Hunting Chamois Italian Style with Tommaso Danese

WTR 578 | Hunting Chamois

 

Hunting is essential for the balance of wildlife. It also manages wildlife populations. Tommaso Danese, a third-year veterinary medicine student, shares the tradition of the hunt from his home town in Italy. He loves to hunt roe deer, red deer, and chamois. His favorite times are in the Dolomites, high on the slopes glassing for the elusive chamois. A passionate outdoorsman, he always speaks directly to the difference in hunting management in Italy and the challenges he faces every year just to get a license. Learn more of his passion as he talks in his first podcast guesting here.

Listen to the podcast here:

Hunting Chamois Italian Style with Tommaso Danese

We’re heading over to Italy. We’re going to connect with a gentleman that hunts the Italian Alps. Tommaso Danese. Welcome to the show.

Thank you very much for having me, Bruce.

We’re going to talk about hunting. We’re going to talk about what it’s like to be a third-year large animal veterinary student in Italy, why Tommaso loves to hunt and where his passion comes from. What’s it like being a college student in Italy?

I came from the northern part of Italy because I’m originally from Verona where I spend my free time and my weekends. I’m here in Parma. That is the city where I’m studying too. Parma is a strange and special place for large animals because we are in the middle of the production of Parmesan cheese. We have tons of cows for dairy milk especially, and also swine. Being a student of large animals, the path of veterinary studies is much more linked to what we do here because we have a lot of production of those things. Especially speaking about wildlife, it’s a good place to study wildlife too because we have some Masters’ after the degree of wildlife. The passion and understanding of the sanitary level of animals keep me pushing forward to understanding animal physiology and stuff. Large animals are similar to wildlife. Even if we don’t study wildlife particularly, we are getting into this aspect of wild animals.

How early did you start hunting?

I started hunting not that early because we are not a hunter family. We started hunting, my dad and me together when I was twelve years old. We decided to take up the boat first. We went boat fishing in Florida for the first time. We went out gator hunting. One night we decided to try it. We were so flashed by and keen on it. When we got back home, we decided to do the NBEF and IBEP, National Bowhunter Education Foundation. That was the beginning. From that, we took our license. We lived at the beginning of the foot at the Alps. We decided to go hunt only big animals or we call it floor animals. It was roe deer, fallow deer, red deer, wild boar, sometimes foxes because of predator control and we have to do it so we like it, and then also chamois. That was the beginning. It was progressive. We didn’t search for it. It was something inside of us. We had to do nothing except taking up the boat, shooting some arrows, and understanding how it could let us be a part of it.

You’re hunting on your land. Are you not hunting on private land or leased land?

It’s not mine because Italy is quite complicated about land. We have public and private. The public land is not a place we use to hunt. We go to private. That is on the foot of the Alps. I’m not going to explain properly how it happened to go inside the private because you can understand Italy is complicated about bureaucracy, about how we can handle stuff. That is private land.

Do you have to go to special classes or get certified to hunt?

Yeah, tons of it. Only speaking about rifle hunting, the first one is only for taking the shotgun up and the rifle to shoot only foxes and rabbits if we want to. We have to do another course in Veneto. This is in my region because every region has different courses. In Veneto, I have to do one for the control of fallow deer, red deer. Wild boar is alone because then we have the old together form like Baccata that is typical in Italy. That is another course. We also have inside the roe deer. There is another course for the chamois. If you want to go hunting, you have to keep with you another person. This other person has to have another course that is called a companiator. It’s going with those people. You have to be a hunter and a companiator. It’s like four or five courses. They’re not teaching you anything except in two courses. That is the one for control and wildlife population, which is okay. The other one will be a loss of time. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true.

How long does it take to get through those courses?

At least a couple of years because the first one, the general one, it takes a year long. The other one you can do it in different models. You can do it shortly in three months. If you’re going to do the complete one with the chamois, you’re going to do six or something like that. In the end, between the timing of the start of the season and giving the papers and the bureaucracy, you’re going to at least wait a couple of years to get out and shooting something.

Do you have to draw to get the tag to go shoot a chamois?

