Launched eight years ago by hunting journalist Philippe Jaeger, the objective of the Leica Hunting Experience is clearly defined: to impart practical skills to “young” hunters over the course of a weekend. Anyone who has held a hunting license for less than three years is eligible to participate.
Jaeger explains the impetus behind this initiative: “Many of the young hunters – and this was the case for me 26 years ago – do not come from a hunting background. It’s not always easy for them to gain practical experience if they have no contacts or other means of access. In nine out of ten cases, their only option, if they want to hunt deer and boar, is a driven hunt,” he says. “Driven hunts, however, are not ideal for inexperienced hunters. The shots are difficult. Spotting game at lightning speed and then landing a hit is almost impossible.”
But there’s much more to it than that: If one compares the French hunting community to that of other European countries (e.g. Germany), an uneasy feeling arises. “Hunting is not evolving here. Many hunters constantly complain, but don’t actively contribute to changing things. If just ten percent of the one million hunters we have here in France would commit to development, a lot could be achieved. We want to inspire a maximum of people to find solutions and finally get things moving.”
Thus, the first Leica Hunting Experience of the year welcomed five “young” hunters from different backgrounds (a 30-year-old foreman, a 23-year-old police officer, a 40-year-old engineer, a 19-year-old student, and a 31-year-old forestry worker).
Their schedule was ambitious. In the morning: Stalking. During the day: Educational workshops. In the evening: Shooting from blinds. As they take steps towards broadening their skill set, the young hunters are assisted by hunting professionals: Matthieu Morel, Sales Manager of Leica Sport Optics (France, Belgium, and Luxembourg), Ludovic Colmé, Product Manager at Ruag Ammotec, Lilian Camalet, Managing Director of 4Stable Sticks, Simon Bourgogne, Sales representative at Cynnotek (SportDog/Midland/Spypoint) and Frederic Berthon, Sales representative at Decathlon/Solognac.
“This is not an elitist get-together,” Philippe Jaeger emphasizes, and goes on to say: “We work exclusively with hunters and instructors who have a deep humility with respect to the hunt.”
The ‘training’ takes place on over 1200 acres (500 hectares) of hunting grounds in the Vosges Mountains. It all starts with an obligatory trip to the 100-meter shooting range provided by the Fédération des Chasseurs du Bas-Rhin (Alsace Hunting Federation). There, the participants familiarize themselves with the guns and optics, receive tips for safe shooting from a sitting position (comparable to raised-hide hunting), and gain their first experience from a standing position, using stalking sticks from 4Stable Sticks.
After the fine-tuning comes the hunt. “Each participant saw game this weekend,” Philippe Jaeger smiles. “In the end, it was three roe bucks and one wild boar that our young hunters shot according to all the rules of the art. Incidentally, all participants have already been invited back, for our social hunt in October.”
The next Leica Hunting Experience is planned for September 24. Then 5 other “young” hunters will gain experience: individually hunting roe deer, wild boar, and red deer (with one old stag cleared for shooting). If you received your hunting license less than three years ago, speak some French, and are interested in participating, send your application to: lechasseurfrancais.com (reworldmedia)
And, by the way: The organizers regret that not one woman has applied to date. “Female hunters should come out of the shadows to finally tread the ground they deserve,” says Philippe Jaeger.