Driven Hunts In Croatia

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Nov 21, 2016
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Day 1: Kutina hunting grounds
Early in the morning, the hunting tour operator drives us to the Kutina hunting ground. On the half-hour journey, we pass through small, snow-covered villages until we reach the hunting lodge. There, we meet up with the leaseholder of the Kutina hunting ground, Marian Balasko, and his fellow hunters and enjoy tea, coffee, hot boiled sausage, raw vegetables, bread, and the traditional ajvar – a delicious vegetable relish. After a good hour, a horn rings out, the hunters are assembled and the approved game animals are announced. Then we split into groups and traveled to a section of the 8,000-hectare hunting ground. We encountered a frosty winter landscape, just as the weather forecast had predicted.

After a short while, the Croatian beaters can be heard shouting from afar, interspersed with the sound of horns to guide the deployed Bracken. And just as quickly, the first shots are fired. Single shots, but also whole series. Around midday, the individual groups arrive back at the parked vehicles. Quite a few of the shooters are already wearing the bruch – a small branch signaling a successful hunt – on their hats, beanies, or caps. And this is only the first of six drives. While the Croatian co-hunters tend to the wild boar, guests, and beaters settle down to a hearty lunch in the lodge. All of the dogs are back with their handlers, but two of the loyal helpers need veterinary treatment and will pause for the rest of the hunt.

The afternoon drive takes place in a more remote part of the hunting ground. Some guests are positioned in a long line, with instructions to shoot only to the front or rear, while others guard the paths and the forest’s borders. Again, we hear the loud hustle and bustle of the Croats. Then: a tremendous commotion! A large wild boar runs towards the long line of shooters, is missed several times, and stops abruptly, pausing between two shooters. It’s a moment these two hunters will probably remember for the rest of their lives. Then more shots are fired, and several sows and foxes are brought down. A larger sow has to be rescued from a river into which she had plunged after being hit. The first day of hunting ends around the blazing fire in front of the Kutina hunting lodge, with lively conversations about the day’s adventures.




Day 2: Lonjsko Polje nature park
Today, two hunts await us – in one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved wetlands: over 50,000 hectares. Here, another association hunts in just ten percent of the area. The Kutina leaseholder Marian and some of his fellow hunters accompany us as shooters and beaters. But first, we all enjoy a hearty breakfast. After a brief talk, we divide into groups and drive to a meeting point at the park’s edge. Here, all guests transfer to two tractors with spacious trailers. Inside the park, the wild boar hunters encounter an impressive sight: kilometers of pathways enclosing wide areas of dense undergrowth. Very promising for hunting. As the tractors also carry out forestry work in this park, the animals have become accustomed to them. After half an hour’s drive along a thicket, the first shooters are dropped off. It is difficult to judge the size of the section in which we’ll be hunting, but it is cordoned off on three sides.

Because the area is so large, it takes a while for the hunters to hear the beaters. The first shots are fired. The sows are in a loose pack and make a lot of noise as they exit the undergrowth to cross the forest paths. By lunchtime, shots have rung out in several places. A few sows have gone down, including many impressively heavy animals. At noon, we are sitting together in lively conversation, enjoying a generous repast of meat, bacon, bread, and hot tea, when suddenly a herd of sows appears in one of the paths and starts to run away.

The afternoon hunt is organized similar to the morning hunt and lasts until dusk. In addition to around thirty sows, golden jackals (Canis aureus) approved for hunting are also brought down. Standing around the open campfires, we treat ourselves to the first beer of the day or enjoy a glass or two of the popular Croatian spritzer made with white wine. Then we retrieve game until the sun goes down, bringing it to the clearing for our hunting ritual. The animals are laid on their right sides, in neat lines, and honored. After this ceremony, we return to the hotel, where we take hot showers and reflect on the eventful day.


Day 3: Back in Kutina hunting grounds
On the third and last day of hunting, we return to the Kutina hunting ground with two hunting parties. Once again, leaseholder Marian Balasko warmly welcomes all his guests, and once again everyone tucks into a hearty Croatian breakfast. The first driven hunt of the day takes place in a huge forested area of natural regeneration. Some shooters stand in a central clearing; others are dispersed throughout the high forest. Those hunting guests who, for various reasons, hadn’t yet experienced a successful hunt, have been assigned to this day’s “hotspots”.

Shortly after all the hunters have left, the now-familiar sounds of the Croats can be heard from the young beech trees. Excited shouts from the beaters and sharp barking from the dogs are followed by the first shots in the high forest. Again, a whole series of shots are fired. The hunt goes on until midday. No one counts the shots, but when we return to the vehicles, it turns out that the few hunters who had been unable to bag game so far, have now also had success. And so, after lunch in the hunting lodge, we begin the sixth and final driven hunt of this trip, entirely happy and satisfied. This time, we hunt the rear area of the morning drive – a landscape of ruins left behind by the civil war, now overgrown with brambles. As the hunters, divided into groups, leave the vehicles on a plateau and take up their positions on paths in the surrounding high forest, some are no doubt recalling the difficult war years in this beautiful country.

But here, too, the Croatian beaters and their dogs show incredible vigor. They manage to find wild boar in the dense brambles, which the dogs quickly set in motion. Once again, several sows are brought down, and bagged by French, German, Croatian, and English hunters who have come together in this hunting community.

On our final evening, we gather for the hunting ritual once again. Looking at our faces, it’s clear how difficult it will be to say goodbye to Croatia and our new-found friends. Over the past few days, we have not only honored the game but have also eaten, laughed, and drank together. Many a bottle has been passed around after a hunt, and many a horrido (traditional German hunting song) has been shouted, to the delight of the Croatians. Before we drive to the hotel, the senior beater receives the tips we’ve collected. After a shower and dinner, the group of guests splits into those who have to get up early and those who have booked a later flight. The former stay for a nightcap at the hotel bar, while the latter immerse themselves in the nightlife of the small Croatian town on this Saturday evening.

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Fantastic! And photos are just great!
Excellent. Thanks for sharing.

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Bill J H wrote on gearguywb's profile.
Do you still have this rifle? I'm in the KC area on business and I'm very interested.
Safari Dave wrote on CoElkHunter's profile.
I didn't get drawn for Wyoming this year.

Are you planning to hunt Unit 4 this fall?

(Thinking about coming out)
another great review

EDELWEISS wrote on bowjijohn's profile.
Thanks again for your support on the Rhodesian Shotgun thread. From the amount of "LIKES" it received, it appears there was only ONE person who objected. Hes also the same one who continually insisted on interjecting his posts that werent relevant to the thread.