Dusan, my mentor to becoming a Udenborst hunting family member, but more importantly a great friend
I left South Africa for Slovenia in January 2006; the two biggest changes I encountered on arrival:
• It was the coldest week of the past 10 years of living in Slovenia – minus 20 Celsius
• There were no agricultural fences; how was hunting practiced?
The weather in Slovenia is cold, but minus 20 Celsius was the exception. There are some days in winter that drop to minus 10 Celsius, but it is a dry cold. Winters are pleasant because clothing and properly insulated living spaces cater well for the cold. Winters on our family farm in Aliwal North were much “harder” to endure.
Having hunted the first 42 years of my life on our farm in South Africa, and with friends on private farms, created in me a fixed mind-set of “hunting”. I don’t have a personal ego, hence easy to describe myself 10 years ago as ignorant about different global hunting practices. In Slovenia hunting was completely different and it took me a while to understand. Here (and other European countries that I have hunted in) they practice centuries of tradition and systems.
In this BLOG I will write only about the “systems” of hunting in Slovenia. The best way to understand is to think about vast amounts of land with no fencing. The public is free to walk anywhere; you will find Slovenes walking in the forests and mountains in all weather conditions. Owners of land (farmers) have the right to use the land but they have no hunting rights on their land.
Slovenia is broken down into over 500 hunting areas (keep in mind that the population of Slovenia is only 2 million and a land area of 20,000 sq km; each such area has a hunting family responsible for the management of game in their area. If farmers suffer damages from say deer eating their produce or pigs damaging their corn fields, they have to contact the hunting family responsible for the management of game in that area. The hunting family must solve the problem and is liable for damages to the farmer (half of the damages is paid by the Government).
Management of game includes feeding the animals in winter (mainly salt points) and meeting the Government determined quotas of game. Each hunting family is given an animal quota for take-off every year and the hunting family is obligated to meet such targets or they are fined. Hunting families have their own internal rules; in the family I belong to each hunter is allocated an animal species that they may shoot, but when the overall quota is reached then we are notified that we may not shoot further (irrespective of whether you have shot an animal or not).
I was the first non EU nationality to be accepted to a hunting family in Slovenia. The process of admission takes on average 2 years. I was helped through this process by hunting friends in Slovenia, all of whom have hunted with me in South Africa. The first year comprises detailed medical and psychiatric tests, exams in firearms and modules for each animal species, firearms competency and the last module and exam being the legal system of hunting in Slovenia. The 2nd year is more practical, working in a hunting family under the guidance of a mentor.
getting to my needed annual quota of 30 hours, a steep mountainous area at 1100 m altitude
Every year each active member of the hunting family has to work 30 hours in their family, these hours to be completed before the 1st of May (start of hunting). In exceptional conditions you can be released provided you pay Euro 300 to the hunting family. Hours and penalties could differ slightly from family to family, but they all apply the same principles. The work is varied, I have done mostly cleaning of the hunting area, feeding of the game in winter, and repairing of hides. Hunting of problem animals to prevent crop damage does unfortunately not qualify as work hours.
Every hunting family is an association with elected presidents and other officers that are responsible to ensure that all laws and obligations are properly adhered to. For example, every hunter must have his firearm signed off by the hunting family prior being permitted to use it for hunting. Shoot days are organised where you are required to achieve 3 shots within a determined circumference of the bull at 100 m. Every hunter as a yearly booklet that records his work hours and his rifles approved for hunting. Seeing some of the firearms at these shoot days (and users) I have got to respect this requirement. It is only fair to game that all hunters and their equipment are proven every year.
There are two categories of “shooting” qualifications in Slovenia, a licensed sports shooter or hunter status. Getting the status of a sport shooter is comprehensive but less problematic than a hunter. Anyone resident in Slovenia who passes the prescribed medical tests and firearms competency tests can qualify as a sports shooter. This status allows you to buy a firearm for sport shooting and its transport to a sport shooting venue or back to the place of safekeeping. Firearms licensed for sport shooting may not be used for hunting. I bought my first firearm in Slovenia (12G Beretta SO5) under the status of a sports shooter.
In a later blog I will discuss the licensing process of firearms in the EU. I’ve included photos of my hunting book that shows the rifles approved for hunting, animals allocated for hunting, hours worked and my hunting card that has a sticker on the back for each of the years of active membership.
Dusan blooded after shooting his first buck near Graaf-Reinet, a springbuck