|The Independent Traveler's Newsletter PAGE THREE|
- Hunting Sanglier (Wild Boar) in the Var
by Andrew Buchanan
This article, slightly abridged, is reprinted with author's permission from the December 2011 issue of Anita Rieu-Sicart's VAR VILLAGE VOICE Magazine
The saison de chasse (hunting season) in the Var is now well underway, and the sound of various types of firearms being discharged is as seasonal as the smell of bonfires and the multicolored vine leaves.
Arriving in the Var a few years ago with almost every sort of firearm and hunting permit that is available in my home country, I thought that hunting would be fairly straightforward. I was wrong, of course! Together with the youngsters who were old enough to own a firearm, I had to start from scratch by completing a training course and pass both a theoretical and a practical examination in order to obtain my Permis de Chasser (hunting permit.)
theoretical examination is reasonably simple for someone who has a countryman's
knowledge of firearms and wildlife, however, it is necessary to learn new
things such as those species that are protected in France and those that
can be hunted, as there are some significant differences, even within the
European Union countries. The practical examination is mainly about
firearms handling and safety in the field. The handling of firearms
in a dangerous manner by the candidate or an incorrect answer to an important
safety question will result in automatic failure of the examination.
Having passed both examinations, agreeably with full marks, and with my new Permis de Chasser validated for shooting both large and small game (the Permis must be validated each year) I was accepted into the village Chasse (hunt). I have always enjoyed country pursuits, including shooting a wide variety of game, for as long as I can remember, but I had never hunted sangliers (wild pigs) so this was going to be a completely new experience.
The only large game animals that can be hunted by the village Chasse in central Var, are the sanglier and chevreuil (roe deer), and these are hunted by members of the Chasse formed into a battue (drive) being placed in a rough line at the extremity of the land that is being used for the hunt. The beaters and their dogs, positioned at the other end of the land, then move towards the line and drive the animals towards the hunters. Simple stuff! However, the sanglier, being quite an intelligent animal, usually escapes unscathed!
With so many newcomers now resident in the Var, the Sanglier & Litter village Chasse is one of the few institutions whose members are mostly true villagers and come from families who have hunted in the area for many generations. As the only foreigner ever to have joined the village Chasse, I may be regarded as a curiosity; however, the welcome could not have been warmer, and I consider it a rare privilege to hunt with such friendly and kind-hearted people. On joining the battue I was always placed in one of the better positions in the line, and I was usually given plenty of advice such as what had been shot from the same position before and the direction that the sangliers are likely to take. Slowly, I began to learn a new way of hunting while gaining a more detailed understanding of the area and its flora and fauna.
Country pursuits are, without doubt, very divisive. La chasse and its adherents are frequently condemned, particularly by foreigners who have never lived in the countryside before retiring to the Var. In France, prior to the French Revolution la chasse, was only practiced by the nobility and very wealthy members of society. Most people were excluded from hunting until Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité became a popular mantra. It is, therefore, understandable that many chasseurs believe that they have an absolute right to participate in la chasse as this was hard-won by their ancestors. Because of this background, it is not unknown for chasseurs to believe that by paying for their Permis de Chasser to be validated, they have 'leased' the countryside for the purpose of hunting, in whatever manner they wish and to the exclusion of all other countryside activities. Legally, of course, this is not the case and there are very strict regulations regarding the practice of la chasse and the possession of firearms. These regulations are properly observed by the vast majority of chasseurs who believe that the countryside should be shared by all. Nevertheless, hunting in France is a true cultural tradition and is deeply engrained in the psyche of many rural people. Even politicians know that it is best not to 'mess about' with la chasse!
of the most traditional winter meals in Provence is Daube de Sanglier,
a stew using the meat of the sanglier that has been marinated in red wine
before cooking. It's a real 'winter warmer' and frequently part of
a Christmas feast. The recipe is simple but first you have to catch
In France, the post-revolution perception of hunting as a 'right of the people' and doing so in order to provide food for the family, has been a contributory factor in the steady decline in the number of most game animals in the Var. For many years there was a plentiful supply of all species of game; however, today only the sanglier or sus scrofa to give him his posh Latin name, is increasing in numbers and in doing so causes so much damage, particularly to crops and farmland, that he is classified as a pest.
The sanglier is hunted for his dark red meat that has a 'gamey' taste, unlike the pork from a domestic pig that is found in a butcher's shop and supermarket shelves. The hunters gather at their meeting place very early in the morning as there is a lot to do before the hunt can start. Normally between ten and twenty hunters will participate and each hunter must sign the battue register in order take part. Prior to starting, a plan for the hunt must be made by the chef du battue (head of the drive). He will take into consideration the number of hunters, beaters and dogs that are available and decide the area in which the hunting will take place. With this complete, the safety regulations are read out loud for all to hear. The individual hunters are then placed in their positions or posts, as soon as possible after dawn.
