Hiking through the woods this autumn, I came upon a hunter. He was in his seventies and carried his shotgun like an American Indian. Two large wild boars lay at his feet. He had placed them side by side. I thought they were sleeping until I saw the blood. The old man was waving a branch to keep the flies away from the wounds. The boars smelled of blood, shit, and rotten leafage.
The hunter had kind eyes and he looked sorry for the animals. He wore an orange vest, with some official-looking acronym that I did not recognize. I found out later he was not hunting for sport; he had been instructed by the local council to cull his prey.
Judging by the blood stains on the ground, the shots must have reached the beasts as they came round the corner of the footpath. Death had come in the form of a white-haired grandfather to these two free creatures; one with a sniper’s aim and timing.
For some reason, this scene stuck with me. Maybe it was the sad smile the hunter gave me when replying to my greeting. Maybe it was the religious accuracy with which he had laid out the animals. Maybe it was because he was using an olive branch to fan the flies away. I resisted the temptation to take a picture. There was nothing to celebrate, nothing to be proud of. But it was more than a job; it was a rite.