You may have heard of Spain’s most notorious hunter, King Emeritus Juan Carlos I, whose now infamous 2012 elephant hunting trip to Botswana caused a scandal and turned public opinion against him, but don’t let that. convince him that hunting is a pursuit of the elite only.
The truth is that The hunt (hunting) is still a relatively popular activity, relatively speaking, and accepted in Spain.
About 80 percent of Spanish land is home to hunting areas, with almost one million Spaniards hunting annually; They are European leaders, second only to American hunters internationally.
While the popularity of hunting in Spain has officially declined over the past three decades (by more than 60 percent in 25 years), the remaining 800,000 license holders are estimated to be at least equaled by illegal poachers and unlicensed hunters. .
The practice is hugely unpopular with animal rights groups and those concerned about the plight of the thousands of hunting dogs that are abused, abandoned or killed each season.
Hunting activists also justify the sport financially. Hunting, It is believed, provides 120,000 jobs throughout Spain if the auxiliary sectors of taxidermy, customs companies, manufacturers of arms and cartridges, dog trainers, insurance companies, reserve leasing, management or maintenance are included hunting grounds, and the hotel, restaurant and transport sectors.
With the Spanish tourism sector decimated by the travel restrictions of COVID-19 (posting a staggering 97 percent drop in visitors this year, according to the National Institute of Statistics) and requiring cash injections, hunting could constitute a source of domestic tourism much needed for the economic recovery of Spain.
Similarly, the hunting lobby has long justified sport as an essential element of population control, limiting the number of species such as deer, wild boar, ibex and rabbits. Having not hunted for months due to COVID, many hunters now argue that these populations need even greater control and the fall season is expected to be very busy.
Know the hunting calendar
Stock photo of a wild boar. Photo: Juan Carlos Calvo Barrios / Flickr
Spain has two different hunting seasons: one in spring and one in autumn. The spring season runs from April to July, with the most popular months being April, May and early June.
During this period, the Spanish hunt mountain goats and wild boars, Pyrenean and Cantabrian chamois, roe deer and even mouflon in some areas.
The fall / winter hunting season lasts from September to mid-February, when red deer and fallow deer are the most popular big game hunts.
Licenses are also issued for a wide variety of birds, from pheasants, grouse and partridge to thrushes, starlings and certain species of waterfowl.
The exact dates of the hunting seasons are established by the authorities of each of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain. You can check the dates of your region HERE
How can you stay safe during hunting season?
Going for a walk or a bike ride accompanied by the rhythmic outburst of gunfire from nearby hunters is normal for many rural Spaniards.
As hunting lands cover much of Spain, during the high season they can meddle in other outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, cycling, mushroom picking, beekeeping, ecotourism excursions, photography courses and environmental education, and present a risk so much for hunters. themselves and other citizens.
In the last decade alone, more than three hundred hunters have died while hunting. According to Federcaza and calculations published on the portal agentforestales.net, the annual average fluctuates between 44 and 54.5 deaths, and the number of wounded, hunters or not, per year is between 2,585 and 5,282.
Hunting endangers not only the animals or the hunters themselves, but also other users of the fields and mountains of Spain. One way to stay safe when planning an outdoor excursion is to contact your local town hall, or local hunting or hiking groups, to verify areas to avoid.
Stay on the marked paths (and avoid venturing into unmarked areas)
Similarly, it is advisable to stay on the official and marked trails where hunters expect to see hikers or cyclists.
Many hunts are signposted and it is advisable to completely avoid the areas where you are hunting. Try everything you can to make yourself known to local hunters, and keep in mind that not all hunts are officially authorized or marked.
Wear bright clothes
If you’re walking the dog, make it easy for hunters to spot you by wearing a high-visibility vest and even a hat. And get one for your stray dog too.
This is what hunters wear, so they are used to caring for it. Hiker associations also recommend avoiding white and neutral colors because they can easily be confused with the natural color of the animals being hunted.
What to do if you hear a gun go off?
If you notice a hunt around you and hear gunshots, try to make your presence known to the hunters as efficiently as possible (without yelling).
Hiking associations say that one of the ways you can do this is by moving into a clearing. Avoid hiding at all costs because their movements can appear like an animal running for cover.
Some people say avoid yelling in this situation, as this can disturb the hunt and irritate the hunters; however, others say sing, yell, and do whatever it takes to get attention.
Keep dogs on a leash
Photo: Fiona Govan / The Local
You don’t want your pet to be mistaken for a target or crossed with hunting dogs that can be trained to be aggressive. If you are in an area where people are hunting, immediately put your dog on a leash and move away from the shooting location and into a safe area.
How has the coronavirus crisis affected hunting this year?
Like many other sports, hunting is making a comeback after the COVID lockdown. The Spanish hunting season is back on track, although it is unclear whether the new COVID-19 conditions will allow Spaniards to match their annual average of 30 million dead animals.
Both hunting and fishing activities were reintroduced as part of Phase 1 de-escalation of the confinement in Spain during the summer, although groups were limited to 20 people and only if adequate social distancing could be enforced.
in a published letter by the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation (RFEC), officials suggest that hunting will take place normally, or as normally as possible under COVID conditions, this season:
“The hunting activities planned and authorized by the authorities for 2020 – 2021 in Spain include summer hunting, and the hunting season from September to October, as established in the orders of the different regions. With the work already started by hunting organizations, federations and administrations so that the next season in Spain is a success, it only remains to follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health so that all activities can be carried out safely ”.
After so many months trapped at home, without access to Spain’s wonderful mountain ranges and hiking trails, many Spaniards, hunters and hikers alike, will be eager to get back to nature and enjoy the Spanish countryside.
With hunters concerned about species overpopulation and falling tourism revenue, the fall hunting season is expected to be very busy, so be sure to follow all precautions and enjoy Spain’s natural environment in the safest way. possible.
By Conor Faulkner
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism