Portrait – Twice a year, Pierre Déom, the creator of the magazine “La Hulotte”, sends his delicate sketches and meticulous naturalist stories to 150,000 subscribers worldwide

By Aymeric HENNIAUX

Twice a year, he sends his delicate sketches and meticulous naturalist stories to 150,000 subscribers worldwide. Creator of “La Hulotte”, a cult and discreet magazine, Pierre Déom is celebrating his half-century of activity. His bright workshop offers a breathtaking view of a meadow lined with dense woods, a paradise for deer, hares and other deer. It is there, on the first floor of his house in Boult-aux-Bois, in the heart of the Ardennes, that the 73-year-old former teacher finds inspiration, in front of his imposing drawing table.

In La Hulotte – the name of an owl with brown plumage, a specimen of which nested opposite his former school – he recounts and draws the life of birds, insects, mammals, batrachians, fish, but also plants and flowers. “I’m talking about the nature that surrounds us, the species that live next to us but that we don’t notice most of the time,” says the shy man with salt-and-pepper hair. Since the first publication in 1972, 112 issues have been published, sold only by subscription. Driven by word of mouth alone, the success is staggering.

“I had the project to create nature protection clubs in the department. La Hulotte was to be a kind of newsletter providing information on the news of these clubs”, he says. “Except that the clubs have not had the success I hoped for, unlike the magazine which very quickly exceeded a thousand subscribers.” Subscriptions multiplied until they exceeded 100,000 around the 1980s and have stabilized around 150,000 for twenty years. La Hulotte currently employs seven people.

Son of a farm worker and eldest of a family of eight children, Pierre Déom grew up in the countryside. But he only became interested in nature late in life. “It was while living in the city that I finally realized that I missed nature.” An acquaintance then offered to introduce him to banding, a technique intended to follow the movements of certain species of birds. “A real revelation,” he says. “I remember once being able to hold a kingfisher in the palm of my hand, a real gem!” Through La Hulotte, this “son of Hergé”, as he describes himself with sincere humility, has refined his style over the decades, sometimes spending up to 60 hours on a single drawing. A magnifying glass allows him to add a nest twig here, a bird feather there.

“He is a child of Buffon, Cuvier, Lamarck: the extension of the great naturalists who have done the honor of France”, greets Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). “All the naturalists I meet, including the great teachers, have been initiated by La Hulotte”, swears the former TV host, who confesses “mad admiration” for Pierre Déom, to whom he is close. It is also through the precision and richness of the information that it distills that La Hulotte has gained the loyalty of its readership, earning its place both in the libraries of elementary schools and at the CNRS.

Between popular books and scientific works, the author, helped by a librarian, compiles, lists and verifies as much data as possible to offer a playful and humorous story of around forty pages, without advertising, framed with the greatest rigor. scientific. He says he devotes “between 1,000 and 1,500 hours of work for each issue, from collecting and verifying information to layout, including writing and of course drawing”.

With the aim of meeting the publication deadlines for its magazine, which is expected in 70 countries around the world. If he likes to unearth little-known anecdotes, Pierre Déom keeps a golden rule: keep an educational approach within the reach of a ten-year-old child, to give young people the “desire to discover nature in their turn”.

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