The business of sport shooting and hunting in Finland

Cover Story, Editorial, Features

Vol. 26, Issue 10, 01 December 2023

Finland has a long-established history of hunting for food in the forests and wilderness, as do many countries in Europe. The hunting of game animals and birds for food has been a way of life for many people and still is. In rural areas the hunting season provides families with enough meat to last the long winter season. In addition to hunting for meat, there is also the need to maintain a healthy population of wildlife and to keep down the numbers of harmful predators that prey on game animals or that destroy forests and farm crops.

However, there have been many discussions in the Finnish media recently, regarding hunting and culling of forest and tundra wildlife. The discussions mainly have been centred around the shooting of predators, namely bears, wolves, and lynx. However, this has also raised concerns amongst the public against the hunting of other species such as elk, deer, and wild boar. Bear and lynx hunting has recently come under much debate and is now going to be reformed to greatly reduce the traditional form of “hunting” to a more controlled culling where necessary to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Even as a hunter, I welcome this idea, as the thought of hunting for “trophies” is not something I am in support of – if you are going to hunt it, you should be intending to eat it in my opinion – harmful pests are another matter of course.

As more and more people grow up in towns away from the countryside, the hunting way of life is seen as something that is a sport rather than a necessity. People depend on supermarkets for their food and cannot understand why someone would kill an animal to put food on the table – somewhat of a double-standard, people want meat but do not want to know how it came to their table. many people see hunting as a group of older men having fun in any forest shooting at anything that moves – this is far removed from reality. Hunting is strictly controlled and permits have to be sought. The society I belong to, Kouvolan Erämiehet (, have just two adult elk permits this season. Any meat is shared among the hunters and their families, and so far, just the one elk we have felled has provided me with 9kg of meat the freezer to see me through the winter.

A successful hunt for Kouvolan Erämiehet ending with a 230kg male elk. The shooter was 15-year old Sisu, the son of the hunt manager that only got his own permit the week before! Photo credit: Timo Jyrinki

With over 300,000 registered hunters in Finland it is a large part of the sporting industry and business. The majority are male, but the number of female members is climbing steadily at more than 15,000, and more than 40,000 youth members (statistics from the Finnish Hunters Association). Most hunters grow up in rural communities among families that have a history of hunting, especially those that have their own land and forests. Usually, hunters will have grown up with an appreciation of the wilderness and game animals in Finland and have a good respect for nature. Most hunters also practice on shooting ranges throughout the year ensuring that they have the skills necessary to shoot both standing and moving targets. Members of Kuusankoski Shooters (Kuusankosken Ampujat, practice on the outdoor ranges through the late spring, summer, and early autumn, and during the winter we practice at the indoor range with air rifles. There are also sport competitions that members participate in throughout the year at indoor and outdoor ranges, which have either electronic or cardboard targets. The necessity of so much practice is that the aim in hunting is to be able to instantly kill the game in a single shot preventing any suffering to the animal.

No, the “mask” is not to hide my face, it’s just that it is rather cold standing in -12C for 4 hours!

To obtain a hunting licence in Finland, you first need to sit a written exam consisting of 60 questions related to laws and regulations, suitable calibres, seasons, and the recognition of birds and animals. After passing this exam, you need to join your regional society of the Finnish Wildlife Agency and pay the annual membership fee. The next stage is to apply for a rifle permit from the Finnish police authorities. For this, you need to be able to justify your reason for applying to be able to purchase a rifle. This is a lot simpler if you already belong to a hunting society or shooting club. You need to explain what calibre of rifle you wish to purchase and its suitability for the permit you are applying for. In addition to this, you need to provide any evidence of your activities in hunting (such as attending hunts even as a non-shooting participant) or being active in a shooting club using a borrowed rifle. Once a permit has been granted, you have 12 months in which to purchase a rifle either new or used from a retail store or private individual. During the purchase the permit has to be completed by both parties. Once you have made your purchase, you have 30 days in which to present the rifle to the police so that it can be checked against the permit and the serial number recorded. Once this is done, a final permit (card) will be issued that has all of the rifle details. Each permit is allocated for each rifle, so for example, if a hunter requires different rifle calibres for different game, then a separate permit application must be made for each.

Now that a rifle has been applied for, purchased, and verified, the person is able to be active in hunting in a society or even on their own land for small game such rabbits and hares and as game birds. If the person is interested in hunting of larger game such as deer and elk, or even bear, then a proficiency shooting test must be done. This is conducted at a shooting range with a silhouette of an elk or bear at 75m. The shooter must get 4 shots within the target area of 23cm (elk) or 17cm (bear) within 90 seconds. If even one shot is outside the target, the test needs to be retaken. One this text is passed, the full hunting licence is granted.

All elk hunts are arranged through a hunting society and members have to also prove their credentials before joining. There is a hunt leader who directs the hunt, location, and the use of dogs. Societies are issued a certain amount of permits per year according to their hunting areas. Individuals that have their own land and also fulfil all of the regulations for hunting can also apply for elk hunting permits, in fact, many landowners even start their own small hunting societies.

Being a member of the society is also about enjoying the peace and serenity of nature

A recent survey conducted by the Finnish Wildlife Agency showed that over 60% of Finns were very much in favour of and had a positive view of hunting.  Also, almost 70% said they enjoy eating game and feel it is an ethical and sustainable food source, with 57% wishing it was more readily available to buy.

Hunting is beneficial to Finnish society serving communities and also providing a source of food, and there is also the financial side. Hunting brings money to communities through the societies and in the form of rent to landowners. We also have a regulated system of controlling wildlife populations through hunting and wildlife practices. In addition to all of this, there are the many Finnish manufacturers and retail outlets who serve the needs of hunters through the sale of rifles, ammunition, and all of the necessary extras both for hunting and practice. Well-established Finnish manufacturers of both rifles and ammunition supply not just the Finnish market but the international one for both individuals and governments. Whether you take up shooting as an hobby or sport for competition, or hunting for animals, it is not without costs. Joining a club or society has of course membership fees that help keep clubs and societies running, and provide the social aspects. Taking the written hunting test is €20 and the shooting test another €20. Applying for a rifle licence will currently set you back €105, and then the actual purchase of a rifle can range from a few hundred to a few thousand euro. When you then start adding on rifle scopes, various accessories, clothing etc., it can become an expensive hobby – not to mention the many hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds shot at the practice range each year. So sport shooting and hunting is also good for the Finnish economy.

What better way to know where your food comes from than when you have been involved in the whole process.

The consumption of meat is not for everyone of course, as many people who are vegetarian or vegan can attest to, and everyone is of course free to eat what they wish. However, if you are a meat-eater, surely you would like your meat to be locally, ethically, and sustainably sourced? Remember, game in Finland enjoy a completely free life in nature before ending up on the table, rather than spending a short lifetime in some sort of caged environment being forcefully fed until the end…

For more information about Kouvola Erämiehet see although the site is only in Finnish, you can contact the secretary, Pasi Omenainen, also in English or contact me for more info.