It’s impossible to talk about hunting in France without mentioning driven hunts. They have a long tradition and remain enduringly popular with French hunters for several reasons. This type of hunting is absolutely inclusive, attracting enthusiasts from all social classes, from senior managers to laborers. It unites all levels of society in a shared passion for hunting. A driven hunt is a sociable experience. The day usually starts with the hunt and in most cases ends over a good meal with friends. This is an opportunity to relive and share impressions from the day, make memories, and plan the next driven hunt.
The procedure for the traditional big game driven hunt is as follows: the beaters and their dogs flush out deer, wild boar, and other game and drive them toward the shooters, who are usually strategically positioned in rows along the animals’ escape routes. An average of 20 to 40 people take part. “Supersize” hunts covering very large areas and involving over 100 participants also take place, but these are very rare. Everything is organized very strictly to ensure each shooter remains in his or her assigned shooting lane. The shooters’ locations and the direction of the hunt are strategically selected to ensure maximum safety and make sure everything runs smoothly. Good knowledge of the area is needed for this.
The same passion drives hunters to take part in driven hunts all over France. The pleasure of hearing the dogs flushing, time spent in nature with friends, and unforgettable moments.
In the southern half of France, hunting with unleashed dogs is particularly popular. This experience makes a lasting impression on anyone who takes part. It is a very animated form of hunting as lots of dogs, at times 40 to 50, drive the game to the lookouts. Hunts can cover an area of several kilometers as the territories are generally thousands of hectares.
Driven hunts are a popular activity in the northern half of France (above the Loire Valley) too. The areas here are smaller: from a few dozen to several hundred hectares per territory. Dogs are usually used in the north. They flush out game, drive it toward the shooters, and then quickly run back to the handlers. Territories are generally surrounded by nearby towns and villages, which makes it important to use dogs that cover just short search distances.
The Grand Est region is strongly influenced by German-speaking countries. Game is promoted by the local businesses and restaurants, which bring out the very best in this tasty, healthy meat!
In recent years, developments in stalking and hide hunting have also been influencing driven hunts in northern France. Toward the end of the season, when the animals are more wary, the territory is clearer, and just a few animals are left on the hunting quota, relaxed driven hunts increasingly take place in these forests. A few isolated hunters are positioned at strategic locations to provide a very large firing range (almost 360 degrees). Just a few beaters with no dogs or with very small flushing dogs make their way through the territory without making too much noise so that the game moves slowly toward the escape routes. Highly satisfactory results can therefore be achieved at the end of the hunting season.
Every second of the hunting day, the top priority must always be the safety of the hunter. If we consider the number of hunting days and the number of bullets fired each season (more than 10 million shots some seasons), driven hunts are comparatively safe. Strict rules and safety procedures include the setting up of driven hunt stands, adherence to the prescribed 30° safety angle, spacing of shooting lanes, etc. These rules provide safety to allow each driven hunt to take place in the best possible conditions for all participants as well as allowing others, for instance, people in search of relaxation, to enjoy state and public forests in peace.
Many animals are shot on driven hunts. This is the only way the quotas specified by hunting societies or authorities can be met. However, it is important to ensure that harvesting considers age distribution within the wildlife population. The aim is to maintain a balanced age pyramid by harvesting mainly young animals and preserving other age groups. The recommendation for roe deer, for example, is a hunting quota of 1/3 yearlings and deer under two years of age, 1/3 does, and 1/3 bucks to ensure the stability of the population structure. The wild boar problem has looked slightly different in recent years due to the increasingly dynamic population. Consequently, more adult animals need to be harvested to deplete numbers and balance the interests of agriculture, forestry, and hunting.