Who can and who can't carry guns in Italy and is all hunting bad?
Bang bang whammy shoot shoot kapow!! Every year come September, here at the Tuscan Enterprises office we get several phone calls from guests staying in one of our Villas wondering what all the early morning shooting is about: who is shooting? Who are they shooting at? Why are they shooting? And should we hide somewhere?
Not to worry, we reassure everyone – it is just the start of the very long Italian hunting season that runs from the first Sunday in September through to the end of February (and beyond for the wild boar hunts and deer culling). Italy has one of the highest percentages of hunters with respect to its population and they really do shoot at everything, and often even at each other: Dick Cheney style.
The hunters are a huge political lobby in Italy, and while they are fairly strong on the national level, with the backing of such companies as Beretta, (with its factories producing endless streams of rifles, shotguns and handguns and employing several thousand workers), it is really at the local small town level that they decide who gets elected to the town councils.
The small Italian Communes have to take them into account as they can sway the vote one way or the other. They are general not politically aligned with left, center or right, but with whoever is willing to let them do what they love the most: hunt. And hunting in Italy means the right to carry arms of different kinds.
They 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.
Hunters have to take a pretty detailed and lengthy course in the use of weapons, recognition of all the wild animal species, conservation and handling of outdoor emergency situations, but once they have their permit, they can practically do what they want. A hunter is allowed to carry shotguns or rifles, according to the game he is hunting, and many of them spend small fortunes in highly trained dog breeds and equipment.
A hunter is the only person allowed to purchase a rifle or sidearm and bullets legally in Italy, after presenting his license to the gun shop. Those who are not hunters and inherit guns, rifles, etc… either have to go to the shooting range (as I did when I inherited my grandfather’s shotguns and paraphernalia) and take a day-long safety course, or they have to turn their guns in to the local Carabinieri and have them sealed in such a way that they can no longer be used. And they need to be kept either in a locked showcase or on a rack, with a chain and lock that keeps them from being used by anyone (see photo attached).
The only kinds of weapons that can be displayed are those that are used for decoration and are not efficient (see the photo of the crest with the extractible double swords).
Italian hunters are divided into three basic groups, with occasional crossovers: the pheasant, grouse and jackrabbit hunters with dogs; the specialized hunters who only hunt wild boar and cull deer and related species; and the bird hunters.
I do not much care for the first and last categories as they are up and around at indecent hours on Sundays shooting up the countryside and killing most everything that moves (squirrels, porcupines, chickens and other domestic animals included).
The bird hunters usually spend the summer building blinds so that the birds won’t see them and they also keep all kinds of caged birds which they force to sing to attract other passing or migratory species to within shooting distance of their blinds. I find this kind of hunting particularly despicable.
The hunters who shoot pheasants and jackrabbits are a bit more tolerable, although it is a bit of a joke. Since most wild animals have been shot out of existence, each spring, the local hunting associations “seed” the hunting areas and woodlands with pairs of pheasants, quails and rabbits that are bred in pens for that purpose. So you can imagine how “wild” these poor things will be come September…
The only hunting that I, owning a farm, do approve of is the selective culling of the huge amounts of wild boars that run through the land and destroy vineyards and other cultivations, causing a lot of money loss to those who raise crops. The deer and the roebuck also fall into this category.
They were dwindling in numbers years ago, so hunting was suspended. Now they have reproduced to such an extent that the land doesn’t provide enough food for them and with the disappearance of the wolf, they have no natural enemies. 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.
I think the major problem is that to become a hunter specialized in culling, you have to have more training and it is a game of incredible patience with long hours spent just lying on the cold humid ground somewhere waiting for the animals to show. Not many hunters are willing to go through this kind of sacrifice.
All in all, hunting in Italy is more of a way of life than a hobby. It 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 and this had led to some serious reductive legislation. Next season, for example, the Italian government voted to reduce the hunting season from end of September to end of January. This is a step in the right direction, but still not enough to save some of the migratory bird species that are being wiped out.
So, what we tell our worried guests here at Tuscan Enterprises and on the farm at Casamonti, is to go ahead and take your morning walk, but keep to the trails and dirt tracks, making noise or singing when possible, to avoid the “Cheney” effect. 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.