Guest blog: Hunting and nature – autumn in Lapland is the grouse hunters’ golden season

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In the second guest blog of the history of Stories from Ranua, entrepreneur and enthustiastic hunter Ilpo Leppänen, gives us his own views on what kind of time the autumn in Lapland is in terms of hunting.
Hunting is one of the most popular nature activities of autumn in Lapland

Autumn offers a variety of nature opportunities

The arrival of autumn is the real golden age for enjoying the nature in many different forms. One of the favorite hobbies of the fall season is hunting, which can be done in many different forms and best of all, you can hunt in the middle of beautiful fall colors. Autumn is a very relaxing time for a hunter.

Although I move in the wild in the fall mainly in the form of hunting, the hobby is still such a good reason to go for a walk in the wilderness, where you get a lot of energy for the coming winter. As a hunter, it is also important for me to be able to exercise with my friends.

As a hunter myself, I experience the fact that when I walk in the woods with a gun and prey on one of the many game species, the prey is basically just a nice extra that can be obtained in addition to other activities in nature. Game is a valued food for every hunter and it is therefore highly respected. Hunting is never about going into the woods to just shoot with a gun aimlessly and kill game animals for fun. Every responsible hunter only takes the amount that can be considered responsible.

The importance of game management

In addition to just being hobbyists, hunters also do very important game management work. Hunting keeps the species level reasonable so that no single species can take over too much space, which can be very detrimental to the balance of nature, motorists or the regenerating forest. For example, the moose is a large game animal here in Finland, whose population needs to be controlled to maintain a good balance both in the nature and between the moose and people.

With regard to game,  we carry out a game triangle count with volunteer hunters here in Finland a few times a year. This count can be used to determine how much each game animal can be caught next autumn. For example, this year here in Ranua, the willow grouse has been protected because nesting and, for its part, hunting have made the stocks too small.

The things that hunters do are often not fully understood or are even intentionally misunderstood. The purpose of hunting is by no means to make game species disappear from this planet, as it would not be a good aim to anyone. The reality is actually the opposite: responsible hunting aims to keep game stocks as vivid as possible and create a great balance for each species.

If hunting was not practiced at all, the situation would also be intolerable from the point of view of nature. For example, if no one were to hunt grouse, bird populations would increase considerably, which in turn would mean that small predator populations would also rise sharply when more prey would be available in the wilderness.

The growth of small predator stocks, in turn, contributes to the reckless spread of many animal diseases. One such is, for example, the mange that would take such strong power that it wouldn’t be good for any party. In a situation like this, we would no longer dare to take advantage of natural berries for fear that diseases would spread through berries to us humans as well. On a practical level, this would mean that we would have to leave good vitamins in the forest and not be able to use them to our advantage to maintain health. Such an example would trigger a cycle that would have negative effect on all of us.

One hunting trip in a good company

Metsäkanalintujen metsästys, eli kanalinnustus, on suosittu metsästysmuoto

Fall and hunting are for me the best remedy that the local pharmacies cannot offer. This is especially true when I get to do nature activities in good company, with good friends.

Earlier this month, my friends and I were on a grouse hunting trip in the Ranua wilderness, keeping up with our annual tradition. This time, we spent the night in a cottage in the beautiful scenery of Lake Simojärvi, where in the traditional Finnish style we took a sauna and remembered youth and, perhaps, a little bit of aging also. Anyway, we spent the evenings chatting and sharing good memories from previous trips together.

The early waking up in the morning took place with slightly tired eyes, as the previous evening had dragged on late, chatting and listening to what had begun to happen since the previous meeting. The morning was spent at that time breakfast, preparing food for the day, and then packing the equipment in the car. After that, we got to the point itself and started the hunting.

When entering the forest, we were no longer hampered by sleepy eyes or a body tired of lack of sleep, but at that time the gaze was already focused on the beauty of the wilderness and the direction of exciting game situations.

With many conveyors for miles behind, game contacts had also formed. Along the way, I had heard many sounds of grouses flying in the air. This also brought a whole new kind of enthusiasm for the hunting itself, as the opportunity to catch existed at the time.

The journey continued again, but without prey, but it did little to bother me, the fire making and sitting at the bonfire was ahead of us. The traditional coffee pan was made to boil at the fire, and while waiting there, a few sausages were also fried and other packed food enjoyed. As we sat by the fire, we observed the almost calm surface of the pond.

The rumble of speech comes while sitting by the fire and we remember again those so many good trips together to nature. At this point, the soot pot coffee is ready to be enjoyed. The pan is emptied in just matter of minutes. Time rolls and the mind and body get the rest they need.

Now is the time to leave this beautiful place and set out again to see what the forest has to offer. There will soon be ten kilometers behind us. The gun has been allowed to rest in my arms and it is still waiting to get to work.

The journey continues. It has now been a long time without any signal of escaping grouses. At the same time, it starts to get a little tiring, but that’s when the forest surprises me. It is at the very moment when the idea has come to mind that there is nothing here and no chance to actually catch anything.

I didn’t get the opportunity to shoot, but the body gets a whole new kind of energy from the great rumble that the capercaillie taking off takes on. Fatigue disappears in an instant – now you can handle it again. One of my friends sends a message on the discussion group from some distance away in the wilderness. A hazel grouse has been caught. This little beautiful wild grouse with absolutely incredibly good tasting meat.

The good luck of my friends also makes me happy and once again the mind has got the medicine it wants. Personally, I don’t manage to shoot anything this, even though the distance that I walked is more than 15 kilometers during the day. However, it doesn’t bother me, as I’ve received my own dose of a mental health medication. A beautiful and pure peace of nature, where no urban exhaust fumes of carbon dioxide of the cities have polluted my or my friends ’lungs.

I am still a few kilometers away from the car and my feet feel heavy. It starts to feel like this trip will never end. But thinking like that doesn’t help at all, you just have to put your foot in front of the other and keep going. Finally the car shows up and new energy appears. There is no longer a long way to go.

The kilometer trip inside the car towards the cottage is heavy. The amount of fatigue a warm car raises to the surface after a long day is indescribable. The energy levels are at zero, but there is still things to do, such as heating the sauna at the cottage and eating something. The evening is the energy collection phase for the next day.

The day was again rewarding with so many situations. The mind is very tired, but still so happy. This is such a state of being that one would like to share it for everyone to experience. Even for those who don’t exercise this kind of nature activities at all.

The nature gives what it wants

When hunting, it is common that you are not able to catch anything for days. Finding prey is not easy, even if you might think so. However, even without the prey, the forest gives so much that if there were a year ahead where you would not be able to hunt at all, I would be feeling really down.

Thus, in the role of the hunter, I would like to say to the end of this – because there are so many views about us hunters – that all of us are inhabited by some kind of environmentalist, who wants the balance of nature to remain in order.

I also would like to point out that among hunters – like in all nature hobbyists – there are also those few individuals, who do not respect nature. However, a very large proportion of hunters view nature in such a way that nothing is taken from it, but that nature gives us what it is to give.

Text: Ilpo Leppänen | Lapland Adventure & Hunting Oy (Text has been edited and proofread by Tuomas Haapala)

PS. Remember to also check all the other possibilities that the nature of Finnish Lapland offers for autumn

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