That’s quite complicated, too. We have tags, but we can pay for that. When you inscribe to a particular land, you have to get inside with the people of the land and they say, “This year, we’re going to go out this morning and see how many animals do we have.” We count it and we give it to the province. They do a plan for our land. They say, “Yes.” You have five roe deer and five fallow deer, and then we split it between all the hunters that have participated in these censuses that they are compulsory to do. We don’t pay for that. We don’t pay for the exact tag. We pay for the license. We don’t draw tags. We’re being given what we can have. Sometimes I don’t have anything. Sometimes I have two. It does depend on the age and from the regulation of the place where you go hunting. It’s complicated.

Here we are in North America and it’s not this complicated, but it could be. One thing I like talking to people in Europe is that we all should feel fortunate that we have a system. You have to get a hunter safety card. In some cases, you have to put in for a tag to get drawn. You still have the opportunity to go hunting on millions of acres of public land or private land or your own lease land. Tommaso and I were talking about the common ground. He was asking me why I do the podcast with European folks. I said, “It’s because we’re all the same.” Let’s talk about that for a little bit about how we’re the same because we’re hunters and we’re connected because of that fact.

I’d be meeting lots of guys from your states and they always had this innate love for public land, wildlife and outdoors that something that is not the same here. Here a hunter, it’s different in my opinion. I love how you approach the outdoors and to the public lands. There are big outdoor lands and you’re going wherever you want to go hunting. The thing that I could understand that we had to get together is the love for wildlife. I have never been finding anyone like hunters that love wildlife as we do. I study in a veterinary school so we should love animals and we do. Most of the times, I speak with my friends of other friends from other courses and they know nothing about wildlife. They know nothing about outdoors. That’s not a problem. You can be interested or not. I’m not here to judge you. What I’m saying that lots of people think that we are like not loving animals because we go hunting. The only thing that I understood by meeting and talking with other hunters is that no one knows wildlife as hunters do.

WTR 578 | Hunting ChamoisIt is the same for me. It is the same for you. We have the common ground because outdoors is inside of us. I don’t know if you’ve seen documentaries going out now on Instagram from this guy from South Africa or something like that. They’re doing a massive opera of informing and letting people understand our wildlife management and change in the perspective of hunting around the world. It amazes me how people from all the corners of the world can understand and appreciate how our wildlife can change us and how we can change up our wildlife. There’s so much inside of us that it’s strange to say because I don’t have the word to express it.

When we talk about the common ground, we innately understand the passion of the hunt. Let’s talk about when you’re able to go after a chamois and talk about that hunt. How hard is that? What type of terrain? Talk about the hunt.

I’m not a big chamois hunter. That has to be sad. Even if I love to go chamois hunting because I didn’t have that many opportunities to go outside chamois hunting. That is the ultimate hunting. I don’t know if it is the species or it is the mountains where you go, but it changes the hunt completely. Mountains give you this innate respect for the place where you go hunting. Maybe it’s the sweat that you put into hiking and going over that cliff and going out there, camping there, searching for water and spotting the animals. It’s completely different than going hunting to the flat from my personal experience. The chamois is majestic.

When you go up there and you see the chamois on the cliff, you don’t see if it’s a male or it’s a female, you don’t see anything. You just want to go up there, see what it is, take a picture or understand if it is your tag because here we have the tags. We have the sex. We also have the classes of the age. Before going after an animal, you have to spend an hourglassing and understanding everything about that animal. It grows in you this love for the place where you are at and for the animals that you’re watching. You go outside and pull into the place where you go hunting. You get into the pragmatic side of things. The chamois is tough because you have to go up there into the Alps, at least 2,000 meters up.

You’ll get to hike that much. Most of the time, you stay outside two or three days. Here in Italy, it’s not that common. I know that it sounds strange for you because you have tons of public of lands where you can go and stay outside even weeks, but here it’s quite complicated to stay out from rural areas because they are everywhere. Taking a chamois from the peak of mountains and other similar animals and cleaning it up and put it into the backpack and getting out to the car, I don’t know if I ever experienced something like that with any other activities or any animals because the mountains are getting you this. It’s gratitude, respect and happiness for what you’ve done, what you achieved. It’s also knowing you didn’t take something from the land that you end up too. You have to do it because it’s wildlife management. That is good to do it for the habitat and for the animals. You get some organic meat back home. It’s a complex of things that get you the ultimate experience when chamois hunting.

