Hunting

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We promote responsible hunting and we recognize the value that responsible hunting contributes to the conservation of wildlife.

Every species on our planet are hunters, the only difference in humans is we have developed a conscience so some of us prefer to eat meat harvested in an abattoir.

Hunters are urged to practice the highest ethics and fair chase, and not to splash pictures or videos on social media that put hunting in a bad light.

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Wild Boar Hunt Pakrac Croatia

We departed Ljubljana 3 am and arrived in Pakrac (150 km south of Zagreb) well ahead of our 7 am schedule. This gave us time to enjoy a cheese Burek at a local bakery which is eaten in combination with a yogurt to help digest the cheese Burek (oily).  Maybe my age but I find one Burek enough to last me a few months.  The picture below is the main building of the hunting family we were hunting with.

A driven hunt in Autumn is unusual, hot for beaters and dogs and the forests still dense with leaves.  We were asked to help cull pigs because the hunting family was incurring escalating farmer damages.  The hunt was planned for 16 of us from Slovenia with each of us contributing Euro 100 to the hunting family.

Typically the area where pigs hold up in is thicker bush areas, often separated by a dust road and more open forest on the other side of the road. When I first hunted pigs I was too slow, distracted by the amount of trees in your field of view as the pigs ran. The right advice I got was “there is more open space than trees so follow and shoot”.

Knowing that visibility in the forests would be far worse than in winter I gave greater care to my own visibility.  Blaze orange or reflective green are compulsory for visibility but I found the green much less suitable given the summer conditions of leaves.  At times it was hot, forcing us to take jackets and hats off and placing them on high branches to increase visibility.

The success of our hunt was impacted by many locals searching mushrooms in nearby forest areas. After weeks of rain the conditions were perfect for mushrooms and the locals were having a “feast” of a time.

The hunt for the day consisted of 3 driven hunts, meaning we would travel to 3 separate areas and each time we were set-up in a line with beaters and hunters driving the pigs out. There is a lot of luck involved because pigs group and if they are not in the hunted block then that drive yields no pigs.

Waking up at 2 am was fair reason for a nap in the forest, but keeping your visibility never compromised.

The hunt yielded fewer pigs than normally. I never saw a pig but that did not distract from my enjoyment of the nature and the camaraderie. The wealth and fame of Zagreb is only a 90 minute drive north yet many villages such as Pakrac are poorer. There are reminders everywhere of the fierce fighting between Croats and Serbs 18 years ago; houses remain with bullet holes and many homes owned by Serbs are still abandoned. A stark reminder that there are no winners in war.

After every hunt it is customary to meet back at the hunting family premises where shot animals are laid out and various thanks expressed. The tradition here is that every hunter who shot a boar buys a case of beer; the reason that you see the beer placed in front of each boar. Hanging up and out of picture was another big boar shot earlier in the morning.

A contrast I find hunting in Croatia is that there is ZERO woman involvement. I believe differently, but then who am I to express a view on other nations cultures and practices; suffice to say that in my opinion and in order for responsible and ethical hunting to prosper we must be open to positive influences and change. I do believe that woman are fundamental to the future of hunting and shooting.

You only have to live in Shanghai to witness how a male dominated culture is now being reversed by a new generation of woman and China will be much better for that.

The hunt for the day ends with the local hunting family members serving a spicy meat soup and cooked wild boar. The locals of Pakrac are incredibly hospitable; this was my highlight of the day and making 7 hours of driving worthwhile.

In every collective hunt there is bound to be some incident that creates tensions. This day it was about a hunter accused of moving forward of his line thereby encroaching on the shooting area of hunters on his flanks. I notice that hunters familiar with the territory get themselves into the most favorable positions; something I consider selfish and not sporting.

Aligned with a hunting concession in Europe

Hunting in Europe is expensive by comparison to South Africa.  Having said that, you have not had a full experience until you have hunted outside of SA. The Powder Keg lifestyle offering is founded on the principle that so many people end up regretting what they did not do vs. what they did do.

