Thrush hunting: The Tuscan Maremma, starting from the Pisan hinterland, undoubtedly represents a hot spot for one of the funniest hunting disciplines that the migrant can practice in the winter months: it drives it away from turdids.
Starting from the beginning of December, more or less large contingents of wild animals arrive in this land to fill the void that has now persisted since the end of the wave of the autumn pass. - Text and photos by Pierluigi Mugellesi -
Generally, if the blackbirds are present since mid-November, already under the Christmas holidays it can happen that some nice whisk of thrushes add to them making the game bag variegated, the result of almost always lively and exciting outings.
The best period would come in the new year, when unfortunately in Tuscany the wandering hunt for migratory birds can no longer be practiced and when the blackbird becomes a forbidden species. Elsewhere, such as in Sardinia, where the chasing away is something different than it is in Tuscany, fortunately this is not the case. But everywhere the greatest regret is having to give up completely in February (yes, for some years now even in the land of the nuraghi there are no more shooting in this month), that is to say the month that more than any other would see our "sceproni" teeming with greedy turdids of berries.
The last chances of the season
The amusing ritual of the scaccia or "scaccina", a choral hunting technique that allows you to embody a large number of wintering blackbirds and thrushes as soon as the ripening of the fruits of particular plant essences induces them to concentrate in the heart of those rows of trees and bushes that in our part of Italy we are used to calling "sceproni", it is a technique that generally begins to give the greatest satisfaction precisely in conjunction with the Christmas holidays. This is certainly not the only way to be able to undermine these birds during the cold season when starting from the end of December, usually, in the woods and in the Tuscan scrubs, we witness the rebirth of winged life under the guise of the first blackbirds and the first thrushes. review.
In reality, if these birds can really be defined as a refresher or if they should still be considered to all intents and purposes wintering, given the young age of the cold season and the prolonged duration of their stay in our latitudes, it is something we cannot say with certainty. The fact is that in some way these birds, overnight, come to fill the void that has now lasted for over a month, that is, from the end of the autumn migratory wave. Their presence certainly does not go unnoticed in a land of inveterate migrantists such as ours, and indeed, as soon as their consistency becomes, so to speak, interesting, many are striving on how to be able to make them the party, especially before that the calendar, in a few days, prevents you from undermining the blackbirds which, in general, compared to the song thrushes and pebbles, anticipate the times by making their appearance already towards the middle of the month.
In fact, there are far more boos than zirli at the end of the year. Indeed, sometimes the thrushes completely desert our woods until the second half of January, and then, from the beginning of the year, we have been forced to witness helplessly the rifrullo of dozens of "black priests" who flit quietly as if they knew that the law is on their side. However, this is not always the case, and it may happen that some contingent of thrushes mix with the blackbird population already during the Christmas holidays, making the game bag more varied, mainly the result of the morning spollo and the evening return. In fact, as in the period of migration there are well-defined and consolidated passage lines that the wild follow during their hasty march towards the south and there are therefore places, placed in correspondence with them, where the hunters set up their huts and their posts. , even in this late phase of the season we can rely on some constants which, in this case, have to do with the places chosen by the wild to leave the forest in the morning and to return in the evening after having satiated in the pasture places.
Year after year, generation after generation, there are good places for the exit and others excellent for the return of the birds that have quartered themselves in a certain portion of the forest. In fact, if in the month of February the turdids take possession of our spots in an almost ubiquitous way, in the last part of the hunting season their distribution is anything but homogeneous. In some places there are many, in others few or none; and then also the times of arrival in the different places can vary considerably. So the hunter must monitor the territory to know if and where the birds will make the exit and return. But, as mentioned, there is also another way to be able to undermine these wild animals in the second half of December, a fun and profitable way that does not belong only to the Tuscan hunting tradition: chase it away. In this case it is not a question of waiting for the turdids at the gate by exploiting their haggling, but of going directly to visit them at the moment of the pasture. Pasture which, in a particular period of the season in which the countryside still does not give good results, takes place largely long, indeed in the heart of the so-called sceproni.
These are none other than those arboreal and bushy tongues that stretch from the woods between the fields following in many cases the course of streams that make their way between the slopes. What distinguishes the sceprone is the presence of imposing plants whose branches cling to the ivy like luxuriant green gloves. It is mainly these climbers that catalyze the attention of the birds, greedy for their fruits which at the end of the year begin to ripen acquiring the typical dark color. Below and along the edges, the rockfish is extremely bushy, with tangles of brambles alternating with thorny hawthorn tufts within which thrushes and blackbirds easily find shelter between one meal and another.