It’s hard to spike out more than three days. I don’t quite understand that. Elaborate more on that.

We don’t have that much public land. We can go out hiking. You can go hike on the Alps and you can stay outside for how much time you want to, but going hunting for more than three or four days is not that common here in the Alps. Everything is quite near. The places where you normally go hunting lead up to roads, leading up to houses. There are not that big lands as you have here like driving with the trucks five hours, putting it down, hiking hundreds of miles, then going to hunt the sheep or whatever you have to. You have big lands that we don’t have. It’s more like backcountry hunting that won’t take you that much. I can understand that it’s the opposite of what you have there.

Have you ever hunted the Dolomites?

It’s amazing how people from all the corners of the world can understand how our wildlife can change us and how we can change our wildlife. Click To Tweet

Yes.

If you look at pictures of the Dolomites, there are these fields or pastures or whatever. There are lots of cabins. There are mountains. They’re majestic, absolutely outstanding mountains. Is that someplace you’d go for chamois?

Yes, it is. That’s the exact place I was speaking about. When you go chamois hunting, it’s not near my home because I live on the pre-Alps, so they’re not that high Dolomites. From the step, I would say one hour by car. You have these rocky mountains so the Dolomites, and that is the place where you go hunting chamois.

Think of the Tetons. The Dolomites, they’re majestic and the best mountains. I have not been there. I’ve seen photos, but are the Tetons because it’s the spires that go crazily up into the air. You’ve got to be physically fit. You’ve got to have mountaineering experience before you start rocking up in those.

Physically fit is the first thing we have to be. Going up into the mountains is not a joke. You can go hiking into the fields up there, going shooting something. It won’t take you that much. If you go hunting to the mountains, you have to be able to carry your stuff on your backpack for days and food and water because maybe you won’t find food. You won’t find water and surely you won’t find food unless you shoot something. That would take you a big effort. It’s the minimum. Cameron Hanes from the US said, “Your animals need your respect and also your fitness.” If you’re not fit, you shouldn’t be entitled to go up to the peaks and shooting. Some people do get brought up by cars or helicopters sometimes, we have all kinds of activities.

It is outlawed to use helicopters for big games. We can use them for hogs because hogs are pests and they’re vermin. For big game animals, there was a time that people would hire a helicopter, go up and go sheep hunting. They weren’t sheep hunting. They were just shooting sheep.

They don’t shoot from the helicopter in Italy. They get brought to the place, left here and then go shooting. I don’t like it either. It’s like in New Zealand or in Yukon where you get to the point that is far away. No one can get there and you can because you have to pay for a helicopter. I don’t think that’s right at all.

There are certain laws that you have to wait. In Alaska, you have to wait a specified amount of time. I’ve not hunted the Yukon so I can’t speak to that. That’s well regulated now. You can’t pop in, get out, shoot your game, load your game and get out. That’s a good thing. You think about the mountains and everything. Where you’re hunting roe deer and stag and fallow deer, are they all in the same place? Let’s talk about where those guys hang out.

WTR 578 | Hunting ChamoisOn the pre-Alps, we have lots of forests. We have this low pasture fields for meat cows. I would say it like this. We find mainly wild boar everywhere. We have this big problem with wild boar like you, they are a pest here. They’re destroying everything. I live in a place where they did wine. Wild boars do big damage. They’re doing thousands of damages a year doing a disaster. We have wild boars everywhere. You go on the peak of the mountain, you find wild boars. You go down, you find wild boars everywhere. We have roe bucks, a good number of it. They’re living to this low pastures. They have been an open field near where they live. Normally, we go hunting roe bucks and staying into the forest or on a high seat that we built into the forest and watching the beginning of the pasture.

