Typography

The hunting season is upon us yet again. With the convenience of modern farming distilling its necessity as a source of food, just why does this divisive practise continue to attract participants?

HUNTING is one of the most basic rules of survival, though nowadays to many of us the idea of catching your own food is a very distant thought. Having long played a significant role in Finnish society and culture, hunting remains a very common practise in our northern country to this day.

The hunting season is upon us yet again. With the convenience of modern farming distilling its necessity as a source of food, just why does this divisive practise continue to attract participants?

HUNTING is one of the most basic rules of survival, though nowadays to many of us the idea of catching your own food is a very distant thought. Having long played a significant role in Finnish society and culture, hunting remains a very common practise in our northern country to this day.

In our Western world hunting is no longer practised for the necessity of survival. It has become voluntary, something people chose to do – a pastime, so to speak. The majority of meat consumed in Western countries comes, as you may guess, from farmed animals. Game meat is even considered something special, and carries a much higher price than your usual slab of steak from the supermarket. Ask around and you’ll find that the majority of city dwellers have never even tasted meat that originates from the forest.

In saying that, hunting does still play an important part in modern Finland, but it now serves a different cause to mere survival:  it is a method to control the numbers of animals, thus making the modern way of life safer for us. Especially important is the control of the elk population in Finland, with hunting utilised to reduce the number of road accidents caused by these huge animals.

The hunting season takes place during autumn. The first season to begin is that of dove, starting off in early August. This is followed by duck, rabbit, wood bird and finally elk season, which starts annually on the last Saturday of September and finishes at the end of the year.

-Approximately 360,000 people in Finland hold a hunting licence.

-16-17% of new hunting licence holders are women

-Most popular animals to hunt in Finland are elk, deer and wood birds

-Permits for elk in all of Finland this year: 60,051

-Remaining number of elk after 2009 hunting season: 89,000–105,000

Hunting for ethics

Joonas Konstig is an enthusiastic hunter, yet this was not always the case for him. “I was a vegetarian for many years for the reason that I thought it was hypocritical to eat meat when I knew I couldn’t kill the animal myself. This is the same reason I began to hunt,” he says.

Konstig began to eat meat again while travelling overseas as he did not want to restrict himself with his diet. Very quickly he noticed the increase in energy he received from meat and has not looked back since. He became interested in hunting through the desire to be in touch with where his food comes from.

“Although I’m not a vegetarian any longer, I still follow certain ethics with what I eat. I eat organic meat as much for health as ethical reasons. And what is more organic than meat you’ve caught from the forest yourself? I hunt to eat, so I only ever catch animals that I know I will consume.”

“The thought of hunting as something brutal is not uncommon, and I have to say I once believed that as well. We have just become so distant to the origins of our food – people don’t really stop to think where meat actually comes from. So when you really think about hunting, there’s no rationality in thinking that it’s wrong. Hunters are predators and the most natural way for an animal’s life to end is to end up in the teeth of a predator. Knowing that the animal has lived its whole life in its natural habitat, not kept in captivity for the mere use of turning it into meat is a much better option.”

Culture and environment

“Hunters are first of all environmentalists,” says Veikko Seuna of Helsingin Riistanhoitoyhdistys (Helsinki game preservation association). Hunters work together with the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research unit to help keep count of the animals, and to get as accurate an idea as possible for how many permits can be given to each animal without endangering the species.

“The forest is a substitute
of the church for
many Finns”

“Preserving the number of animals is an important factor – and no hunter wants to jeopardize a species. We respect and look after the animals, feed them over the winter and, of course, leave them in peace during mating season. Also, when an animal is caught it is utilised entirely, the meat, the intestines, the skin – all of it. I don’t know any hunter who suffers from so called ‘trigger fever’ and hunts for the mere joy of killing, hunting is about much more than that.”

Back in the day, hunting was a very communal operation in Finland, with entire towns hunting together and celebrating the end of the season with a peijaiset – a social gathering in honour of the animals killed for meat where a celebratory meal was offered to everyone involved in the hunt. “Hunting still carries that communal aspect. Most people hunt as a part of a club and still celebrate a type of peijaiset at the end of the season,” Seuna explains.

A number of beliefs and a touch of superstition is part of the hunting culture as well. “Although this sounds chauvinistic now, an old belief is that if you are setting out for a hunt and the first person that you come across is a woman, you better turn back,” Seuna tells. “Of course, nowadays many women hunt as well, but one thing that still holds is that you should not wish a hunter good luck! That is still considered a kind of a curse,” he laughs.

To hunt in Finland one must possess:

-A valid hunting licence

-Permission to hunt on either private
or government owned land

-A rifle or shotgun for hunting
purposes and a licence for it

-For big game hunting a shooting
certificate

-Hunting equipment

-Hunting dog (optional)

More info:

www.rktl.fi

www.riista.fi
(In Finnish and Swedish only)

For the love of the forest

Merely being in the forest is an important aspect of hunting for many hunters as well. “The forest is a substitute of the church for many Finns,” Sauna says. “Being in the forest gives you time to reflect on yourself and it makes you appreciate the nature in all its glory. Of course, getting a catch is a great feeling – and a big part of hunting – but I would say that sitting by the campfire listening to the sounds of the forest is just as important to most hunters.”

During recent years, the number of female hunters has notably increased, and one of the reasons for this is perhaps their love for the forest. “Many women get involved in hunting through dog training as well, or they are introduced to hunting by their fathers or partners,” Seuna says.

Finns are, in general, very accepting of hunting. According to a survey conducted by the RKTL, 90 per cent of Finns have a positive, or neutral, attitude towards hunting. “Hunting is alive in Finns’ genes,” Seuna states. “Only a few generations back we had to hunt for survival. To this day just about every Finn has someone in their family or knows someone who hunts.”

Petra Nyman