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Hunting Pigeon in the Pyrenees — for Supper!

Though I'm not a hunter...this article I believe is a good read. :thumbsup:

[FONT=&amp]By Alexandra Marshall - NY Times Style Magazine - 31 Oct 16

[/FONT][FONT=&amp]"[/FONT]For centuries, the men of theBasque Country have hunted wild pigeon. Their weapons of choice: paddles and nets.


Fall is wild game season in France, and discerning dinersat Parisian outposts like L’Ami Jean,La Régalade and Spring come especially for the composed dishes of just-hunted, rich-tasting game.

That one might bite into one’s mallard or grouse and land on stray bird shot is perhaps a badge of honor, proof that what’s on your plate has a woodsier back story than the steak. And palombe, or wood pigeon, has a better back story than most. “Asa chef, you want something that tastes delicious, but also that’s coherent and has its own tradition,” says Daniel Rose, who serves it rare-roasted at his First Arrondissement restaurant Spring during the bird’s month-and-a-half season from mid-October to the end of November.

Generally grayer than its close cousin, the standard pigeon, with distinctive white marks on its neck and wings, the wild-caught palombe is more delicately gamy and less rich. Rose serves his with braised foie gras and cabbage, and a purée of smoked beet.

AtL’Ami Jean, Stéphane Jégo goes a more traditional route, roasting the birds with thyme and garlic, or stewed in salmi, a mixture of giblets, wine and foiegras. “Wild palombe brings a rustic, old-fashioned moment to the table,” Rose notes. “It evokes the deliciousness of nature and cooking on an open fire.”

[/FONT][FONT=&amp]While palombe has always been popular along the west coast of France, its more abundant recent appearances on Parisian menus is in keeping with the contemporary trend, led by the foraging Danish chef René Redzepi, of a re-emergence of back-to the-forest romanticism and a championing of traditional food ways.

[/FONT][FONT=&amp]On the palombe’s annual migration south — from northeastern Europe through western France and into Spain — there is one spot where hunting the bird has been done the same way for hundreds of years. In the Basque Country straddling the border between France and Spain, the tall peaks and narrow byways of the Pyrenees bottleneck the palombes, making the flocks denser and easier to track. Through the centuries, the annual hunt has become intimately intertwined with local life, in ways that tracking wild boar or deer, which requires isolation and a more masterful skill level, cannot hope to replicate.
[FONT=&amp]Unlike in the rest of France, where villages are emptying out due to urban migration, here, whitewashed split-timber hamlets dot the velvety mountainsides, and close, inter-generational family networks are doing better than most.

Every fall, local men of all ages are stricken with what Hervé Etchemendy, who comes from the village of Lecumberry, calls “the blue fever,” taking off work to disperse throughout the peaks of the Pyrenees to hunt. “When October arrives,” he says, “work isn’t too productive. We're constantly looking to the sky. We’ve all had the fever since we were little.”

[/FONT][FONT=&amp]There are two traditional methods of hunting palombe here: with shotguns or with a more complicated, older practice called lachasse au filet, which combines nets, horns and paddles, and has been performed at least since the 16th century and possibly long before that.

There are nine net-hunting sites in the Pyrenees, the only region in the world where this type of chasse au filet is practiced, and there will never be more. The number of installations is rigidly controlled by the regional governments, and rights are reserved for lifetime inhabitants of the villages: You have to be born there.[/FONT]

[FONT=&amp]Net setups vary by locale. Etchemendy’s is a compound of three distinct stations up and down the mountainside, and the hunters divide themselves between them. Uppermost are the lookouts, with large white sheets.

“Their job is to send the birds down,” says Etchemendy, which they accomplish by vigorously waving the sheets to startle them. They also blow brass horns, to alert the next station a mile downhill.

There, in one of six tiny ramshackle cabins perched 50 feet in the air — accessible by a dangerously rickety ladder— the second group awaits.

After the horn sounds, they blow loud whistles to alert the next group and simultaneously hurl white wooden paddles, rapid-fire,at the birds. They’re hoping to cause the palombes to lower their flight pattern — enough that when they come to the last station, several hundred yards farther downhill, they will fly into a ring of nets, raised on pulleys. The necks of the birds are then snapped.
[FONT=&amp]Etchemendy and his fellow net hunters choose this method for “the challenge between the birds and man,” he explains, outsmarting nature rather than blasting it into submission.

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Read More: Palombe / pigeon hunting in Basque region

"There's no season like dove season". Anonymous
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Interesting article.

I hunted pigeons while in South Dakota turkey hunting. The shooting was fun. We sent my sons up to an old grain bin and had them beat on the sides. When the pigeons flew out of the top, we shot quite a few. Much more challenging than regular upland game birds. The flight patterns of pigeons are pretty unique, and when they are blowing out of a hole on the top of a grain bin there is no telling where they're going to go.

Flavor wise they were good, but real tough on the gut.
Hemingway survived poverty in Paris hunting pigeons with a sligshot. I thought that more interesting than the whole macho Green Hills of Africa business. Net hunting is more millenial than hundreds of years. I have encountered rock art with geometric portrayals interpreted as star maps for aliens, secret codex and calendars. My unimaginative mind suggested hunting nets which drew derision form my peers.
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