The familiar sound of gunshots ringing out around fields and woods will once again be heard around rural France as the annual hunting season opened in 46 departéments in the south of the country on Sunday.
The rest of the country will soon follow with the opening of France's hunting season staggered (see map below from France's National Federation of Hunters).
Hunting is the third most popular past time in France and is practised by around 1.2 million people.
Nevertheless the numbers of participants have been falling year on year for the last 30 years but under pressure from hunting associations the French government has moved this year to try to stem the drop in popularity and open up the activity to young people.
Responding to a campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron, the government cut the price of a hunting permit by half, meaning this season a licence costs €200 rather than €400.
The move proved highly unpopular among animal rights and anti-hunting groups as well as to France's former Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot who resigned shortly after the move was announced.
Each year the hunting season in France is marked by fatal accidents which prompt calls for the pastime to be banned. Critics say hunters do not follow the strict regulations which results in accidents.
A local authority in one Alps town called a halt to the hunt this weekend accusing the hunting association of “serious dysfunctions”.
There have been over 350 deaths due to hunting accidents since 2001. This is an average of about 20 deaths per year, though this figure has started to decrease. Most of the victims are hunters, though there have been many tragic cases of innocent bystanders finding themselves in the line of fire.
The government has passed new laws in a bid to avoid tragic accidents which include forcing hunters to go on safety training courses every ten years.
Last year The Local reported how a British mountain biker was shot dead by a hunter in the Alps prompting his family and the local community to demand a change in the law.
But Marc Giraud from France's anti-hunting, pro-wildlife association ASPAS told The Local at the time that the hopes of bringing about change were slim in France, especially with the current government which he considers pro-hunting.
“The hunting lobby is in charge in France and the government offers us no protection so deaths like this will continue to occur,” said Giraud.
Farmers and enthusiasts argue that hunting it is an important social pursuit that helps boost rural areas as well as controlling the population of animals such as wild boar or deer.