I go hunting to obtain healthy, fresh meat

I see nothing wrong with children taking part in individual hunts alongside a parent or authorised guardian. I myself used to take my son when he was 10 years old to the pulpit to see what it was like. Unfortunately, he did not follow in my footsteps, but I entertain the hope that his hunting genes will come back to him, says Zenobiusz Zduniak, a hunter from Warmia who has been hunting for 30 years.

TVP WEEKLY: Hunting stirs up a lot of emotions. Many people believe that hunting should be banned and that killing animals is unethical. What is your response to such accusations?

Not every hunting trip has to result in the harvesting of an animal. This is not the only thing I go to the forest for. I love watching the deer roar during the mating season, when the doe shows up and the candidates compete for her favour. Sunrises in the misty forest are beautiful.

But yet these animals you admire you also shoot at. Doesn't the one conflict with the other? How do you reconcile the two?

We behave a bit like children. When we ask them where the milk comes from, some answer that it comes from the shop shelf and not from the cow. For me, hunting, apart from being a passion, an opportunity to commune with nature, is like a trip to the shop. I go hunting to obtain fresh meat for my own use. My wife and I use it for our needs. I believe it is the healthiest meat there is. Just compare: a pig weighs 120 kilos after three months and a wild boar weighs 40 kilos after a year. Which meat is healthier and not supported by any preparations that accelerate growth? The answer is simple. Meanwhile, very few people in Poland still want to eat wild game. There is no education, no discussion on the subject. And when it comes to hunting, we sell most of our game to the West.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE Where did the idea to hunt come from for you in the first place? Is it a family tradition?

I really wanted to become a forester. I don't know if you know, but many people of this profession, are hunters. I have a lot of friends in Warmia and in the hunting association who are foresters and are also hunters.

However, you did not become a forester.

Unfortunately, no. I applied to the forestry school in Hajnówka, but didn't get in. To my surprise, there were more than 400 applicants for 50 places. Recruitment was on the basis of a competition of certificates and unfortunately I did not manage to get into this school. 20 years ago, when I started visiting my wife's family in Warmia, I found out that two of my cousins had become hunters and joined a hunting club. I began to take an interest in this, talking to them and accompanying them on their individual hunts. It was then that I swallowed the bug. You asked if perhaps it was a family tradition. Yes, my grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were hunters. This tradition was only interrupted by my father. When the Second World War ended, Dad was a 16-year-old young man, but in those days, to be a hunter, you had to belong to certain organisations. It was also difficult to go on a course, buy the right weapons, etc.

Speaking of which - in communist Poland, hunting was for the chosen few, party functionaries or, as you say, you had to belong to 'certain' organisations. And today?

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It is true that it used to be an area reserved almost exclusively for the party elite. I remember, in my bachelor days, meeting a man who was the director of a state farm. He was a hunter, but not a party member. They were forever making life difficult for him. They wouldn't give him permission to shoot, he was checked by the police to make sure he wasn't under the influence of alcohol. No one who did not have a party card in those days was allowed into the hunting club. And today? I think that hunting is for all those who are "attracted" to nature and ecology. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are getting into it. Perhaps it is because man wants to interfere so deeply with nature? In Germany, France or Spain, hunting is at a very high level. It is a good thing that we have copied many of the procedures that are currently used in our country from the West.

You say that hunters are 'turned on' by nature and ecology? But what is ecological about killing animals?

What about the mass slaughter of livestock? I have the authority to do so in order to obtain healthy food in the forest.

Many people think that it is as easy to become a hunter as an angler.

Becoming an angler is definitely easier than becoming a hunter. When I started to get interested in hunting in earnest, I thought about going on a course. At the first opportunity, I signed up for it, passed the exams and became a hunter. However, before you can take the exams to become a hunter, you have to go through a series of lectures and some kind of practical workshops at the shooting range.

Is the exam difficult?

It consists of three stages. The first is 50 questions with three answers in which you have to tick the correct one. The next is a meeting with a psychologist. This is a very interesting stage because the interviewing doctor is able to eliminate those who should not become hunters and have a gun permit. They ask various questions and request you to make some drawings. After this examination, there is a practical test in shooting with a sharp weapon - to dart a hare, on what is called an axis, that is, shooting at a metal hare that moves at a distance of 50 metres one way and another. The next exam is questions from the committee. You draw a number of questions and answer them.

Do you remember the ones you answered?

They were mainly related to hunting safety, but one of them stuck in my mind. I had to explain what a 'leafcutter' is. These are young shoots of trees and shrubs that are cut down, covered with salt or brine, and dried and spread out in an airy, shady place for deer during a food shortage. In addition to these tests, I still had to submit documents about not having a criminal record.
A psychologist is able to eliminate those who should not become hunters, assures Zenobiusz Zduniak. Pictured: hunters with guns. Photo Agency East / Forum
And where do you learn to shoot? At the range or while hunting?

