Chamois, red deer, mouflon, ancient residences and fine wines… How many of you can say that they have been hunting in Italy? The hunt in the Bel Paese has been until now an experience for few, both for the difficulty of obtaining an Italian hunting permit and for the infrequency of access, only on personal invitation, to the best estates, which are still owned by the ancient nobility.
However this magnificent experience is now finally available to all passionate hunters, with the birth, in 2012, of the first Italian outfitter: Italian Safari (www.italiansafari.com). Thanks to excellent personal relationships with important Italian families, Italian Safari provides access to some of the best estates of the country making Italy one of the main new features in the hunting world.
To define Italy as “a new feature” might seem a contradiction if you consider its endless touristic tradition. With its 2000 years of history, 40% of the world artistic heritage in cities such as Florence, Rome and Venice, the luxury of the Italian lifestyle, well represented by the great fashion brands and sumptuous villas of the Renaissance, as well as the world’s most famous culinary culture, the Bel Paese remains one of the most popular destinations in the world.
Still it is the great variety of landscapes that will most interest passionate hunters; from the high peaks of the Alps, to the vineyards and olive groves in the rolling hills of Tuscany, and to the Mediterranean vegetation of the plains of Latium. Each of these territories is home to many of the main species hunted on the European continent: chamois and red deer in the Alps; roe deer, mouflon and wild boar in the center and south of the country.
All Italian safaris share in the characteristics of the country: great food with its rich regional differences, a high level of hospitality, and last but not least, age-old hunting traditions. Yet every safari in Italy is unique and responds to the needs and requests that the hunter and his companions may have.
For those accustomed to the harsh mountain hunts, and looking for unusual trophies, breathtaking experiences and unforgettable places, the Alps of Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont offer a unique challenge with the hunt for chamois and red deer.
The chamois is definitely one of the most coveted trophies in the country and its shy and careful nature makes the hunting experience extremely thrilling. The hunt takes place in the Alps, at an altitude ranging between 4000 and 11000ft above sea level, in the period from September to December.
In the first part of the season, these animals tend to stay on the highest peaks, usually in large groups of up to several dozens of specimens. The hunting in this period is very hard and often requires long walks in an attempt to get close to the herd, but the ground is still dry and free of snow and facilitates the often long approach.
The chamois is very attentive, is used to defending against predators such as wolves and eagles, and moves in inaccessible areas, thus forcing the hunter to extreme caution and often to observe powerlessly the escape of the animals on to the high rocks after a long and unsuccessful approach. Still this can only increase the strong emotion of the capture, and ensure to every passionate mountain hunter indelible memories.
Later, when the rutting season starts and the temperatures drop below freezing, the males begin to move in search of females, thus dividing the herds in small groups. In this period, hunting becomes much easier given the lower attention paid by the animals, and it is not unusual to see males running towards the hunter and stopping just a few meters away before realizing the fatal mistake. Nevertheless the situation is balanced by weather conditions, particularly by the snow that covers the ground in abundance, and makes it more difficult and tiring to walk up these steep mountains.
Some areas of Italy have a chamois population density among the largest of the continent and offer very important trophies. In particular, in the most southern part of the Alps, where the mountains seldom exceed 2,500 meters and the snow is less present, the trophies of chamois reach dimensions often exceeding 100 CIC points and provide each year a variety of medals and many records of Alpine chamois.
The mountain hunting, always practiced in northern Italy, is not the only one in the country; you just need to move a few hundred miles to the South to live completely different experiences.
For hunters who want to experience the oldest and most exclusive Italian hunting traditions, the forests of Tuscany and Lazio offer, between October and January, pheasant shooting and wild boar “Braccate“.
