On the hunt for balance in nature

Butchers, bakers, farmers: these are all craftspeople with a love for their profession. In that regard, game hunters are no different. What is different, is the patience and preparation they must put into their craft. Fortunately, hunters often focus on other aspects. “Even if I don’t bag any game, I’ve still had a great day outdoors,” says hunter Wim van den Essenburg.

Read the full interview below.

“True conservationists are happy with hunters”

An exuberant welcome awaits us in a beautiful sixteenth-century canal house in Edam. Charlie the Labrador and Dribbel the dachshund are thrilled to see us. A local specialty awaits us on the long, wooden table – “my baker calls these his little mistakes” – and seated at the table is Wim van den Essenburg. Wim is a hunter and chairman of the North Holland hunters association. The goal: goose hunting. We spoke extensively with Wim about hunting in the Netherlands.

“Although my father and grandfather were both hunters, I myself didn’t get bit by the hunting bug until later in life. I went out with a group of hunters about six years ago. I was really touched to see how happy the local farmer and his wife were to see us. That’s because land is their most important asset, so the farmer suffers when wild animals ruin his crops. We simply cannot let nature do as she pleases here in the Netherlands. The country is just too small for that.”

“My father and grandfather were both hunters”

Full knowledge of the law

Shortly after his first hunting experience, Wim started studying for his hunting license – an intensive process, to be sure. “It basically means going back to school, homework and everything! Flora, fauna, you cover it all. You learn to distinguish between a barnacle goose and a gray goose in flight. Ducks, deer, hares – you have to know what they eat and when they mate. When do they get pregnant and when do they have their young? Do they live in groups or are they solitary animals? Finally, you have to take four written exams and pass them all. One exam is on legislation. I can guarantee you that there is no other group of sportspeople in the country with such thorough knowledge of the law. We know exactly what is allowed and what is prohibited. Naturally, safety is a major factor.”

Hunting etiquette

“In addition to all the legislation, there is also something known as hunting etiquette. A ‘code of conduct,’ if you will. How should you conduct yourself in the field? As hunters, we take this very seriously. There are all kinds of regulations in force. Take fox season, for example. Foxes are fair game in the spring, but we still tend not to take them. You can never tell if the animal is a reynard or a vixen – a male or a female. And we don’t want young foxes to die if we take the sire who brings them their food.”

Maintaining balance

“We regularly consult with other stakeholders in our hunting grounds – not only the national forestry commission, but also local farmers. They are our eyes and ears, and they know every square inch of the area. We also maintain good relationships with birdwatchers. A single fox can easily rob around fifty nests in one night, and foxes make no distinction between protected and prolific species. Birdwatchers also warn us if protected birds are nesting in a specific area. We’re then very careful not to disturb the nests. Much of what we do as hunters revolves around maintaining balance. It always strikes me that true conservationists are happy with us.”

“A single fox can easily rob around fifty nests in one night, and foxes make no distinction between protected and prolific species”

Working with chefs

“There’s another aspect to hunting. Geese are a real nuisance in this area – there are simply too many. Wild geese are meaty and tasty, they’ve never been pumped full of antibiotics, and they don’t suffer from the stress of industrial poultry farming. I supply my goose meat to a caterer who uses it to make rillettes and other products. And when I shoot hare, they go to De Posthoorn restaurant in the historical town of Monnickendam. I really enjoy interacting with chefs. One time I brought in some hare. The chef, beaming with pride, got all of his guests involved in this special occurrence.”

Active participation in nature

“A hunter always does his homework. You’re responsible for your own hunting ground, after all. On average, it takes about 60 hours of preparation to shoot one deer. Those hours go into observing, counting, and deciding which deer should be culled. A hunter will always choose a crippled or sick deer first. You always take the worst off in the herd. It’s not a case of waking up on a Saturday morning and thinking, ‘Nice day! I think I’ll drive to the woods and shoot something.’ Hunting is anything but a no-obligation sport.”

Adventure is worthwhile

Hunting season

Deer - doe*

January 1st until March 15th

Deer - buck*

May 1st until September 30th

Wild boar**

July 1st until January 31st

Fallow deer

August 1st until February 15th

Red deer

August 1st until February 15th

Wild duck

August 15th until January 31st


August 15th until January 31st


October 15th until January 31st

Pheasant rooster

October 15th until January 31st

Pheasant hen

October 15th until December 31st


October 15th until December 31st

* Varies by province

** All year outside the Veluwe and Meinweg national parks

Destructive wild game can be hunted all year, subject to seasons set by the provinces.

An exemption is required for hunting large-hooved wild game.