Hunting in Europe is about experiencing the culture, the weather conditions, the history of the territory, their management of game, hunting traditions and just having a fun time. The Powder Keg has aligned with a hunting concession in an area of 70,000 hectares in the southern part of Slovenia that borders onto Croatia.

The surrounds of Koćevje is stooped in tradition and history. This southern part of Slovenia is the most remote part of the country. 90% of the hunting area is forests. Prior the 2nd WW their were many villages of German inhabitants. During the war Hitler considered the area non-strategic and relocated all Germans to the west of the River Sava. Villages of more than 600 years old were left to ruin.

The picture above gives an idea of a cold winter in Kočevje.  Hunting is not permitted when the snow level exceeds 40 cm; it is considered unfair to animals. Animals cannot move freely and they lose unnecessary energy needed to protect them in early spring in the event of a late cold spell.

Camaraderie of a hunt. It is customary to meet for hot food and a little wine between driven hunts (collective hunting). Winter days are short and usually only 3 driven sessions are possible. In this hunting area dogs are not used, only beaters, because the animals are less disturbed and run slower.

The impact of the 2nd WW was significant in the area.  After the 2nd WW a security tunnel was built at Gotenica (borders on the concession area) and a large area was closed to the public; a “safe haven” for politicians. Residents of local villages in the area were not permitted to leave until 1985 when the area was again open to the public.

Above, prior the start of driven hunts safety instructions given and hunters told what game they may shoot. The entire open area of 70,000 hectares is divided into a few hunting concessionary areas. The total area annual game quota approximates 2,000 Red Deer, 500 pigs and 12 brown bears.  The meat is Government property, about 50 tons sold to local residents and 100 tons to a specialized processor of game meat.

We looked at a choice of 2 hunting lodges; the former Tito lodge and the lodge pictured above.  Although the Tito lodge has a lot of history the above lodge is in the heart of the hunting concessionary area and its surrounds more inviting. This accommodation will be upgraded by the main concessionary holder as part of the 20 year concession.

The closure of collective hunting days is always in accordance with local cultures and traditions. Every animal shot, hit by a vehicle or other, is categorized and recorded against the game management plan, a plan that over many years has been optimized for the conservation and breeding of game.

Cost structures for hunting in Europe are more complex than in South Africa and the system of “trophy” measurement would not be easily understood by non-Europeans.  I am supporting the process to have a simplified offer that is more fixed than variable.  An urgent work in progress, the concession starts 1 August 2017.

Hunters Contribution – Slovenia

Every hunter must work a minimum of 30 hours in their hunting family every year contributing to the management of game, cleaning of the hunting area and the upkeep of the hunting facilities. Under exceptional circumstances where a hunter is unable to fulfill his work commitment he must make good with a payment, however this is frowned upon because the purpose is to contribute to nature and not a material contribution.

I am pictured below with Dusan, friend and past mentor, where we work together in a sector of our hunting family.

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A large portion of the work to clean the hunting area must be performed before the 15th of March of every year. I learnt the reasons why this year because I was behind in my contribution; a law in Slovenia forbids the cutting of branches and forest clearing after 15th March because this is considered the time (spring) when birds start nesting. Hunters contribute to nature in every way possible.

Below is one of the meadows in our sector of Udenboršt which we are responsible to maintain.

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The hunting system has been developed over centuries; regulations and information are well documented e.g. every hide is numbered, its GPS coordinates recorded on an online hunting information data base available to hunters.

Feeding points are also recorded together with their main purpose stated. Only wild boar may be hunted at specially designated feeding points in order to control their numbers. All feeding points must be cleared after 21st March (through summer). Animals have natural food in summer and feeding is prohibited. Wild animals must continue their instincts of self preservation without human interference.

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The Government employs hunting inspectors that control the area. Offences are punished by means of a monetary fine for both the hunting family association and separately for their President. Each hunting family association has a hunting keeper who is required to support compliance of regulations. A typical offence that is punished severely is illegal feeding where potentially irresponsible hunters try to lure animals.

