In principle, hunting is the same wherever you go. But any experienced hunter will tell you that hunting abroad is always different to hunting at home. Surely, the species are among the greatest distinctions, but plenty of other customs and peculiarities separate one country from another, too. Today, we’re discussing the most interesting – sometimes perhaps even strange – hunting traditions in Europe.
Germans have a reputation for being a strict nation, and this translates to hunting, too. They have some of the strictest exams for the aspiring hunters, but there’s a good reason for it – with such a thorough education, they aim to raise hunters to whom this is not a sport or a hobby but rather a mission of public concern. Here, the main goal is to keep healthy wildlife numbers and ensure the biodiversity is as rich as possible.
Our brand ambassadors from Germany – Henrik Sproedt and Freddy Lietz – also raised this point. “Hunting in Germany is characterized by respect for tradition and a high level of expertise. For me, modern hunting combined with the preservation of tradition is what makes hunting what it is,“ – said Freddy when we first asked him about his country’s unique customs.
Henrik elaborated a little more on education: “Starting from the beginning, I would say a rather unique German hunting tradition is that you need to master a profound and intensive education including at least 130 hours of theory about nature conservation, sustainability, farming, forestry, law, animals and weaponry, plus approximately 30-50 hours of practical shooting. After that, you have to pass a written, oral and practical exam.”
What you might find slightly more unexpected is that Germany is one of the few countries where falconry is allowed. Prey birds are typically trained to hunt small animals like squirrels and rabbits.
But before you rush off to hunt in Germany, don’t forget to learn their branch language. For example, if you see a branch formed into a circle or a loop and attached to a tree or other surface, you should read it as a warning – perhaps there’s a trap nearby or some poachers. Of course, this is just one example of the many, so you might want to read further into it.
If you’re into learning actual languages, then Mountbatten Hunting – one more brand ambassador from Germany – says you should use the word “Waidmannsheil as a greeting, as a farewell, and as a congratulation to another hunter.” Having some trouble with the pronunciation? Then make sure you toast your fellow hunters while holding your drink in your left hand, advises Mountbatten Hunting.
In Germany, thermal imaging binoculars and monoculars are allowed for hunting.
It’s hard to tell which country has the oldest hunting traditions, but we’re sure the UK would be pretty high up the list. So, perhaps there is no surprise that hunting with dogs originated on the island. However, we must say that the way it was done some 500 years ago certainly does not match today’s ethics standards and is now illegal both in the UK and other countries.
Our brand ambassador Lee Perryman has found that the use of various devices is also quite unique to his country: “In the UK, I definitely feel that we are lucky – we are allowed to use various thermal devices scopes, add-ons and spotters, unlike in other countries where restrictions are applied!”
Of course, the UK is also known for foxing. As the country’s biggest predator, it gets quite a bit of attention from residents, some finding themselves angry at the animal for harm, others, on the contrary, feeling fond of it. Whichever side you’re on, one thing is true for everyone – you shouldn’t be afraid of foxes. While some (especially tourists) find them slightly scary, it is believed that you are 62 times more likely to get bitten by a human than by a fox. We can’t verify this one 100%, but we hope it puts you at ease if you’re visiting.
In United Kingdom, thermal and night vision devices are allowed for hunting.
Thinking of hunting in Italy? Then you’re likely to find yourself going after the alpine chamois. They are the country’s most prized trophy, but you’ll really need to get your skills up to get one – very shy in nature, they also live in very harsh conditions, thus presenting a proper challenge to any hunter.
If you do find yourself up in the Italian mountains, make sure no one wishes you luck before you go out hunting. Our brand ambassador Riccardo Tamburini explains why: “In Italy, we have a strange rule. If you wish “good hunting” to a hunter before going hunting, it’s actually bad luck!”
On a more serious note, Riccardo also tells us that Italy has one of the most varied biodiversities in Europe: “As you know, Italy is a thin and long country. As a result, we can hunt from the biggest mountain in Europe in the North and all the way to the South which is just some hundred kilometers away from Africa.”
Italy also has a manifold hunting history. Here’s a short summary of it by Riccardo: “Our hunting history starts with bird hunting with pointing dogs. The most popular birds were pheasants, quails or partridges, as well as smaller species like pigeons or thrushes which are also popular in Spain. Only from recent times, the populations of big mammals such as wild boars, deers (roe, fallows and red) started growing, and with them the hunters’ culture grew too. Ethics and knowledge became similar to other EU countries like Germany.”
In Italy, thermal and night vision devices are allowed for hunting.
We know lots of hunters don’t like to categorize hunting as a sport, but allow us to do this once for statistics, which show that in France, hunting is the third most popular sport in the country. With the biggest hunter population in Europe, they only succumb to football and fishing fans.
France is also a heaven for those who enjoy hunting different animals – here, some 90 species can be hunted, although restrictions do apply, so make sure you check them thoroughly before you go.
If you wish to learn about some of the hunting peculiarities from hunters first-hand, here’s what Fiona Hopkins – our French brand ambassador – told us: “It is interesting that hunting practices in France are very different between all regions of the country. It’s one of our strengths; it’s anchored in our regions.”
What’s common in the regions close by the sea is the popularity of waterfowl hunting. As both Fiona and her counterpart Alexandre Miliàn told us, it is a very popular type of hunting. “In France, migratory birds are hunted a lot, especially with traditional techniques dating back several decades. For example, we hunt ducks at night in all camouflaged huts on the edge of lakes, to be fitted out to sleep, eat and hunt at the same time. These huts are called hutte, gabion or tonne, depending on the region. It is a hunt that requires a lot of time and work, but it’s certainly worth it,” says Alexandre.
In France, thermal imaging binoculars and monoculars are allowed for hunting.
France may have the biggest hunter population, but the Nordic countries have the densest. For example, every 39th person in Sweden is a hunter, and some 20,000 students are willing to attend special hunting education programs each year.
That is, of course, interesting to know, but if you’re looking for some practical information, there’s something else you might find important: the times allowed for hunting. For example, when the season begins, you can only start hunting red deer 1 hour before sunrise, and you must stop 1 hour before sunset. You can start hunting moose at the same time, but with this animal, you have one extra hour – you only need to stop once the sun sets. Surely, there are animals you can hunt day and night, but make sure to double-check before going out into the forest.
Speaking of hunting in the Nordic countries, we often like to ask our brand ambassador Jón Rúnar Guðjónsson for various insights. Born in Iceland, living in Denmark, and hunting all over the world, he’s a well seasoned outdoor enthusiast with some interesting experiences: “One of the stranger things about respecting the game is the kissing of your first woodcock. I don’t really understand this, but it is customary when hunting in Denmark.”
And we shall leave it to Jón Rúnar to end this article on a touching note, too: “What I think is unique for hunting – and that is for every country I have hunted in – is the kindness and spirit of hunters. There is a lot of respect for each other, for nature, and for wildlife. This respect is unique. I believe it comes from the deep understanding of nature you gain while hunting.”
In Denmark, thermal imaging binoculars and monoculars are allowed for hunting.
Jón Rúnar Guðjónssone