That is the best place where you can find it. It is in the evening normally, but it does depend on the place. You have fallows. I have to understand where the fallow deer lives because I’ve seen them quite everywhere. We have roe deer in the pastures but also down into the bush. I can properly understand where they’re moving and where they like to be. I know some spots in my lands like every hunter do. They live quite like wild boars everywhere in my place. We move on. Wide sheep are into the rocks. It’s not high mountains. It’s a mix between rocks and bush. I will say like that and it’s dry with no water at all.

They love to stay there. If you have to find a mouthful and you’ll be quite sure to find something like that and deer. Deer are the king of the forests. They’re everywhere also. They prefer to live in the forest, in all places. The possibility to go into the pastures like the roebucks, but they prefer to stay inside. They don’t like to go out into the pastures. To find a deer and to shoot a deer, you have to wait until it gets into the pasture because going to the forest most of the time is not the best way for us to go. They are dry and stitchy. You’re going to make a lot of noises. You won’t get anything good from it. I know where they live. Most of the time the truth is you have to wait for the animals to go out every time and also know every animal unless you pasture it, but that’s a different point.

Are you archery hunting, crossbow hunting or rifle hunting?

I’m doing both bow hunting and rifle hunting. Normally, I do rifle hunting when I have to close my plan because here you have some tags to do. If you don’t close it, it’s a problem because every year we have to count it. If we cannot close the plan, the guys from the upper level will say to us, “You say something wrong because you didn’t close the plan so maybe you don’t have the animals that you told us you have.” Sometimes we are in a hurry because we have to close it. Bow hunting, we do it at the beginning of the season, but then most of the time, we go right out rifle hunting.

You go out and do a census, then you go to the powers that be, the bureaucracy or the people in charge. You give them your plan and then they approve it or modify it. You’ve got to go out and fill the plan?

Most of the time they do our plans because we give them the number of the animals of our land. They decide how to manage it as to how many animals to kill every year.

Would it be beneficial to understate what you have? The management part would be skewed if you did that.

Have a balanced herd of all different age classes. Click To Tweet

That’s a difficult field to get into because I didn’t think that most of the times they do a proper plan. I know it sounds strange. Here in Italy, you don’t have to take anything for granted. Normally, you think if you give a number of animals to a guy that should do a plan and should know how to do a plan, that should be a good plan and that’s okay. Here it’s not like this. I’m not sure that people that do for us the plans do a proper plan. What they’re doing is a hunting plan and not a wildlife management plan. From what I see of the growing of our population of animals, we are not managing it correctly in my point of view and the academic point of view. That’s too complicated to say to the people that do the plan. Most of the time, what I prefer to do but my point of view is not listening where I go because I know one so I have a point of view. We shouldn’t shoot every animal on our land that we are given.

Normally, I prefer to follow the academic rule of wildlife management. If they give me on the number of animals that I know we have a certain and too big in our opinion number of animals, I will say, “We shoot three, four or five that we want to, but not that many animals.” The next year, if not, we won’t have that many animals. It’s not right. That’s wildlife. We should be able to manage that and not to give too many advantages from that. We prefer some types not to shoot. I prefer every time not to shoot too many animals, but I have to speak also with other people. If we have given some animals, they prefer to shoot it for lots of reasons. Most of the time we do shoot, but I do think that the plans are not done correctly in place. It’s a problem for lots of places.

Big game management or wildlife management, upland birds, migratory birds, it is a science, but then again people get involved then it changes. The people that are doing the management plans and the biologists do the best job they can. Sometimes it could be that a specific area has issues. It doesn’t have any age class recruitment. All of a sudden, you’re shooting one-and-a-half to the three-and-a-half-year-old game. You don’t have any four-and-a-half to six-and-a half-year-old game. It’s not the best way to manage something. You have to have a balanced herd, especially in the whitetail world where you want to have a balanced herd of all different age classes. The biggest trophies are typically the oldest. It depends on where your hunt. Four-and-a-half years and up typically are your biggest trophies. One-and-a-half to three-and-a-half-year-old bucks, if you let them go and let them grow is a good thing in my opinion. You have the does and how many does do you have on your land and then you have to manage that.