The bottom left jaw of every animal shot must be presented at a specific location during a specific week of the year where hunting inspectors validate records of animals taken. A hunter in our family was recently fined Euro 450 because it was established from the tooth that the female pig was 1 year older than what was allowed to shoot.

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A part of our work includes the maintenance of hides to ensure that structures are secure and safe. The main purpose of a hide is safety, giving a downward angle of the bullet. Other than in the large Government forest and hunting areas all other hunting takes place in close proximity of houses and people are constantly walking in the nature.

Recently there was an incident of vandalism at certain hunting offices of an association in Slovenia. Their anonymity and spineless nature reflects on their inability to be forthright and willing to engage in constructive debate. It will be difficult to engage people who have no respect for private property and who are not willing or competent to propose alternatives, but as responsible hunters we want to engage and find solutions in a changing world.

Slovenia Protests

Wild boar hunting in wet snow

Hunting experiences in central Europe are unique, and conditions can be spectacularly different from hunt to hunt. Yesterday I woke at 3 am to travel to a private hunting concessionary area in Croatia that borders on Bosnia. Experiencing the history of the area, the company and the spectacular scenery was enough; shooting wild boar would not determine the success of this hunt. Typically hunters all gather at a venue prior and after the hunt. This was the hunting cottage where we enjoyed breakfast before hunting and ate dinner before departing on the long road home.

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I have often hunted in snow but never in conditions like this. The day before there was a downfall of “wet snow” of about 25 cm which had frozen on the trees overnight. When we arrived at 8 am it was -5 C, cold but bearable because there was no wind which would have driven up the chill factor.

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I traveled with Igor Rakusha who comes out of a long tradition of shooting and hunting. See my blog category “sport shooting” on how I met Igor.  Although the trip was long I used the time to soak up as much as I could learn from Igor. He said that it was unlikely that we would shoot much that day because pigs sense the bad weather, feed up and then group overnight and don’t move much.  The dogs do not get a good sense of smell (frozen conditions) and you need luck to be in the same area as the pigs are.

As we approached the hunting area the road narrowed into a single lane with literally thousands of branches hanging across the road.  The weight of the snow caused the tree branches to hang down and sometimes breaking off. Getting to the area of the driven hunt was slow because of these road conditions. Most South Africans would freak if required to drive through branches like we did, but Slovenes love for the hunt overrides all materialistic concerns.

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I expected harsh weather and spent a few hours preparing for the hunt. I packed snacks, hot tea and additional dry clothing. I decided to break my bad habit of hunting without binoculars, but this was pathetic. Hunting wild boar in dense vegetation does not call for binoculars.  Despite all my preparation from prior hunting in snow I was not prepared for these conditions.  I chose my best “chair-back-pack” because of its size and the seat which is critical for the few hours waiting on a driven hunt. As I opened my back-pack melting snow from the trees created a mini-avalanche over my kit.

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I initially thought I could clear the snow before it melted but I never could sit. Snow from the branches would fall continuously as rising temperatures and sun caused it to melt. It took a few of these snow falls for my heart to stop racing because each time it sounded like a group of pigs emerging from the forest. This brings me to the other main reason why it would be difficult to shoot pigs, the continuous noise of falling snow makes it impossible to hear approaching pigs. You had to be more alert with vision than hearing.

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The most critical part of clothing for these hunting conditions, other than warm Gore-Tex type clothing, is a hat that protects your vision from falling snow. I would also opt for a simple stool to sit on which could be put out when sitting rather than my integrated seat made of a material that can and did get soaked.

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The other striking contrast in the day was the change of environment in only 4 hours.  By noon most of the snow had melted from the trees, a quietness descended, but by the end of the first driven session the beaters and their dogs were tired. The afternoon driven hunt was always going to be a challenge and it was.  We would have been better off to wait until noon and focus on one intense driven session.

