Sep 22, 2008
September 21, 2008 marked the beginning of hunting season here in Italy. This is a huge part of the life here, probably more so some years ago but times have changed. Nevertheless, many have eagerly awaited this day.
My thought was, "so what if it is the first day of the season; if they expect the grounds to be crowded, why not wait for another day, after all, what is a few more days or a week, after waiting months?" Logic doesn't make any sense sometimes to some people. It's time for the hunt.
Very, very early on Sunday morning, we headed out with the dogs for the spot we had in mind. The unlucky critters for today were duck and pheasant. Since the hunting area were on the borders of someone's rice paddies, I opted to not go on the first hunt and waited in the car. It was still dark when we arrived (we got up at 4am!!!) and I saw the lights of other cars still looking for a parking spot along the banks of the paddies. Everyone was wearing waders, some short and some long and most came in pairs or with friends. I mention this because I was amazed at how stylish some of them were and how they matched each other. If they didn't care about their style in regular daily life, they certainly cared about their hunting wear. I saw one pair with long sleeved white shirts, a dark colored, mulit-pocketed vest over it to hold various items like their permits and shells, dark pants tucked into knee high boots. My imagination placed them in the Swiss mountains yodeling.
Having visited the hunting/fishing store here in Borgosesia, I can tell you a lot of money was walking down that dirt road, not counting the guns slung over their shoulders.
It was quiet........until the true crack of dawn when the sun was still a deep orange and barely over the trees. And then all hell broke loose. I was snoozing in the car when shots broke out from all around the paddy nearest me. I looked out, but couldn't see a thing, it was still so dark where the men were standing. However, a duck, flying in for breakfast would be a nice dark moving target against the paling sky. This is where good dogs come in and they run out and retrieve the fallen duck. Don't ask me just how many dogs pick up another hunters duck, okay? But I know it must happen because there are stories of men "losing" their prize, where the dead duck is nowhere to be found.
When it was light enough I got out and watched the spectacle as I've never been present at a hunt before. I can appreciate that people enjoy a hunt for sport or for food. I for one would readily do it for food if I had to, so I am open to it. It was funny to me when I heard my thoughts, "Fly, little bird, fly....." or "NOOOO, don't turn back you fool". Ducks are known for this trait of stupidity where they would fly out of the danger zone, only to turn around and fly back through. A hunter's dream. They must not be affected by the sight of pal #3 plummeting to the ground, nor must they be afraid of all the ruckus coming from below.
We eventually left the rice paddies and headed for a wooded area, this time looking for pheasant. An old couple was parked by the side of a little waterfall (No, not PARKED in the sense of teen parking) and he said that it was YEARS that he'd seen any pheasant in the area. He was a jolly old man who loved to hunt, but now it was his wife who liked to pick up the gun for target practice. Don't you love how times change?
It was true, there were no pheasants to be found. But then again, it was hard to tell because Argo, who was with us this time around, was not interested in working. He seemed to think we were out for a nice stroll. But the reality was, Argo had sex on his mind. Macchia was just coming into heat and Argo was ahead of the game. For him, the hunt was on! He humped air and howled and panted to let out all that hot air building up inside him. Beside him, Macchia looked completely sweet and serene, patiently putting up with the excited Argo sniffing around and making a fool of himself; but even her patience would run thin and Argo would yelp in pain as her nipped him in warning. If dogs are like men, then it was no surprise that Argo didn't learn from her growls, bared teeth or from the intermittent pain. Our ride back home was highlighted by a few dogfights, each one more fierce than the previous.
Macchia has a reputation in the neighborhood, especially with other female dogs. They don't mess with her. Argo is in one piece because they are friends. I've seen Macchia take on three other dogs who were picking on Argo, and chase them back to their home, two bigger than her.
Next week, we are going out again, but Macchia will stay at home, and Argo will have no distraction. Well, at least we hope so.