But I'm still hearing gunshots daily - from the orchards and vineyards on the plain rather than the mountains - so small game still needs to lie low for another few weeks.
After each season has ended I often come across patches of straw and partridge feathers on walks around the vineyards. My guess is the birds are bred and released, so there's something to shoot at come the following August.
There's one regular tour I make with the dogs, where - earlier last year - we often put up a red legged partridge. I say "put up" but usually it ran. My two dogs would go crazy, jumping up for a better view as the bird disappeared into the untended vineyard next to us. Happily, they were on the lead. I have a habit of naming routes I take, so that one has become Partridge Path. I do hope the bird made it through this season.
When you're new to the area it's alarming the first time you see men armed with shotguns by the side of the road or hiding in hedgerows. Shooting remains such a passion and part of the local culture that I do wonder if that's the main reason I see so few mammals in particular, but some bird species too.
In the eight years I've been roaming the countryside I've seen and heard only three pheasants (or one, three times); one woodcock; quite a few red legged partridge.
I've yet to see a deer (even their tracks are sparse) and there seems to be a dearth of rabbits. I spot hares more often, and they're always in the hills (which are thickly wooded). Walking with dogs myself is, of course, a double-edged sword. They'll scare off most things before I realise anything's there. But sometimes they see or smell something I would otherwise have missed. Like the totally bizarre mole cricket (see below) that, to me, resembles a cross between a cricket, scorpion and mini lobster. I had no idea what it was until I looked it up; then felt privileged to have found it as they're usually nocturnal.
Of course many mammals are nocturnal too and I tend to find more of those dead than alive: a pine marten, so unlucky to have been run over on a very quiet country lane; a genet (minus head) that must have been caught by another predator - fox or even eagle owl perhaps? I'd never have found that had my dogs not dragged me half way across a neighbour's field of vines. Until then I had no idea they were around here.
But it's not all bad news! In contrast to this, it's a thrill to see red squirrels in decent numbers - sometimes dashing across the roads around our village! Some are nearly black and, if you're feeling a bit down, I guarantee they'll give you a boost as they cavort through the trees, tails twitching, as if revelling in the simple pleasure of being alive. And they need have no fear of the hunters.