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A day hunting in Luxembourg

A day hunting in Luxembourg

by Faye Peterson 3 min. 06.11.2022
Columnist Faye Peterson joins a group of hunters in the south of Luxembourg
A stock photo of a hunter preparing to shoot
A stock photo of a hunter preparing to shoot
Photo credit: Shutterstock

It’s a dull and damp autumn day, but the farm in the south of Luxembourg where I have come to meet a group of hunters is a hive of activity. 

People from all walks of life stand together - firemen, doctors, teachers. The atmosphere is relaxed, but I confess I feel a little intimidated at being the only woman.  

After a brief welcome, the group of around 40 hunters is split into teams of five. As a guest observer, I am told to partner with an experienced shooter, and each hunter is allocated a shooting post. 

Safety is paramount and I have to wear a high visibility orange vest and a listen to a safety briefing before we walk to our post. The hunters carry their guns unloaded to avoid any accidents en route. 

In Luxembourg, hunters need to pass a three-part oral, written and practical exam to obtain a hunting licence. Participants need to know about wildlife habitat, be able to determine diseases or an animal’s age by analysing its teeth, and show they can safely use and carry a gun. 

Waiting game

Off we go, over uneven and slippery terrain, gates and fences to end up perched on the edge of a valley, out of range from the other shooters, but with little shelter from the wind or rain. The closest comparison sport I can think of is fishing. We stay there for hours staring into the landscape, waiting for something to happen – my guide armed with a gun instead of a rod. 

Then I hear dogs barking. The ‘drivers’ of the hunt appear – six men and four dogs – walking through the surrounding woodland in an attempt to scare any game into the open for the hunters to kill. Suddenly a deer appears. She is only in the open briefly before escaping into the undergrowth on the opposite side. But nobody fires a shot at her. 

It turns out hunting is a complex business. Moving targets are notoriously hard to hit, my guide says, and hunters wants a clean quick kill, not a wounded casualty. 

I ask myself if this just a sport, a way of life or is there a real need to cull these animals? 

Some argue that wild animals, such as boar and deer, frequently damage crops, soil and trees, destroy irrigation systems and can introduce diseases like African Swine Flu, leaving environmental and economic costs in the process. Others find hunting unnecessary and argue that the animals suffer from fear when being chased and a painful death, especially if they are not killed instantly or are left injured. 

Some landowners in Luxembourg allow hunters onto their land to mitigate damage, my guide says. 

Primitive process

As the morning drifts into the afternoon we pack up our post and prepare to return empty handed when a fox appears. Since 2015, it has been illegal to hunt foxes in Luxembourg. Ever since, the fox population in the country has remained stable, and infectious diseases, such as ‘fox tapeworm’, have decreased.

Every kill I saw was clean and no animals - or people – were injured and nothing was wasted from the hunt.  

Back at base camp, there is something innately primitive about the smells, sights and sounds on the farm after the hunt. It is here that I meet Joe Hanck, who is ‘field dressing’ – removing the organs – of four deer that the hunters killed that day. As he guts the animal he looks for signs of visible diseases, either on the animal or in the organs. The deer shot that day would be sold to a local butcher. 

Watching someone gut a killed animal is not for the faint hearted, but it is a visceral reminder of where our food comes from. 

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