Sunday, November 19, 2006

La Chasse - Walkers beware

As I walked Rupert this morning I was reminded that its hunting season in France. Being Sunday the hunt (La Chasse) was out in force. You could see their decrepit cars & vans parked alongside the road & occasionally see a portly gentleman with his rifle. I've never quite figured out why its de rigour to have a beat up, clapped out car or van to go hunting, but the evidence says it is. I've never seen anyhing else - other than beat up Lada 4X4's covered with mud. (if it doesn't rain I'm sure they take a hose & create their own mud.) It also seems to be important to be portly. I've never seen a skinny chasseur! Maybe they shoot more than I think so are really well fed?

I think that up North in the richer parts of France they have some very posh hunts; on horseback even with paid beaters and so forth. Not so in our impoverished region. The hunters are mainly local and I have a sneaking suspicion that they go out for motives other than hunting. i.e. to get away from the wife; to have a jolly good lunch with lots of booze; to talk politics with their buddies and, only incidentially, to shoot something. I do know that we don't take the dog walking in the woods on any afternoon when the hunts out.

In any case during the season Rupert wears his international orange coat & so do we. Seems to work as we haven't been shot yet. People have been though; one so far this year near us. The chasseurs shot a few of a friends chickens by mistake a while back. They were very apologetic & paid for them, but it hardly gave much confidence when they can't tell the difference between a chicken & a game bird! Our local hunt got so bad that the Mayor banned them for two years; its only this year that they're back.

We feel sorry for the hunting dogs. Every hunt has a pack. When not hunting they're kept in outside kennels & although they get their food & water they get nothing else & very little attention. There are also individual or pairs of hunting dogs kept by individuals. There was a pair close to us that were kept in such bad conditions that we & others in the village complained to the mayor who put a stop to it. The poor dogs also get lost or separated from the pack. We average 2-3 strays a year. We take them in & normally the owner turns up within a day or two. Or we put the word out at the village store. Its sad, but these hunters, who are mostly farmers, have a different attitude towards domestic animals.

A couple of weeks ago we passed a hunter as we were walking Rupert. We stopped & passed the time of day. Finally we said; "hows it going? Have you got anything today?' The reply sounded like; "pa core" ?? We went on our way, but kept puzzling over what "pa core" could possibly mean. It wasn't until a couple of days later that the penny dropped. He was saying "Not Yet" "Pas encore". Someday we'll figure out the local dialect; maybe!

I'm not sure the hunters here are better or worse than anywhere else. They certainly seem to have a different mentality and set of customs. Still, they've been hunting around here for a long time so far be it for an interloper like me to interfere.

I do, however, do my best to keep out of their way & to make sure they know that Rupert is a lage brown dog. Not a small deer?

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