Article - Coarse

The Diary of a Lake - Part Thirteen

By Mike, added on 13/11/2007

Stardate Captains Log; 11 November 2007

Chasse Interdit

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All three men had their guns cocked & all three were looking daggers at me. I was spoiling their sport. I was driving my Landrover along the narrow lane, ahead & to the right of me were the three shooters, to the left of me a scuttling grouse. They were just waiting to blast the grouse into a flurry of feathers, waiting for me to pass, no longer obstructing their shot.

In Blighty, shooting I feel is at least sporting i.e. the quarry has a chance of getting away or not been discovered at all, unless hunting dogs flush the birds out. Even then, the birds have a survival instinct. Here in France, I just don’t get it. Permit me to expand. I was taking a walk around the grounds with two visiting friends. Ahead of us we saw a grouse on the grass path. As we got closer, the grouse started to scuttle away from us, quite the normal thing for a grouse to do I’m thinking. Next however, it stopped, turned around & ran straight towards us. It didn’t stop until it was just a few yards away. Then it ran back away from us & into the undergrowth. The bird just behaved in a very confused manner indeed.

Here, the grouse are kept in very small enclosures, hand fed, then released into the wild the very day before the shooting season starts. So hunting in France is quite different. There is no need to get up early or wait until dusk, quietly stalking or waiting, hiding from your quarry. You get up late, walk about in two & threes, making plenty of noise shouting & laughing. If you can make sufficient noise, the grouse will hear you, then run towards you expecting their next free meal. Then they get blasted of course, usually at point blank range. The end result appears to be, that most of the grouse get blasted during the first weekend of the shooting season, then there are none left to shoot for the remainder of the season. Is this bizarre or is it me? Still, they have the rabbits to shoot. Only the ones with mexymytosis though. There are so few rabbits left because they have blasted all the rest. The surviving rabbit population are a very wise bunch, keeping their heads well down.

BANG…BANG. I was working on my garage when the two shots cracked off at very close range. It was a normal Sunday morning, the time you think twice about going for a stroll in the countryside. You have a high likelihood of coming home peppered with shot. These two shots sounded like they were fired on my land. I don’t have a problem with the hunters (chasseurs), but I have a very big problem when they are firing their guns where my children play hide & seek. I was furious at their ignorance or stupidity or both. I grabbed a four foot piece of 2” x 2” & stormed across the field towards the stock pool where I heard the shots. Don’t ask me what I was doing with the 2” x 2”, I just felt better carrying something, however feeble a weapon.

“IOY” I screamed as loud as I could, I didn’t need to try, it came naturally without too much effort. Like I said I was fuming. One shooter was stood next to the stock pool, his two buddies over the hedge, out of reach in the neighbouring field. I went wading into a full confrontation with the isolated hunter.

“NO SHOOTING HERE, MY CHILDREN PLAY HERE, MY SON WAS HERE EARLIER THIS MORNING, WHERE IS YOUR AUTHORISATION?”

The man would not face me. This made me even angrier.

“THIS IS THE LAST TIME”.

He still would not face me, he kept turning away. I could have yelled down his ear hole something like ‘you gutless ba…..’ but I was slowly regaining control of my badly lost temper. Until one of the invisible hunters behind the hedge started shouting back.

“You English, you come here & want to stop us hunting. You are all crazy”.

Correct, not correct & probably correct.

I yelled at the man to disappear, which he did so. I watched him go, then stomped back across the field, back to the garage. I went to pick up my hammer & resume work as if nothing had happened. I didn’t, I stood where I was standing over the tool box & noticed that my hands were shaking. I seriously needed to cool off. Those who know me, know I am not the aggressive type, I consider myself very mild mannered indeed, rarely losing my temper. Not today. The tonic for most of my ailments is a discussion with Sally, she usually straightens me out again. So I went down to the veggie patch where Sally was pottering about as she so often loves to do.

We weighed up the pro’s & con’s of the confrontation. We wanted to integrate into our local community & we did not want to make any enemies. However, I was not having a pot shot free-for-all around the grounds. We decided not to do anything, but just to sleep on it until tomorrow. Well, things seemed to have turned out ok so far. Edvige, the local rabbit farmers wife has pledged her support, she commented that there are a few ‘stupid’ hunters about. My immediate neighbours have also voiced support too. I have received this support as more of a relief than anything, hence my comments about not wanting to make enemies. Word has clearly got amongst the shooting circle though, we were given an initial cold response by a different group of shooters we bumped into while out walking. I could almost feel it ‘ey up, its those anti-hunting English’. I would like to think a friendly exchange about their mornings shoot dispelled any ill-feeling, it certainly felt like it.

There is one last thing I need to do though, go & have a face to face with the president of the local shooting society. Sally has got me a name & an address, so a door knocking here we a go. It appears now, that there is perhaps just one group of wildcat hunters, looking ever more likely the ones I encountered. To name names I think is unnecessary at this stage. I would prefer to state my case to the shooting society, stating I will not be granting any authorisations for hunting at La Morinais. Everyone else up to now has respected that. I’ll keep you posted!

It was a miserable day in London, but I had an appointment. I told John I would be there, so I would be there, its that simple. Its OK to occasionally let yourself down, but never anyone else, however trivial the planned encounter. Hmm…the things we learn from those we respect.

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I owed John money, £25 to be precise, for a centre pin which he’d been looking out for me. Blast…I only had twenty minutes, before I needed to head for a train out of Liverpool Street. The London disease; always rushing around. No time to browse the lovely stalls in the Lamb Street market. About twenty stalls along & here he is; John Andrews – Antique Tackle Dealer, he calls himself. To me, he is one of the most factual writers about our angling heritage. A researcher with boundless energy. OK, now I have ‘sweetened him up’ a little, next I need to offer him a proper pint of real ale & I think we may just have an interview for our PP.

Well, I asked him & he’s up for it! Eyes awide soon.

Another footnote; mainly I think for the policeman who stopped me in Hemel Hempstead last time I was over in Blighty with my Landrover (French insurance, French MOT, English plate with no UK road tax – not good mix). Last Friday, I finally received my Carte de Grise (French V5 equivalent). When I got home, Sally told me she had a surprise for me. Thoughts of Ann Summers I admit did pass through my head, but she presented me with a sparkling new set of French number plates. Yoohoo, nine months of baffling paperwork & 500 euros later & Sally finally bettered the French administration.

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