The Italian Chapter of Safari Club International has been pursuing one of the primary SCIF goals: ‚ÄúEducation makes a difference in wildlife conservation. Sportsmen and women, avid in their passion of the outdoors, pass on their knowledge to peers and young people to continue our outdoor heritage‚Äù. With this credo in mind we have been focusing young people to instill an appreciation for the natural worlds.¬† We have set up token memberships for under twenty-fives to get them involved in various activities. But, perhaps most importantly, was the inaugural Summer Youth Camp 2013 event, sponsored by the Italian SCI chapter in collaboration with Bignami S.p.A., and held at ‚ÄúLa Selva‚Äù wildlife hunting reserve at Castelluccio di Montese (MO).¬† The courses were set out in week-long camps for children and adolescents from 8 to 17 years old, divided into groups based on age with a maximum six participants in each. The Camp was based at the game lodge of the hunting reserve. This recently-renovated comfortable structure is surrounded by 800 hectares mainly covered in woods, with abundant wild fauna, such as wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, and stags. During their stay, the young guests attended theoretical classes on the biology of wild animals, including ungulates, migratory birds and small game, learning to recognize them, studying their morphology, habits, preferences for different habitats, and their behavioral differences depending on the season. The participants were also taught about optics, hunting disciplines and legislation and, above all, they were educated in relation to ethics and conservation, respecting and safeguarding nature.
The practical part consisted of going out at dusk and dawn, with the instructors accompanying the campers on photography safari quests, with careful approaches to the fauna, or to the numerous turrets located in strategic points of the reserve. Great emphasis was also placed on training hunting dogs, including retrieval tests using artificial traces. A lot of time was also dedicated to target practice with air rifles and archery, which was very popular for its recreational side as well as the training aspect. Around twenty children and adolescents, from various Italian regions, benefitted from this experience and went away very enthusiastic about the camp. Some of them who did not come from hunting families discovered a new, very surprising world.
The huge success of this event was mainly due to the efforts and organization skills of Daniele Samori, the owner of La Selva wildlife hunting reserve, aided by his daughter Benedetta and his wife Monica. He was the perfect host. Daniele also personally looked after some of the teaching activities, specifically the section on birds and migrants. The other teachers and instructors who volunteered for this initiative were: Giovanni Persona, in charge of the scientific section from biology to optics, who provided the children with texts and learning materials that he had prepared himself. The expert handlers Antonio Zuffi and Walter Ferrazza looked after the hunting dog training and retrieval tests. Giorgio Bigarelli, the regional head of the S.C.I. Italian Chapter, gave lessons on legislation, and more importantly using his sound experience, he taught the youngsters about ethics, fair play and civility.¬† The campers had the good fortune to have Tiziano Terzi, the deputy-chairman of the SCI Italian Chapter, a world famous hunter and archer, and Gabriele Achille, as their instructors for target practice, with special emphasis on safety.¬† A graduate in Natural Sciences specializing in Reptiles and Snakes, Gabriele also held a seminar on Italian reptiles (colubridae and viperidae), in addition to teaching the youngsters archery techniques.
Upon completion of the course, the participants received a certificate of attendance and a prize was awarded for the best photograph. They will be guests of the Italian Chapter on the Saturday of the Convention to be held from 23rd to 25th May 2014 at the Royal Hotel Carlton in Bologna.
This initiative enjoyed great success and gained much attention from the press, from both the local newspapers and through the attendance of Bruno Modugno (an honorary member of the S.C.I. Italian Chapter). With a television crew filming proceedings, Bruno personally saw to the teaching activities that will be broadcast on the Sky hunting and fishing channel, ‚ÄúCaccia e Pesca‚Äù. Our hope and wish is to have laid the foundations for a long and fruitful series, with the certainty that raising young people‚Äôs awareness and getting them involved is a winning strategy for the future of hunting and conservation. For now, we wish to thank once again all those who made this event possible. Daniele Samori, Bignami S.p.A., who provided the air rifles, the training bows gifted each participant with Zeiss optics, all of the instructors, and Elena Fileppo, secretary of the S.C.I. Italian Chapter and member of S.C.I. and S.C.I.F. Sables, who has always been a strong advocate of the role of young people and who actively promoted and publicized this event, personally looking after the image aspects.
Her thirteen-year-old son Alberto, who attended the course, afterwards commented: ‚ÄúMum, I would have stayed another week if possible because it was like being in Heaven. I got rid of my fear of insects ‚Äì just think that there was a hornets‚Äô nest in the turret one evening‚Ä¶ but if you don‚Äôt move they won‚Äôt touch you. I learned how to recognize animals by looking at certain characteristics that set them apart. I learned how to tell the difference between a fallow deer and a stag seen from behind: you can immediately spot the horseshoe design of the deer‚Äôs tail, while the stag‚Äôs is white and shorter.
I learned how to listen to nature in silence, hearing the messages it is sending us. I shared emotions with my friends on the course that I had never felt before.
Winning a basketball game is not the same as seeing up close a mother deer playing with its young… The emotions you feel are completely different. It is all much more magical out in the open air.
I want to do the course again next year to learn more about nature and to meet up with my true friends again‚Äù.–Elena Fileppo