A 67-year-old man was rushed to hospital in a critical state on Saturday afternoon (October 30) after being hit by a hunter’s ricocheting bullet while driving on a dual carriageway 15 kilometres south of Rennes.
The bullet was fired by a hunter aiming at a deer in wooded countryside and fields alongside the RN137.
However, it ricocheted off a stone causing it to change trajectory “by 90 degrees, crossing over the hedges [alongside the road] before hitting the poor driver,” Willy Schraen, president of national hunting group la Fédération nationale de la chasse, told Le Figaro.
A passenger in the car, who was “shocked but uninjured”, managed to steer the vehicle to the roadside and park before contacting the emergency services, Ouest-France reported.
The victim remains in critical condition in hospital.
The 55-year-old hunter who fired the shot has been taken into police custody. The deputy procurer in Rennes has opened an inquiry for “involuntary injury”.
Second serious injury in 48 hours
This came following another hunting accident in Haute-Savoie on Thursday October 28, during which a 29-year-old man was shot in the chest while walking on a hiking path with his mother near a hunt.
His injuries are not thought to be life threatening, but the two incidents have reignited debate over whether hunting should be banned at weekends and school holidays.
Presidential candidate for Europe Ecologie Les Verts (green), Yannick Jadot, told BFMTV: “These tragic events show how much we need to restrict hunting.
“We need to prioritise access to nature for everyone: walkers, plant enthusiasts, joggers and hunters…We should no longer be afraid to go outside because we can hear gunshots.”
However, Mr Schraen said banning hunting at the weekend and on holidays would be equivalent to banning it altogether.
He said: “Out of more than 60 million hunts annually, the French office for biodiversity has only reported 141 accidents. That is still too many, but we have succeeded in making the figure four times smaller than it was 20 years ago.”
Debate over banning hunts on private land
Mr Schraen also raised the issue of enforcing laws around hunting on private lands, which he said host 85% of hunts in France. “Since when do we have to submit to a diktat from the greens on private land?” he asked.
However, author of anti-hunting book Pas de fusils dans la nature (no guns in nature), Pierre Rigaux, told BFMTV that this argument did not address the problem.
“Everyone in rural areas knows that when you walk in the countryside you don’t need to go on to private land to be in danger due to hunting.
“Obviously bullets can go very far and travel beyond the boundary of private land.”
This was the case in 2020, when 25-year-old Morgan Keane was shot dead by a stray bullet fired by a hunter, while chopping wood in his own garden in Calvignac, Lot.
A collective formed in his memory, Un jour un chasseur, has since launched an online petition calling for a parliamentary discussion on tighter controls for when hunts can take place.
250-person hunt in Alsace
Last weekend (October 30-31) hunters asked walkers to avoid a zone in Munster, Alsace, where a 250-person wild boar hunt was taking place.
Despite it being held over the weekend and during the school holidays, the prefecture allowed the hunt to go ahead as long as hunters wore high-visibility jackets and warning signs were placed in and around the hunting zone.
There is a large wild boar population in the area, which is known to cause damage to farming land and private properties. The hunt aimed to kill 100 animals over the weekend.
One hunter taking part in the event told FranceInfo: “The weather isn’t good for walkers today but there will be some, I’m sure. We have to pay attention before firing to make sure there is no one [nearby].”