Saturday, November 9, 2019

My First Treibjagd

M and I went on a Treibjagd today - my first - and my general feeling afterwards, now that I'm warm and dry again, falls somewhere between "That was a really cool experience" and "What the actual hell did I just do?!?!"

We had been pleased to hear last night that it wasn't supposed to rain today, because we already knew it would be cold. Not Wisconsin cold, but cold enough to bundle up in layers, winter socks and toe warmers. Cold is doable when you keep moving, but cold and wet - no. Just...no.

We got up at 6:00 am, loaded up the car with an extra change of clothes, socks and boots, several toe and hand warmers (not enough, as it turned out), brauchbare Messer (useful knives) of several sizes, two cameras, a tarp to keep the trunk clean afterwards, and 8 Snickers bars. We left home at 7:30.

It started out to be a lovely morning, actually. The overnight rain had turned to snow south of us, and the heavy new snow looked beautiful on the trees and in the fields.


Approximately 2.5 hours later that damn snow was neither lovely nor beautiful.

We gathered at the meeting point, located my Jagdkurs instructor, signed in, and stood around wondering what would await us, still dry and warm enough. I had on my hiking pants under my thick hunting pants, regular socks, toe warmers, thick winter socks, and rubber wellies. On top I had a turtleneck, a t-shirt, a warm sweater, and a big thick fluffy hunter-green jacket. Two pairs of gloves and hand warmers tucked inside.


What I knew before the Treibjagd:

  1. There would be at least 16 people there for the hunt (because fewer than 16 participants is not a Treibjagd).
  2. M and I would be in the Treiber (beaters) team.
  3. We would be tromping through the forest for several hours, flushing out wild game.
  4. We would most likely survive unshot.
  5. There would be refreshments afterwards.

We learned after the Jagdhornbläser welcomed everyone that the open animals were roe deer of any age, wild boars except sows with fresh babies, foxes and Marder (martens - like weasels). The Jagdleiterin also reminded the hunters to always shoot "young before old"  - if a doe is with a Kitz, the Kitz is shot first before the doe. This is more humane because the doe can survive alone but the Kitz could not. (It's unlikely there would be young Kitze at this time of year.) Lastly she told us that an article had been written about this upcoming Treibjagd in a local paper, which can always mean the appearance of Jagdgegner - opponents of hunting - who show up and try to disrupt or prevent the hunt - which is illegal, just in case it sounds like a good idea.

We were assigned to two experienced hunter-Treiber, who gave us further instructions and led us to our starting point. We formed a line of four Treiber and we were to tromp along, shouting "HOPP-hopp-HOPP" every 10 seconds or so to both flush the game and keep the four of us aware of where each of us was. We were to plow through whatever came into our path - thickets, blackberry patches, brambles - and just keep going.


The hunters were perched in Hochsitze with their Büchsen (rifles), ready to shoot whatever game the Treiber and the dogs flushed out of the forest. I asked Andrea for assurance that they would not aim or shoot into the area we were. She gave it, and I pretended to be convinced. The hunter in the photo above was the only one I saw (before the hunt started at 10:00 sharp). I also didn't see any wild game. I did see a hare bound away, but they weren't on today's list.


This was my starting point, and you can see M in the distance down the road in orange. This was the last photo I took because I had a job to do. Aww, look at all that lovely snow. What a nice foresty atmosphere!

After our first tromp we stopped briefly at a forest path to re-group, and I said to M, "Well, at least my feet are still dry." That's when I felt the wetness from my pants (trousers, for you British readers) start dripping into my wellies. 20 minutes into the two-hour hunt I was soaked through to my skin and my feet were swimming in my boots. Although it wasn't snowing, the wet, heavy new snow was throwing itself to the forest floor with reckless abandon making a loud squashy PLOPP with every slight breeze. I was wearing a bright orange baseball cap and was glad I hadn't worn one of my warmer knit ones. I would have lost that in my first fight through the young Buchen (beech trees) thicket and it would have been soaked through and useless anyway. My hair was dripping, as was my jacket, and every time we paused I wrung out my gloves. I was pleased I could still feel my fingers.

