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HUNTING

‘We are treated like assassins’: Could hunters in France face alcohol ban?

Senior French politicians have heeded the call of a 120,000-signature petition and recommended banning alcohol during hunts.

'We are treated like assassins': Could hunters in France face alcohol ban?
(Photo: Guillaume Souvant / AFP)

Prohibiting “hunting while intoxicated or after narcotics” is one of 30 proposals “for greater security in hunting” put forward in the report published by senators as the new hunting season gets under way, and at the end of more than 100 hearings and months of investigations following the death in December 2020 of Morgan Keane in the Auvergne. He was shot while cutting wood in his garden.

It suggests “aligning the blood alcohol level, the prohibition of narcotics as well as their respective sanctions with the rules in force in terms of the highway code”. 

Currently, there is no limit on drinking before and during hunting, but alcohol is considered an aggravating factor in the event of prosecution after an accident.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about France’s hunting season

Hunting groups have reacted angrily to the proposed alcohol ban, claiming that 91 percent of alcohol screening tests following a hunting incident come back negative.

Local groups are raising awareness among their members. In Gard, hunting rules indicate that: “The practice of hunting is forbidden under the influence of narcotics or alcohol and to be in a state of inebriation.”

But Willy Schraen, president of the National Federation of Hunters, brushed aside the problem: “What right do you have to reserve [these rules] for hunters, a drunk guy on a bike is dangerous too.”

Antoine Herrmann, director of the federation of Rhône hunters, criticised what he classified as a ‘stigmatisation’ of hunters.

“We are being passed off as assassins,” Alain Messal, a hunter from Haute-Garonne, told BFMTV. “We are being caricatured on things that are unfounded – today, hunters are not alcoholics.”

Senator Patrick Chaize, one of the authors of the report, however, said that: “the situation must be clarified” because “alcohol is not prohibited when hunting”. 

“The objective is therefore to correct this situation,” and to allow routine blood alcohol checks on hunters which could be carried out by forestry officials.

The petition had also called for hunting to be banned across the country on Wednesdays and Sundays during the hunting season – but this was rejected in the senators’ report, saying that studies had not backed up petitioners’ claims that incidents involving people not taking part in hunts rose on those days.

“According to the latest report of the Institut national de veille sanitaire (INVS) from January 2020, hunting represents 4 percent of traumatic accidents related to sport, 10 times less than mountain sports,” the report said.

READ ALSO How to get through France’s hunting season ‘without being shot’

“On the road, collisions with wild animals cause more victims than hunting. 

“The share of alcohol-related accidents is also lower in hunting (nine percent) than on the road (13-28 percent depending on the circumstances). Nevertheless, each accident is one too many and hunting accidents have two specificities: the use of firearms and the fact that 12% of victims are non-hunters.”

READ ALSO ‘It’s like the Wild West’: Tales of life in rural France during the hunting season

In the 2021-22 hunting season, the Office français de biodiversité recorded a total of 90 hunting accidents in which people were injured as a result of a hunting weapon being discharged, including eight fatalities.

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HUNTING

Everything you need to know about France’s hunting season

Hunting, whether you are in favour or not, is hugely important in France with over five million people are registered to take part in the past time. Here's what you need to know about it.

Everything you need to know about France's hunting season

When does it start?

Hunting season has a staggered start in France, as the dates are chosen by local authorities. For most of the country, September is the starting month. 

In 2022, the first départements to launch the season were those of Grand Est – Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle – who began on August 23rd. In contrast, Manche, Indre, and Eure-et-Loire were listed as the final départements to open the season in 2022, beginning on September 25th.

Some départements have two different start-times within their locality – for Ariege the lowland zone started on September 11th, whereas the mountain (highland) zone started on September 18th. In Charente-Maritime, the whole of the département began on September 11th, except for Île d’Aix, who began a week later. Similarly, Deux-Sèvres launched their season on September 11th, but the town of Niort had to wait until September 25th. 

