A British woman has died after being shot by her partner during a boar hunt.
The 67-year-old was taking part in a hunt in Goudelin, in Brittany, on October 16 when her partner let his gun go off as a result of a handling error.
Official reports say his rifle was on his shoulder as he was heading for a field, with the barrel pointing backwards, when the bullet was fired and hit the woman in the chest.
Tests later showed he had consumed neither alcohol nor drugs.
The incident has reignited debate over whether there is sufficient protection for hunters and locals.
The Senate recently published a report with 30 proposals to make hunting safer, including banning alcohol during hunts.
It follows 120,000 people signing a petition calling for stricter regulations.
Hunter and retired doctor Martin Porter, however, says that hunting regulations in France are already “far superior” to those in the UK.
To obtain the licence required in France, hunters must complete training and pass theory and practical exams.
The theory test evaluates knowledge of wildlife, weapon safety and hunting regulation. The practical exam involves several activities, including shooting clay pigeons. Those painted red, to represent protected species, and those travelling in the direction of human silhouettes, must be avoided.
No need for competency test in the UK
“There is no need for any test of competency or safety in order to go game shooting in the UK as long as you have a shotgun certificate,” said Mr Porter, who has hunted in both countries.
No exams or training courses are required to obtain the certificate. The 2021-22 hunting season in France saw 90 accidents leading to physical injuries, data from the French office for biodiversity show. Eight of these were fatal, including two victims who were not hunters.
In the last 20 years, 12% of all injuries happened to non-hunters.
The number of fatal accidents has been in slow decline since 2001-02, however, when 31 people were killed.
Myth that most hunters are drunk or careless
Mr Porter believes the idea that most hunters are either drunk or careless is a myth. “I’m sure it did happen in the past, but I think people are far more conscious now. They’ll have a drink afterwards, but I’ve not seen anyone the least bit intoxicated during the day.”
According to the Senate’s report, 9% of hunting accidents are alcohol-related.
One thing that does make accidents more likely in France, Mr Porter says, is the species involved in large game hunting.
“With deer shooting out on the Scottish hills, you are in isolation, 200 or 300 yards from the animal.”
In France, on the other hand, it is common to hunt wild boar. This means “eight to 10 people with guns within 50 yards of each other. It requires a much cooler head not to break the safety rules and shoot where you shouldn’t.” In its petition, the Un jour, un chasseur group called for hunting to be banned on Wednesdays and Sundays, but the measure does not appear among the Senate’s proposals
“A hunt-free day is not a bad idea, because some people tell me they’re afraid to go in the woods on certain days,” Mr Porter said.
“It is well signposted, and we all wear high-vis jackets. Accidents have happened, and that is terrible. “I’ve seen people cycle within 50 yards of me and I think they are either not looking at signs or are ignoring them.”
Hunting a way to meet locals
Mr Porter, 62, has been shooting in the UK for 25 years, and decided to join his local French hunt when he bought a second home in rural Dordogne three years ago. He said this has allowed him to get to know locals he would not otherwise have met.
“The local chasse puts on a meal once a year, and the whole village is invited,” he said. “I would encourage any Brits living abroad to get involved with a local hunt as one of the ways of integrating with a part of your village.”
On his first hunt of the year, the group shot two wild boar. “They were taken back to the hunt cabin and butchered and all participants received a portion. It was very much a team effort and the reward was spread throughout the team.
“I was able to give some of my spoils to our next-door neighbour, who gratefully received my offering of fresh wild boar and invited me in for a beer.” The former NHS doctor from Worcestershire further believes the image people have of hunters in the UK can lead to misconceptions.
“Hunting is not seen as an elitist activity in France. On the contrary, it is the activity of the working man.” He said it costs him around €300 per year in membership fees and insurance to hunt every Sunday in France. In the UK, “shooting with a modest syndicate will cost €350 to €450 for one day.
However, people will spend a lot more than that”. He has also noticed more young and female hunters in France, he said.