The Cacciatore – The Hunters

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If you catch us talking then you know I am a sensitive soul and couldn’t kill anything to eat, if I had to then I would definitely be a vegetarian, but over a drink they lecture me on my hypocrisy and really don’t understand how I can eat it but I couldn’t kill it.

wild_boarWe are now right in the middle of the hunting season and Sensone is one of the prime locations for the hunting of the cinghiale – the wild boar. Richard has had the opportunity to go out for a few days with the local hunters and see what is involved. For me I get to widen my circle of friends, knowing many of the hunters from different localities around the region. You may have heard me say it before but Renaio is the centre of the world.

Mainly on a Saturday around nine o’clock after a swift coffee at the bar, they congregate in the car park. Renaio has its own squadron under the watchful eye of Franca, and subject to the weather there will normally be between fifteen and twenty hunters gathering. They all have their camouflage gear on and very much looking the part of the avid hunter about to enter the wild forests and meet their prey the wild boar.

For the Italians, the ancient sport of wild boar hunting is rich with tradition and to this day remains central to their cultural identity. Since time immemorial the wild boar, the golden prize of hunting has wandered the mountains of Italy. The wild boar is the oldest of the old and legend tells of a time when Greek sailors landed on an island over run by them and named it Kapros – Greek for boar. The Italians call it Capri. They have since abandoned Capri but many regions throughout Italy are renown for their herds of these majestic creatures and here at Sensone it is prime boar land.

Of course, our Tuscan boar are the best, feasting off the ample chestnuts that fall in the autumn and wild boar hunting is to the Italian nobility what fox hunting is to the British ruling class – an ancient sport wrapped in tradition, but here in the mountains it is so much more. It is a way of life, in the old days and still today it puts food on the mountain folk’s tables and such good food too.

The boar is the wild ancestors of the domestic pig, and they can grow to be as much as three feet tall at the shoulders, weighing as much as 400 pounds and will eat almost anything. A male boar sharpens it tusks on rocks and trees and when confronted head on will defend itself by lowering its head, charging, and slashing upwards with his tusks, whilst a female boar having much smaller tusks will try to bite its prey to death. They are very dangerous wild animals and if injured should not be approached as even in a dying state will savagely fight to the end of its life.

The hunting seasons has been open since November and will continue until the end of January. Hunting is a dangerous sport and some men have been known not to return although they are governed by strict rules to prevent injury to fellow hunters. For instance, they cannot shoot at a ninety degree angle to the front or back, and cannot shoot to the sides. Also once out of sight of the watchful locals they remove their camouflage jackets and turn them inside out to reveal bright fluorescent colours making them standout and more visible amongst the trees and bush. But taking all of this into account some do get killed from time to time.

They still use mans best friends and they all have their trusted hunting dogs to help them sniff out their prey. Not necessarily the prettiest of dogs but fierce and functional. Each huntsman has his post, they communicate with walkie talkies and normally the shooters will go to their hide and wait until they hear the howling and barking of the dogs echoing through the woods. Occasionally, mixed with shouts and instructions for the dogs as they help guide them on their way and for the next three to four hours the dogs crisscross the mountainside in pursuit of the wild boars.

Sometimes when I am out working in the garden I can hear in the distant the sound of the gunfire and I know that the boar has been spotted.

This is the account of one of the hunters: He doesn’t try to see the boar, instead he listens, he listens for the tick-tick-tick of their hooves on the dead leaves as they move through the woods. “A sound like the devil on an icy pond” he recounts. Then he looks hard, less than 30 feet away he spots a female boar, he knew this because there was just a hint of white tusk curling from her dark mouth and her coat a mesmerizing black sheen.

He watched her move, turning slowly and taking aim and squeezing off the shot.

The gun exploded and from the woods came a bloodcurdling screech.

He’d only wounded her, and aimed once more as the wounded boar ran furiously towards the woods, racing for cover, he shot once and then again another screech and then – silence.

It’s been a slow start to the season for the Renaio Squad having to walk many miles in search of their prey, some days are disappointing but it all changes on the fortunate days that they catch the one. When they return to the bar, they then like to show off their catch to anyone willing to look on. (The photos were taken last year 2012)

If you catch us talking then you know I am a sensitive soul and couldn’t kill anything to eat, if I had to then I would definitely be a vegetarian, but over a drink they lecture me on my hypocrisy and really don’t understand how I can eat it but I couldn’t kill it.

When they showed me the boar in the picture all I could do was stroke it’s head and tell it “it was safe now in the hands of God”.

Article by Sensone

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