Outside of mainland France, the overseas territories begin hunting at different periods of time in the year. You can see the 2022 dates below:

  • Reunion: January 1
  • Guadeloupe and Saint Martin: July 30
  • Martinique: July 31
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon: September 3

France’s hunting association (Fédération nationale des chasseurs) has an interactive map on their website that allows you to put in your département number to see personalised information about when the season begins and ends in your area, as well as the contact information for the branch of your local hunting association.

When is it over?

The season in mainland France is mostly over by the end of February, though end dates are also staggered.

Here is the list of end-dates for 2022-2023 season:

  • January 8, 2023: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes.
  • January 15, 2023: Haute-Savoie.
  • January 29, 2023 : Savoie.
  • January 31, 2023: Lozère
  • February 1, 2023: Aveyron, Moselle, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin
  • February 8, 2023: South Corsica
  • February 28, 2023 : Ain, Aisne, Allier, Ardèche, Ardennes, Ariège, Aube, Aude, Bouches-du-Rhône, Calvados, Cantal, Charente, Charente-Maritime, Cher, Corrèze, Haute-Corse, Côte-d’Or, Côtes-d’Armor, Creuse, Dordogne, Doubs, Drôme, Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Finistère, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Hérault, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Isère, Jura, Landes, Loir-et-Cher, Loire, Haute-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Loiret, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Maine-et-Loire la Manche, la Marne, la Haute-Marne, la Mayenne, la Meurthe-et-Moselle, la Meuse, le Morbihan, la Nièvre, le Nord, l’Oise, l’Orne, le Pas-de-Calais, le Puy-de-Dôme, les Pyrénées-Atlantiques, les Hautes-Pyrénées, le Rhône, la Haute-Saône, la Saône-et-Loire, la Sarthe Seine-Maritime, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Deux-Sèvres, Somme, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Var, Vaucluse, Vendée, Vienne, Haute-Vienne, Vosges, Yonne, Territoire de Belfort, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne.
  • March 31, 2023: Ille-et-Vilaine.

What can I hunt in France?

As of 2020, there were 89 species authorised for hunting France, divided between land-based game, waterfowl and migratory birds.

You are not permitted to hunt whatever you wold like – the game allowed to be hunted in your area is decided by your local authorities, sometimes on the day-of. Certain localities might prevent the hunting of particular species during certain times for environmental or other reasons. Some animals may also be subject to controls (i.e. only a certain amount can be hunted per year). 

Typically, hunting for birds is allowed for a much shorter time than for big game. 

You will want to check with local authorities to see what is authorised to hunt before heading out.

Getting a hunting permit

You must have a permit to hunt in France (permis de chasser). In order to obtain one, you must pass both a theoretical and practical examination. These are held all year round and are organised by the National Hunting and Wildlife Agency (Office National de Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage).

To get a permit you must be at least 16 years old and you must produce a relevant medical certificate.

Here is the list of things that can prevent you from getting a permit:

  • Having lost the right to bear arms;
  • Having been convicted of a hunting offence and be in good standing for previous convictions;
  • Having been sentenced to more than 6 months in prison for rebellion or violence against agents of the public authority;
  • Having been banned from the country;
  • Having lost the right to keep or obtain a hunting license;
  • Being registered in the national automated file of persons prohibited from acquiring and holding weapons.

The permit valid for life, but it must be renewed every year at a departmental hunters’ federation.

If you hunt without a permit, you can be subject to a fine of up to €1,500. Additionally, if you hunt without your permit on your person, then you can also be fined by up to €38.

You must also have paid your licence fees (known as redevance cynégétique). These run from €223.64 for an annual pass to €17 for a three-day pass. 

Where can I hunt?

You can hunt on any public land, though legally some areas might be required to create a ‘communal hunting association’ (ACCA) on the territory before hunting is authorised there. This means that if you want to hunt on land that has a communal hunting association attached to it, you must become a member of that association. 

Hunting on private land is allowed if it is your own land or if the land has been rented out or entrusted to an ACCA. 

