sokolik after reading a positive report on one of his hunts there. We developed a good rapport and I was satisfied that I was dealing with an honest guy. I’ve never hunted wolf, and the possibility for this came up as we talked.

“I was picked up at the airport the day I arrived, and my guide drove me about 2.5 hours to the lodge at Lakavica, a very large wooded reserve between Negotin and Stip in the center of the country. We did not hunt inside the reserve itself, but rather in a pastoral area about 15 minutes away from the hunting lodge.

“We hunted without bait at night in an area with a dense wolf population due to the number of sheep. The guide used night vision binoculars to look for wolves along areas where they are known to move. After a few hours’ vigil the guide spotted a wolf at about 150 meters. I was using a rifle with a regular scope and could just see some light reflected in the eyes and a vague outline of the body. I put the sight where I thought the chest would be and luck was with me. We found the wolf about 20 meters away. I was fortunate to get an animal on the first night. We also hunted wild boar during the daylight hours. The animals are abundant, and I was able to take a gold medal trophy.

“We moved to another lodge to hunt Jasen, a large natural reserve about 1.5 hours west of Skopje. The area is mountainous and heavily wooded, with peaks up to 2,500 meters. My guide Vasilis and I took a Jeep up to a ridge on the first day, which was a very jarring ride. From there it was spot and stalk. Most of the chamois were a kilometer or more away and looking right at us. Walking was somewhat physically tough, and it was hard to close the distance.

“The next day I did not want to ride the Jeep up the mountain again, so we stayed on lower roads and spotted uphill, which made it more difficult to see. Finally, we had a shooting situation from a bit further than I would have liked, but I made a successful shot on a fine, large buck. The guides hiked to recover the animal for me.

“The local guides in both areas knew their business and showed great respect for the game. I very much enjoy the ethos of Eastern European hunting. This was a classic Eastern European hunt. Both of the lodges were in serene natural settings with simple but comfortable accommodations and good chefs. The guides could speak English as well as Greek, which I speak, so communication was not an issue. A great hunt all around.”

We contacted Zlatko Sokolik for more information about Safari International Macedonia and his hunt offerings. Sokolik has guided hunts for more than 30 years and started his own operation in 2002. He owns the lodge at Lakavica and offered hunts there for many years, including hunts for Kri-Kri ibex in the fenced portion of the reserve. Sokolik explained the situation regarding Lakavica, which has not been hunted (at least not legally) for a number of years.

“Due to power struggles by parties in the now-replaced ruling government in Macedonia, the contract for the land did not undergo the standard bidding process for two years (2013–2014). All physical properties, equipment and animals owned on Lakavica by Safari International Macedonia remained in our company’s ownership. In the middle of 2016 it was discovered by officials from the Ministry of Forestry that the then-occupants of the government land did not make payments on the contract and illegally trespassed on our properties. Following a due process resulting in a Supreme Court order and a warrant, the delinquent parties were legally removed from the land and Safari International Macedonia has been reinstated on its physical property.”

Sokolik says that a bidding process for hunting will be concluded later this year and that he hopes to hunt Lakavica again. The area is roughly 5,000 hectares, about half of which are behind wire. In the meantime, Sokolik holds a contract for the 24,000-acre Leskovica area.

“Mr. Petratos took his wolf in this area. This is among the top international destinations for wolf hunting due to the rising wolf population that sometimes preys upon the 500,000 to 1,000,000 sheep in central Macedonia. Each year, the regulating body estimates the growth and decides on how many wolves can be taken by all outfitters. Between 500 and 600 wolves may be hunted each year. We use night or thermal vision and sometimes baiting as well. Wolf season is year-round, with the best hide quality between Dec. and April. On this land we also hunt Kri-Kri ibex, mouflon, fallow deer, boar, roe deer and golden jackal.

“Jasen, where Petratos hunted Balkan chamois, is a prime area for this species. There are about 10 outfitters who send guests to Jasen, acquiring some 60 tags through an annual process controlled by the state.”

Macedonia’s chamois hunting season opens Aug. 1 and ends in Jan. Sokolik says that he still has chamois and wolf hunts available in 2018. Trophy fees for wolf and chamois are both $4,900 US, with a $750 daily rate that includes rifle rental and ammo, lodging, transportation, trophy prep and alcohol. According to Sokolik, a wolf hunt generally takes three days.

Safari International Macedonia also partners with Christos Liatas to offer Kri-Kri ibex hunts from Oct. to Dec. on Atalanti and Sapientza and (starting this season) on the Greek mainland. Sokolik also outfits hunts for bear in Croatia and Bosnia, Alpine ibex and chamois in Slovenia, and red deer, roe deer and Racka sheep in Serbia.