So these rows of plants become receptacles for winged game that the hunter, of course, must try to hunt down and intercept before, in a few moments, he can irretrievably move away from the beaten hedge. It is precisely for this reason that, in order to be profitable, it can only be carried out by a group of hunters who know how to position themselves and move on the ground to ensure that they are in a position to undermine as many birds as possible. To this end, the timely identification of the right place and the choice of a shrewd and coordinated "encirclement" strategy are essential prerequisites. For each row of plants, all the action is resolved in a matter of minutes (sometimes seconds!) During which each member of the group must play his or her part in the best possible way. The birds fly out madly and in a moment it will be decided whether they should be ours or if, having escaped the danger, they can run away unscathed, leaving us with an inch of nose.
The rules of driving away
As mentioned, the scaccina with thrushes and blackbirds represents an extremely amusing hunting discipline: its most captivating aspects are undoubtedly represented by the dynamism of the action, its collective character and the pleasure of lightning shooting. A not secondary aspect of the charm of this technique also lies in its being potentially very profitable, with the unique possibility that it offers us to obtain the maximum result with the minimum effort. Yet to make game bag, as essential prerequisites, a high concentration of wild animals and above all a good dose of experience and malice on the part of hunters who find themselves interpreting a sparse script, but certainly never predictable and repetitive, are required. The concept on which the hunting technique of chasing is based is ultimately very simple: for the group of hunters it is a question of revealing their presence in such a way as to induce the birds to seek shelter hastily while fleeing.
In practice, however, the difficulties that arise are considerable and certainly the tricks necessary to make the most of every situation are acquired only with experience. In fact, the chase requires real planning to ensure that at the crucial moment each pawn on the chessboard plays its part in an appropriate way, avoiding the opening in the collective action of those fatal stretch marks that can offer birds a way of leak. And we are sure that these will always be ready to exploit any possible inexperience of the hunters, who, if unprepared, may find themselves repeatedly crying over spilled milk. It is therefore worth dwelling on the description of what should be a correct hunting action, to highlight those rules which, beyond the different interpreters, allow it to be optimized. First of all we say that devoting oneself to chasing does not mean precluding other pleasures, since this discipline is completely compatible with hunting for the morning spitting of birds, in the sense that you can safely go out and therefore go for a walk, and it does not prevent to have time to move to a good place to return home in the evening.
However, the group of hunters who decide to dedicate a day to the scaccina can also opt for this form of hunting exclusively, especially as long as the number of birds present in the area does not become so considerable as to ensure that exit and return guarantee appreciable results. Going blind is undoubtedly counterproductive; on the contrary, a good scacciana is built on a careful preventive monitoring activity. Hunters who love this type of practice, starting from the beginning of December, perhaps turning the countryside behind other objects of desire, should make sure to carefully monitor the places favorable to hunting and to note if and when these begin to be frequented. from a discrete contingent of blackbirds or perhaps, even more pleasantly, of thrushes. Experience teaches that in the areas where it is customary to practice this hunt, among the numerous sceproni present there are some where the ivy matures earlier than elsewhere and therefore it is presumable that the birds, coming from various parts of the forest, go to concentrate right there to try to find the food they need. The chasing may very well begin after a quiet breakfast since time must be given to the greatest number of birds to leave the wood and to reach the pasture undisturbed, even if obviously it is necessary to watch over the chosen area to avoid being beaten on time by a other team of hunters.
Before starting the big maneuvers, it is good to position yourself in a raised point of the terrain from which it is possible to view the place and establish the tasks that each hunter will have to respect. Depending on the conformation of each single sceprone and the slope of the terrain, my friends decide how to face the chase, that is, where to place the fixed pieces of the game and where the mobile ones. In fact, the hedge must be "made" in one direction, either up or down. In any case, it will be necessary to place at least two rifles at the opposite end to that from which the hunters in charge of flying the birds will start to move, on the two different sides of the "green strip". These obviously, alarmed by their presence, will tend to flee in the opposite direction, preferably following the line of plants to reach the two fixed posts that in the meantime will have been warned by their companions about the start of the chase. This aspect is fundamental, because before starting to shoot, you need to be sure that everyone has taken a position: therefore, whoever is in the post must give up shooting at some bird that has moved by itself and not following the movement of the "scaccini", in order to avoid that the others, frightened by the blows, abandon the scepre prematurely, and these, for their part, before taking a step must make sure that the others have positioned themselves, have loaded and are waiting for the birds. In this regard, it is necessary to underline the attention that must be paid when approaching the offending hedge: it is better to walk a hundred meters more than risk alarming the birds. Five can represent a perfect number for the chase since the fifth element must take place in a tear between the vegetation of the scaccini at the point from which the two scaccini start to move. This, as we will see, for a very specific reason.