In case that hasn't quite sunk in yet, we were WET. soaking, dripping wet. On a chilly winter's day (a few degrees above freezing) trudging through a forest. The melted snow that had slammed us from above was running off our jackets onto our pants and into our boots. Every bit of us was dripping or sloshing. I learned a new Swabian word today: seuchnass, pronounced "seichnass" in Swabian. "Seuch" comes from Seuche, which is a pestilence or plague, and seuchnass means "pissing wet". That feels about right.

You might think that we chose poorly when getting dressed, but Andrea and the other Treiber with us are experienced hunters and were just as wet and miserable. I did have waterproof pants (again, Brits - trousers) in the trunk that I wear as an emergency top layer in Scotland while hiking when we get caught in a downpour, but for whatever reason I thought (back when the snow was still pretty) I'd be ok. I will sure as hell wear them next time.

Oh yeah - did I mention that? We're doing this again in December.

After 90 minutes we had swum back and forth through our assigned area of the Jagdrevier dodging plopps and getting smacked in the face repeatedly by tree branches, and we were back at the cars. I thought that was a cruel joke because I wanted nothing more than to strip off my soggy clothes and drive home - naked or not, I cared only about setting my ass on the heated seat. Angels sang when I realized that Andrea and Dieter were done with this shit too, and she said if we had dry clothes in the car we should change into them. Thank goodness we brought as much dry clothing as we did (still it was not enough, as I had a sweatshirt but lacked a dry jacket), because for the next hour or so we stood around in the cold, wet forest at the Jagdhütte waiting while the butchers did the Aufbrechen, the dogs shivered, and the hunters exchanged "Waidmannsheil" and had some beer.

While at the Jagdhütte, M and I were standing together and talking in English. A young lad, whom I'd photographed earlier with one of the Jagdhunde, was near us and asked me, "Are you an Englishwoman?" I smiled and said I'm from the U.S. We had a nice chat and he asked to see the photo I'd taken. I was truly impressed with this 11-year-old who was not shy at all about chatting up a stranger in a foreign language! I told him this was my first Treibjagd, he told me he'd done it before. I asked if he knew how to say "Treiber" in English, and his younger brother standing behind him said "Try-Burr" with a spot-on American accent!


In the end for this many Treiber and Jäger despite the "schönes Jagdwetter," the Strecke wasn't very fruitful: 1 fox, 2 wild boars, and 12 roe deer. As tradition demands, the Jagdhornbläser stood together and honored the kill and the hunters with a song. Normally all the animals are laid on the Strecke, but this time they had a representative sample.




The man in charge then gave a brief speech first thanking the Treiber - I guess everybody knows what a shit job that is - then the hunters, the Hundeführer (dog handlers) and the Jagdhornbläser. With frozen toes we returned to our muddy car and drove back to the meeting point where there was a restaurant ready to serve us lots of hot food and drinks. This is called the "Schüsseltreiben."


There were about 100 people involved in this hunt, from the looks of it - mostly men, but quite a few women as well. We all ate heartily and enjoyed the Gemütlichkeit - but especially the dry warmth inside!

So my first Treibjagd is behind me. Despite the cold wet misery, the terrain we had to stomp through was not as difficult as it will be in four weeks. We've driven through that Revier with the hunter organizing the Treibjagd, and damn... straight up and straight down would be an exaggeration, but only a slight one.

We drove home and enjoyed the late afternoon sun and lack of snow. M hosed down the filthy car while I threw everything we'd worn today into the washer.


Many hunters, when asked why hunting is their passion, say they have always loved the outdoors, they enjoy being out in nature, and they find solace in the forest. I would like to be like them.

I am not.

