The hunting debate has been stirred up again by another accident last weekend when a member of a hunting party hit a passing car with a bullet.
The vehicle was driving down a road bordering the area the hunt was passing through, in the heart of the northern French hunting country.
The incident happened late on Saturday afternoon near the village of Warluis, in Oise. The car, which was full of passengers, was hit by a round from the hunter’s rifle as it drove along a French A road, the route nationale 1001, which goes through deer and boar hunting terrain.
The shot did not pass through the car and no-one was injured but an investigation “for endangering the life of others” has been opened by the public prosecutor of Beauvais, Caroline Tharot, who said it appeared to have been a “mistake involving a shot fired in the wrong direction.”
‘Being shot at whilst out in your car is unacceptable’
The mayor of Warluis, Dominique Moret, commented: “Hunters should know that you never shoot in the direction of a road,” before denouncing "the general rudeness” of many hunters.
Marc Morgan, the director of the Oise hunters' federation, said: "If it turns out to be an error committed because they were not respecting the rules, then we will be uncompromising. Being shot at whilst out in your car is unacceptable.”
This was the second hunting accident last weekend in the Oise department. On Sunday, December 4, a hunter was seriously injured after being hit in the stomach by a gunshot during a boar hunt in Boissy-Fresnoy.
In mid-November a hunter in south-east France died after being shot by another hunter. The accident happened in Monieux in the Vaucluse area of Provence when a 56-year-old man was hit in the back when another hunter was reportedly taking a shot at a deer.
This was the third serious hunting accident in Vaucluse since the opening of the hunting season in September, when a man was fatally shot in the shoulder. Then in October a hunter was severely injured in the knee after accidentally shooting himself in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
The accidents come after a series of other serious, often fatal, accidents involving hunting over the past few months have prompted the government to consider a series of measures to improve safety.
On September 11 – the first day of the hunting season – an Alpine hiker in Isère was wounded in the thigh by two pellets. Three days later, in the Loir-et-Cher, a dog was shot dead in front of its owner before she herself was wounded by a subsequent fusillade of pellets.
Since then incidents have happened almost daily. On September 18, a father and his daughter were injured by a hunter's shot on a hiking trail in the Basque country.
The 30-year-old woman was hit by no fewer than 19 pellets. On September 25, in Lacoste in the Vaucluse, a seasoned hunter was shot during a wild boar hunt. On October 1, a 13-year-old teenager was taken to hospital after being shot by a hunter in the Pas-de-Calais.
On October 9, another story made the headlines in France when a hunter wounded a woman and her two children, aged seven and 10. He said he was "dazzled by the sun". The three victims, who were walking in the vineyards near Pommier in the Rhône, were hit in the legs.
On the same day, a mushroom picker almost died after being shot in the abdomen in the Drôme area.
The man with the gun was the president of a local hunting association. Three days later, in Deux-Sèvres, a 17 year old was shot with a 22 rifle. The bullet passed through his body and hit the lungs. However the departmental hunters' federation insisted that it does not organise any hunting in the area where the victim was wounded.
On October 16, in Haute-Savoie, a hunter's bullet went through the wall of a hut where a child and his father were sitting side by side. It ricocheted past them.
Read more: Hunting in France: Reaction as bullet enters young family’s kitchen
On the same day in Côtes-d'Armor, a hunter shot his girlfriend during a wild boar hunt.
In Amiens, on October 18, the children of a school had to be sheltered from the shots of hunters who caused panic in the school yard. No one was injured in the incident.
The following week a cyclist was shot in the temple in Châteaubourg (Ille-et-Vilaine).
Many have also lost their pets: dogs, cats, and even donkeys.
Hunting under debate
In a visit to Marne last month, Ecology Minister Bérangère Couillard announced changes based on a report from the Senate, submitted this year on September 14.
The whole debate was prompted after a petition launched by friends of a man shot dead by a stray bullet gathered 100,000 signatures.
Read more: Six months’ jail demand for French hunter who shot man dead in garden
The bill proposed to “ban alcohol and drugs during a hunt”, as part of its report on making hunting safer in France, and to make the rules on alcohol consumption when hunting the same as those for driving.
However the Office français de la biodiversité (OFB), which collates statistics, said the overall trend showed a slight decrease in accidents over the last 20 years, despite a slight increase this year.
Over the period 2021-2022, the OFB has counted a total of 90 hunting accidents (physical injuries related to the use of a hunting weapon), eight of which were fatal. Of these, two involved non-hunting victims.
‘Hunting in France has changed over the years – not for the better’
Hunter, 56, dies after being shot by fellow hunter in southeast France