One of the things about living in the Cévennes is one has to come to terms with waking up to the sound of hunters and their dogs on the surrounding hillsides, in pursuit of sangliers (wild boars). Even French who don’t like hunting hesitate to say so, and there is no way that foreigners should be unwise enough to express their opinion.
The hunting season starts shortly after the summer visitors leave. There is clearly a whole mystique about hunting customs: I find the distinctive yells of the hunters almost as unnerving as the excited baying of their dogs. And then, like this morning, a sudden silence before loud bangs, and you try not to think about the poor beast that has been cornered.
I don’t think that the hunting community is very big, but they are influential: the mayor, at least one of his deputies and other councillors are all hunters, for example. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I had to step aside while a truck driven by Jean-Luc, a very pleasant deputy maire, edged past me on the back track to Serres. As it passed, I saw two huge dead sangliers at the back of his truck. their heads bouncing incongruously as Jean-Luc road over the bumps.
The same thing happened this morning (although this time I did not recognise the hunter), this time a single sanglier, with a troop of hunting dogs peering out from the truck.
One of the hunters in our commune, Eric, has several properties further up the valley, and I suspect that part of the post-hunt ritual is to get together at one of his remote properties for a lunch, and tp cut up the sangliers. I noticed that this morning a butcher’s van passed shortly after the hunter’s truck, so maybe they called in a professional to carve it up – or maybe the butcher has a deal to sell the sanglier.
Of course if you live here it is hard not to have mixed feelings about hunting, as the sangliers are increasing in numbers and doing a huge amount of damage. For several years now I have had to enclose part of my land with an electric fence to avoid damage to my 30 olive trees – not to mention not fancying sharing the bassin with the sangliers. There are strict laws governing when and where hunting may occur. The main days for hunting are Saturday and Sunday, but apparently hunters have been given a carte blanche to hunt on Wednesdays too, to get the sanglier population down.