I prefer curling up on my sofa under a thick blanket - a thin one in summer - reading a book. I do love hiking in Scotland with M and taking long walks in the valley near our home. I enjoy photographing wild animals and birds of prey and bad weather doesn't put me off too much.

But I learned today that I do not like walking through the forest on a cold day with half a pond in my shoes, and I have always hated being cold. As I wrote earlier, cold and wet - NO!

So why on earth did we do this and are doing it again in four weeks?!?

This is part of our hunter education. We need to learn about Treibjagden and answer questions about them, so we agreed it's best to get first-hand experience. We need to understand how the Strecke is laid, and seeing that for real rather than in books is helpful. We also learned today how not ok it is for a hunter during a Treibjagd to shoot an animal that has not been "freigegeben" - declared open. Someone had shot a hare, and although it was lying on the Strecke at first, it was removed before the ceremony started and talked about in disparaging words afterwards. Seemed like just a mistake to me. It's not that hares are not in season, but rather the person in charge had not given clearance for hares to be shot today.

I might have neglected to mention here on the blog that M has decided to go for his Jagdschein as well. It makes sense - I have asked him so many times for help with understanding concepts and words I don't understand, which means he's basically studying with me.

So now we're doing this together, and I'm enjoying it even more. Except for the pond-in-the-shoes thing.






Thursday, October 31, 2019

Hunting in Germany: Waidgerechtigkeit

Disclaimer: I am not an experienced hunter! I am in the middle of my Ausbildung/education to earn my hunting license so that I can continue on and learn for my Falknerjagdschein - falconer’s license! My blog entries about hunting are to be taken as impressions of someone who is in the midst of learning about the world of hunting in Germany.

Waidgerechtigkeit

There is a very important term in the world of hunting in Germany that does not exist in English. The concept probably does among responsible hunters in the U.S., but there is no good English translation of the word – “Waidgerechtigkeit” as a noun and “waidgerecht” or “waidmännisch” as an adjective. In order to be able to understand the idea I needed to learn a whole lot of new terms, phrases and ideas.

Waidgerechtigkeit can be described as a collective term for all written and unwritten hunting laws, the mastery of the craft of hunting and the ethical mindset or attitude of the hunter toward the wild game she hunts and the nature in which she hunts. As I understand it, the main focus is on sparing the hunted animal as much as possible from pain, agony and stress and to be mindful of animal protection laws.

The closest English word I can come up with for waidgerecht is “honorable/honorably,” although that is a general term used by anyone from hunters to lawyers, whereas waidgerecht is a term that is only used by German-speaking hunters.



Most of the work, practice and training I’ve seen going on at Schießstände in Germany seems to be aimed at making sure every shot in the wild is waidgerecht. The best shot is the one that drops the animal on the spot and kills it almost instantly – this is the Blattschuss or Kammerschuss for deer – just behind the shoulder in the area of the heart & lungs. It is not waidgerecht to shoot into a flock of birds with Schrot (bird shot) or to shoot the lead sow in a sounder of wild boar. Shooting at the neck to try to save the trophy or the Wildbret (meat) is not waidgerecht. Shooting at fleeing game (unless it is a second shot to finish off the animal that was badly shot the first time) is not waidgerecht. Shooting from too far a distance for your ability or for the gun & ammo you’re using is not waidgerecht. For most types of hunting, doing so without a specially-trained dog is not waidgerecht. Some of Germany’s newer hunting laws came about because it was determined that the action (shooting roe deer with Schrot, or buckshot, for instance) was not waidgerecht.

Mistakes and bad shots happen, and every hunter knows this. But it is no laughing matter or fodder for drunken campfire stories. 

When a hunter has done his job well and successfully, his comrades will congratulate him with a handshake and “Waidmannsheil!” 