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There are many beautiful stone and wood houses in the area – many deserted. I had a feeling of remoteness. The private concession that we were hunting in was within a 20 km zone of the border with Bosnia. This area was mainly populated by Serbs who fled their properties in the war of 1998-2001 between Serbia and Croatia. There were many atrocities committed on both sides and given how recent this war was it is understandable that the Serbs who lived in the area before are reluctant to return even though ownership was returned through the European Union insistence.

There were 18 hunters. Normally they would shoot 12 – 20 boar on a days driven hunt. Given the weather conditions we did not find the main group of wild pigs and only 2 large boar were shot. The older males behave differently, they tend to move quietly on their own, often going back behind the beaters. I was fortunate for a Rhoe deer to come to within 10 yards of me, stand and observe me for close on 10 minutes. At one stage he even took 2 steps closer. This amazing experience proved that deer had poor eyesight and the frozen snow conditions made it impossible for him to smell me. As long as I did not move the deer stayed. The picture below could only be taken after he ran off.

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The area has wolves which caused the Red deer to move out. They simply got tired of being hunted by wolves and moved out. Rhoe deer are territorial, proving the life lesson of our need to change and adapt or be consumed. My day was successful because I experienced history, different weather conditions, met great people, enjoyed much learning; and then I arrived home to the trophy my family had created … I am not the best hunter but I am better than I was the hunt before.

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Lifestyle choices – Family Safaris Eu

Part of The Powder Keg vision to be the best run and most respected business for the benefit of our customers requires us to keep reinventing customer experiences.  In order for The Powder Keg to gain discerning customers we have to be a stand-out business. We want hunters and sports shooters to see a NEW WORLD rather than seeing an OLD WORLD better. The Powder Keg is pioneering customer experiences in order for you to see a NEW WORLD.

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The Powder Keg is well positioned to offer a lifestyle investment that includes the whole family. In planning European hunting opportunities for South African customers we started off by trying to define what a successful hunt actually means. Fortunately there is no one fixed criteria that makes up the perfect hunt and it certainly does not need to be where the result is an animal taken. I found the joy of hunting in Slovenia to be more the local hospitality, traditions and country landscape than taking an animal.

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Africa is blessed with many different animal species, if you not successful with your first choice of animal you can make-up with other species of game. Also Africa is blessed with many sunny days so it is unlikely that your hunt will be completely fouled up by bad weather. In Europe weather can influence your hunt, especially when hunting in mountainous terrain. There is also not the same abundance of animal species. Animals move freely meaning that not even the best outfitter can be sure to get you in the best place for an animal.

So, if in Europe we cannot hedge a hunt success with multiple game species or if the weather stats are less favorable, how can we ensure our customers an awesome experience? The obvious answer lay in combining hunting and tourism, ensuring families a memorable stay in Slovenia or its surrounds. In designing a lifestyle adventure we applied the overriding principles of “a local experience and flexibility in itineraries that makes the best of weather conditions”. For example, a trip to Venice would be planned according to the best weather days.

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The most challenging species to hunt in Slovenia is the Chamois or Gams as called by the locals. It is however the most striking landscape to hunt in and a privilege mainly for a fit hunter. It is not unusual to reach 1600 m above sea level by sunrise; fortunately driving a fair way before setting out on foot. I recommend this hunt because you will get to experience Slovenia from above the clouds on a foggy day or see for miles on a clear day.

Dusan, my mentor to becoming a Udenborst hunting family member, but more importantly a great friend

Slovenia has the highest population of brown bear in Europe (around 400). Shooting quotas are strictly adhered to by a Government system predicated on conservation. Hunting bear in Slovenia is only permitted from a hide because of the danger, meaning that you can spend up to the early hours of morning waiting in a closed hide. Bears are smart and have acute sense of smell. Your guide will have a bottle to relieve yourself in, if needed; I still need to inquire about the solution for woman folk.

