It’s that time of year in France when people of all shapes and sizes don a fluorescent yellow jacket with a ridiculous hat, and walk around toting guns. Yes, it’s hunting season again, when the peace of the Bournac countryside is shattered by the crack of rifle shots, the baying of dogs and the thought that any minute I might get a bullet in the back of my head.
Hunting is apparently highly controlled in France. To obtain a hunting licence, you need to pass a theory exam which tests:
- your knowledge of wildlife (presumably so you don’t shoot the neighbours cat or child),
- your knowledge of hunting, including hunting techniques and vocabulary (“It’s ok, it’s only a flesh wound!”)
- your knowledge of rules and laws (which can then be forgotten once you have your licence)
- your knowledge of arms and munitions (aim the pointy end away from you, preferably at something you can see)
You then have to do a practical test where you simulate hunting (cut away to Marcel Marceau miming how to chop up a wild boar), shoot at coloured targets (some of which are permitted targets and some not) and then shoot a moving target (hopefully, not the person you have surprised in the undergrowth who is now running for their life).
Whether or not these steps produce careful hunters is up for discussion. Not all the French people we know are keen on their presence. They need to observe certain rules, such as not hunting within 150m of someone’s property. I guess someone needs to invent a bullet that will stop once it reaches a boundary. Monsieur Pioche says he always tells hunters to move on if he sees them near his property. Another friend feeds the deer that live around her house in the hope that they will stay close by and stay out of the hunters’ sights. And we once met a very irate old lady standing at the end of her garden, shaking her fist and haranguing the group of hunters that had just gone past with a colourful “Fouttez le camp, bande de connards!” – “Bugger off, you bunch of wankers!”
But hunting is said to be the second most popular pastime in France after football. It’s part of national culture and we have to live with it – we are after all guests in France (imho).
So in hunting season, where can you tool up? There are of course hunting, shooting and fishing shops on high streets, but why not satisfy all of your ammunition and webbing needs while you do your weekly shop? Yes, the local supermarket can supply you with bullets and targets while you pick up your Oranginas and camembert. In fact, a radio advert told us there was 30% all weapons and ammunition at a local shop for a limited period only.
I’m not sure that Johnny and I will ever find it not funny to shout to each other as we pass the ammunition cabinet, “Darling, how are we off for bullets? Have we got any left? Did we use up the box when we shot last night’s dinner?”
The French think we’re off our rockers.