Kulturgut

Hunting in Germany is considered Kulturgut (cultural heritage). There is a special language devoted just to the world of hunting, with many terms and phrases that are not familiar to Germans who do not hunt. There are entire dictionaries devoted to the Jägersprache, which even native speakers are wise to purchase and use as they start their schooling to become hunters. As a non-native speaker I have found that it’s often senseless to try to translate these words into English, especially since I had zero exposure to hunting during my 44 years living in the U.S.. Just like with “waidgerecht,” there often is no good translation anyway. Incidentally, my online dictionary translates it as “expertly” or “fair,” neither of which come close to deep and complex meaning of “waidgerecht.”

There are many traditions associated with hunting in Germany, some of which reflect the Native American attitude toward nature and wild game. Above all, respect: Respect for nature, respect for the animal you’ve killed, respect for your fellow hunters and the dog handler who will, with his specially trained tracking dog (for instance), help you find the animal you shot if it survived enough to flee, and respect for the traditions. For one example, after the hunter has killed an animal and before field dressing it, she breaks off part of a branch of a Fichte, Tanne, Kiefer, Eiche or Erle tree  to cover the wound and another to put in the animal’s mouth. The latter is called “letzter Bissen” (“the last bite”). Her hunter companion will break off part of a branch, hand it to her with a handshake and “Waidmannsheil!”, and she puts the branch (the Schützenbruch) in the belt of her hat. If a dog was needed to find the kill, the hunter breaks off a piece of her Schützenbruch and puts it in the dog’s collar in thanks. Well, unless the dog is like our instructor's Bayrischer Gebirgsschweißhund, who hated the scratchy feel of a branch in his collar and prefered a pat on the head.

These old traditions are not just for show. Everything I have seen and read leads me to believe that these rituals are a deeply important symbolic part of hunting. And I’ve only scratched the surface to give a few examples here. There is so much more to hunting here than just grabbing a gun and going out to shoot something. Part of my training is to learn about these traditions, the rituals, the different types of hunts that are common here (Pirsch, Drückjagd, Ansitzjagd, etc.), and the hunter’s language. Although I have lost my fear of guns, it is still doubtful that I will ever actually go hunting. But the amount of knowledge I have gained so far (and there is much more to come as I prepare on my own for the test) is almost unbelievable.


Jagdhornbläser blowing their Fürst-Pless-Hörner

To participate in Treibjagden, or driving hunts, as M and I will be doing at least twice in the next two months as Treiber (drivers/beaters), one must learn the important hunting signals given by the Bläser - horn blowers. They signal the beginning of the hunt, when the Treiber should start driving, and when the hunt is over, for instance. At nearly every gathering of hunters from celebrations to funerals the Bläser will come with their horns.

Here is a video in English about hunting in Germany, in which you can see several of the customs I've mentioned. Be aware, though, that part of hunting is Aufbrechen (field-dressing) and hanging the carcas off the ground for hygienic reasons.

This award-winning video is in German and for me an excellent explanation of Waidgerechtigkeit and the type of hunter I would want to be. 

If you are curious what a Treibjagd is, this video in English shows it quite well, without being too graphic until the last 2 minutes or so, when some of the field dressed animals are shown hanging on the rack.

Personally I don't find the Aufbrechen problematic. I would rather eat the meat of an animal that lived happily in the forest and died suddenly in its home rather than that from an animal who was transported for many miles in the back of a filthy, smelly semi-hauler packed in with its ill-fated comrades before being systematically slaughtered. It has been argued that there is no meat more Bio than Wild (wild game), and I can see the wisdom of that. I'm not here to change anyone's mind, though; I'm just writing about my experiences.

Back to the books...




Friday, October 11, 2019

Worldwide Photo Walk 2019

Last Saturday, for the second year in a row, M and I participated in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. This time we were the leaders! We learned plenty from our walk leader last year in Tübingen, and almost right away we started planning for our 2019 walk in Esslingen.


Click here to learn more about Scott Kelby’s annual Worldwide Photo Walk.
This is my description of our walk last year in Tübingen.