Shooting accuracy is primarily trained at a shooting range, not on a hunt. There is a professional hunting range in Suchy Dół where you can train: the dart axis, the wild boar, the hare or the 100-metre target. The reason I mention this is that it is not only worthwhile, but even necessary to visit such places if you intend to go hunting. The worst thing that can happen is to go hunting and not be sure of taking a fatal shot. It's hunting practice to shoot in such a way that you kill the animal so that it falls right away and doesn't get exhausted. If someone doesn't use a shooting range and practice, then they shouldn't go into the woods with a gun. What I do not accept, nor any ethical hunter, is to mutilate an animal and leave it alone in such a state. Hunting ethics say that you have to be prepared for the eventuality that you do not kill an animal with one shot. In that case, you have to keep searching until you find the shot. If a hunter acts unethically once, twice or a third time, he must expect that his hunting will be restricted or he will be reprimanded.

Will passing exams be enough to go on your first hunt?

No. This is only halfway. Once you have passed the exams, you are given the documents that entitle you to submit them to the relevant Administrative Procedures Department for a gun permit. It takes a few weeks to get an answer, with the relevant stamp duties paid along the way. Once you have obtained this permit, you can collect a special document - a so-called promise for the purchase of a weapon unit. You have five calendar days to register the weapon unit. As you can see, the requirements are very strict. Once you have purchased and registered a weapon unit and a membership card of the Polish Hunting Association, you become a fully-fledged hunter, but still without the possibility of hunting. A4

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How so?

Only after or in parallel with these formalities, an apprenticeship is carried out at the chosen hunting club under the supervision of a 'nemrod', i.e. an introductory experienced hunter. The hunter-trainee watches how hunting takes place, helps build and operate hunting equipment, dismantles it, corrects it, and participates in group hunts as a hunter-recaller. Only when he has completed his apprenticeship and has all the necessary documents does he apply to the hunting club for admission as a parent member of the club. If the management of the club decides to accept the candidate into the branch, he has to pay an entry fee, which is usually 10 times the value of the annual fee to the Polish Hunting Association (PZ£). As a member of the club, he will receive a so-called "shotgun" and only then can he sign up and go on his first hunt. The club's chief hunter allocates an appropriate number of game to be shot for adepts who are beginning their hunting adventure. For example, this is one wild boar and one fox. The number of game to be shot is limited and strictly adhered to.

Each club has its own shooting district?

Yes. Each club has its own circuits, which are strictly defined and adhered to. In the past, when there was no internet and no computers, there were books to record individual hunts. These were located at locked points. Each authorised hunter had a key or cipher to the box to open it, take out the book and write in it that he would hunt on that day, at those times on a particular perimeter and revetment. Today, it is done a little differently. We have an electronic book that every hunter has access to in the form of a login and password, and after logging in, we enter in the book at a particular hunting club and provide all the necessary information. The rule of thumb is that if I hunt in a particular district, no other hunter can sign in and appear there.


First and foremost for safety, and to know that if someone has shot in a particular revue, he or she takes full responsibility for the consequences.

What is done with the hunted game?

Each hunted animal must be entered in the "shotgun" according to the number given, the time and the place of hunting. The carcass has to be taken to a collection point and declared there for personal use or it is credited to the hunting club and left in a cold store. At the collection centre, the time, place and address of the hunter are also recorded in the registration book.

Quite a lot of these rules.

Yes it is true. Anyone who listens to how much paperwork has to be dealt with can catch their eye. It is also worth mentioning the fees. Every hunting club leases districts. There are forest districts, meadows or private land, for which the club pays a rental fee. If a hunter enters a particular area, and someone does not like it, they can exclude the area from the club's use. Only that if the game causes damage to the crops, he will not be able to claim compensation. There are designated people in each hunting club who assess the damage. As far as Warmia is concerned, there are far fewer of them now, because ASF has depleted the wild boar. And coming back to the fees, each club pays a 'rental fee' to the municipalities and the State Forests. If a particular club, like the one of which I am a member, has two circuits, the fee is much higher than the income from membership fees.
Usually, about 20 per cent of the game population in a given area is shot," explains Zenobiusz Zduniak. Photo: group hunting near Wapowiec. Photo: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz
How do you know how many game can be shot in a given season?

It is never the case that hunters in a particular district shoot any number of animals. Every year, even before the hunting season, the number of animals to be shot is estimated. The State Forestry Accounting Officers associated with a given forest district calculate how many deer, roe deer, wild boar, elk there are in a given area and determine the appropriate percentage that can be shot. This is usually about 20 per cent of the game population in the area. For example, we are informed that the club is obliged to carry out a shooting plan in a given hunting year in a certain number for particular species, e.g: 20 bull deer, 25 doe, 10 calf etc.

If there are 60 hunters in a particular club and there are only 20 deer to be shot, for example, I understand that not everyone is going to catch such a prey?

Yes, the first-come, first-served rule applies here. If 20 hunters shoot those 20 deer, the budget is closed and the other 40 are left without such an opportunity. It also works the other way round. We have to shoot these deer because if we don't, penalties are imposed for not fulfilling the plan.

Are there animals that must not be shot at?

