I heard him yelling, every few minutes, as he came up the hill through the grape vines. And then, there he was, in a field below our apartment in the small family winery, Il Santo, in Greve, Italy.
He was wearing camo clothing and carrying a very long gun, which I assumed was a rifle. Halfway across the field, he called someone on his phone, who I assumed were his hunting buddies. I also assumed they were hunting wild boar, because Tuscany is overrun with them, and expanded the hunt and bag limit to reduce the population of boars this year.
As an aside, I can tell you that pappardelle pasta with wild board sauce is my favorite Italian dish.
What really interested me was that they were hunting on Sunday, using electronic devices to stay in touch, and using a driver to chase the boars toward a row of shooters. Later I learned that they also use dogs for that purpose. I’m not sure the guy I saw hunting had dogs with him, but they might have been below him in the grape vines down the hill.
Later, I asked our host Allesandro, some questions about hunting in Italy, and I did some online research. I learned that game animals are public property and there are about 800,000 hunters here, mostly in Tuscany and Sardinia. In Italy, hunters can hunt wherever they want, including on private land, without permission.
Popular game animals are wild boar, rabbit, hare and many species of birds, including songbirds. Hunters are a powerful group in Italy, although hunting is controversial and protests usually take place on the opening day of the season. The hunting season is long, beginning the first Sunday in September and going to the end of February. To reduce the wild boar and deer populations, those seasons have now been extended even longer.
As I read in one article, Italian hunters “are allowed to enter any property, scale walls, jump over fences, and are only held back from the areas that are specifically fenced off for the breeding of rare animals, or for hunting reserves. The reserves are usually included in the lands of large estates and hunters pay to shoot game there.”
And hunters are the only ones who can purchase rifles, sidearms, and bullets in Italy, after presenting their hunting license to the gun shop. They must complete a course in the use of firearms, recognition of wild animals, conservation and outdoor emergencies. You can’t even inherit guns unless you take the safety course.
Private landowners here are particularly supportive of wild boar hunters, because that population now tops 400,000, and they destroy vineyards and gardens. They would prefer a population of 150,000, so they’ve got a lot of hunting to do this fall! Deer are also a problem, as well as a popular game animal. I read that, “They destroy the sapling olive trees, eat the grapes from the vines, and the vine shoots in springtime, and wreak havoc also in the woods, where they graze on anything green.”
Linda and I have seen both wild boars and deer while visiting Italy. Last year, we heard some noises outside our apartment and threw open the curtain to see 8 baby boars in the flower garden below our window. Two adult boars were standing nearby, watching.
We’ve also encountered wild boars while hiking and often see deer while driving. Their deer are tiny compared to ours. This year we saw a buck that had been hit and killed by a vehicle, and it was really small, but had a 6-point set of antlers.
I also read that hunting is “slowly dying out as the new generations, which are more ecologically aware, do not like it and do not see it as a sport. It is becoming ever less popular.”
You could have fooled me on that one, because all that Sunday, we heard shooting in every hill and valley that surrounded us.
I liked this advice that one innkeeper gives his guests: “We tell our worried guests here to go ahead and take your morning walk, but keep to the trails and dirt tracks, making noise or singing when possible. And, in all fairness, do remember, when you are eating those fantastic noodles with wild boar sauce, that someone had to procure that boar and it wasn’t by petting him on his nose.”
I found it particularly interesting that those who hunt wild boars are allowed to sell them to restaurants. And I’m grateful for that! Last year, in two weeks here, I enjoyed wild boar meals 8 times!
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