A gendarmerie investigation is underway in northwest France after a bullet typically used for hunting boar entered the window of a countryside kitchen where a couple was sitting with their baby and child.
Hunters say it was due to a “stray ricochet bullet”.
The family, who live in Divatte-sur-Loire near Nantes (Loire-Atlantique), were terrified on November 13, when a bullet pierced their double-glazed window at around 11:30. It just missed the father, who was sitting with the couple’s 11-month-old baby, before becoming lodged under a radiator.
The mother, 29, had been reading a story to the couple’s daughter, and the father was sitting down drinking coffee, holding their younger baby. The mother said: “[He] heard the noise to this right, and dived to the left. The bullet passed by less than a metre away from him.”
After finding the 12-calibre bullet lodged in their wall, and discovering a group of hunters 250 metres away from the house, the couple made a formal complaint and an inquiry was launched.
The couple said that in five years of living in the home in the rural setting, they had never had any problem with hunters but that it was important that the facts be ascertained.
Hunting association La Fédération départementale des chasseurs de Loire-Atlantique has admitted that the incident proves that more needs to be done to improve hunting safety.
The family is being treated to evaluate any psychological consequences of the accident.
‘No rules were broken’
Denis Dabo, director of the federation, told France 3: “Our thoughts are with the family who went through this moment of fear and emotion.”
However, he said that “no rules were broken” as the bullet was “not shot in the direction of the house”, but “ricocheted off a nearby building”.
In France, it is legal to hunt near homes and buildings. However, shooting in the direction of ‘protected zones’ (including roads, houses, and public areas) is banned.
Mr Dabo said: “We must try to understand how the bullet was able to change direction.”
Representatives of the federation have not met with the family.
The federation director said that he recognised that Loire-Atlantique is a very built-up department, and that more needs to be done to make hunting parties safer.
He suggested that replacing long-range ‘normal’ bullets with ‘buckshot’ could be one solution, as the latter has a shorter range of around 300 metres. This is in contrast to regular bullets, which can travel up to 1,500 metres.
Mr Dabo said: “We must do everything we can to minimise accidents, and go towards zero-risk.”
In Landes in August, a prefectural decree was issued that allowed buckshot to be used “in an experimental way, for collective boar hunting”. Mr Dabo said that the initial trial appears to have been positive, especially as buckshot requires fewer shots to be made.
He said: “We have asked the prefecture to authorise the use of buckshot.” He added that he regretted that this authorisation had not yet come through, and said that the prefecture was yet to reply on the issue.
Buckshot ricochets, and suggested hunting rules
However, discussions on the safety of hunting in the Senate have warned that although it does not travel as far as regular bullets, buckshot has a tendency to ricochet more.
A safety commission said that some ways to avoid this would be to require hunters to shoot towards the ground, and only within the existing 30-degree angle rule.
The 30-degree angle rule states that hunters cannot shoot more than 30 degrees in either direction from straight ahead of where they are looking, or 30 degrees either side of a ‘danger point’.
Daniel Salmon, a senator from Europe Ecologie Les Verts, and member of the safety commission, said: “When you have a danger point, such as a house, you have an angle of 30 degrees on each site where you can’t shoot.”
The commission also suggested the possibility of putting a security perimeter up to 150m around protected zones, but the idea has so far been dismissed as too constrictive. One source said: “If we had to do that around roads, houses, and paths, it would amount to a form of a ban on hunting.”
Hunting accidents and rules
The incident is the latest in a series of hunting accidents in France in recent months. Each time a high-profile case hits headlines, it sparks renewed debate over safety measures.
A YouGov poll for the HuffPost found that the majority of people in France are in favour of stricter measures around hunting.
In recent months, the government has discussed a series of possible new rules, including making it illegal to drink while hunting, and suggesting a half-day ban on the practice per week.