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Hunting in France is, at least in rural parts, an institution. It has apparently not shown a decline in numbers in recent decades (although a lot of the hunters appear rather elderly...). Hunters in France come from all social backgrounds, which probably in part explains the lack of hostility to hunting that is seen in those countries where it is largely the gentry who control the hunting.
Hunting is to be distinguished from 'pest control'. Control of foxes, ragondin or pigeons for example, usually falls to local specialists rather than the main hunters. Hunters are usually looking for deer, hares, rabbits and wild boar, and game birds such as partridge or pheasant.
In France hunters almost always hunt with dogs, but usually on foot - less commonly on horseback. The dogs may be owned by the individual owners or by the hunt as a whole. The dogs belong to specific breeds of hunt dog.
Most hunters in France belong to a specific type of 'pack of hunters' - to hunt hares, or rabbits, or deer for example.
Some hunted animals in France, especially deer, have controls - that is, there is a limit put on the number that may be killed in each region each year.
It is claimed that hunting in France is indispensable. Without it, the populations of deer, wild boar etc would grow too rapidly and cause material damage and cost to both farmers and foresters. It is also the case that the cull required to control populations of these animals is never met by the hunters.
There is, nonetheless, some opposition to hunting in France, largely from womens groups and Green groups, and based on the brutality of hunting with hounds, and the over-control of the countryside that the hunters enforce. This opposition has not developed into active disruption of hunts.
Several people each year in France are killed accidentally by hunters - frequently but not exclusively those killed are other hunters. Nonetheless the countryside of rural France can be a lively place on a Sunday in winter, and care should be taken if walking in woodland. Bright clothing is recommended.
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