Hunting in Finland
Hunting is a very popular hobby in Ii and all over Finland. Just under a hundred years ago hunting was very important as a source of livelihood, especially in eastern and northern Finland. Every social class had a chance to practise hunting; it was not just a privilege of the upper classes as it was in some places in central Europe. Except for southern regions, there are wide forests all over Finland where you can hunt for nearly every kind of game. This is probably the reason for the popularity of hunting.
If you want to become a hunter, you must pass the hunters degree, where the aspirants knowledge of different species and hunting law is tested. If you are under 15 years old, you can go hunting with your parents, and when youre older, you can practise your skills on your own.
The hunting year starts in Finland on August 20th at noon with waterfowl hunting. Every single hunter who has the slightest chance of doing so goes to the lakes to hunt ducks. There are a lot lake shores in Finland. In fact, theres about 300 metres of shoreline for each Finn and, in addition to that, there are thousands of kilometres of sea and river shore. The beginning of the hunting season can be seen in schools, too, because quite a big bunch of boys are absent then.
Poultry hunting starts even earlier, on August 10th, but since this is the time of harvest and there are relatively few birds around, only a few hunters go hunting then. Very often poultry is being hunted just as a side product of other forms of hunting.
Water birds are hunted in the following way. You hide in a suitable hiding place and wait for ducks to pass you by. Sometimes you can also use some kind of bait. Shotgun is the principal weapon used. The most important species are mallard, pintail, teal and wigeon. If youre really lucky, you can sometimes catch a goose. It can be well worth your while to wade along the shores. By doing this, you might be able to shoot birds who try to escape and youll get a good catch if you just keep on wading.
Hare hunting starts on September 1st. You can use a trailing dog in hunting. The most popular breed is the Finnish traildog. If you stand still long enough, sooner or later a hare will hop along chased by the dog and then youll have a chance to shoot it. Later on in the autumn, after snow fall, you can catch hares fairly easily, even without a dog. You just simply follow the hare's tracks and try to surprise the hare taking a nap under some spruce tree or bush. However, most of the times the hare is quicker and the hunter just catches a glimpse of the hare running away.
Grouse hunting starts on September 10th. Then you can hunt for capercaillies, black grouses, hazel grouses and willow grouses. The capercaillie is considered the most prestigious bird of prey. They are hunted either with of without the help of a dog. In Finland, we have bred a special breed of dog for this purpose. Its called the Finnish spitz. Itll find a bird for you, maybe a capercaillie or a black grouse, drive it up a tree and bark at it long enough for the hunter to sneak around hiding behind trees and drop the bird either with a shotgun or a rifle, depending on how close he manages to sneak. The preferred weapon is a combination with a barrel for each type. This makes it ideal for the different kinds of situations that arise. When youre hunting with a dog, you shoot at a sitting target, which means that there are no misses or wounded birds. If you react to the bark too carelessly, the bird will fly away, and this is precisely why this form of hunting is so exciting. You have to be able to sneak quietly and unnoticed like an Indian.
Hazel grouses are sometimes hunted with the help of a whistle. If youre able to imitate the call of the hazel grouse well enough, you might lure him close enough. The hazel grouse prefers dense forests, which makes it rather difficult to catch. The hunting season goes on till the end of October.
In the fell regions of Lapland, the willow grouse is hunted with the help of bird dogs. In addition, the local inhabitants also have the right to use bird traps. There are still some professional hunters inn Finland who get their livelihood from willow grouse hunting. The season for willow grouse hunting is longer in Lapland than in other parts of Finland. Up there the season is extended beyond New Year.
Moose hunting starts on the last Saturday in September and it goes on until mid- December. Each hunting club gets their quota of permits according to the size of the area and to the amount of mooses. There are two methods of hunting: chasing and using a dog.
The chase is conducted like this: Half of the team find suitable shooting positions and wait for the other half to chase the mooses towards the shooters. Sheltered by the forest, the mooses sometimes move very quietly and very often there is no catch. Besides, the permit specifically states which kind of moose can be hunted and very often the wrong kind comes along and the hunters will have to let it pass unharmed.
When a dog is used, the dog looks for mooses in the forest and barks when he finds one. Then the hunter has to sneak there very quietly. The moose very often stays in a dense part of the forest and thus makes it almost impossible to get close enough. The moose has extremely keen senses of smell and hearing and frequently it manages to get away. Moose hunting requires special skills, which makes this form of hunting exciting.
In Finland it is allowed to hunt bears in reindeer herding areas as well as in eastern Finland. A special permit is required for this. A dog is usually used to find the bear. Bear hunting takes a lot of courage and not everyone, hunter or dog, is suited to it.
Foxes are usually hunted with the help of a dog. Once the resting place of the fox is found, a string of flags is circled around the place. The fox doesnt often cross the circle created and if you are quiet enough, you might be lucky enough to get a shot at it.
The pine marten, which is another fur-bearing animal, is also keenly hunted. In hunting for it, the Finnish spitz is often used. It follows the tracks and chases the animal to some hiding place or up a tree. The hunter then has to dig it out and shoot it. Pine martens are hunted in the winter when its difficult to move about in the forest due to the thick layer of snow. Besides, in mid-winter daylight only lasts for a couple of hours and so you may count yourself lucky if youve even caught a glimpse of a pine marten or its tracks.
American minks and racoon dogs are also hunted to some extent. These animals have come to Finland from abroad and they are generally regarded as nuisances since they destroy the nests and offspring of water fowls and other birds. Traps which capture the animal alive are often used. If a wrong kind of animal is captured, it can be released unharmed.
Hunting does not simply mean killing animals. Its also a form of outdoor activity as well as a part of social life. Trekking in the forests, making a fire and preparing food outside add a special flavour to hunting. Staying overnight in the forest beside an open fire, retelling the feats of the day and planning the future trips with your friends are also among the golden moments of hunting.
Written by grade 8 optional group in fishing and hunting.
Translated by grade 9 optional English group.