Many people fail to understand the different types of hunting in
France and the methods used. British and French people alike refer to La Chasse, (the hunt), as if it was one thing or one group of people – nothing could be further from the truth.
Spurred on by something I witnessed the other day I thought I would shine a little light on some aspects of what is called Chasse de loisir or Recreational hunting which generally falls into two sections, firstly what we would call wildfowling in the hunting of wild ducks, geese and waders and secondly what is called Rough shooting in the UK where shooters may use their trained dogs (usually Spaniels, Labradors or similar breeds) to flush game out of the hedgerows, woods or other cover as they walk along and often act as retrievers of any creatures shot.
What I want to stick to here is the Rough shooting aspect and the species that mainly relates to are:
Rabbits, Hares, Partridge, (Red-legged and Grey), Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodcock and Pheasants of various types, more or less what most people would expect but where do they come from?
Some are as you would expect actually wild but many people that live in France will have perhaps noticed a pheasant, a hare or some red-legged partridge walking by the roadside or in their garden that behave as if they have just wandered out accidentally from domestic captivity and that isn’t far from the truth.
What we find is that there are more than 8,000 breeders of “game” in
France and around 70% of them are members of the syndicat national des producteurs de gibier de chasse, (The National syndicate of producers of game for hunting).
From them we can obtain the following most recent annual production numbers.
- 14 million Pheasants
- 5 million Partridge, (Red-legged and Grey)
- 1 million Mallard
- 120 000 Hares
- 10 000 Rabbits
- 500 tonnes
- 170 tonnes Fallow Deer
Click on photos to enlarge.
This is only from the 70% of breeders that are members of the society and we can only speculate at how many more there are raised in
France plus imports from Eastern Europe. It will certainly be considerably more.
These birds and animals are sold either to private hunts or to local associations for release into the wild, in the case of Mallard, Pheasant and
Partridge this will be in the weeks immediately prior to the start of the hunting season for those species. Obviously as a result of their captive breeding they are completely ill suited to life in the wild being both used to humans and being fed, hence their tameness.
So to cut to the chase as the expression goes I was out walking my dog the other day at around 2pm on a public chemin, (unmade road), when I first heard and then spotted a number, perhaps a dozen, red legged partridge directly ahead. Almost as soon as I had spotted them I saw a car coming in the other direction that slowed right down and slowly eased its way through the birds which hardly moved. The car continued and came slowly past me and through the open window I heard them cursing the fact that there was a promeneur, (a walker), and I half wondered what would happen next as I continued slowly towards the birds. The car stopped about 100 metres away from me and one man got out and started walking in my direction. By now I had reached the partridge that were feeding on some scattered maize, (corn), and some went into the bushes and the others trotted along the track in front of me. Meanwhile the man with the gun was limping up behind us. Gradually all but two of the partridge took flight but when this happened I was between him and the birds there was nothing he could do without risking hitting me. Unfortunately one came back out onto the track the other side of the hunter and what followed astounded me. He slowly walked up to it until it was almost at his feet and then stamped his foot to make it fly at which point he shot it. It would seem the bird has to be in the air to provide “good sport”, perhaps that’s why they don’t use chickens and as you can see in the photo below he wasn’t too happy about my camera.
Click on photos to enlarge.