Good rifles and appropriate calibers will be provided so that you are not handicapped with gun safety when not hunting. We will get you to a range to ensure familiarity with the rifle and to check the rifle. Most likely the range will be a 100 m range in Ljubljana center. Your visit in Ljubljana would not be complete without a visit to see the workshop and custom guns of Ales Spendal where you can also fulfill any clothing needs for the hunt.

Shooting range Ljubljana Slovenia

Visiting Slovenia is a truly unique experience that I guarantee you will repeat; the people incredibly friendly and the landscape diverse for such a small country. The strength of this nation into the future, in my opinion, lies with the strength of the Slovene women.  They are, again in my opinion, a much stronger sex than the Slovene men folk. Here is my link between a countries future and its women – children spend more time with their mothers than with their fathers, strong mothers create future generations that will be better equipped to succeed.

You can tour Slovenia as a tourist, surf the internet, there are many great internet sights that are informative. Touring Slovenia as a tourist is easy and safe. The Powder Keg offering however is unique and differentiated. My greatest memories and still today my greatest moments are connected with locals and with what the locals do. My favorite eating places are places where I have been hosted by locals. The lifestyle investment that The Powder Keg offers includes all the touristic sights but introduces you to the lifestyle of the locals and a hunting opportunity.

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Whether your Powder Keg adventure includes hunting or not, my recommendation is 14 days to enjoy Slovenia and the neighboring countries. The days are gone where I used to run from pillar to post ticking the boxes “SEEN”, instead I prefer to enjoy the lifestyle living that sets central and eastern Europe apart from other destinations. Make your purpose of visiting Slovenia to enjoy and de-stress. My advice to The Powder Keg staff for 2017 is do fewer things as long as you do them really well; and this is my advice for your family safari to Central Europe.

When I first came to Slovenia in 2016 we had 4 clear seasons, but with changes in weather patterns the weather is much more mixed and unpredictable, what is clear is that summers are hot and winters cold. Hunting and sight seeing are different depending whether it is winter or summer. I prefer hunting in winter especially if there is snow about, it is a different and an amazing experience.  Sight seeing in winter is less pleasant, the days shorter, however Ljubljana over the festive season beats most famous Christmas destinations.

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Google Slovenia information and visit the tourism site of The Powder Keg partner Graeme Chuter (http://www.slovenia-transfers-tours.com/). These insights are sure to wet your appetite.  To have started the job is to have done half the job, call Paul Luff at The Powder Keg or contact me directly and lets put together an unforgettable experience for the family. In the picture below is the famous BLED lake where every tourist guide will take you, but Graeme will add the touch which he gained in his 12 years living in Slovenia conducting boutique tours.

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The Powder Keg, seeking high-expectation and discerning customers, South Africans who will acknowledge and enjoy hunting and tourism in Slovenia like a local. Our goal is customers “cradle to grave” meaning that we must continuously delight with improved, honest and consistently good customer service.

Describing a hunt in Slovenia

Yesterday (11/12/2016) I attended a traditional hunt in Slovenia.  A group of hunting friends arranged a hunt in a Govt. territory in the south eastern part of the country near the border with Croatia. This hunting area has a large population of Red Deer, Pigs and Brown Bear. It is a typically wooded forest area.

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This particular Govt. game area is required (called a plan) to shoot 200 red deer and a certain number of pigs (I forgot to ask what that number was) by the end of 2016. The plan is a structured and enforceable requirement based on game counts for the management of game. They were far behind their compulsory quota making our hunt possible.

I do not know how costs were apportioned but I was part of a group of about 20 that each contributed 80 Euro to the days driven hunts and a meal after. At the start of the hunt we were told which animals we were permitted to shoot because every animal had to be part of achieving their annual planned off-take. On this hunt we were allowed to shoot all pigs, female red deer and young red deer males with horns not extending past the height of their ears.  Fox were also permitted to shoot; I gave up on 2 occasions to shoot a fox because often pigs follow the fox and I did not want to create a noise that would detract from the bigger picture.