According to the 1964 Verdeille law, which is still in effect in several regions across France, a landowner who has a plot of at least 20 hectares (in a single block) must cede their land to the local ACCA during the hunting season. If the landowner refuses, they must demonstrate to local authorities how they will manage the growth of ‘problematic’ species, such as wild boar. 

It is forbidden to hunt:

  • within 150m of a dwelling or private home
  • on land that has a continuous fence that impedes the passage of game;
  • on the land of an ACCA if the association’s hunting right holders have expressed their disagreement;
    on private land of more than 20 hectares without the owner’s authorization;
  • on another person’s private property 
  • In protected areas, such as regional and national wildlife

If you hunt in a forbidden zone you can be subject to a class five fine (up to €3,750) and three months of imprisonment.

Other rules

There are several safety rules in place. For big game hunting that uses firearms, hunters must wear fluorescent clothing. Additionally, signs must be posted before the hunt begins on public roads in order to indicate to passersby the main entrances into designated hunting area. Finally, as of 2020, hunters were required to complete basic safety training every ten years.

Regulations regarding specific depend on the département –  they often concern four types of fluorescent accessories (harness, armband, cap, vest – or chasuble).

When a hunter encounters a non-hunter (hiker, mushroom forager, etc), they must immediately open and unload their weapon and hold their dogs.

Tips for hunting in France as a foreigner

In many rural parts of the country, hunting is seen as a crucial institution. 

You may notice that the majority of hunters in France take their dogs and are on foot – it is rather uncommon to hunt on horseback. However, the dogs are typically from specific hunting breeds and are well-trained for the activity. You will want to consider this before bringing your household pet along. 

If you are interested in getting to know a bit more about French hunting culture, you might want to visit the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris. It includes several taxidermy collections and explains “the relationship between man and animal,” as well as France’s past and present when it comes to hunting.

Hunting weapons in France

A “hunting weapon” by French legal standards is a long gun whose total length is greater than or equal to 80 centimeters and the length of the barrels greater than or equal to 45 or 60 centimeters depending on the mechanism.

Hunting weapons (semi-automatic repeating long guns, manual repeating firearms…) are weapons listed in category C.

Hunting via archery is also regulated via licence. 

How to stay safe, for non-hunters

There are smartphone apps that exist for non-hunters to download to their smartphones. One is called “Melchone” which was launched in 2018 and partnered with the National Forestry Office (ONF). 

Essentially, the application allows users to see whether a hunting party is nearby to the area they are walking, biking, or riding in. For hunters, the program offers a separate section where they can update their hunting area and schedule.

READ MORE: How to get through France’s hunting season ‘without being shot’

Hunting accidents in France

For the 2019-2020 season, the French office of biodiversity (OFB) counted a total of 136 hunting accidents and eleven fatalities for that year.

In a statement, the organsiation wrote that the general trend of hunting accidents, particularly fatal ones, is “down” in France. 

In total, more than 400 people have died in hunting-related incidents between 1999 and 2020.

The majority of the victims (90 percent) are hunters themselves. 

However, these values have been criticised by anti-hunting organisations, like the Group for a France without hunting (Rassemblement pour une France sans chasse) who stated that the figures do not include deaths that happened long after, as a result of injuries.

Over half of hunting incidents occur when hunting big game, and they are typically related to the improper handling of a weapon. 

What are opinions about hunting in France?

Hunting is a controversial topic in France. Several animal rights organisations are strongly opposed to the practice.

In 2021, a citizens’ petition – supported particularly by hikers who do not feel safe during the hunting season – was considered by the Senate in order to ban hunting on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the country. A poll by Le Journal du Dimanche found that 69 percent of French people were in favor of a ban on hunting during weekends and school vacations. 

READ MORE: La chasse: Why hunting is becoming an election issue in France

This subject became a controversy during the Presidential election – candidates like Yannick Jadot, from the Green Party, favoured a ban on hunting during weekends and vacations, so that other users could “walk in nature.” The leader of left-wing party, La France Insoumise, concurred. 

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