Pheasant shooting has represented for centuries the main hunting activity of central Italian nobility. For this reason, even today, the best places for this hunt are private estates with century old history: in few other places in the world is it conceivable to enter a Renaissance villa in the morning, put on your boots, entrust your own pair of guns to the bearer, and, exiting by the staircase, to walk, between ancient statues and ruins, to the place where drives are held. The hilly conformation of the woods causes the pheasants, driven by the batsmen, to rise up in flight over the line of hunters and, before reaching there, gaining such height and speed that may challenge even the best shooters. At the end of each drive the fully trained springers will recover the animals that will then be placed in small tableaux near the line. Finally at the end of the day, which is often interrupted with a snack based on Tuscan wines and extra virgin olive oils, the Grand Tableau will be prepared in front of the villa. There surrounded by centuries of history, hunters will be able to offer a fitting tribute to the game. They will then enjoy a well-earned meal in seventeenth-century halls and conclude an exclusive experience that has remained unaltered for generations.
In the same areas it is also possible to experience the excitement of driven wild boar hunt or Braccata. This kind of hunting has nothing to do with the cold beauty and exclusivity of pheasant shooting and offers a thrilling experience as dogs and beaters challenge the boars in the thick Mediterranean bush in an attempt to push them towards the line of hunters. The shooting, in such a dense vegetation, is totally different from the one offered by the same type of hunting in other countries: the wild boar here looks more like a shadow than a wild animal and the hunter often has only a fraction of a second to sense his presence and shoot. The Braccata in the Maremma area involves dozens of hunters and beaters sometimes on horseback, and hundreds of dogs. The hunters are placed along a line within the bush, either on the ground or on small hides especially constructed, and they quietly await the arrival of the wild. The beaters and dogs circle the forest and push wild boars towards the line of rifles. The start of the hunt is signaled by the sound of a horn that breaks the silence of the early morning, and gives the order to the beaters to release the dogs. Throughout the morning, the forest will come alive and brief moments of silence will be broken by the barking of the dogs and the screams of the bracchieri who are tracking the boar to initiate the hunt. Maremma’s wild boar is smaller than its northern European cousins and rarely reaches 100 kg, but the uproar it causes when, chased by dozens of dogs, it escapes and approaches the hunter hidden by vegetation, revealing itself only 9 or 10 feet away, is something that only the most experienced and self-controlled hunter accustomed to big emotions and prompt reaction can stand without trembling.
Moreover these hunts often take place in proximity of some of the world’s most famous cities such as Florence, Rome and Siena thus providing endless tourist attractions to complete the hunting trip.
To the hunter who is interested in discovering the Italian wonders with his family but doesn’t want to give up his passion, Italian Safari offers some of the world’s best solutions; opening up ancient and charming private villas, where between visits to Florence and to the wineries of Chianti, a rest by the pool or a ride among the olive trees, the hunter will be able to indulge his passion.
Unrivaled tourist experiences for the whole family, along with the chance to find some typical species of these areas such as the Italian roe deer, recently recognized as a different species from the European one, and the mouflon, native of the Mediterranean islands, all compete in attractiveness with the beauty of the hunting places. In fact it does not happen in many countries to be able to wait for a roe deer while hiding among the olive trees, enjoying the famous Tuscan hilly landscape with its cypress alleys, or for a mouflon while watching the sunset over the sea on the Sicilian coast.
In Tuscany, given the crepuscular habits of roe deer and fallow deer, and their very shy nature, hunting takes place at dawn and dusk, giving the vineyards, olive trees and cypresses a most romantic aura. Consequently the sudden appearance of the animal is a thrilling experience for even the most experienced hunter.
Sicily offers similar hunting experiences; sometime in large fenced areas, you will find a few of the biggest populations of mouflons of the peninsula. In these areas, the particularity of the trophy, which often reaches a considerable size of more than 33 inches, adds to the excitement of hunting a few yards away from the sea in a nature that has welcomed generations and generations of hunters, since the times of ancient Greeks and Romans. In addition to the mouflon, red deer, fallow deer and wild boar, as well as small game inhabit these areas, thus ensuring a complete and unforgettable hunting experience enhanced by one of the most gorgeous seascapes in the world.
So whether you are looking for new hunting challenges such as the chamois, or for a top comfort level or even for a place where you can share your passion with your family, Italy is, without a doubt, an ideal destination. The Bel Paese will ensure as few other places on earth can do, not only a unique hunting experience but also the opportunity to enrich your journey with an endless offer of tourist and cultural attractions, besides culinary discoveries, such as only the Italian lifestyle can provide. “In bocca al lupo!”