The 82-year-old man, called Albert, accidentally shot the two walkers when he was out hunting in woods near Bertric-Buréé in the Dordogne department of southern France.
According to regional newspaper Sud-Ouest, the hunter, who is also hard of hearing and was not wearing his hearing aid, told the court he thought he was aiming at a pheasant that had shot up out of the undergrowth.
(A pheasant: What the hunter thought he had shot)
But to his shock, what fell to the ground was no game bird, but a couple of walkers, aged in their seventies, who had been standing around 30 metres away collecting mushrooms.
One of the victims was hit in the neck and is still in a critical state in hospital almost a year after the incident. The other victim suffered a less serious wound to his right side.
A court in Perigueux, which heard the case which dates back to November 2012, banned the 82-year-old from hunting and owning a gun for five years and cancelled his hunting license. His rifle was also confiscated.
Pierre Athanaze, the head of France’s Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (ASPAS) told The Local on Friday the case was another example of why the government needs to crack down on hunting.
“It is becoming more and more dangerous for people. Over the last two years the number of accidents has shot up by 37 percent.
“While some of these accidents involve hunters, many of the victims are people totally outside the sport, like in the case in the Dordogne.
“In each of the last three years a child has been killed in a hunting accident,” Athanaze said.
ASPAS is calling on the French government to introduce certain measures to cut the number of accidents, which included 21 fatalities during the 2012/2013 hunting season.
Among the steps Athanaze wants authorities to take is to ban hunting of any kind on Sundays.
“France is the only country in Europe where people can hunt everyday, which is why we are the country in Europe with the most accidents.
“Hunting needs to be stopped on Sundays, because this is the most dangerous day. There are more and more people heading out into the countryside on a Sunday, whether its walking, mountain biking or collecting mushrooms. We want an end to it,” he said.
Atanaze also pointed to the fact that many people who go hunting in France these days are elderly and are “not subject to any medical checks” to ensure they have all their wits about them and are capable of spotting the difference between a pheasant and two mushroom collectors.
“They need to introduce medical checks for hunters,” he said.
ASPAS are also demanding a change in the law whereby the organizers of hunts can be held responsible in the case of serious accidents.
“At the moment, only the person who fires the gun is responsible if there is accident. But imagine it was any other sport, the organizers would have to answer if something went wrong,” Athanaze said.
“It is scandalous that this is not the case with hunting,” he added. “These people benefit from immunity.”
France is no stranger to hunting accidents, some of them freakish, which have made headlines in recent months (see below).
In December 2012, a nine-year-old boy was seriously injured after being shot in a hunting accident in Mouchin, a rural community in the north of France near Lille.
More recently in January a French motorist was killed in what appeared to be a freakish hunting accident in the Oise department of northern France. The accident occurred when a bullet apparently fired by a hunter ricocheted off a wild boar, before travelling almost 2km across fields, through the driver’s window and eventually striking the driver in the head.