Getting A Better Handle On Those Hunts In Italy

Picture this. You’re a hunting client and you call a booking agent to inquire about a hunt. Instead of being aggressively sold a hunt, you immediately get the impression that you are under scrutiny, that you are being “considered” as a hunting client. Just what is this, you ask yourself…?

But hold on, there is more. Say you pass muster on the phone as a hunting client, and you are ready to sign a contract. Not so fast. In order to be finally accepted for a hunt, you (and your entire hunting party) have to attend a face-to-face meeting with the agent, usually over a meal paid for by the agent, who flies into your hometown specifically to meet you. Only then, when you’ve passed muster in a face-to-face meeting, will you be allowed to put a deposit down on a hunt.

That unusual procedure is the one Lawan Andersen of Tapestry Travel follows when would-be hunting clients call her about booking a hunt in Italy. Why does she do it? Because she is primarily a conductor of cultural tours (cultural immersions, she calls them), and the extraordinary network of people she has put together in Italy – landowners who trace their lineage back to the Medicis, top chefs, first class waiters, etc. – have had no exposure to the rough-and-tumble of contemporary international hunting. Quite simply, she does not want to risk alienating any of “her people” by bringing the wrong kind of hunting client into what is truly a sort of inner sanctum of Old-World hunting.

Even here at The Hunting Report, we had to run a gauntlet of sorts to be allowed to accompany Andersen on a check-out visit of some of the estates she hunts. We had to attest in writing that we would not divulge any names of the people we met. And, yes, we would run everything by her for final approval before it was set in type.

If all this sounds hoity-toity, so be it. Lawan Andersen, to her (and our) knowledge, is the only person who is allowed to bring non-European Union hunters into Italy. She wants only a relative handful of clients each year. So, you either accept her rules, or you hunt elsewhere. End of story.

Actually, Lawan Andersen’s procedure for screening clients is not just good for her and her business, but it is also good for the people who think they want to hunt with her. Indeed, her hunts are very right for some people and very wrong for others. The animals available are red stag, mouflon sheep, roe deer and European wild boar. All are hunted in estate environments, with escalating trophy fees based on trophy size. On my whirlwind visit last month, I visited two estates and had ample time to chat with the guides and estate managers. The competent hunter will almost certainly get the animals he wants and is ready to pay for.

Ultimately, though, it would make no sense for the kill-oriented trophy hunter to book a trip to Italy with Lawan Anderson. All of the animals you can take in Italy are available elsewhere at similar costs, without the “downside” of long lunches, museum visits and so forth. Also, most of Andersen’s trips are for groups of four or more, usually husbands and wives.

So, who are her trips right for? In a nutshell, they are right for the person who wants to go to Europe anyway, perhaps with his spouse and some friends, and who relishes the opportunity to understand another culture, including another hunting culture. The real draw of a Tapestry Travel hunting trip are the add-ons Andersen can offer. Would you (or your non-hunting spouse) like to be able to tour the Sistine Chapel when it’s closed? Meet the Pope maybe? Meet Italian nobility who trace their ancestry back to the Medici, and perhaps have lunch with them on their hunting estate in Tuscany?

An anecdote may shed additional light. This past fall, it seems, Lawan Andersen booked a group of fly fishermen and their wives (yes, she books fly fishing as well). The men mostly wanted to trout fish in Umbria, while the wives went off to museums, vineyards, archaeological sites, olive groves, wonderful lunches, etc. Turns out the wives had so much fun half the men abandoned their fishing and joined their wives. The spousal add-ons became the whole trip.

You get the picture. Lawan Andersen runs hunting trips that are probably the perfect spousal payback trips. You get to hunt a bit. Your long-suffering hunting widow gets to come along and shop, look at art, eat good food, etc.

As for the costs of all this, the bottom line is not bad, unless of course you want to shoot gold medal trophies and/or contract for expensive add-ons such as helicopter transfers between hunting areas and premium wines. The size of your group also affects costs, as Lawan Andersen personally accompanies all hunting groups. The more people there are paying for her time, the lower the per person cost is.

To give you an idea of costs, a typical one-week itinerary for four couples would start at $4,000 per person. Drop that to two couples and the minimum price would be around $6,000 per person. Those fees cover the trophy fee on two representative animals (any combination of stag, European wild boar, roe buck or mouflon sheep), all meals, moderate lodging and cultural activities such as museum visits. On the other end of the scale, fees for a week can go as high as $35,000 per person. It all depends on what you agree on in a face-to-face meeting with Lawan Andersen at the time of booking.

Sound interesting? Well, hold the phone – Lawan Andersen books another hunt that is a totally different kind of experience. It’s a hunt in the northern part of the country for Alpine ibex and chamois. This is a completely fair chase hunt that sounds like one of the great hunting adventures in all of Central Europe.

Just be aware that I say these positive things about the hunt without having visited the area, or met the guides. I did meet many of Lawan’s other contacts in Italy, however, and I believe what she has to say about this hunt. It sounds to us like a real opportunity. The maximum number of people she can accommodate, however, is five a year. And, if you want to be able to do this hunt at anywhere near an affordable price, you’ll need to link up with at least one hunting companion. Moreover, if you want to book it this year (for the fall of 2003), you need to get in touch with her this month. That’s when the permit draw for this hunt takes place. If she has to go into the secondary market for a permit (that is, buy one from someone who has already been drawn), the price can skyrocket.

There are no guarantees on this hunt, Andersen says, and you need to be in sheep-shape for it. Altitudes are not great (4,000 to 5,000 feet), but there is considerable climbing involved. The typical hunt runs 10 days and most (but not all) fit hunters fill out on both animals, she says. Costs for two hunters hunting together run between $20,000 and $30,000 each depending on the quality of the lodging and food desired and on the cost of the necessary permits.

Here at The Hunting Report, we’re eager to get feedback on this hunt. If you book it and file a detailed report on it afterward, you’re assured a place on our Honor Roll.