We were a small but international group – really the perfect size, if you ask me. Although up to 50 can register for a walk through the website, I think that would be too many people for me. The photographers don’t have to stick together or even necessarily follow the route planned by the walk leader, and it's fine if walkers have their own plan and wander off. The thing I really like about having a more manageable size group, though, is that we can get to know each other much better! Most stayed for dinner afterwards in a restaurant near the beginning and end of our walk, and that gave us extra time to chat, compare notes, and exchange contact info.



We are originally from Germany, Romania, Syria, and the U.S., ten in total. The equipment people brought came from Sony, Nikon, and Canon, and two used their smart phones. Everyone had different ideas of what to photograph, and M and I just basically led them through some of Esslingen’s pretty bits. Those of us with less experience watched the others and got ideas from what they were shooting. And yet we were spread out often enough that we didn’t always know what the others had in their view finders. It is fun to see the others’ photos and creativity, and I especially like it when I’m looking at a photo afterwards and think, “Very nice! I would not have thought to take that!”


photo credit: Dominik Thewes
Website
We had planned our walk from 15:30 to 17:30, but knowing how things would likely go, I reserved our table for dinner at 18:00. Good thing, because we only arrived at the restaurant at 18:10! You can’t rush photographers, nor would you want to.
photo credit: Dominik Thewes
Website
The sky was drab and dull, but despite the clouds it didn't rain that afternoon. Solid blue sky and bright sun isn't actually the best for afternoon photography, but a little mix and interesting cloud formations would have been nice rather than basically solid grey. Maybe I can arrange that for next year...

The quote of the day came from one of the guys, who’d set up what he thought would be a great shot. Frowning at his display after the picture, “Well, that’s not what I was going for. But I’m hungry.” We were at the Hafenmarkt at that point, and I asked them if they still wanted to see the oldest continuous row of half-timbered houses in all of Germany (ca. 1331) or rather go right to dinner. Like the dedicated photographers they are, they set their hunger aside and went for the houses. And then they found the back side of the altes Rathaus, a statue, a shop window, more Fachwerk



That is my favorite candid shot of most of the hungry group. Hungry, but, “Wait! This could be a good shot!

What could be better in today’s world? A worldwide peaceful activity that promotes creativity and passion for photography. An opportunity to spend a few hours with other creative minds and folks who want to exchange ideas and learn more about framing, exposure, optimal camera settings for various conditions, and photo editing. Before last year’s walk I only shot in jpeg and used a basic program to do very simple editing – rarely anything beyond cropping and fixing red eyes. After the walk I finally got interested in Lightroom® and semi-serious photo editing. I still have much to learn, but M gives me tips ("Ease up on those sliders!") and I’ve been watching instructional videos when time allows.


photo credit: Dominik Thewes
Website
It wasn't all serious photography! We fooled around a bit, too. I didn't know Dominik was taking the above shot, but later he returned the favor!


I must admit, though I hope someday to capture some creative "Wow!" photos as the other photo walkers with more experience did, my favorites from my memory card are the candid people shots of our group members. 
Ein Selfie muss doch sein!
Photo credit: Hasan Hesso
After last year’s walk I wondered if my childlike enthusiasm would fade, and the WWPW would be one of those “Oh, that was fun once, but we’re busy, it’s a Saturday (the only day when we can get serious yard work done), and what if the group isn’t as fun and interesting as last year…?” But it never faded at all during the year! I’d noted in my calendar when the walks would be open for registration, and I submitted my leader form at the first possible moment. Then I checked my email ridiculously often for confirmation, which came just a day or so later. I contacted last year’s photo walkers so they knew about our walk in Esslingen, and one of them signed up! I also let a few area friends know, and two of them joined us. It was definitely worth the time, and our gang was just as fun, interesting, and eclectic as last year's group.



Leading the walk has been little extra work. The location (Esslingen’s Altstadt) was obvious, and we knew roughly which areas we wanted to highlight for our photo walkers. The hardest part was deciding what to cut out (Stadtkirche, Zwiebelbrunnen, Burg) for lack of time! We’ll surely do another one next year and will include other parts of the Altstadt, perhaps starting up at the Burg.


