La Chasse literally means the chase and covers any sort of hunting. This post is about the hunting of wild boar which is also known as La Battue.
Wild Boar, Sus scrofa, or in French Les Sangliers are found all over France and there are plenty in Poitou-Charentes. There would have to be because ten of thousands are killed every year by hunters across France. Efforts are made to keep their numbers up by providing suitable dense woodland for them and supplementing their natural food with extras like apples and dried feed, pig nuts, and by enclosing them to some extent by using high fences and/or electric wire.
Wild Boar are omnivores, and will feed on plant material like berries, fungi, roots and seeds but their favourite is acorns. They also eat worms and grubs and even frogs and young birds if they can get them. They live, if they are lucky, for 10 to 12 years and are mature after 5 to 6 years. Normally a sow will produce 4 to 7 young and suckle them for 2 to 3 months. When fully grown they will weigh 200 Kg but can get up to over 300Kg. There are lots of stories about how ferocious they are but whenever I have seen them it is normally at some distance and once they know you are there they are off. Difficult to get a good photo of them as usually you see them towards dawn or dusk and in woodland so the light is not good and they are on the move and some way off. So I have lots of photos of brown blurs in the distance and one or two that are OK.
They are hunted in two ways, firstly stalking, which is solitary or involving very few people. This method requires quietly picking up their whereabouts and following on foot until you get close enough for a shot. This could potentially be dangerous and where tales of their ferocity might have arisen because shooting the boar and failing to kill it might cause it to attack the hunter. This type of hunting normally takes place between June and October.
The second method is La Battue, which is a drive and involves beaters, dogs and a larger group of guns, (as the hunters are called). These are normally positioned in the open, often with brightly coloured tops on so they don’t shoot each other, and sometimes sat up in wooden towers to get a better view. This form of hunting is noisy with beaters making a lot of noise to push the boar out of the woods towards the guns, and the dogs also making quite a din. Drives normally take place from November to February.
This is big business and open to foreign tourists. There are lots of sites advertising hunting and it normally involves a stay in a Chateaux, or somewhere quite grand, meals, several (3 or 4) drives in the day, a share of the game caught and relieving the participant of a large amount of money. Depending on what is on offer it will cost in the order of 1000 euros a day. In some of the organised shoots other game such as Roe Deer and Red Deer might also be taken. The wild boar meat is very tasty Obviously it is like pork but not so fatty. It has a much richer flavour and can be made into many delicious meals
Finally a word of warning. Every year in France people get killed accidentally by hunters. The victims are not always hunters themselves. They may be simply walkers or bird watchers, strolling through the woods on the wrong day at the wrong time so be careful, take note of signs warning that a drive is taking place and wear something bright.
Richard the third had a white Boar as part of his coat of arms.