Hunting In Croatia
Croatia is a country in southeast Europe. It borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro to the southeast. Its capital is Zagreb. Croatia has an area of 21,851 square miles, holding a population of 4.3 million. Forests cover over 44% of Croatia’s land surface. Other habitat types include wetlands, grasslands bogs, and coastal and marine areas.
Croatia is well known for its positive attitude toward wildlife management which insures that every year more and more hunters are able to fulfill their dreams. Bear and boar hunting top the list, but there are three types of deer, two species of sheep, and numerous species of small game to hunt. The spectacular mountains and unforgettable valleys will stay with you long after your hunt is over. Hunting in Croatia offers challenges for even the most experienced hunter.
Within Croatia, there are nine different animals available to hunt – red deer, wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, brown bear, Mouflon sheep, chamois, jackal, and fox. Also, there are numerous bird species and small game available.
The red deer is one of the largest deer species and has been called the king of the woods. It is found throughout Croatia, especially in Gorski Kotar, the mountainous region of central Croatia home to the Risnjak National Park. The area is heavily forested and is home to a vast variety of fauna and flora, including some rare mammal species extinct in the rest of the world. It is entirely possible to see not only red deer but also wolves, bears, wild boars, and lynxes roaming freely.
An adult red deer stag will weigh between 600 to 660 pounds, and there have been a few seen with antlers having 20, or more, points and weighing over 20 pounds. The different ways to hunt red deer in Croatia are stalking, high-stand hunting, calling, and horse-drawn carriage – which can be quite interesting. Most shooting is at less than 150 yards. Any rifle that has 2,000 ft-lb of energy at 100 yards is adequate. However, given the red deer stag’s weight can exceed 600 pounds, something with more energy, say a .338 Winchester Magnum throwing a 225-grain bullet with nearly 3,000 ft-lb of energy at 100 yards would be a better choice. This is especially true if you are on a combination hunt and a bear is on the license.
Red deer hunting opens on August 16 and closes on January 15.
Wild boars are quite common in Croatia. They live in packs, inhabiting areas around wet forests. They are hunted by stalking, still hunting, using dogs, and drives. A driven hunt can be quite exciting. Driven hunts are perhaps the most intense hunting experience a hunter can enjoy. A line of beaters will push the game ahead of themselves toward a line of waiting hunters. Usually, all the hunters get a chance to shoot some game. Most driven hunts take place in Spain, Hungary, or Romania, but their popularity is on the increase in Croatia. The line of beaters, some with dogs, drives the game directly at the hunters. With the game in motion, most shots are quick and at moving animals. The hunter must take whatever shot that is offered. If planning on participating in a driven hunt, you would be wise to get some training on a motion simulator. As with all other aspects of hunting, your preparations for your driven hunt will have a great influence on your successful results.
Croatian boars are relatively large. An above-average animal can weigh over 650 pounds. The female is much smaller at about half the weight of the boar. Usually, the oldest female leads the herd with the boars towards the back. Boar hunting takes place year-round. High-seat hunting is done between February and mid-October. Driven hunts are usually winter based.
Hunters fly into Zagreb Airport where they are met and transported to the hunting area. Most boar hunts are for three days and four nights. Accommodations are in comfortable lodges with all meals provided. Rental rifles are available for $25-$35 per day.
Roe deer are attractive medium-sized deer standing 24-30 inches at the shoulder. The bucks weigh 50 to 60 pounds. They are abundant throughout Croatia. They are fond of woodlands and will be found in agricultural fields and near scrub and hedgerows. As their numbers increase, they are starting to move into areas near towns and villages.
Roe deer season runs from May 1st to September 30th. Does and fauns can be taken from Oct 1st to January 31st. Roe deer are the most commonly hunted animal in Croatia, along with the wild boar. They are found in both the continental and coastal regions. One of the best habitats for roe deer hunting is in Bjelovar – Bilogora County, near the city of Bjelovar between Moslavacka goraq and Bilogora. There you will find fields and grasslands, bounded by small forests and forest reserves, ideal for stalking and stand hunting. Hunting is best in May when the vegetation is sparse, and during the mating season in August.
