Hunting season draws thousands

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With prospects bright for a better bird-hunting season this year, thousands of Norwegians were heading for the hills and forests this weekend. Thousands more have already been hunting for deer and wild reindeer, but it’s the grouse hunt that’s emerged as most prestigious.

This year's "rypejakt" (grouse hunt) is expected to be much better than last year's, with more birds in the mountains, larger flocks and fewer hunters after last year's poor season. The season in Norway started this week. PHOTO: Marianne Gaski

This year’s “rypejakt” (grouse hunt) is expected to be much better than last year’s, with more birds in the mountains, larger flocks and fewer hunters after last year’s poor season. The season in Norway started this week. PHOTO: Marianne Gaski

“Rolex and golf are out, now it’s the grouse hunt that’s the ultimate status symbol among the rich and successful,” reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) earlier this week. The annual hunt officially began on Tuesday, for which nearly 43,000 are registered, reported newspaper Aftenposten last month. Another 81,000 are registered for the small animal hunt (for hare, for example) that also began on September 10.

Unlike some of the bigger game hunting that can involve hours of sitting still in watchtowers in the woods, the grouse hunt demands lots of hiking in the great outdoors with faithful (and expensive) dogs as the hunter’s best companion. It also requires good shooting ability and financial resources.

Professor Tor Wallin Andreassen at business school NHH (Norges Handelshøyskole in Bergen) claims that the grouse hunt (called rypejakt in Norwegian) has “become the new Birkebeiner (Birken)” in terms of status and athletic challenge.

“Golf became too common and therefore no longer cool,” Andreassen told NRK. “The same applies to Birken,” he added, referring to the tough cross-country skiing and bicycle races over the mountains from Rena to Lillehammer. “Birken used to be a challenge for only the toughest. Now it attracts so many people that it’s lost some of its shine.”

The hunt for ptarmigan and white grouse remains more elite and this year’s hunt was greatly anticipated by avid hunters, not least because wildlife officials were predicting greater numbers of birds. The warm summer is believed to have helped nurture baby birds and small animals along with the rodents that can provide a better food supply. Some hunting clubs also imposed restrictions last year when hunting was poor, to build up stocks.

Last year’s grouse season ended as one of the worst in recent years, with only 120,000 grouse shot compared to 190,000 the year before. In the mid-1980s, hunters shot as many as 700,000. Now things are looking up again, with prospects this year also better for other forest birds. Bird counts have been up in almost all regions except some areas of Trøndelag, reported news bureau NTB. Around Bardu in the northern county of Troms, the grouse count rose from 22 per square kilometer last year to 37 this year. Quotas are thus larger as well this year.

“The signals we’ve had from the landowners (who sell hunting rights) indicate that things are going in the right direction,” Roar Skuterud of the environmental agency Miljødirektoratet told NTB. “We can’t say that there are a lot of grouse, but there’s more than last year.”

The annual moose hunt, meanwhile, gets underway on September 25.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund