DISCLAIMER: The world of hunting fascinates me both visually and from a deeper existential point-of-view. It’s something that I want to explore more, over a longer period of time. The topic of hunting is a much debated one with strong opinions on both sides. For the moment, me nor my pictures will takes sides as I don’t feel knowledgeable enough about the whole thing. I only know it’s a very complicated matter that I would like to understand better. I intend to use photography as my passport to explore this unknown territory. Eventually I hope to be able be to form a well informed opinion but until then I’ll just share some pictures and impressions as I go alone
Yesterday I joined a group of people who are relatively new to the world of hunting on a pigeon hunt. The stunning scenery of the Flemish Ardennes sculped by the ever changing dramatic light made me immediately forget the long drive to the location after a heavy party and only two hours of sleep.
After a short briefing, about fifteen relatively new hunters were taken to their shooting positions by experienced hunters who know the area well. These guys also helped the novices with tons of tips about shooting, animal behavior, best locations, …
I got a tour of the area by the organizer while trying to drive the pigeons in the direction of the shooters. This turned out to be very hard since we hardly saw any pigeons. But that didn’t make the long walk any less enjoyable. The cool fresh air, the large vistas and observing other wildlife in the distance. Having someone with you to tell you more about the area and wildlife, is definitely a big bonus on a walk like this. It made me realize once again how much I love the outdoors but how little I know about nature in my own country.
At lunch time everyone assembled at the hunting lodge. Time to tell lots of strong tales that in some cases seemed like excuses for the meager turnout so far. The few pigeons shot so far were also used to teach the “young” hunters more about the animals and their differences.
A pigeon that is just shot may not look much like what you can buy in the supermarket or what you find on your plate in a fancy restaurant. I thought it was surprisingly touching how the hunters show respect to the animals they harvest.
After lunch we headed back out, this time to another corner of the hunting area.
I joined two really young hunters. Despite all their efforts to hike up a very muddy field, place decoys and camouflage their shooting position we didn’t see any pigeon action. But we enjoyed a good conversation about hunting, the outdoors and life in general. I was impressed with the maturity of these guys’ attitude and look on things.
The other guys (and women) were also pretty unsuccessful in the afternoon hunt but nevertheless they al were in very good spirit. Being out with these people made me see that the success of a day of hunting isn’t only about the number of animals killed. It’s also about nature, friendship and slowing down.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
- I need new warm and waterproof boots and while I’m at the outdoor shop I should probably pick up a set of green trousers and a jacket too. A little stool could come in handy too.
- Ear protectors are a must if you want to work close to hunters without damaging your ears. I got myself a set Howard Leight ear muffs. They performed well and as a bonus kept my ears warm too.
- The X-Pro1 performed great for this kind of photography. Traveling light and fast is an absolute necessity if I want to shoot pictures without disturbing the hunters in their shooting. However, just the 35mm is too limiting when it comes to focal lengths. Zooming with your feet is not always an option in the field. I had a Nikon D600 with a 28-300 lens with me for testing (I’ll post the review soon) which turned out to be a good all round combination every time I was too close or far. I’m not sure how I will cover future hunts, I do hope my X-E1 with the Fujinon 18-55 will be delivered soon.