If you go Down to the Woods Today – Hunting in Abruzzo

Hunting in Abruzzo

Hunting, also known as la caccia (it’s a female noun named after Diana, the Virgin Goddess of hunting), in Abruzzo Italy is one polemic subject with as many vocal “fors” & “againsts” as any other country in the world. As I eat meat, I can hardly adopt a “holier than thou” attitude to hunting, but ideals can be expressed, and the overall aim of this article is to give some walking safety tips during the hunting season…honestly.

Like many fellow carnivores I’m of the opinion that if the culling of animals, such as wild boar, is necessary then it makes sense to have ‘game’ killed by skilled, licensed hunters who humanely kill via one painless shot and clean up their spent cartridges accordingly.  Wild boars are an issue in Abruzzo like the rest of Europe, with numbers rising dramatically.  The boar frequently devour local small holders and farmers crops, their favourites being potatoes, and until someone comes up with a solution to control them via reproductive means, hunting does appear to be the only way of controlling their numbers, maintaining some sort of symbiotic balance between them and a rural economy.

Wild Boar

Licensed hunting in Abruzzo, like the UK, can seem to the untrained ear a little more skewed toward drink-fuelled bonhomie than anything really approximating ‘fair game’ – a factor that might explain the cacophony of shots heard when something is spotted and any idea of a quick painless death flies out the window.   To hunt wild boar legally in Abruzzo, there should be no less than 25 persons in a team which may help explain that!  Often my neighbours complain that many of the wild boar hunters are wealthy outsiders who come across to Abruzzo simply for the luxury of a hunting weekend.  It does seem that the boar hunts close to us attract an awful lot of ‘spectators’ whose car registration plates seem to be from everywhere else but local.   That’s not to say that those hunters aren’t Abruzzesi, many are, but like elsewhere in the world the hunting ‘tradition’ more often attracts the wealthiest strata of society rather than the poorest, who perhaps could do with bagging a free meal.

Blood sports here still seem to be archaically defended by bringing ‘tradition’ into the debate, though tradition evolves with every generation.  I’m quite sure those that use this argument have houses stuffed with modern conveniences and a 4×4 to get them to the shoot.  A modern debate should include:

  • – The welfare of the woodland wildlife
  • – The economics for humanely controlling pests, for example , the €2 million wild boar crop damage in Abruzzo in 2009-10
  • – The potential fall-out on other industries such as tourism or fungi collection that support local livelihoods
  • – Environmental pollution of  woods and rivers  by toxic spent shotgun cartridges and plans to clean after hunting takes place
  • – Strict licensing  shooting tests
  • – Prosecution of poachers who can possibly threaten extinction

Animals that can be currently shot in Abruzzo with a license include pheasant, partridge, quail, blackbirds, skylarks, jays, crows crow, magpies, hares, wild boar, deer, fox and wild sheep known as ‘moufflon’.

What can be ‘hunted’ and when according to Abruzzo’s regional government is currently at odds with EU law and the Italian government & WWF is currently trying to ensure that Abruzzo does respect EU ecological legislation in force to protect and preserve.

There are many people who still seem to think that most Italians spend early Autumn eating song birds that are migrating to warmer shores, which is not helped by them being on the region’s list of what can be hunted, but I have to say I haven’t seen this where I live in the Teramo province of Abruzzo.  My elderly neighbours have told me stories of being driven to trap birds to eat when facing extreme hunger and throughout the war, Abruzzo was a very poor region, but I haven’t actually experienced anyone serving me these on a platter.  There are probably still some that do this, in very much the same way that in France there are still those that eat Ortolan, but rather than concentrate on the few it’s best to work out the way of the many, and how it impacts a visitor to Abruzzo. If birds are eating olive and vine crops is there an alternative method such as netting or sirens that can protect such crops which can be introduced?

I do like to walk in Abruzzo, especially exercising my dog, although a grand old hike is probably a little bit beyond me. I also enjoy a good forage, particularly for the easily recognisable porcini, so for this reason, bearing in mind that there may be a few people out there looking of ways to avoid the ‘hunters’ and hunting season in Abruzzo, here are a few handy tips. They are important, recently a priest that was ‘sleeping’ in Puglia was shot by a poacher so beware and don’t get in the way!

  • -General Hunting officially starts the 3rd Sunday in September ending on 31st January.  According to EU Law it should be 1st October – 20th January.    Abruzzo authorized pre-hunting am hunts were arranged on the 5th, 6th, 11th & 12th September with licenses to kill blackbirds, crows, magpies & wood pigeons.  On the 28th October 2010 Abruzzo finally agreed to follow these EU hunting dates.
  • – The EU Woodcock end of season ends 31st Janauary
  • – Partridge & quail  season ends 30th November
  • – Dove, blackbird & skylark season ends 20th December
  • – Pheasent, wild boar & jay season ends 31st December
  • – Pigeon, crow, magpie & fox season ends 31st January
  • – Hare Hunting starts 2nd October & ends 31st December
  • – Hunting is banned on Tuesdays & Fridays
  • – Wild boar hunting teams are to have no less than 25 people participating, who must wear fluorescent waistcoats and signs in the area be adequately displayed. If you see this move quickly on and avoid walking anywhere in the proximity
  • – Deer hunting is August & February
  • – Game can be hunted in most places, just 100m away from housing and as long as the hunters aren’t damaging crops
  • – Fondo Chiuso signs mean that this is a ‘closed’ permitted area for hunting  – rather like a gamekeeper and ‘park’ land – keep out
  • – Private hunting areas are generally demarked by trees having their trunks painted white alongside signs on fences on the borders of roads
  • – Do remember as a non-resident you are not allowed to bear arms (or arm bears) and you can be prosecuted if caught
  • – Boar do carry trichinellosis, that is dangerous to humans do have meat checked before you eat if you have shot
  • – It is forbidden to hunt boar in the the areas that protect Abruzzo’s bears, likewise it is forbidden to hunt bears

Grateful thanks to Kevin Denham in allowing us to use his great boar photograph

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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