Visitors are first introduced to the hunt of olden times. From the dawn of human existence, man has been involved in hunting, though its primary function and the methods employed have changed much and developed over time. In the beginning hunting was solely an activity that provided essential food and the warm skins necessary for surviving long hard winters. Deriving from that period – the early Pleistocene Era in fact – is the impressive skull of a cave bear, reminiscent of the game, which flourished in these lands. At the same time, primitive stone and bone weapons come as a proof that hunting was once a difficult and dangerous job.
With the social stratification, which began a 1,000 years or more ago when Frankish overlords rode into and laid claim to these territories and its Slavic population, hunting became the exclusive preserve of the aristocracy. The techniques used speak for themselves – for the nobility hunting was most definitely a diversion and a sport, not a means of survival or a meagre living as it had been for the indigenous population. Due to evermore advanced weapons – visitors can witness the development of weaponry from the longbow, through more primitive firearms to the modern sporting rifle – wildlife stood increasingly less chance against the well-equipped hunter.
During the Late Middle Ages, falconry gained in popularity over conventional hunting; falconers hunted with trained domesticated birds of prey, mostly hawks. The traps, which are exhibited as part of this collection, recall an era when disease-ridden vermin plagued society; indeed, if not kept under firm control, such pests could decimate the population. Traps, snares and other such clandestine devices were also many a time the only means by way of which a poacher could steal a living from under the nose of his feudal master. The magnificent trophy of a red deer (Cervus elaphus), captured in the mid 19th century in the great Snežnik forests, is symbolic of the fate of large game in Slovenia. Such wildlife was very nearly wiped out in the great popular hunts that followed the demise of feudalism.
In the mid 19th century, as a reaction to the devastating free-for-all, state and provincial laws established kill limits and required that hunters acquire licences. Hunters’ societies began to reintroduce species that had been driven to extinction in Slovenia, ibexes first, and then red deer. At the close of the century, the first hunting associations were established; while the Slovensko Lovsko Društvo (Slovene Hunting Club), a precursor of the Lovska Zveza Slovenije (Hunters’ Association of Slovenia), was itself founded in 1907. The materials on display are proof of the positive attitude and orientation of the leadership of these bodies which themselves deserve all the merit for the preservation of great a many species of wildlife in Slovenia.