No one wants to shoot a doe. That’s a problem here in Italy. They all want the trophy.

That in of itself isn’t good either because then you go way out of balance.

That won’t go far. If you have one male and five females with roe bucks population, that is not good. You should have one male and two females. No one wants to shoot a female or a child and so they’re not going to shoot it. That’s okay. If you want to shoot at four feet, that’s okay. Someone has to shoot also the females for the population, for the trophy of the next years. If we have too many females, it won’t be good for the population either and for your trophy next years. What they don’t understand is that what they do now, they will see it tomorrow. That’s the problem of management where people that do management don’t understand management.

When you get your degree, why don’t you get into wildlife management?

I don’t know. Maybe that should be a good plan. I like it. It’s my passion, but they keep telling me that it is not a good way because there are other professionalities that do it better like biologist and other stuff for people. Us in veterinary medicine, we won’t be that good on it, but I like it. I’m thinking about it.

WTR 578 | Hunting ChamoisWe’re having a good conversation. You have a deep understanding of what needs to happen. There are always external forces. We’re not going to get away from those, but you think about that. You go out and harvest a roebuck. How do you prepare it?

We can do the field dressing here in Italy. It’s what we normally do. In a normal weekend, we get them with a car or quite near so one or two kilometers at least. We field dress on the exact place where we shoot it. I personally like to carry it in the backpack or if it’s big like a fallow, I like to bring it on the back like the keyway, cutting the four legs and put it into the back. When we get to the car, we bring it to a spot that everybody serves, so it’s a place where you hang your animals, you clean it and you take some samples if you want to. We normally do it. It is not something that is compulsory, but we prefer to do it. We’re checking the sanitary level of the population that we have for pesticides and a particular kind of pathology.

I bring the samples to my university because they can watch it. We put the harvested animal cleaned into the fridge. It depends on the species. The wild boar stays inside a week. It’s aging of the meat. The roebuck stays inside a couple of days normally and then field dress. We batch rate into the place. We love doing what we call salami or like hams and stuff if we have control of it from the sanitary point of view because it’s raw meat. If it has parasites, it won’t be a problem. That’s all. We don’t have procedures unless you’re speaking about wild boar control. That is different hunting because we can’t hunt wild boars in Baccata. It’s like driven hunts. We can hunt wild boars by ourselves like the selection. We have control.

That is another thing. That is the same thing as selection, but they call it to control. I don’t know why. You can stay outside more. You can shoot with night vision. It’s the proper way to control a population. It’s the only way because while boars get outside late here. It’s the only way to shoot a wild boar unless you’ve got driven hunt. In that case, you have to bring that wild boar to a control center. That control center, I don’t know what they’re doing inside because they’re butchering it up. They should control it and sometimes it’s happened. I was speaking with some vets that are controlling it. They’re doing samples. Sometimes they go there and they watch it, but sometimes they don’t. It’s prevention, but they’re not working. We have to do it.

Do you get to keep the meat? When you give them to the control site, do you get the whole animal?

To the control site, it’s different. Normally, when we hunt without control, we have to keep the meat. We want to keep the meat, but we can completely. The animals, it’s all ours. Beginning from the foot and ending with a trophy, you can take everything home. When you go control the animals, it is different. I’m not into it, so I don’t want to speak falsely. I remember something like you have to pay €3 a kilo for the wild boar. You have to pay for the butchering. It’s something that, as we say in Italy, as short legs so he won’t go further. It’s something that no one does.

It could be good because control hunting is the only way to manage the wild boar population properly here in Italy or my place because of selection and driven hunt. I don’t like driven hunts. I’ve tried it so I can quite understand it. I don’t like the way how they do it because they don’t manage it. They just shoot. That’s a problem when you have a crazy population of wild boars because you’re going to shoot everything that passed into it. It’s not going to help the problem. It’s going to decrease the numbers of wild boars, but not as you should with control. It is searching for the class, the age and the animals that should be the point. The control should be the way to do it, but it’s too complicated as always in Italy so no one does it. That’s the main problem.