The hunting action
What makes the hunting technique of the turdidae particularly fascinating is undoubtedly its dynamic character. In fact, in driving away the will or the nature of the wild have no weight: there are no birds to wait for, much less to call back. The hunter, in continuous movement on the terrain chosen for the hunt, goes towards the wild in such a way as to induce them to fly away at the distance and in the most congenial direction for him and for the companions, and to obtain this effect his action must be diligent and continues. In short, the scaccia or "scaccina", if you prefer, represents a choral hunting technique inspired by movement and a sort of "hit and run" philosophy that distinguishes it from other disciplines and gives it a very particular and traditionally refined flavor. by a good number of hunters, especially in the central regions of the peninsula. Its "choral" character represents a further distinctive trait with respect to essentially solipsistic forms of predation such as stalking and hunts with the hen: on this side the solitary confrontation, in some cases almost intimistic, between the hunter and his object of desire , on the other hand, a hunt that awakens the ancestral legacy of pleasure, of the need for that spontaneous complicity that underlies the dynamics of the herd.
But, more simply said, the pleasure that comes from being aware of cooperating in the action of hunting with one's fellowmen. An action that, as mentioned, is marked by some precise and distinct phases: the encirclement, the beginning and the development of the hunt and then the gathering of the wild and the transfer to the next sceprone. We have already said about the approach to the chosen site and the placement of the hunters, so all that remains is to get into the heart of the operations. When the brawl begins, the flying birds will behave as follows: with the flow of the two scaccini, which must ensure that they always remain perfectly in line with each other and are well noticed by the voice of the wild thrown, the bulk of the birds will flee in the opposite direction, but as soon as the two fixed posts start firing many will begin to climb up the scepre: if they do it externally they may be hit by the two walking and who obviously, noticing the arrival of some birds will stop in order not to give in the eye and wait for them at close range. However, in the event that they reassemble the hedge by flying inside and escaping their sight, they will find the fifth hunter waiting for them. We must not think that the chaser represents a real death trap for birds. Many factors play to their advantage: first of all it may happen to see a certain number of wild animals flee, especially thrushes, even sideways, and then all that remains is to observe them as they go away unscathed. Then the concentrated times of the action, from the moment in which the first shots echo until the return of calm, means that most of the game do not have time to shoot.
Especially the two fixed posts placed at the bottom of the hunting theater, the ones that undoubtedly shoot the most, have the double problem of having to make sudden shots on the birds that suddenly jump out of the green and the huge one of having to hurry to reload the weapon. . In those precious moments, many birds will inevitably parade behind them. The shots of the scaccini, on wild that fly in the opposite direction or that, approaching from the tip, suddenly discard at the sight of the hunter, are complicated. Another difficulty, which in any case requires limiting the number of shots, is linked to the recovery of the birds, which inevitably will have to take place afterwards and which requires hunters to shoot trying to mentally photograph the place where a bird fell while perhaps the next one is already arriving.
It is always better to be sure to retrieve a downed garment rather than risk losing two due to the desire to overdo it. Finally, speaking of places, we must say that Tuscany certainly does not hold the exclusivity in terms of scacce and that there is a magnificent place, namely Sardinia, in which guessing the right place to practice the scaccina is equivalent to making really important game bags! When in the winter months these migrants invade the endless expanses of olive, myrtle, mastic and cistus that dominate the landscape of the island, from dawn to dusk the enthusiast can really enjoy great satisfactions by taking advantage of the three crucial moments of the morning aspect, of the evening return and, in the middle, of the daytime wandering hunt for the "sketch". This, here as elsewhere, gives the pleasure of movement and the unexpected.
However, in this context it generally works differently and the term sketch is more appropriate to describe it. Of course, there are also gullies to flow at these latitudes, but they are not the most characteristic aspect of the territory. Here the movement is continuous because the low expanse of vegetation that uniformly covers the ground is continuous. So we start wandering letting ourselves be guided by the orography, skirting edges bordered by tufts of myrtle or mastic, or moving on level ground. Here we do not intervene surgically as in the case of the sceproni, but rather it is a question of establishing how to deal with each single bush or group of bushes or olive trees that one encounters along the way to try to obtain the best fruit. You never know exactly where the birds can escape from and in which direction.
The sudden whirls, hunting between large and tall olive trees, force rapid bracing shots. It is easier to move between the low mixed shrub vegetation of myrtle and cistus (murdegu) that distinguishes some endless Sardinian moors. Here, in fact, you have a few moments more to be able to aim before the birds go too far or disappear from view. As time goes by you can see how the birds, perhaps because they are now full, become more cautious and splash away before you can get under them. An additional weapon, having to hunt from the sketch, can be the wind which, if taken in the right direction, allows the hunter to approach the bushes without thrushes and blackbirds being aware of its presence. In any case, in Tuscany or elsewhere, the scaccina turns out to be a dynamic and fun discipline where surprise plays in favor of the hunter and time in favor of the wild.
...Read the article in Pdf format taken from DIANA N ° 5/2010
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