MAC, one of our horses, broke a section of the paddock’s electric fence when he fled from nearby gunfire. On this very misty November morning I’m mending it with some trepidation.
I know this sounds a touch violent, but that’s the Portuguese hunting season for you.
The horses are very skittish because of the closeness of the shots.
The ‘rule’ is that no shooting is to take place within 200 metres or so of any casa (house). Given that our casa is maybe 25 metres away yet it’s so foggy that I can’t see it or the hunters, you wouldn’t think it was a proper and safe environment to be shooting, would you?
The hunters we see are armed with some of the largest shotguns I’ve ever seen. Areas of the campo are scrubland with little visibility through the thickets and we don’t have much in the way of ‘big game’ such as wild boar, deer or elephants, just a number of tiny, agile and speedy birds, so the big guns are literally overkill.
A couple of years ago my brother Adrian was over for a working break with his wife Anne which coincided with the hunting season.
Adrian was a police sergeant in Bradford and had done all the relevant firearms courses. He was amazed and horrified when he saw the, shall we say, over-enthusiastic approach of the hunters.
They strolled with loaded, unbroken guns and had no pattern or line of safety in their approach. Add to this their favourite drink is bottled beer and you can maybe appreciate the scope for accidents.
There is a gun culture in Portugal (if the two words go together) and arguments have been known to have been settled a la Wild West. In early October the husband of a local council (junta) candidate was, allegedly, shot dead by another candidate, the ultimate political veto, I guess.
The hunters belong to a registered club/lodge and have rights to shoot on licensed tracts of land, designated by signs bearing the clubs’ registration number.
Participants range from locals to visitors from cities such as Lisbon (invariably driving SUVs with blacked out windows). Most bring hunting dogs with them to retrieve shot game – or the remaining few feathers!
As per the photo the Rambo look is favoured amongst the hunters and to this end there are a number of gun shops and outfitters in the towns of the Alentejo.
You do need a licence for a firearm, although there are allegedly as many illegal firearms around as there are licensed.
It seems the Portuguese are ready to shoulder arms at any given moment.
The outdoor pursuit shops are popular with Ruth as they also sell horse tack, clumpy hard ground footwear and altogether sensible clothing.
I asked the proprietor of the shop in Almodovar: ‘Have you got any new camouflage jackets in please?’
He said: ‘Yes I have, dozens, but I just can’t find them!’ Ho ho ho.
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