I’m surrounded by people who love the sport of hunting. What’s a poor passive greenie like me supposed to do? There’s nothing much I can do, other than hoping whatever game is being pursued gets away and everyone comes home empty handed. This year it seems everything is going well for the animals and I’m relieved!
My husband, his two brothers and my eldest nephew have been brought up with this tradition of hunting. Their father’s, grandfather’s, uncles and friends have wondered around rifle in hand shooting things, developing tall tales of the ones that got away, barging about fruitful hunting spots and exchanging technical knowledge.
It’s a particularly male dominated sport, I often joke that the men here in Sicily, amongst themselves are either talking soccer, hunting or politics, all intricate pass times which seem to be dying out.
As a child my husband shot small birds like quails, larks, sparrows and pigeons with a sling shot, then he designed small traps to capture pesky crows who would eat planted seeds in his father’s garden. In the Sicily of his childhood shot guns were still hung up next to the front door for protection and in rural areas farmers would shoot pests like foxes and weasels who would steal eggs and kill chickens.
It used to be a sign of maturity to get a gun license, even today there is a complex series of oral exams to pass on subjects as varied as: first aid, gun handling, natural biology, hunting related laws and one topic totally dedicated to different breeds of dogs.
The hunt begins in September with rabbit, quail, pheasant and hare, then in the cooler autumn/fall months comes the turn of wild boar (Cinghiale) and woodcock/oyster catcher (beccaccia).
The tradition of hunting is a little out of place today as Italy has moved away from its feudal and agricultural roots, there is no more need for the hunting/gathering mentality.
Yet, in Sicily the hunting extinct still prevails, but to my amusement it’s becoming less about the kill and more about socializing. At the opening and closing of the season all the hunting buddies have a lavish banquet of macaroni, barbecue meats, salami, provola (calcio di cavallo) cheese, bread and abundant wine.
This year the rabbits seem to have disappeared and so after a few fruitless journey’s to isolated places like Enna and Nicosia the focus has been turned to wild boar.
The good news is that the boar or Cinghiale have become rather shrewd and are hiding very well indeed.
Let’s hope the Cinghiale stick to their hiding spots and the hunters will be placated by the thrill of the chase, a glass of wine and a plate of macarone!