The meat from the game is kept by the Govt. because we were hunting in a Govt. area. They sell the animals to the venison market and proceeds are used to maintain the game area and feed animals in winter.

After driving for just over an hour from Ljubljana on a secondary type of road we arrived at our meeting place, a local restaurant (Gostilna) in close proximity to the hunting area. Here everyone gathered for a coffee or something stronger and the paperwork for the hunt was completed.  I used the opportunity to jump into a change room and put my thermal clothing on because leaving Ljubljana at -4C I did not expect temperatures of -8C at the hunting area.

In the picture below is Ales Spendal (middle) and Tinus (right) who organised the day for his group of hunting friends.  Typical and necessary with temperatures well below freezing point we are pictured drinking a shot of Chivas Regal before starting the day.

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The hunt was a driven hunt meaning that hunters are placed in an organised pattern with “beaters” and their dogs pushing the game. It is compulsory in this format of hunting to wear high visibility clothing (and a good idea). The day comprised of 3 sessions of the driven hunt; after each we would gather, congratulate the successful hunters, have a small snaps to warm up and prepare for the next driven session. The picture below is a typical scene between the driven sessions.

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The last driven hunt ended at about 15h30 when the light started to fade rapidly and the warmth of a beautiful sunny day began reversing into the cold of winter shadows. We love cold winters because that is how it is supposed to be; warmer climates and especially warmer spells in the winter period create havoc with nature; the reason most bears are no-longer sleeping like they did in the past.  For this reason I was told how to react if confronted by a bear because shooting a bear is only allowed in self defense and after numerous attempts to shout it off. Important is to warn the bear of your presence early on so that he is not surprised by your close encounter causing him to act irrationally.

All hunters and helpers congregate at the end of the hunt in a closing ceremony. I find this tradition truly amazing even though I cannot follow what is being said because (pathetically) I still do not speak Slovene. Hunters throughout the world attest to the comradery of the hunt and even though I do not speak Slovene I feel at home with lovers of the nature and truly awesome people who appreciate the simple things in life.

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After the traditional closing ceremony and more drinks around vehicles we head back to the local Gostilna for our evening meal. The day is not over until after friends have enjoyed the company of each other, consuming an abundance of good food, drink and sharing stories of the day.  The picture below is the local Gostilna that hosted our closing get-together.

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My lessons learnt include preparation the night before so that you remember to take proper clothing, gear, eats and drinks for the many hours spent in the forests. A stool or a backpack with a chair is essential,  you cannot stand all day or sit on frozen ground. Autumn leaves are scattered all over so it is hard to imagine cleaning a space from where you plan to shoot from, but it is possible and matters.  I always select a tree from which to take cover and to use as a shooting support. Probably the most important item not to forget is a HAT because this is a key part of the traditional ceremonies before and after the hunt and to fix a leaf from a tree if you shoot an animal (the other part is placed in the mouth of the deer – to signal the last bite). After each driven hunt session it is easy to see who was successful and therefore who to congratulate.

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Hunting in Slovenia is an essential part of the management of game and the conservation of their animals. Hunting is carried out in a responsible manner and with respect to their environment. Centuries of tradition are maintained and I am truly privileged to have been included as a local.

Hunting system in sLOVEnia

Dusan, my mentor to becoming a Udenborst hunting family member, but more importantly a great friend

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

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

Dusan blooded after shooting his first buck near Graaf-Reinet, a springbuck

Hunting Rhoe Deer

My favorite hide gun, a K95 Stutzen, short & light, Peregrine bushmaster - combination shoots like "hell"

My favorite hide gun, a K95 Stutzen, short & light, Peregrine bushmaster – combination shoots like “hell”

The hunting of Rhoe Deer is mostly carried out from a hide in the early morning or in the evening. I remember sitting in a hide with my daughter Demi and she commented, “this is not hunting”. We quickly get trapped into thinking and expecting experiences to be and mirror that which we are familiar with. The proper English terminology for this behavior is paradigm; I refer to it as tunnel vision. This is true across all aspects of life and the reason I encourage people to travel and experience different cultures and different ways of doing things.

