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Hunting in Latvia: Life at its Rawest

By Kristina Pauksens

Hunting is an extremely popular activity in the Republic of Latvia, and with good reason.  The pinewood forests are home to large populations of deer, wild boar, beaver, lynx, wolf and moose, which can provide many delicious meals for hunters and their families.
I caught up with Augusts Zemike, the oldest active member of the Limbazi Hunters' and Fishermens' Collective, for a frank chat about hunting in Latvia.  Mr. Zemike is now 75 years old.  He is a spry and cheerful pensioner who spent his lifetime working in the forestry industry.  He now hunts regularly to supplement his pension earnings, and to better feed himself, his wife, and their friends. 

Of course, the delicious and gamey taste of freshly caught meat is also an incentive for him to take to the forests, rather than simply to buy meat at grocery stores.
Typically in the forests of Latvia, hunting is done in the early evening, around dusk.  According to Zemike, typically a hunter "must stand still in the forest for two hours, waiting for a wild boar."  The proper clothing is essential:  for a cold fall evening of hunting. Three layers of socks, hunting boots, three layers of shirts, a camouflage hunting coat, long johns, and a warm hat must be worn. 

Also, the proper licenses are necessary for the hunter.  Zemike proudly showed me his hunting licenses from 1959 to present, and documents about the different seasons for different animals.  Zemike also showed me his hunting riffle and bullets.
The hunting season for red deer in Latvia is September first through January 31 for stags, and August 15 to December 31 for cows and calves.  Moose of all genders and ages can be hunted from September 1 to December 15th.  Wild boar can be hunted from May 1 to January 31.  The spring bird hunt, from the 10th of April to the 10th of May, is also popular.

It happened that I met with Mr. Zemike on an exciting day for the hunters of Limbazi. An 18 year old lad from the hunting collective had just shot and successfully captured his first moose.  According to Mr. Zemike, the animal was cut up on the spot, and its meat was divided among the hunters, who later spent the evening celebrating the prize catch.
The next morning, at the Zemike household, I was lucky enough to participate in the preparation of the moose meat.  It was combined with pig fat and seasonings – salt, pepper, onions, garlic and caraway seeds – and ground by hand with an old fashioned meat grinder.  Zemike joked that, unless you hunt and grind your own meat, "you could be eating cat meat, or dog meat from the store!"

The Limbazi Region Hunters' and Fishermens' Association has been in operation since 1949.  According to the official website, there are 141 members. 
For nature loving tourists interested in the real Latvian hunting experience, hunting packages are available.  Northern Kurzeme and Northern Vidzeme are the best areas for hunting. 
Some companies, including "Hunting in Latvia" will pick you up at the airport, drive you to the Baldone forests, provide accommodation, licenses, maps, a local guide, and access to a sauna.  All you need to do is bring your own gun from home.  Information is available at www.ltn.lv/~mednieks