Yes. Moose have not been allowed to be shot for 22 years. In 2000, a 10-year memorandum came into force banning the shooting of this species. After this period, no decision has been made on this until today. They could not be hunted because they were in danger of extinction. Today, the moose population is very high. At my place, in Marki, I have seen a herd of eight coming towards the houses. Because there are so many of them, the State Forests are starting to face problems. All plantations, restored after logging, felling, are planted with young saplings. A moose is able to bite even a 5-8 year old pine or spruce forest in one night. It destroys fences and eats what is planted without any problem. The other issue is road accidents involving moose, most of them tragic. For example, near Kampinos or the Zegrzynski Lagoon. Wolves cannot be hunted in Poland either.

How has the sport changed? And can we even say it is a sport at all?

I don't see it as a sport. Yes, there are shooting competitions at large ranges where the champions of a particular district meet. I treat it more as a hobby, because I go to places where I can sit down, breathe fully, look at nature, listen to it. When you go skiing, for example, you need the right equipment - skis, goggles, boots or clothes, which you change from time to time. It is the same with hunting. It used to be that your needs were limited to a double-barreled shotgun. I remember that when I passed my hunter's exams, my father gave me money for a dryling (a broken hunting gun with three barrels - editor's note). Back then it was something. A very exclusive thing that hardly anyone had. Usually you just took shotguns or brenka (heavy monolithic bullets - editor's note) on hunting trips. Nowadays, there is a plethora of weapons. The optics have changed enormously. It allows better recognition of game. A high-end spotting scope can cost as much as 20-30 thousand zlotys. When it comes to weapons, each must be shot before the season. Without a shooting certificate, a hunter will not be allowed to shoot. There are also many solutions copied from the military, such as night vision or thermal imaging, but I personally am not in favour of them.

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I believe it is not ethical to shoot night vision or thermal imaging at an animal at night. The trick is to outsmart that animal and hunt it with your own efforts. When darkness falls, the hunt is over in my opinion.

How much do guns cost for hunters?

The price range is huge. From PLN 500 to PLN 80,000. It all depends on the thickness of your wallet. I have five weapons. One of them, more for show than use, a 1906 Solberg double-barreled shotgun from a renowned Belgian manufacturer. It was assembled in Argentina. I bought it back badly derelict, but it has taken on a renewed lustre after being returned for restoration. In addition to it, I also have another vintage one for the feather, i.e. ducks or warthogs, a rifle and a unit I use at the shooting range for darts, a small calibre 222 rifle for fox or roe deer, and a crossbow from which I can shoot shot and bullet. In addition to weapons, there is now also huge access to clothing for hunters. A huge plus of this 'fashion revue' is that there is a lot of thought put into these outfits about safety, reflectors. This comes in very handy during group hunts, 'driven' hunts, which I don't like because they are not exactly safe. Weapons and ammunition must be stored in a special certified safe.

And why do you dislike group hunting?

As there is a lot of excitement in this type of hunt, the game moves very fast and an accident is not hard to come by.

And they are highly controversial.

This is true, but it is important to remember that group hunts do not take place ad hoc. Each is planned at the end of the previous hunting season. All clubs are obliged to prepare such hunts: to agree them with municipal authorities, town councils, the police, the district administration, the forest inspectorate or village heads. Before each hunt, warning signs appear, with prohibitions, etc. These hunts do not last for months or weeks, just a few hours. People get upset that they take place at weekends, but hunters are also people who work, just like marathon runners or cyclists who have their events.
When hunting from pulpits, no one moves except the hunter. Photo: Daniel Dmitriev / Forum
And what kind of hunting do you like?

Those from Swedish pulpits where there are two-metre high rises. Hunters are driven to locations numbered and marked on a district map. No one moves around during the hunt except for the shoot, which improves safety.

And what do you think about children's participation in hunting? This is also a controversial issue.

I would refer here to the labour law, which says that a juvenile from the age of 15 can work six hours. So why couldn't such a person participate in hunting? Nowadays, young people are not keen on hunting. Maybe if they had the opportunity to observe hunting, participate in it, talk to hunters, they would change their minds? I also see nothing wrong with children taking part in individual hunts alongside a parent or authorised guardian. I myself used to take my son when he was 10 years old to the pulpit to watch what it was like. Unfortunately, he did not follow in my footsteps, but I delude myself with the hope that the hunting genes will still resurface in him. Far more controversial is the participation of children in group hunts. I myself, as a boy of 10 or 12 years old, used to take part in such a hunt. Today, no one would allow it for safety reasons, but in those days, it was normal as a form of some sort of income.

Are there still devotees of old techniques among today's hunters? Without technology, super equipment?

Yes. Often old-school hunters over 70 years old can't log into the system, so they have to be helped, but they still want to go hunting, to sit in the pulpit. It's often difficult for them to walk, but climbing up a 4-metre ladder makes them so happy that they get their wings and have no problem with it. I guess it's a bit like sailing, if some-one has the passion, the love, they want to experience it for as long as possible.

– Interviewed by Marta Kawczyńska
-Translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Main photo: Group hunting in the forests of the Strzebielino Forest District in the Pomeranian Voivodeship. Photo: Łukasz Dejnarowicz / Forum
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