Of all the animals you get to hunt, what’s your favorite?

If we have too many females, it won't be good for the population. Click To Tweet

For me, it’s the chamois. The mountains are unbelievable. For me, it would be enough to go into the mountains. I love going out and hiking. Going into the mountains, seeing animals, spotting the animals, hunting the animals. When you’re getting up sweating, even more, when you get it down with the animals on the back, that sounds unbelievable for me. I like it.

Do you mount the skull or the horns?

Yeah, I do.

How’s the meat taste?

The chamois, it’s not the best. It’s not the worst even. I will tell them that the first one is the fallow deer. The second is the red deer. You have maybe the roe deer. The chamois is quite the last. The only worst meat will be the wild boar when you’re hunting in Baccata because they’re stressed sometimes. When you butcher it up, they smell. The chamois is like a goat so it won’t smell good. It does depend on the class or the age, from the period, from the sex, if they have hormones or not. It will change, but I won’t say that it is perfect meat. If you do it correctly, it’s beautiful, it’s good to eat with salami mainly.

What type of rifle do you use?

I use a .308 Browning X-Bolt because I’m left-handed so I had a big problem finding some rifles. Browning was the only rifle I could get for the place I wanted to spend. The .308 for me, I can do quite everything with that. I can go out fox shooting and pest controlling. I can go out and shoot a decent wild boar. Changing sometimes the bullet, but I can do quite everything unless I’m going chamois hunting. Normally, I bring out my dart gun. It’s a Seven Remington. It is much better because I can shoot farther and it’s a bigger caliber.

What about optics?

WTR 578 | Hunting ChamoisI mount a Swarovski Z4 on my 308. That for me is the best one because Swarovski doesn’t need words to be expressed because they’re good. They’re light. I can see even at the beginning of the morning or in the late hours of the night because they have these big lenses. They’re good for late nights or early in the mornings. On the Seven Remington Magnum, I mount a LED cord because it is a free 1456, something like that. I can’t remember properly. I’m sure it is a 56 that’s a good optic too. I can shoot quite far with that. Not me because I’m a good shooter but not the best shooter. My dad is a good shooter and he can shoot far with that.

This has been so much fun to sit and chitchat and get a little taste of what it’s like to hunt in Italy. It is different. There’s no question about it. You’re an animated, passionate young man.

Thank you. The joy is mine because I was afraid to come here and speak with you. It was good. Thank you very much for the occasion.

It’s my pleasure. If any of your friends want to get on the show, if they’re anything like you, they’ll be a great guest.

Thank you very much.

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About Tommaso Danese

WTR 578 | Hunting ChamoisMy name is Tommaso, I’m a 21 guy from Verona, North Italy. I’m currently studying on the third year of Veterinary medicine in Parma, the Centre of the Mondial Production of Pasta (Barilla), ham (Prosciutto crudo di parma) and Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano). I tell you that cause my vet background is strongly linked to large animals and moreover dairy or pork intensive farming.

I’m a passionate outdoorsman, loving the alps on my doorstep. NBEF – IBEP bowhunter Licensed rifle hunter “ cacciaselettore con metodi selettivi “ for management and control of wilboar – red fallow and roe deer – mouflon. I work in two private reserves, where I help to manage the population and creating the annual plans. I’m trying to grow an Instagram page – @thespottingvet – about conservation, ethic hunting, and Wildlife management, cause the conception of hunting in Italy is bringing the media to the opposite of the truth.

Furthermore in the vet industry is really complicated to have an honest and scientific conversation, so I got the impulse to spread the word, and pictures seemed to me the best way. I’ve written some articles about hunting on an Italian journal (“Caccia a palla”) and I’m currently collaborating with an EU biannual magazine.

I’m also currently working on a project about Wildlife Farms, in order to create a rewilding protocol to use in our prealps regions: with this one we’re going to participate to a contest about renovable ideas for under 30 students. About the question you normally do at the mid-show, I don’t think that I would have an answer, cause ten years ago I wasn’t quite hunting or at least I was too young.