Sammelplatz!
(Assembly area)
Next year’s walk will be on Saturday, 3 October – which in Germany is a holiday! It's always on the first Saturday in October. Wherever in the world you are, if you are interested in photography or just enjoy taking pictures and meeting people, mark your calendar! The walk registration starts near the end of August, and all you need to do is google “Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk” to start searching for one near you. And remember, if there isn't one close enough to you, check back often and/or apply to be a leader! It is not difficult (contact me if you want some tips from a first-time leader)!




I'll leave you with some of the other walkers' images of Esslingen.



Photo credit: M
photo credit: Dominik Thewes
Website
Photo credit: Jim Martin
Blog

Photo credit: M
Photo credit: M
Photo credit: Hasan Hesso


Photo credit: Hasan Hesso
Photo credit: Mohammad A Khawandah


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Life Lately October 2019


Although I haven’t blogged in what feels like ages, I have some ideas brewing. I’d like to say the reason I haven’t been blogging is because I’ve been spending every spare minute studying for my Jägerprüfung (hunter’s test), which I’ll take in May, but that wouldn’t exactly be the truth. I am certainly studying often, but my intentions are better than reality. Still, I have made progress. Ask me about Jagdoptik. Go on, ask me!

I thought I would put up a short report about what’s been going on around here since my last post.


TRAVELS

M and I spent two wonderful weeks at Glengorm on the Isle of Mull in Scotland in early September. Took some new walks and some old ones, booked a wildlife boat tour, spent time in the nature hide watching wildlife, spotted eagles, buzzards, and even some red deer, spent a few hours with a falconer, had fish-n-chips, visited the Great Polish Map of Scotland, cooked with Glengorm beef and lamb, and I (with M’s help) finally learned the difference between a Fichte and a Tanne. I also now know the Hasel, the Buche, and that “gemeine Buche” doesn’t mean “mean beech,” but rather “common beech.”




READING

Goodreads must think I’ve died. I haven’t finished more than a handful of books, and I have several (possibly 8) unfinished ones lying around. I’ve lacked the commitment in part due to the Jagdkurs. I feel guilty reading anything but my hunting books and magazines, but I’m hoping to finish one or two books for pleasure before the end of the year!

TEACHING


I’ve started a new class once a week (Tuesday evenings) with a colleague, teaching adults who have difficulty reading and writing. It is not just for foreigners; there are plenty of Germans who struggle with this as well. The class is called “Deutsch Spezial” and it’s open to anyone.



I also have my private student from the Philippines who comes for German lessons two hours a week, an acquaintance whom I’m helping with conversational English, and the now-less-than-weekly English conversation lessons with M’s employees.


The other day when I was having coffee with a friend and doing some English for his business English class, a woman overheard us and asked if I give Nachhilfe (tutoring) in English. I don’t really, but perhaps I can give it a try. Her daughter needs a boost with her 8th grade English class. It remains to be seen if I can help with 8th grade English here in Germany – I never taught anything like that in the US, despite teaching English for 16 years. Weird, huh? Language classes here are challenging, especially with regard to grammar. I'll need to be able to help her with present conditional, present continuous, gerunds, past perfect, future perfect, passive voice, etc. and under what circumstances those constructions are used. What do American kids in 8th grade learn in English class? That spelling and grammar don't matter - it's your thoughts that count.

EATING


We had our last portion of homemade Hirschgulasch last night. Good timing, since it’s now high hunting season and we’re getting to know more local hunters. J


We also reserved for “Ihabs Arabische Küche” at our favorite restaurant and had falafel, Guzi (a lamb dish) and veal steak with a delicious sauce and bulgur. Martin S. admitted the dishes had to be a little “eingedeutscht”, at times to Ihab’s dismay. Ihab is his Azubi (apprentice) from Iraq. I learned from him that Arabic food is not necessarily very spicy, but rather herbal (würzig) and full-flavored. That may explain why many Syrians I know don’t like German food: It’s bland in comparison. 





