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HomeความคิดและมุมมองHunting and conservation: a view from Denmark

Hunting and conservation: a view from Denmark


Mother Grethe brought out a large plate from the kitchen. It emitted a flavorful aroma before we could even see what was on the plate.

My dear friend John’s three-generation family and my family sit interchangeably around a large table in the middle of the house. John said that they usually get to sit at this table at Christmas time. But today is a special day and I feel that this is a really special moment.

In the plate that Mother Grethe was carrying , there was thick slices of roast beef lined with small potatoes. As soon as mom put the plate down, they asked me to take the first piece as a guest of the house.

As soon as I put the meat and potatoes in my mouth, I can honestly say it was the most delicious meat I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Part of that may be due to my experience of the origin of this dish.

Go back one week before.

I was sitting in John’s car driving down a small road in complete darkness.

Denmark is an agricultural country. John told me that his country had no natural resources, no precious minerals, no oil. His country was built purely from the labors of farmers. And that explains the landscape of open fields along the way we pass.

But then we arrived at a small forest that we took less than 5 minutes to drive through.

“This is a National Forest,” John said.

Denmark has forests like this, which accounts for less than 5% of the country’s land area.

We drove through the agricultural fields for a while. John then turned his car onto a small road called Jagvej. “It’s my father’s farm.”

“John, the two deer are on the right!” I said softly, as if afraid the deer would hear us in the car.

John stopped the car and retreated into a park on the side of the road, hiding behind the tree line.

“It’s 4:50 now. Today the sun will rise at 5:06. We still have time to prepare,” John told me as we got out of the car. We grab our stuffs and walk slowly down the farm path in the opposite direction of the deer we saw a moment ago. At the same time, sunlight is gradually light up on the horizon

On the way, John pointed me to the small deer footprints that loomed over the potato fields.

Not long after, we walked to a hunting stand made of good wood. Strong and spacious enough for the two of us to sit comfortably.

As John was taking the coffee out of his backpack. I saw something.

“Two deer at the edge of the farm over there. I think they are both males.” 

I pointed at the deer I saw in my binoculars. They were in different directions from the first two we saw from the car and were so far apart that we were sure they were different deers.

“The distance is still a bit far. That’s probably around four hundred meters. It’s 5:04 now. We have to wait two more minutes,” said John.

The sun began to rise on the horizon in a very beautiful red-orange color. I used my binoculars to watch the two deers walking freely from the tree line to the open field of the plantation and walked closer and closer to us

Suddenly John tapped me and pointed at something.

Just 20 meters ahead of us, another male deer was walking. Judging from the direction, It must have come out of the tree line near us.

After inspect with binoculars, it was clear that it was a male deer that had reached the required size. John slowly reached for the rifle. He was leaning on and aimed for the deer that was walking further away from us.

John whistled softly. The deer stopped and looked back at the sound of gunfire.

I looked at the clock as soon as the guns sounded 5:12.

I grew up with the belief of the Buddhists in the big city. The law of Karma movie that I watched as a child tells the story that wild animals have children and parents. Hunting produces karma to satisfy us. The animated movie Bambi shows us the cuteness of the deer and the cruelty of the hunters. We have read all along that hunting has almost wiped out the wild animals in our country, etc.

These are all components that make most urban kids like me oppose hunting.

But what I have seen What I’ve learned over the past few years has made me start to open up to a different side of truth.

And if you’re ready to open up to listen, read on. I would love to share my thought with you.

John poured Gammel Dansk into a small cup and handed it to me.

“Skol” We clink glasses in Viking tradition. And I dunked my favorite Danish classic to cure the coldness.

After another cup of coffee, the sky was fully lit. So we climbed down from the hunting stand.

John’s father, “Father Yul,” walked with a rifle from the forest across the farm. He was sitting in another spot and was watching another deer. Father Yul joins us when John sends a message saying that he got a deer.

The Roe Deer is the smallest of the three deer species in Denmark and is the most common type because it can adapt to live around the edge of forests, grasslands and agricultural fields and can increase the population quickly.

Father Yul estimates that this deer is probably about 4 years old. It weighs about 20 kilograms, and when it’s cut, it will give 8-10 kilograms of meat. A simple estimate is about 40 meals.

John and his father carry the deer to the edge of the potato field across from where we sat. A few tens of meters behind the edge of the forest was Father Yul’s beautiful house!

That morning we sat in the house to eat breakfast. Breakfast with John’s parents at the garden window table was the best time of my visit to Denmark, as has always been.

This year, Father Yul is 82 years old, but is still very strong. He had been married to Mother Grethe for 56 years. The two of them worked together on the farm with their own hands until they lived a happy life with children and grandchildren who grew up happily.

These two are a good example of a really happy life.

During this breakfast we talked about hunting and conservation in Denmark.

Unlike America, where the government controls, manages and allocates hunting thoroughly. In Denmark, although the laws and regulations are clearly defined, But the management was with the hunters. which is driven by ethics and love of nature that all hunters want to maintain for sustainability.

John measured the distance from where he shot the deer to the dining table. It is only 171 meters! That’s telling us something that has a very deep meaning.

In Denmark, any one who want to start hunting must go to school one evening each week for six months. This hunting course teaches everything from wildlife species, the environment in which they live, legal requirements, firearm use and safety, wildlife conservation management. And most importantly, the ethics of the hunters.

Anyone aged 18 and over can enroll.  After passing the exam, he or she will receive a hunting license which also serve as a license to be able to own firearms for use in hunting. He or she can buy and own Shotguns. But if it’s a rifle will have take another rifle specific course and exam.

Once one have a hunting license, If you want to hunt, you will have to pay for a license of that year, about 2,600 baht per year. The hunting season is clearly defined for each species, gender and maturity of the animal.

