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Hunting is tightly controlled in France. No one may hunt without a valid hunting licence. The licence permits the holder to hunt in a given territory, for a given period. A licence must be renewed (validated) each year.
Seasons are managed at a regional level to complement the ecological needs of the area and its animal and bird life: the dates of the opening and closing of hunting seasons depend on the département and the animal species.
While the season generally opens in September and runs until the end of February the opening is decided by the regional préfet (contact the local préfecture for dates).
Waterfowl shooting opens in August while the shooting of many species such as partridge and migratory birds can be limited to a shorter period.
Selective shooting of male roe deer may be allowed from June to September but a specific permit is needed. Mounted hunt (chasse à courre) is generally allowed until 31 March.
Under 15 percent of all animal species in France may be hunted: of 529 species of bird and 119 species of mammal only 64 species of bird and 24 of mammal may be hunted.
In order to have the right to hunt in France, it is necessary to have a hunting permit (permis de chasser). Hunters have to pass a theory and practical exam before being given a licence. Both of these exams are organised by the National Hunting and Wildlife Agency, ONCFS (Office National de Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage) and are held all year round.
To prepare for this exam, candidates have to undergo an obligatory training course. Candidates cannot take the practical exam until they have passed the theory exam and must be at least 15 years old on the day of the theory exam.
If the candidate fails one of the exams then they must begin the process again and fill in a new application form.
Candidates must contact the Departmental Hunting Federation (Fédération Départementale des Chasseurs) in their home department who will inform them of available dates for training sessions for both the theory and practical exam.
Once training is complete, the Federation sends the application form to the ONCFS.
The following documents are necessary for an application:
The candidate will then be notified (with at least 15 days warning) of the date the theory exam will take place.
The theory exam includes 21 questions based on the following themes:
To pass the exam, candidates must have 16 correct answers out of 21 and must have replied correctly to the two questions concerning security. The certificate is issued by the inspectors of the ONCFS.
The practical exam can only be taken once the candidate has succeeded the theory exam. Following the theory exam the candidate has 18 months to pass the practical exam. The exam has three parts:
Any dangerous behaviour will lead to automatic failure of the exam. To pass candidates must have 16 points correct out of 21.
In order to hunt with a bow and arrow, candidates must have a valid hunting licence and must undergo specific training carried out with the Hunting Federation of their home department.
Once the candidate has passed both of the exams, application for the hunting licence may be made at the home Préfecture (or local Préfecture de Police for Paris residents).
The application must include the following:
The hunting licence will be sent within a month following the application unless the application is refused. Applications can be refused for the following reasons: medical reasons, criminal record within the last five years, or if the applicant is forbidden to carry an arm.
It is necessary to validate a hunting licence every year and the procedure can vary in the different departments. Contact the local Fédération Nationale des Chasseurs to find out about the procedures for each department.
The validation form is then sent to:
Permits issued in certain départements can be validated online.
Various types of validation exist:
The practice of hunting in France by French or foreign non-residents who are holding a hunting licence issued from a country other than France is subject to the validation of these documents under the rules applying to the delivery of a hunting licence in France.
Hunters have to have insurance (Assurance obligatoire de responsabilité civile) and must carry proof of their insurance (attestation d’insurance) when hunting. To have their hunting permit validated they must show proof of insurance:
In the event of a hunting accident where the offender is not known or uninsured, the injured person may make a claim at the Fonds de Garantie by sending a registered letter to the address:
A hunting permit cannot be delivered to anyone who has a disability or a medical condition that can make hunting dangerous; or anyone that is under medication that will alter reflexes, visual or hearing capacities.
People aged over 15 may hunt if accompanied by an adult who has had a hunting permit for over 5 years. The permit allowing them to do so is available at no charge and is valid for one year. The accompanying person must follow a training course before being granted a permit, and there must be only one rifle for two people.
The applicant must fill in a form for chasse accompagnée and provide:
The form should be sent to the local prefecture of the applicant's home town.
The European Firearm Licence allows hunters to go on hunting trips in all European countries, with their own weapons which are registered on this licence. There are no other formalities except those considered mandatory by the country of entry. The Préfecture can deliver a European Firearms Licence to foreigners who are resident in France. This licence is valid for 5 years.
Foreign hunters may hunt in France provided that they have a European Firearms Licence mentioning the weapons being carried. The allowance for EU hunters is: three arms of the 5th category and 100 cartridges per arm.
Hunters from outside the EU are limited to two arms of the 5th category and 100 cartridges per arm.