My daughter bored, silence in the Hide (or apartments as termed locally)

My daughter bored, silence in the Hide (or apartments as termed locally)

I would like to “stay of” the blog subject for a brief moment on “paradigms”, hoping that my life experiences can influence lives positively. I worked “more or less” in the same work environment for 23 years, and although I was fortunate to have many different roles and responsibilities globally I did not change my environment dramatically enough in order to reinvent myself. Forget about the days of being in the same company your whole life, change every 5 years, it is important to your growth! My relocation and living in Slovenia was the biggest contributor to the changing of my paradigms.

Hunting from a hide was established in Europe centuries back for good reasons. Europe does not have vast open plains, and in Slovenia for example people are free to walk anywhere (obviously not through a farmers crop) hence hunters must be acutely aware of the environment in which they are hunting. A hide gives you height from which to shoot ensuring the bullet is quickly embedded in the ground. Hunting deer alone in the forests is not only a near impossible task but a risk to human lives because almost everyone enjoys walking in nature. The only time hunting is carried out in the forest is during the hunting family “shoot days”. There is communication to the public about the hunting area and the area is sign posted at entry points to inform of the danger.

Roe Deer are relatively small in size with a shoulder height of about 65 cm and a weighing around 25kg. Males have shortish erect antlers and a reddish body with a grey face. Mature roebucks get their set of antlers in December which fully develop by April; they lose them again around late September. Older females can by exception grow a set of smaller antlers. The Rhoe Deer is territorial making it easier to hunt a selected animal as they normally appear in the same area; maybe not every morning or evening but a few times in the week. The main competition is your fellow hunter because whoever gets to the hide first has the right to shoot in that location.

Mature Rhoe Deer, a sign to look for is the clearance of the horns above the ears

Mature Rhoe Deer, a sign to look for is the clearance of the horns above the ears

Rhoe Deer become accustomed to their environment; you will often see deer near the edge of the forest close to a highway. They become totally accustomed to travelling vehicles. When driving through a hunting area and you see a deer then you need to drive past because immediately that the vehicle stops they disappear into the forest (much like shooting crows). I hope to get a quality photo of a deer that I have seen at the shooting range in the city center of Ljubljana. The deer continues eating in the close proximity of the target (100 m range) despite shooting!

Roebuck hunting is not physically demanding because it is mostly carried out from a hide. The weather can influence your hunt; but rain is good since deer tend to come out of the forests before and after the rain. The hunting season for mature males, young males and females is May to end October. Mature females and young deer may be hunted through to the end of December. I do not want to repeat what I wrote in my blog about hunting systems in Slovenia but it is worthwhile to note that there is a Government quota (compulsory) of take-off in every category of deer. The hunting family that I belong to have chosen to limit the quota to 2 per week in order to avoid the full quota from being used up early in the season. Kills from all causes count to the quota such as deer hit by cars.

Kriška Gora mountain range, the hunting area of my family - Udenbošt

Kriška Gora mountain range, the hunting area of my family – Udenbošt

Although I am part of a hunting family there is a lot that I still do not understand. In 2015 I shot a mature Rhoe deer at the end of the season, which coincidentally was the last mature male on the annual quota. Then I was told that I had to shoot a female deer in the same year in order to qualify for another male deer the following year. This hunting family rule came about because hunters did not generally shoot enough female deer in order to meet their annual quota, hence a type of forcing strategy to shoot female deer. Later in 2015 I used the opportunity of farmers reporting of damage to shoot a female deer. I did, but still when the 2016 allocation was made I was not allocated a Rhoe deer to shoot in 2016, so I don’t follow altogether:)

My first Rhoe Deer in Slovenia with my mentor Dusan. The hat & last bite placed in the mouth of the deer is tradition

My first Rhoe Deer in Slovenia with my mentor Dusan. The hat & last bite placed in the mouth of the deer is tradition