The Roe Deer deer hunting season in Denmark starts on May 16 every year. It started with only the mature male deer hunting for 2 months and then stopped . The Roe Deer hunting starting again in October until the end of the year.

When you understand well, It can be seen that this hunting season has been studied in relation to the mating season of each species. Hunting male Roe Deer during the first two months is to keep number of the male deer not too high before the mating season in July. Because if there are too many males, they will fight until many of them die or injure.

After two months of the breeding season, It will be open to hunting again in October with different gender and size of deer in each period to control the number of deer not to be too large.

Because when conservation and wildlife management can is well manage, the deer  will be able to double their number in just 1 year! If not hunt or properly manage and let there be too many deers compared to the area and food. The deer will be starved of food, weak, plague, etc. That may reduce the number or whole herd could die.

Roe Deer head that John and his dad had hunted over the years. The are not trophy. But it is a record of fertility of the deer heard on theirs land.

The other types of animals have different hunting seasons. Very detailed, the type that specifies the type, gender, size. There is App on the phone to help the hunters deal with this complication. This determination of the seasons and types of predators is based on extensive research so that animals can properly reproduce and hunt them without exhaustion.

When hunters got an animal, they will inform the government agencies for statistics to help plan the wildlife management.

But to my surprise is that there is no limit on how many animal hunter can hunt under his license. I thought if this was not set, all the animals would be hunted.

But I found that the right to hunt this would fall on the landowner. This will allow the owner of the land to take care of the animal and set the limit how much they can hunt. How much must be left to generate enough animals to hunt in the coming years without being exhausted or not being too many until the area is overflowing.

There are also laws that stipulate fair chase rules, which are prohibiting hunting before and after sunset, prohibiting hunting from vehicles, prohibiting baiting with food, etc., Which prevents animals from being hunted indiscriminately and more likely to survive.

it is almost like the farmer are raising these wild animals freely let them roam the area without feeding or supervision.

It is a management that clearly produce the results. The hunter can cultivate the animal and more animals are reproduce in the natural habitat.

Father Yul’s farm is a very good example of this.

“The oldest task in Human history – To live on a piece of land without spoiling it” 

Aldo Leopold
from then book The River of the Mother of God

Denmark is an agricultural country. Most of the country has been completely cleared for farming.

In the 1800s, the forests that used to cover Denmark were cleared to less than 3% of the total area. After that, a law was issued to prohibit clearing the forest and starting a new forest planting. As of now, only 14% of Denmark are forests, most of which are planted for lumber, only 5% of the area is protected forest in the state and is spread out in small patches.

From its forestry condition, it was surprising that Denmark still had wild animals everywhere. It is very different from our belief that wildlife only exists when we have hundreds of thousands of hectares of lush forests.

Father Yul show me the pictures of this farms from different eras. It started in 1910 in the era of John’s grandfather. Father Yul was born here. It used to be a cattle ranch, raising dairy cows, raising pigs to become a potato farm today.

When I asked, Father Yul said he started hunting on this land at the age of 6 with a slingshot. 76 years later, there are still a lot of wild animals around as I can see with my own eyes.

On this 100 hectares potato plantation, Father Yul kept some of the land as a forest. There is a well in the middle of the field. Between the plots there were rows of trees, where John told me that decades ago the government asked to switch from pines to shrubs to better accommodate wildlife.

Notice a well on the left. Tree scrubs separate potato plot protect the field from the wind and be the habitat for wildlife.

Father Yul has been farming in the area all the time so he can see the condition and the number of wild animals. Beside Father Yul and John, who had been hunting for quite some time, there will be a day of the year when Father Yul invites his best friend to hunt different kinds of animals in the farm. Where father Yul is the one who determines the rules of what to hunt and how many.

Other ranchers who are not a hunter, they can let the hunters they know and trust “lease the rights” to long-term hunting in the area and help take care of the wildlife. It is another source of income from agriculture.

I could see with my own eyes how rich the wildlife was in this arrangement. That morning I saw a hare, a pheasant and five deer in just 15 minutes and had seen wild ducks and foxes on the previous visit.

Not far from Father Yul’s farm was a small forest reserve we drove past. John said the Red Deer, Denmark’s largest deer, lived in the forest and often migrate through the fields at night leaving footprints to be seen. But Father Yul has shot three Red Deers in his farm.

Red deer that Father Yul shot on his land.

Mother Grethe brought out a large plate from the kitchen. It emitted a flavorful aroma before we could even see what was on the plate.

My dear friend John’s three-generation family and my family sit interchangeably around a large table in the middle of the house. John said that they usually get to sit at this table at Christmas time. But today is a special day And I feel that this is a really special moment.

In the plate that Mother Grethe was carrying, there was thick slices of roast beef lined with small potatoes. As soon as mom put the plate down They asked me to take the first piece as a guest of the house.

As soon as I put the meat and potatoes in my mouth I can honestly say it was the most delicious meat I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Part of that may be due to my experience before it became the food on the table for the two families to eat today. Both venison and potatoes grew from Father Yul’s land.

It is pure natural food without any chemicals or hormones.

Unlike pork, beef, and chicken that we eat every day and almost forget that it comes from living things. I have seen that the venison in this dish comes from animals that are born,  grow up, live freely and happily in nature. They never have to live in cage, never been abused and its kill was swift. No suffering from crowded transportation and knowing fate. No need to struggle when being dragged into the slaughter room.

May be the taste is not only venison but it was a real taste of life that I had just learned and experienced.  The taste of fact that conservation and hunting may not always be the opposite.

Because if there is a proper understanding and management,  they are the same and cannot be separated from each other.

นักสำรวจ, นักเขียน และนักเล่าเรื่อง

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