The common fallow deer is native to western Eurasia but has been introduced widely elsewhere. It often includes the rarer Persian fallow deer as a subspecies. The fallow deer is a medium-sized animal. It has a light brown coat with white spots. They are one of the few species of deer that don’t lose their spots. Their antlers are very wide, easily surpassing 20 inches overall. It takes three years for the bucks to develop them. Full-grown males weigh from 130 pounds to 200 pounds. Normally they feed in open areas that are adjacent to forests.
Plavnik Island, an unpopulated island belonging to Croatia, has excellent trophy-quality fallow deer. They were introduced to this 2,500-acre island in 2000. They are the only large game animal on the island and have flourished. The island is located between the islands of Krk and Cres and is only accessible by boat.
European Brown Bear
The European brown bear is a subspecies of brown bears that were once widespread in Eurasia and North America. The majority of Croatian brown bears are found in the Croatian part of the Dinaric mountain range in southern and southeastern Europe.
Due to the living conditions, Croatia is one of the rare European countries where brown bear populations are strong and stable. Mountainous areas with untouched and calm nature are the primary habitat for the brown bear, while lowland areas are mainly hunting grounds. Hunting is best during winter months and early spring during a full moon.
Hunting in Croatia for brown bears is mostly done by sitting in high seats over bait. Croatia has a very large population of brown bears, and many hunters are able to take a gold medal trophy. All high-seat hunting includes the services of a professional stalker who can help judge animal size. The brown bear population is increasing year by year, allowing the state to issue more bear tags.
The bear season runs from October 1st to December 15th; plus March 2nd to April 30th.
It has been said that free-range mouflon hunting in Croatia is the best in the world. This is not a high-fence hunt. The hunter will work hard for a trophy by hiking over hills covered with scrub brush and foot-busting rocks. Good boots … no, great boots, are a necessity. And they should have covered a lot of miles before undertaking this hunt.
A three-day, free-range, fair chase hunt is recommended. Mouflon can be hunted year-round, but the best months for hunting in Croatia are September through early December. Success rate is high, 95% with a 100% opportunity rate. Plus, this hunt can be combined with a Balkan chamois hunt.
There is a particularly attractive hunt for mouflon, and it takes place on the island of Dugi Otok. This is held on a 22,000-acre area next to a national park. Because this hunt takes place next to the coast, during the slow times of the hunt, you can enjoy a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Dugi Otok is renowned for its good population of mouflon sheep – many medal-winning trophies are taken here each year. The season runs from November 1 to December 31.
The Balkan chamois is larger than the Alpine chamois and can be found in mountainous areas up to 3,500 feet elevation. It is usually hunted by stalking and spotting with binoculars. A chamois hunt demands that a hunter is in excellent physical condition, has a sharp eye, and is a steady shot. These animals have excellent eyesight, hearing, and smell. Shots are usually between 200 and 300 yards. They can be either uphill or downhill, so the hunter has to know how to compensate for the shot angle. The hunting areas are near historical cities like Dubrovnik, Spit, and summer resorts like Makarska, a tourist center on the Adriatic coast, and home of the Makarska Riviera.
A typical chamois hunt in Croatia is along the Dalmatian coast on the Adriatic Sea. This is the largest area in the world for hunting Balkan chamois. The season runs from October 1 to the end of January. Other animals like brown bears, red deer, wild boar, and mouflon can be added to the hunt.
Other Animals / Birds Hunted in Croatia
Numerous other animals like wolves, foxes, and golden jackals can be taken when hunting in Croatia, but these are usually animals of opportunity rather than a dedicated hunt. If you like upland bird hunting, there is a veritable plethora of game birds on offer, and shotguns are available for rent.