The European country of Italy stretches just over 800 miles from north to south, and in that distance features a wide variety of topographic reliefs and climates, from the high Alpine mountains in the north, down the Apennine Mountains that run the whole length of Italy to the Mediterranean islands in the far south, with their almost African-type climates. The great range in topography makes Italy home to almost every European big game species there is. Some are unique subspecies found only in Italy. Some are huntable; others are protected but are interesting to talk about anyway. Let’s review what is on tap.
In the Alps to the north, one finds Alpine chamois, which is open to hunting; in the central part on the Apennine there is the Abruzzi chamois (which is closed to hunting). Also in the Alpine north, there are Alpine ibex, which are closed to hunting. In the north and central part of the country there is a population of unique red deer that has been confirmed by genetic and systematic research as a special subspecies called Cervus elaphus italicus (Italian red deer), which differs from the central European deer (Cervus elaphus elaphus) and is open to hunting. There are also many roe deer, mouflon sheep and most of all, wild boar, whose population has exploded in number and range in the last 20 years, covering the whole Italian territory.
Moving off the mainland to the big islands of Sardinia and Sicily, there is an autochthonous Corsican mouflon that is closed to hunting and an indigenous red deer very different from the continental species and similar to the Spanish red deer. This species is also closed to hunting.
On the smaller islands, there is a famous species of feral goat called the Monte Christo, also prohibited to hunt. In the central part of Italy there is wolf (closed to hunting) and small isolated populations of the autochthonous subspecies of Apennine bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus), and as you’ve probably guessed, it is also closed to hunting.
While a number of the species I just mentioned are off limits to hunters, there is good news in terms of the populations of game that are open. Because of a massive human migration out of the mountain villages some 30 to 40 years ago, big game populations have increased in Italy and reclaimed many deserted mountain areas. The European red deer, for example, has increased its distribution significantly; and the roe deer, which was almost extinct in Italy, has spread over more than half the Italian peninsula. In fact, roe deer numbers have increased so much, especially in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, that Italy now has the highest density of these animals in all of Europe. Also, because of the very strict big game regulations, the densities of Alpine chamois and roe deer in Italy’s Alpine areas have significantly increased as well.
Despite all this game, hunting opportunities in Italy are quite limited. Why….? For starters, Italy is a populous country with an enormous number of towns, villages and such, plus a large infrastructure (railroad, roads, etc.). Both significantly reduce the area available for hunting. Additionally, more than 30 percent of the Italian territory has been proclaimed national and regional parks, and hunting is forbidden on these properties. The same is true on government-managed forest areas.
Another complication is that a very large number of local hunters exerts significant hunting pressure in the areas that are open to hunting. Italian hunters are bound to territories and can hunt only in areas controlled by their own regional organization, called an ATC. Foreigners, as well as Italian hunters from other regions, are prohibited from hunting in these territories. That leaves about five percent of the territory in private hands and devoted to hunting for private or commercial use.
Private hunting grounds are the best and the most productive hunting areas. It is on these properties that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry allows foreigners to hunt. The big game animals available on these lands include Alpine chamois, Italian red deer, roe deer, mouflon sheep, fallow deer and wild boar. There are some free-range hunts available for Alpine chamois and roe deer but not for red deer, fallow deer, mouflon sheep and wild boar, which can only be hunted in fenced areas.
Fenced enclosures in Italy tend to be relatively small, around 1,200 acres, but dense vegetation and variegated grounds make the hunting quite sporty. Hunting is conducted either by stalking or sitting in blinds and waiting for game to pass through likely areas. Also, wild boar is hunted in the typical Italian way – driving game with dogs, which is a very interesting hunt. Almost every hunting ground has its own hunting lodge, which is usually a centuries-old stone house converted into an agri-tourism or hunting lodge offering excellent Italian food and wine.
One operator who can arrange a variety of hunting opportunities here is Sergio Dimitrijevic of Safari International. Dimitrijevic has access to various hunting grounds close to important historical and cultural cities, including Rome, Florence and Venice. He offers hunting for red deer, fallow deer, roe deer, wild boar, mouflon and Alpine chamois.
One area Dimitrijevic hunts is in the region of Umbria, in central Italy north of Rome, where he has access to a hunting reserve near the city of Perugia. The reserve features wooded areas where a number of blinds are set up near small lakes and watering areas frequented by the game. Professional hunters accompany clients to the blinds for the morning and evening hunts, and organize drives for wild boar in the middle of the day. Dimitrijevic houses his hunters in one of two restored farm houses on the reserve.
The hunting season for roe deer is August to mid-September. The Alpine chamois is mid-September to December. Other species may be hunted mid-September to January. Dimitrijevic charges a daily rate ranging from 350 to 550 Euros for a 1 x 1 hunt. (One Euro equalled 1.32 US dollars at press time.) The observer fee runs 180 to 500 Euros. Daily fees depend on the quality of accommodation clients choose and include full board and lodging, preparation of trophies, hunting permits, gun clearance, airport assistance and all transfers from and to the nearest airport. The best airport destinations are Rome or Florence, and Milan for the Alpine chamois. Charges do not cover export permits or veterinary certificates. Also, non-Europeans must obtain a gun permit from the Italian Consulate in their country of origin.
Trophy fees are on the European level and can be lower for roe deer and fallow deer. They run 3,500 – 3,800 Euros for red deer; 2,000 – 3,000 Euros for fallow deer; 2,800 Euros for mouflon; 1,000 – 2,000 Euros for roe deer; 1,000 – 1,800 Euros for a trophy wild boar from a blind; 450 – 500 Euros each for driven wild boar; and 3,000 – 3,700 Euros for Alpine chamois. The quality of the mouflon trophies is excellent; other species are in the average European range.
Italy is an very attractive destination, of course, for more than hunting, offering endless opportunities for cultural, historical and seaside tourism activities. Because the hunting areas are close to major tourism sites, it’s easy to combine hunting with activities that appeal to the non-hunting spouse.