On June 3, 2017, Sue and I were picked up midafternoon at the Toulouse, France, Airport by Yves Lecocq who had driven a couple of hours from Scelles, France, the location of his and his charming wife, Huguette’s, summer home. Yves is the former Secretary General of the Federation of the Hunting Associations of the EU (FACE), which represents the 7,000,000 hunters of the National Associations of the EU’s hunters. Yves served in this position and others for 32 years, retiring in 2015. I first met Yves at FACE’s 2003 Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Brussels, Belgium, the headquarters of the EU and the location of FACE’s offices. I attended as President of Safari Club International Foundation to thank FACE for accepting SCIF as the first Associate Member of FACE and to participate in the AGM as an Associate Member.
Yves and I have met from time to time since that first meeting in FACE’s offices both at SCI’s Hunting Conventions and at several locations in Europe as FACE and SCIF coordinated and worked together on various matters, including our cooperation on CITES issues. We had discussed hunting together several times and, in early 2017, Yves invited me to hunt roe deer at the hunting estate he had just purchased in January. The estate is approximately 400 acres of unfenced low hills, large meadows and forest and harbors roe deer, European red deer, wild boar, hare, fox and rabbits among other animals. I was to be the first hunter for roe deer at this estate.
We arrived at Yves’s home about 6:30 after driving the last half hour in torrential rain and had an excellent dinner prepared by Huguette. Yves then drove us over to a neighboring manor house owned by a Dutch couple who had offered their guest house to Yves’ guests while they were away for a couple of weeks. The guest house was a restored stone manor and we had a bedroom and modern bath on the second floor all to ourselves. We left Sue off and drove to the hunting estate so I could check the zero on Yves’ .243-caliber Blaser, he was letting me borrow for the hunt. The rifle was right on at 100 meters and, after showing me the high seat he wanted me to use the next morning, left me at about 11:00 promising to pick me up at 5:30 the next morning.
It was cool, about 54 degrees and cloudy when Yves arrived with fresh hot coffee to drive us to the hunting estate about a 10 minute drive from the small village where we were located. Yves had set up the high seat off an old dirt road running through a portion of his property. From it, a hunter could watch both sides of a long meadow on the other side of the road and the slopes of a long ridge that rose off of the meadow and terminated in a forested crest.
Yves parked his truck about 400 yards away from the high seat and suggested I slowly stalk along the road to the high seat staying on its grassy sides so I would be as quiet as possible. I had walked about 100 yards along the road when upon emerging from a screen of brush and small trees on my left and looking up onto the valley slope, I spotted a roe deer about 150 yards up on the hill. It saw me at the same time. I stopped and it froze. We regarded each other for about 30 seconds while I tried to get my binos on it to see if it was a buck or doe. Then it barked, turned and barking additional warnings trotted uphill into the woods along the top of the hill. I thought, “Well after that I won’t see any more deer until things calm down a bit.”
I reached the ladder to the high seat on my right and climbed cautiously and quietly into it. It was now about 6:30, still grey and damp, but the rain of the prior day had not returned. I settled into my seat and diligently watched the meadow and hill. About 7:00 I spotted a roe buck off to my right as it walked out of some brush down into the meadow; it’s rusty red spring coat standing out from the foliage. I put my binos on him and could see he had good mass in his antlers but as he was more or less coming toward me I could not get a good look at their height. He suddenly turned to his left, took about three bounds across the meadow and the old road and disappeared into the forest that lined my side of the road.
I settled down and doubted I would see that buck again. The cuckoo birds and other birds broke the stillness of the early morning countryside as I watched for more deer activity. About 20 minutes later, I spied a roe deer walking toward me from the far end of the same meadow. The deer walked a little closer and I could identify him as a buck. He then walked out of the meadow and started up the slope walking along but occasionally hidden by the small patches of high grass and brush that dotted the slope. As he moved along, I could see good mass on the base of his antlers and, as he moved almost opposite me about 80 yards away, I could see the outline of them. They were not really tall, but had the typical mature buck dual prongs on each antler. I decided that this was a good buck, especially given the mass at the base of his antlers. I put my crosshairs on him as he moved along. I tracked him for several seconds, got a good sight picture on his shoulder and fired. He jumped forward at the shot and then ran about 10 yards and stopped partially hidden behind a low, brushy tree. I was able to get my scope on him again and I was just about to shoot again when I saw him tip over backward and drop completely out of sight. I was pretty sure he was down, but I thought I would wait a bit to make sure and be able to shoot again if he got up or moved.
Yves had said when I left him that when he heard me shoot he would drive in to see what happened. I waited 10 minutes and no Yves appeared, so I carefully climbed down, crossed the meadow and climbed up the slope to the tree. There in the high grass almost hidden from view until I ducked under its low branches and behind it was my roe buck. What a beautiful animal he was! I attached the French tag to his hind leg which Yves had cautioned me to do before I moved him an inch. I then stood up and let the post shooting tension drain down while admiring him and relaxing in the peaceful ambiance of the still early morning fields and woods.
Since Yves had still not arrived, I decided to return to the high seat and drop off my rifle and rucksack before I dragged the buck down to the road. I had only gone back down a few yards when I heard Yves’ truck on the road and then saw him driving slowly along it. Yves stopped next to the high seat and then after a second looked up and saw me. He climbed up to me, saw my buck and pronounced him an excellent roe buck for the first one to be taken from his estate. We took pictures, field dressed him and drove him to a neighboring farmstead with a processing shed and walk-in cooling room and freezer.
We then returned to Yves’ home and a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, juice and coffee while I recounted the events of the hunt to Yves and our wives. That evening and the next two, after supper, Yves and I returned to the hunting estate to look for fox and that once in a lifetime roe buck. We were not successful for either quarry.
In the afternoon, we embarked on the first of our daily tours, hosted by Yves and Huguette, of the French Region of Quercy in which the Village of Scelles is located. The Lot River, which flows into the Atlantic near Bordeaux, flows through a long, limestone cliffed valley. Along this valley are many beautiful, old, historic towns built into the cliffs. We toured the historic towns of St. Cirq Lapopie and Rocamadour, the latter a great pilgrimage center, clinging to an impressive 500-foot cliff. It is famed for its 14 stations of the cross, reached by 216 steps depicting Christ’s crucifixion and accession. While touring, we enjoyed country French food and the excellent wines, like the Cahors vintages, produced in the Lot Valley and surrounding hills. This area was occupied by the English during the Hundred Years War in the 14th and 15th centuries between the English and French, but finally returned to French control in 1429. The major agricultural activity over the centuries has been sheep raising and the limestone fenced sheep pastures are dotted here and there by domed shepards’ huts or “gariotts” made of the ubiquitous grey-whitish limestone. Pigeon raising was also a major activity in the past centuries, so rock pigeon rockeries, or “dovecotes,” also abound along the country lanes.
While Yves had promised us sunny weather in the 80 degrees, we had mostly partly cloudy days in the upper 60s and low 70s, which was fine for us. Yves drove us back to the Toulouse Airport for our Wednesday afternoon flight to Rome where we were to attend the 32nd SCI Italian Chapter AGM and, sure enough, as we boarded our Alitalia Flight, the sun was out and we had our 80+ degree temperature. Yves and Huguette were wonderful hosts and my French roe buck hunt was a classic European hunting experience. Yves had told me he will, in the future, offer similar hunts to a select few hunters.–John R. Monson, SCI/SCIF Past President