DRINKING

Well, M came home for lunch yesterday and announced, “I think we should participate in ‘Sober October’.” Say no more, I’m all in! Except that having a Gläschen Wein in the evening is my second favorite thing. That evening I had apple tea with honey. It was not satisfying.

WATCHING

M drove us to the Naturpark Schönbuch so we could take a walk through the woods and experience (from a distance!) the Hirschbrunft, or red deer rut. I wish I had known how to make a video with my smartphone, because that was really something! It's one thing to listen and watch on TV or YouTube, and quite another to be standing meters away from these bellowing beasts.


VISITING

M and I were invited to the home of a local hunter for Kaffee und Kuchen, and we spent three hours there chatting with him and his wife (also a hunter) about my upcoming test, hunting in general, and falconry. He took us in his Landrover through his huge Revier, in which he organizes a Treibjagd (group hunt) every December. We both said we’re interested in participating, either as Treiber (who walk unarmed through the forest to flush out wild game) or as photographers. At the Jagdschule they worked hard to advise us against ever participating in a Treibjagd, but at the same time I’m expected to know details about it to pass my test. This hunter has also said I’m welcome to accompany him out when he goes to one of his Hochsitze during the coming months.


That's the most of what we've been getting up to in the last little while. Here's what's coming up...

UPCOMING

Scott Kelby's World Wide Photo Walk:  This Saturday afternoon in Esslingen!

Celebrating* M's birthday: Dry, because it's in October. 
*We don't actually *celebrate* our birthdays. We go out or cook a nice dinner, have a toast, and otherwise spend the evening like every other. That's how we like it!

Trip to Breisach am Rhein: On the weekend of my birthday to visit extended family.

Treibjagd: 1st Saturday in December


What about you?!?


Monday, August 19, 2019

Jagdschule Report 3

I have completed the Jagdkurs (hunting class). In total, not including lunch breaks, we were in class and at the shooting range for about 174 hours, several days in this last week running for 12 hours (8:00am to 8:00pm). During the first two weeks in June and July we were 14 or 15 students, and in the last week we were about 30 because two classes combined. My classmates will be taking their test in just two weeks! Since M and I will be in Scotland then (a vacation planned before I'd signed up for the class) and because I need lots more study time to be ready, I will be taking my test in May.

The test has 3 parts (multiple-choice, oral & practical, and shooting) and is administered over 3 days.

Damschmalspießer
Wildpark Allensbach
As I reflect on these past three months I can't help but be pleased by the changes in myself and the things I have learned. I do not mean this in a bragging way, so forgive me if it sounds like that. And in case you're new to my blog, I can tell you I do not ever plan to hunt. This is the first step to becoming a Falknerin (falconer) in Germany, and that is my goal.

I have a whole new vocabulary that I would never have acquired had I not started this journey. Much of it is not useful beyond the world of hunting and Falknerei, but if you know me, you know I love learning. I've learned new dog breeds - and some breeds I knew already but now I know them in German, too. I've also learned about the skills of various breeds - Apportieren (retrieval), Vorstehen (pointing), Buschieren (flushing), and Brackieren (??) - and qualities that are desired, such as spurlaut, Wildschärfe, Führigkeit, and those that are not - waidlaut, schussscheu, and Knautschen.

kleiner Münsterländer
demonstrating Apportieren without Knautschen
At the start of this class I would not have confidently been able to tell the difference between a Rehbock (roe buck) and a Rothirsch (red deer stag). A deer is a deer, right? Nope. There's also Sika and Damwild around here - two other types of deer - and I still have trouble identifying the calves, fawns, and yearlings.

Interestingly I have also started losing my English - I just had to look up "Kitz" to come up with the English word "fawn." That happened more and more frequently during the course.

