As requested, my warts an all account. Enjoy.
I arrived at the home of my host, Fabrizio at around 6am on a cold November morning. Rain looked probable, and a stiff breeze made me wonder if I had worn the right gear. My usual tweed shooting coat certainly raised a few eyebrows in the bar where we drank cappuccinos, and ate a kind of farleys rusk for breakfast. The locals dunk this in their frothy coffee till it falls apart, spooning up the stodgy gruel and slurping it down with great gusto. The squad then departed for their various destinations in a mix of modern Jap 4x4s and ancient Fiat Pandas and Campagnolo’s (an Italian version of a Land Rover). A squad in this area (Liguria) has twenty to thirty members. The squad is then sub divided into three groups, A,B and C. These groups rotate on every hunting day so that similarly to our pheasant shoots each sub group should be in the hot spot for at least one day in three. During the hunting season, from mid September to mid December they will be hunting on every Sunday and Wednesday.
We drove up the river valley for a couple of miles before debussing and setting off on foot. Now I realised why the heavy tweed coat had not impressed the locals. We climbed and climbed, scaling the sides of deep ravines and waterfalls till we reached our spot. Several times along the way we stopped so that I could catch my breath and remove a sweater. With all the exertion I was absolutely roasting as well as knackered. Fabrizio raised a smile as the steam rose from my head and shoulders in a plume. We now settled in for a long wait, then it started to rain. Other members of the squad had been dispatched with Italian Spinones and other types resembling fox hounds lower down in the valley, where the dogs were released, and sent to hunt out the boar. These are the dog men who will have as many as a dozen dogs, which incidentally are paid for by the whole squad. The general idea is that the hunters with guns are stationed high up on the edges of the hunting reserve above which boar cannot (should not) be shot. The boar are no doubt aware of this and so make for the safer high ground crossing one of the many tracks where the hunters are waiting. On this day however the rain made things very miserable, and we sought shelter in a shallow cave. My Italian is not good, and Fabry speaks no English, but it was clear he was cold and wanted to light a fire. We had no matches or lighter, but I figured I had watched enough Ray Mears programmes, so I set to with a spare boot lace and a bow a drill and an anvil. I managed a fair amount of smoke, more and more smoke before flinging away the drill as it burned my left hand. Note always lubricate the top of the drill with green leaves to prevent this when you try it at home. Fabry fell about laughing as I blew on my burned fingers. Now it was his turn.
First he carefully cut open a shotgun cartridge, pouring the powder onto a dead leaf. We sifted through our pockets and found some old tissue and various bits of fluff that looked like good kindling. Some of the powder was now put back in the cartridge, expertly held against the primer with tissue and fluff. The rest of our kindling was now carefully arranged to catch the sparks emitted from the end of the barrel. With a wave of his hand I was persuaded to take a step back as the trigger was pulled. There was a muffled phut and the tissue flew out of the side by side, blowing all of the kindling away out of the cave into the rain. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. Fabry just shrugged, and made it clear it was the first time he had actually tried this method! Now it was my turn to laugh. I decided there was little else to do but to eat lunch. Thick sliced smoked ham and cheese in hard bread rolls. Water, a chocolate bar and grappa to finish. Feast of kings. Around two o’clock we emerged from the cave and walked miserably back to the Fiat Fiorino van.
We all had walky talkies, and ours crackled into life. Apparently the dogs were onto a pig. We sped off up a mountain track, picking up another two hunters and a dog along the way. At one point the track became too steep for the little Fiat, and it’s front wheels spun on the wet leaves. Fabry, not to be beaten swung the van round and gunned the engine, and off we went flat out in reverse in our rear wheel drive rear wheel steering van! By now it was getting dark and how he navigated the narrow track by only the reversing lights is a mystery to me. Every so often we would stop and kill the engine. Windows down listening to the sound of excited dogs far away. Eventually we shuddered to a halt, and all climbed out, landing at a run. It would seem the dogs were close by along with a pig. Slipping and sliding down hill in near darkness a cold thought gripped me. If I should fall hit my head on a tree stump and let out a sort of piggy like groan or grunt, could I trust this gang of gun toting very excited Italians?
Suddenly I was all alone in the forest which was now completely dark. In the distance I heard the engine of the Fiat start up and could just make out the red glow of the tail lights disappearing in the trees. Sh…t! Now I’m in something of a predicament. Here am I totally lost and disoriented in the middle of a chestnut forest. I know it is a few miles from the road, oh and did I mention I have this 30.06 six shot semi auto rifle, which I have been left holding with no permit, (my host kindly forgot to mention this till it was too late) not even my damned passport.
I started walking in the general direction of the track. Once found I followed it back in the direction we hade come. About an hour later I emerged onto a proper tarmac road, and proceeded to follow it down hill, figuring that must take me to a village or something. There was a hiss from the ditch and I could make out the shape of another hunter crouched there. He beckoned my to join him, and I understood that the car would be returning for us soon, they were in pursuit of a pig, and had to leave in a hurry. This guy also explained what I had already expected. We were in a very dodgy position as walking down the road with a rifle and no gun slip is not good in Italy, especially if you happen to be English and have no permit!
After half an hour or so we were picked up and driven back to an old water mill. The hunters dinner that night was pasta followed by sausages, and grim faces. Of the twenty seven hunters only one had seen a pig, and he missed it!
Not all hunting tales end in a victorious hunter standing over his slain beast. Certainly in real WILD boar hunting in Italy mine was a more typical experience.
"In boca lupo" In the mouth of the wolf (Italian wishing you good hunting)
The reply is "lupo crepi" (the wolf is dead).
I will post some pics to Rob, I hope he can add them to this post. (this dinosaur can't work the machine).
O.K. I've uploaded the pics like the man said, so I hope they will appear here like magic. These were taken a few days after this account was written when I got my first boar. As you can see the weather was a lot better! P.S. the pic of the forest has a spinone stood where my piggy was. the picture is taken from the shooting point, just to give an idea of the terrain