“It’s not necessarily explicable. We wake up at four in the morning and the goal is to go see a deer. Whether it’s small or big, it doesn’t matter, but at least we see animals, we see different shows every day”, explains Richard Porte, amateur photographer passionate about deer, from the Pays de Tronçais.

Near the town of Vitray (Allier), a fence blocks access to a forest road, a measure taken by the National Forestry Office (ONF) so as not to disturb too much the males in heat who, during the slab season , from mid-September to mid-October approximately, oppose each other in duels and utter their famous cry to attract females.

This year, the opening of the hunt at the beginning of October, in full season of the slab, caused a controversy, the defenders of the environment castigating the suffering and the stress inflicted on the deer.

For their part, hunters note the absence of predators and the increase in the number of deer.

Deer occupied more than 49% of wooded areas in 2019 compared to 25% in 1985, according to the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB). With the exception of a few mountain areas where large carnivores are again present, deer no longer have predators.

– “Natural” predation –

“It’s nonsense, to open the hunt when they are in full breeding season. It’s my personal opinion, I only have the ecological opinion. For me, it’s aberrant”, advances Robbe Cornelis, technician and environmental facilitator for the Cap Tronçais association, the last to offer night sessions of listening to the slab of deer in this forest massif of 10,000 hectares.

“Since the dawn of time, roe deer, wild boar, hares, stags, have been pursued by a predator. So yesterday, it was the wolf, the lynx, the bear, but there aren’t too many anymore . So we reproduce this mode of predation which is the most natural”, defends Antoine Gallon, master of the crew and representative of the Société de Vénerie which organizes hunts in these woods.

“We hunt during the day, the animals slab at night. And so the times are different. In any case, we respected this second half of September, which is the heart of the slab, and we start hunting afterwards”, pleads. he again.

The night remains reserved for nature enthusiasts, curious to closely observe the reproductive rituals of deer. They are accompanied by guides, who orient them towards the different points of view and on the rules to follow so as not to disturb the natural environment of the animals.

“We preferred to take an outing like that, organized with someone who guides us, and who explains to us how not to scare them, not to disturb them, because we are just spectators and witnesses”, confides Sylvie Mercier, a resident of Moulins (Allier).

“The goal, indeed, is not to go as close as possible to see it, because often, when we see it, it is that we are too close and we disturb it”, explains Robbe Cornelis.

But in the early morning, these walkers leave and the sound of the horns will supplant that of the slabs.