Who’s afraid of the big bad pig?

Written by Simon Renfrew

Warty old grandmothers in laddered stockings may not be in short supply in our part of the Dordogne, but are rarely to be found in remote woodland cottages as the (really good) meals on wheels service couldn’t reach them. Likewise, gingerbread houses and trails of breadcrumbs are uncommon – the legendary French appetite and sweet tooth probably being the cause. But forests we have - hunters too, and on any given Sunday between late September and the end of February, small groups of them appear to commune with the unsuspecting fauna.

Once away from the major towns, these generally comprise of retired farmers and local tradesmen rolling up in their vans de bonne heure to park alongside some remote track or woodland clearing.  Having eased out of the drivers seat and relieved himself against the nearest tree (unbroken & loaded fowling piece resting adjacent), our chasseur’s plan is then to conserve energy and not move more than five yards all day. Orange caps set at a variety of jaunty angles, the group hunkers down whilst the dogs are released a couple of kilometers away to drive the game towards the fearless band.  At this point theory and practice diverge, as much of the rest of the day is spent blindly following the tinkling bells attached to the dog’s collars, broken only by a two hour lunch – after which aim can be an issue.

The occasional distant volley of shots signals the demise of a deer or, on occasion, boar. But local hunts are strictly controlled and the overall number of older stags and breeding does are protected. The boar, however, present a different challenge.  There’s no culling limit on sanglier, but they’re smart, tough as old boots and super adaptable, and their numbers keep growing despite the hunt. In parts of Northern France they can be found in town suburbs and parks, but given the huge amount of woodland and thinly populated farmland in our area, they’re still an uncommon sight. And as 150 kilos (23 stone) of angry and heavily tusked wild pig can do some serious damage, this is not an entirely bad thing.

It’s not necessarily the case that the hunt will want to cross your land, but if they do and you’d prefer they didn’t, a simple word with the chef de chasse will usually suffice – it’s a deep set tradition, but that doesn’t mean you’re obliged or expected to join in. And Bambi will be grateful.

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