Sunday, October 29, 2006

Shoot to Kill

While many Americans may be under the impression that the French are entirely anti-gun, this is not universally true. “Hunting” is very popular in this part of the country. I use quotations because here because hunting in southern France is probably not what you expect. It’s certainly not what you see on ESPN’s Saturday morning hunting shows. It doesn’t involve traveling to remote locations, long hikes, or intelligence. You do not have to be smarter than your prey – you must only have enough dogs and guns to scare it into flight and hope that one of the 15 shots fired wounds the bird enough to drop it to the ground so the dogs can retrieve it.

Sunrise with fog

Our morning began early Saturday, before the sun rose, as we drove into a nearby vineyard. Almost all the vineyards are open to grouse hunting for anyone interested. In France, pump-action shotguns are illegal - you must have a semi-automatic, and a permit. I had neither. Initially, this was not a problem. For the first three hours of the day, we succeeded in getting nothing more than wet as we walked up and down rows of vines through the dense fog and heavy dew. At one point, Sylvain fired three shots, but hit nothing.


After making it back to the vehicles, we had breakfast. This consisted of two bottles of wine, bread, meat and cheese, for three people. This was the last time for the next 14 hours that I wasn’t somewhat influenced by alcohol. After eating, we drove about 5 minutes to another area Cedric and Sylvain thought might be good for hunting. At this point, Cedric did shoot some type of water bird, and after the dogs retrieved it from the stream, I asked if it was good to eat. His response: “It’s not horrible.”

More "hunting."

By now it was about 11:30, and we (read: they) decided it was time to rally the whole crew for drinks at Cedric’s house. For two hours, eight of us sat around and drank heavily. I made a point not to finish my drinks quickly, because the French feel obligated to give refills, and they have an assumption that all Americans like whiskey. Now, I’m as big a fan of whiskey as the next guy, but that’s still pretty early in the day for multiples considering we still had a lot more “hunting” ahead of us.

"Hunters" making sure that no live animals run to the trucks.

Next, we drove to a restaurant for dinner. This was another two hours of drinking, mixed with some eating. The food was great. They ordered me more whiskey before the meal, and we drank four liters of wine. Of course, the only things to do now were get more dogs and more guns and try to shoot more stuff.

We drove to an old estate not far from town and parked the 5 vehicles behind a building. The guys prepared their vests with a lot of ammo, gave me a gun, and released the hounds. We “hunted” ‘till dark, and this time had more success. The combination of eight men and at least as many dogs made it more difficult for animals to escape the vineyards. A couple guys shot rabbits, a couple more shot small birds. I got a bunch of mosquito bites, and nearly deported.

The game warden threatening to call more authorities.

It turns out the leader of our crew had taken us to someone else’s private property and that someone else called the hunting authorities. Apparently, we didn’t have permission to hunt that land. We were all asked to produce gun licenses, as well as hunting permits. Uh, yeah, about that… I’m learning a lot of French, but I don’t know hunting lingo, and it was pretty obvious that I didn’t have a permit. Long story short, a bunch of drunken guys with loaded guns that I didn’t really know bullied the nerdy French authority into just giving us a verbal warning, and we moved on. All in all, I had a great time, and slept well with the knowledge that I dodged a couple of bullets that day.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Hey, fitzy! This is Bryan from Fort Collins, but now in Seattle. I continue to enjoy dropping in here and seeing what you are up to. It has recently transpired that my roommate and I have a friend in the airline industry. I think france is pretty cheap. I was wondering if visiting is a possibility? Maybe we can catch up more via email (whats ur address these days?) or something and throw this idea around more. Either way, I hope you are well and enjoying being far away. Peace brother...

PS - email: bryguy013-A T-comcast-D O T-net