Safety first during driven hunting season, urge officials

Sunday, October 1 saw the start of the 'driven' hunting season in Latvia, when it is permitted to 'drive' game through the forest towards waiting hunters, by means of 'beaters' making loud noises, reports Latvian Radio.

The State Forestry Service is reminding hunters that strict safety requirements need to be observed during driven hunts and that all participants in the hunt should be aware of them, whether as drivers or shooters. In addition, people venturing into forests for other purposes, such as mushroom or cranberry picking shold also exercise caution so as not to get caught up in hunts by mistake.

There are approximately 25,000 registered hunters in Latvia, of which approximately 20,000 are actively hunting, and October 1 is like a holiday for every hunter, says Haralds Barviks, chairman of the Latvian Hunters' Association:

"Currently, you can hunt practically all game animals in Latvia, so among large ones are wild boar, roe deer, moose, deer, and also smaller animals – both foxes and raccoon dogs, wolf hunting will continue, but unfortunately we can no longer hunt lynx."

Barviks adds that the opening of the season does not mean that all hunters will go to the forest en masse. Most clubs wait until the leaves fall from the trees and visibility improves, and the number of mushroom pickers or berry pickers also decreases.

Valters Lūsis, the head of the Hunting Department of the State Forest Service, expresses himself in a similar way, calling on hunters to evaluate the need to go on driven hunts at the very beginning of the season. Although October 1 used to be a very good time to start the season, the situation has changed in recent years, Lūsis explains:

"The weather is changing, we see that autumns last longer, and in the past it was more linked [with October 1], because the leaves had already started to fall. Yes, it is already a debatable question [when to start the driven hunting season], in this case the rules specify one, specific date, but that does not mean that hunters should immediately go and organize their hunts."

Others should also be aware that during this time, when going to the forest, they may encounter hunters, Lūsis emphasizes.

It is important to follow simple safety tips, such as going to the forest in bright, high-visibility clothing, staying away from gunshots and driving noises [typically loud shouting and pots and pans being beaten], and if you do hear a gunshot nearby, it is important to make your presence known by being loud yourself – shouting or using a cellphone to play a loud noise.

However, the statistics suggest accidents involving those not actively involved in the hunt are rare. Lūsis points out: "If accidents happen, then, according to statistics, they are all related to hunting participants. Hunters have binding safety rules, if they are all followed 100%, then no-one is in danger while in the forest."

"Last year, looking at the statistics, it was more related to injured wild boar attacks on hunters or beaters, not so much with a hunting firearm, where there was only one case where one participant of the hunt was injured because the authorized hunting sector was not observed," explains Lucis .

Driven hunting is allowed every day from sunrise to sunset until March 31 of the following year, with the exception of drive hunting for wild boar and red deer, which will last only until January 31.

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