With the hunters in position, the beaters and their dogs move forward. The dogs, each with a small bell hung from a fluorescent collar and usually with a GPS tracking device also attached, soon pick up the scent of the sangliers and begin to move rapidly, barking and yelping, in apparent enjoyment of the chase. The noise of the dogs barking and their bells ringing, drive the sangliers towards the hunters waiting in line. The sangliers tend to use the same tracks through the forest but these do not always lead in the direction of the hunters. If the dogs deviate from the planned direction the beaters will normally recover the situation and re-direct the dogs.
Sometimes for the hunters waiting in line, a lot of patience is required as distances can be great and the drive does not always go according to plan. The hunters will hear the noise of the dogs getting closer. He may even hear the sound of the sangliers moving through the woods. With the adrenaline levels very high as the quarry could appear at any time and from many different places, he will prepare to shoot. Sometimes more timid animals, such as a fox or roe deer may emerge first. The hunter must identify the animal properly (here the dog's fluorescent collar is very useful) as legal quarry when it breaks cover and fire a well-aimed shot, usually within the space of one or two seconds; a difficult task, requiring a great deal of skill and very fast reactions. If successful, the dogs will probably gather at the dead sanglier and the hunter will fix a lead to each dog in order to prevent them from continuing the chase. He will also sound three blasts on his hunting horn to inform the others that he has shot a sanglier.
One long blast of the hunting horn signals the end of the drive. On hearing this sound the hunters unload their firearms and return to the meeting place, taking the shot game with them. The dead animals have to be butchered rapidly, particularly during warm weather, so as to ensure that the quality of the meat remains good. There may be several sangliers to process but sometimes none at all!
Facts and Figures Concerning the Chasse in the Var - by Anita Rieu-Sicart
The 21,200 Var Chasseurs are barely coping with the increase of wild boar in the countryside! This past year has seen yet another increase in the sanglier population, and the Hunters Federation – Federation Départmentale des Chasseurs Varois – has paid out 681,000 euros in compensation, mainly to vignerons and agriculteurs of the region (291 dossiers), whereas last year they only paid out 378,000 euros.
Despite the regular hunts, the sanglier population has increased dramatically. Var Chasseurs killed 14,000 this year, as against a total of 11,000 last year. The increase in the sanglier population is partly explained by heavy rain this year, ensuring a good acorn supply, i.e. no lack of food, and is also due to the cross breeding of elevage sangliers with wild varieties. They now produce up to three litters over two years, says Marc Meissel, president of the Federation. The local sangliers are now tearing up my front forty at night, and it is looking like a plowed field!
Head of the Chasse, organizes it all. He is an agriculteur and also
a Garde Champetre for the village, which
Note: Sangliers favor the northeast and Mediterranean areas of
France, but they have grown in numbers
a long-time resident of Provence's Var département,
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RELEASE: The Thinker Returns to Stanford
Stanford, California - 'The Thinker' returns to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University after two years on loan to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. As of January 25, the public could once again view this iconic work by the French sculptor August Rodin (1840 - 1917). During his lifetime, Rodin was compared to Michelangelo and was widely recognized as the greatest artist of the era. His most famous works, 'The Kiss' and 'The Thinker', are often used outside the world of fine art as symbols of human emotion and character.
First created in a smaller size for 'The Gates of Hell', this figure was one of the first that Rodin conceived for his greatest masterpiece, as seen at the top of 'The Gates of Hell' in the B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture at the Cantor Arts Center. Rodin thought of the poet Dante as he began the sculpture, but the work evolved beyond the initial reference to represent the 'muscular intellectual', as demonstrated by alternate titles 'The Poet' and 'The Poet-Thinker' subsequently used by Rodin.
Stanford's 'Thinker' is monumental — Rodin's largest version of this work. It weighs approximately one ton and is 79 inches high. 'The Thinker' at Stanford is the 10th in an edition of 12 authorized by the Musée Rodin, in Paris, which inherited from Rodin the right to cast editions of the sculptor's work.
The Cantor Arts Center's impressive Rodin collection includes about 200 sculptures, with all on view to the public free of charge. Works in cast bronze and also in wax, plaster, and terra cotta are presented in three galleries at the Cantor Arts Center. Twenty bronzes, including 'The Gates of Hell', are in the Rodin Sculpture Garden at the Center. 'The Burghers of Calais' is displayed in Memorial Court.
The Cantor Arts Center is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM., and Thursday until 8 PM. Admission is free. The Rodin Sculpture Garden is open all hours, with nighttime lighting. Docents offer free tours of the Rodin collection Wednesdays at 2 PM, Saturdays at 11:30 AM, and Sundays at 1 PM. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Information can be found at museum.stanford.edu or by phoning 1-650-723-4177.
a brief video of the reinstallation of The Thinker courtesy of Stanford
University. Click here.
The Thinker, Musée Rodin, Paris
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