dimanche 2 novembre 2008

La chasse

My first hunt in France today. A rendezvous at 8.00 at the hunting lodge in Castet d'Aleu to enroll and meet about half of the chassers. A boar and a roe deer were hanging from yesterdays' hunt and after skinning were moved to the cold store. The weather was atrocious - rain then sleet and snow even at Castet 400m lower than Quélébu. We all stayed around the fire chatting as the weather was too bad to venture out. Hunting of wild boar, roe deer and hare is always done as a team here. No stalking. But for my first season it's good to see how it's done here, meet more local people and discover parts of the commune off the beaten track. The season for hunting Isard (chamois) in the high mountains is all but over, so that will have to wait for next year. Many people have commented that with the life I live here and now with me joining 'la chasse' that I have become more french than the French. As if to underline the point when I enrolled I was presented with a beret. An orange one (wearing something orange when hunting is obligatory for safety). In fact the beret is the traditional hat of the south west of france (Gascony) not all of france as is portrayed in the UK. Here it is worn pulled to the front and equal on both sides, not pulled to one side as in the UK and other parts of France.

After an early lunch (11.30) the general mood was to get out and do something and the rain seemed to be easing.

The plan was to hunt on the north side of Joubac a hill of about 1000m altitude. We drove upto the airstrip on top of the hill and were briefly above some of the weather. Four of us were posted on the narrow ridge which drops very steeply at the extreme western end from point 977m. The going was wet and slippery over rocks, through broom, heather and dead bracken. I forgot my camera and gloves. The dogs which flush out the game, I think didn't come close enough to us (there was much debate afterwards) but we saw and heard nothing. At the eastern end someone took a shot at a sanglier and another killed a fox (good news for my chickens). The rain mostly held off but it was 'fresh'. Occasionally the clouds would clear revealing amazing views to the l'Arac ravin far below. After 2-3 hours the chasse was over and two of us descended the steep wooded hillside to the river where we were picked up for a brief reunion at the lodge.

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