I was out for a run one crisp fall morning when a loud crack pierced the air. I felt the hair stand up on my arms and immediately picked up the pace. Hunting season.
Say what you like about Americans and their far-west approach to gun control: while in the U.S. I have never actually seen anybody sporting a gun in public. In France, on the other hand, I regularly meet men with guns.
Each year in early September, you’ll see them strolling casually through the fields, by the edge of the woods or even along the road, not far from the neighbouring houses. Rifle slung over shoulder, sporting an orange day-glo vest or traditional camouflage gear. Most times they’re accompanied by a trusty hound or two, which somehow restores my confidence. Surely if they’re hunting with a dog, they’ll be careful where they aim?
As a woman alone on a country road, to encounter a man with a firearm is to know what it is to feel fear. Assuming he is not a rapist or a serial killer disguised as a hunter, just the idea of being so close to someone with the visible means to kill you is terrifying. “Bonjour,” I’ll say, pretending to act normal while preparing to do the 100-yard dash.
Then there is the risk of ‘la balle perdue’ – the stray bullet. Every year in the news you will hear of an accidental death, usually among a hunting party that has lost one of its own. Such accidents are generally put down to the inexperience of a neophyte hunter, or to alcohol. They do not seem to alarm anyone but me.
Serious outdoorsmen will defend the hunter as a nature lover, one who is respectful of the laws and understands the importance of not combining alcohol with la chasse. Still, most every village in France has a watering hole called ‘Bar aux Chasseurs’. The men (and indeed, the clientele in such places is almost uniquely masculine) are in there on Sunday mornings with their verre de blanc while most of us are still having our first coffee.
La chasse is dear to the hearts of the French. It’s part of a longstanding tradition of being close to the land, hunting and eating le gibier (game) when the season opens from September to January.
Far be it from me to argue with that, though a-hunting I will not go. I just run a little faster in hunting season. Along with the pheasants and hares and other small and large game. Unlike them, I can stick to the main roads to stay out of harm’s way.
Oddly, another place you often see men with guns is on trains, especially in Switzerland*. Soldiers in full army regalia will pass through the cars looking for a seat, service rifle in plain sight. Sometimes they’re very young and holding a large can of beer. This also makes me want to scream and jump off. Usually I discreetly change cars.
*It’s ironic that the peace-loving Swiss have a proportionately bigger army for their population than any other country and recently voted to maintain conscription – obligatory military service for adult men. Read more about the vote here.
Same around here. I think I’m the only unarmed guy in the vicinity. Hunting’s not my thing as I have a thing about not killing creatures, or people. I have to say that les chasseurs may have guns galore, but we don’t get a lot of Columbine here:)
Good point, that. Given the number of hunting weapons in circulation, there seems to be relatively little abuse. And I agree with you about not killing creatures although I struggle with that given my meat-eating habits. Still, hunting is probably more humane than industrial agriculture. Thanks for the comment!
“Still, hunting is probably more humane than industrial agriculture…”
I am pretty sure that is true, and thank you for saying so (no sarcasm intended!).
I have not idea about how it is in France, but in the U.S. people who buy guns and hunt have paid considerable taxes that go to fund conservation so that people who don’t care to hunt have a lot of animals in the woods to look at.
I guess you are one of those people who like to have other people kill your food, but look down your long, haughty French nose at those who kill their own? Oh, did I make a mistake and you are a vegetarian? I forgot to buy that French cookbook. 🙂
I’m no vegetarian but to be fair, I do struggle with the issue. Some part of me believes that if you eat meat, you should have the courage to kill it yourself. Thanks for sharing your point of view!
lwk, Insults? Really? The owner of this blog is not French. She lives in France. And, she does not have a long, haughty nose. Look at her photo. Lastly, nothing I read in this post construes a position on gun control one way or the other. Just sayin’. Oh, and, for the record, I’m a markswoman and very much appreciate guns (in case you feel the need to insult me for commenting here).
“lwk, Insults? Really”
I didn’t get the impression that she took what I said as an insult. I could be wrong, but sarcasm and humor often don’t come off well on the Net. I thought she replied with good grace and a pretty open attitude.
“… nothing I read in this post construes a position on gun control …”
I wasn’t aware that I said anything whatsoever about gun control? Unless I am suffering more confusion in my old age than I thought. I thought it was about guns, hunting, and eating animals.
“I’m a markswoman…”
Good, then we have something in common. When my eyes were still good enough I liked to shoot High Power rifle competition (service rifles with iron sights at targets from 200 to 600 yards). Even still, and with my current eyesight, I easily passed the marksmanship test to get a concealed carry license in Texas. At pistol fighting range I can still do pretty good. 🙂
“and very much appreciate guns”
Also good. It is refreshing to hear that. I see more and more women at the range these days than decades ago. And more women getting concealed carry licenses. And of course there are some women who are damn good at pegging the X-ring at 600 yards too! Target shooting is a sport that doesn’t favor enormous biceps. 🙂
lwk, Good answers. Thanks for the discussion. You are right, my ex-pat friend here has nothing but the highest tact, kindness, and reserve. I, on the other hand, have a strong sense of justice and have no problem calling people out on their behaviors. I’m feisty and will loyally defend my friends or loved-ones when warranted. So, again, thanks for the discussion. I’m just all about keeping it real and balanced. And, for the record, I have heavily muscled biceps and a killer grip. My favorite thing to do is slap around my 800+ pound Harley. I’m not your average woman by any stretch. Just ask my hubby of 19 years. 😉 Anyway, I love that you shoot. Right on. I also visited your blog, which is very interesting. When these idiot leaders in America try to take away all of our liberties, I’ll know where to go. 🙂
This is so interesting and such a great post, mon ami. I did not know that the French were prone to carrying guns and hunting like the British. As a child from a military and law enforcement background and following that path for a short time in my youth, I’m no longer shocked by weaponry and am quite skilled with handguns. But, that being said, when I first moved to AZ, it was so, so shocking to see both men and women openly carrying handguns. The law here is that you can be armed so long as the gun is in plain sight. You cannot conceal a gun. So, you’ll be in a restaurant and see handguns on people’s waists all over the room. It’s very shocking. It is quite renegade here in AZ. Some restaurants here disallow guns and display signs that ask patrons to leave their weapons in their vehicles, unless you are law enforcement, of course. But, still, it’s quite strange for me and feels a little like the Old West here. 🙂
Wow, Lizzy, that’s also a real surprise to me. I lived in the midwest (Minnesota) in my teens but there was absolutely no gun culture like that. In fact, I’ve probably never even held a gun other than once on a shooting range. The amazing thing with the US is the diversity of experience from coast to coast. In France, hunting is a more popular (in the French sense of the word) tradition than our image of the British hunt. Typical of the middle classes and what they call ‘la France profonde’. I am not sure how I’d hold up in your parts with so much visible weaponry!
” I am not sure how I’d hold up in your parts with so much visible weaponry!”
I am pretty comfortable around people with guns. One thing I am pretty sure of is that I won’t get robbed or assaulted with a lot of regular folks around with guns. Love this youtube video:
Gunny & Glock – Wrong Diner – Extended Version
Iwk, we may not share all the same views, but I must agree that is a very funny video! Thanks for sharing.