Friday afternoon and French men all over this neck of the woods are clocking off early. Are France playing at the rugby world cup? Yet another public holiday w/e shutdown?
Nope, neither of these, something much more 'basic instinct' – it's the hunting season (La Chasse) and from now until March the countryside will resound with the sound of barking dogs, beasts in flight & shotgun blasts!
One article I read on the subject describes 'La Chasse' as less of a weekend pursuit and more of a 'genetic obsession' for many Frenchmen (as far as I can gather 'les madames' are either disinterested or not invited!)
Vast stretches of the French countryside and especially certain favoured wooded areas are 'off limits' at this time of the year, and although I'm not averse to hopping the occasional fence in pursuit of a mysterious bird call or to get a good shot (photographic I mean!), yours truly will NOT be risking a round of lead in my backside and straying into the sights of blood thirsty Frenchmen with guns!
I have it on good opinion that the underlying aim of these highly organized forays into the woods is to 'cleanse' the countryside and control the numbers of wild boar, deer, hare, rabbit and the like – fair enough, all those animals can do a lot of damage to the land if unchecked ( witness the damage to native forests in Scotland a few years ago by unchecked numbers of red deer), but I've also been told that anything on 4 legs or 2 if it has feathers on it, is fair game and although the hunt is supposed to be regulated, that means very little when the vast majority of hunting takes place in rural areas where the word regulation looses everything in translation!
Where do I stand on La Chasse? Hey look, I love this country and there's nothing worse than foreign residents taking pot shots (pun very much intended!) at local traditions. It's very much an accepted part of life here and there's no anti hunting lobby at all. I think the whole 'man hunting beast' thing is instinctual and has its place still in the 21st Century – at least it hasn't warped into a class issue and a political hot potato like it has in the UK. Having said that – I see one red kite fall out of the sky following 'un coup de feu' and I'll be hopping over that fence en route to expressing some good old English outrage!