I can now also tell you how many teeth a fox and a Marderhund have (hint: it's also the answer to "life, the universe, and everything") and why a red deer has two more teeth than a roe deer. I can explain the difference between a deutscher Stecher and a französischer Stecher (hair trigger), give you seven different words for "tail," and list 15 different Vorstehhunde (pointers), 3 Schweißhunde (bloodhounds), and 6 Bracken (hounds) that are commonly used for hunting in Germany. I can identify Gerste and Buchweizen in jars and Gerste and Weizen in the field. 







The biggest change in myself is that I am no longer terrified of guns. Other people with a gun in their hand still freak me out, but the guns themselves are not scary. In no way am I implying I now understand the American mindset of "I need a gun to protect myself" business. I have a healthy respect for guns just like I have a healthy respect for large wild animals and sharp knives. But having learned how to safely handle several long guns and handguns, I see them as I see sharp knives. If you're careful and use your damn head, you can usually avoid major injuries or death.

großer Münsterländer
learning not to knautsch (bite into the animal he's retrieving)
However, I also now know how bloody difficult it is to aim and shoot a gun accurately. Apparently handguns are even harder to aim accurately than long guns. So the whole "we need more good guys with guns" is still horseshit to me. When I shot the four different guns I was required to shoot, right up to the last day it felt pretty random to me whether I hit the targets or not. I had eventually learned how to aim at a moving target with the rifle and the shotgun, but on my second last go at the wild boar I shot four 9s and a 10, and at my next round I shot three zeros, a 9 and a 5. I had as much time as needed between shots to take a deep breath and lower my heart rate. I was calm, there was nothing to be nervous about, and whether I hit the target or not didn't really matter. There were still plenty of times when I did not hit the thing I was aiming at.

Rotwild Alttier
red deer hind
I made some friends during the course (my classmates ranged in age from 15 to 67 and included in the last week six other women), and everyone was really helpful when I didn't understand something and had to ask for clarification on a word or concept. I appreciated their patience, and some of them told me they were glad they weren't doing this in a foreign language. We shared some frustrations with the way things ran during class some days, carpooled to and from the Schießstand (shooting range), and had meals together when there was time.


This is one of my classmates. On one of the test days,
we have to demonstrate that we can handle a long gun safely
while climbing up into a Hochsitz, load it, aim after confirming
the shot is safe to take, unload and climb down again.
Besides all the shooting, the other previously-unfathomable experiences I have had during the last three months include: watching Aufbrechen ("field dressing") six times, holding the still-warm heart of a Rehbock in my hand, handling and identifying several other vital organs of a Reh and a Wildschwein, sitting with a hunter in his Hochsitz for just 10 minutes after which he shot a Rehbock, sitting with my classmate and friend Katharina in a Hochsitz for 90 minutes and seeing nothing but a few pigeons, stabbing an already-dead Reh (she'd been hit by a car and then "field dressed") with a bowie knife to practice the technique because a hunter here will be called after a traffic accident involving Wild and might have to finish it off if it's not quite dead yet - and if it's lying on the pavement s/he can't shoot it because there is no sicherer Kugelfang (the bullet could ricochet), and failing no less than six times so far to understand why one aims a shot a few centimeters low on the target with the Zielfernrohr (scope) when shooting UPwards in the mountains.


Deutscher Wachtel
I'm reading hunting magazines instead of novels when I take the train somewhere these days, I'm watching every documentary about the wilderness and wild animals I can find on TV in the evenings, and practicing safe weapons handling and my Anschlag (shooting stance) often with one of M's Luftgewehre or the Hantelstange, which lies permanently on the living room floor. And I am practicing statements like this, which I have to say during the weapons handling part of the test as I simulate a situation in which I would be aiming my gun at an animal:


"Vorder- und Hintergelände sind frei,
ein sicherer Kugelfang ist vorhanden,
das Stück steht breit.
Ich entsichere die Waffe,
ich steche die Waffe ein,
ich bewege mein Finger zum Abzug
und löse den Schuss aus."

The words in red are ones I'd never heard or used in my life before this. I can't even translate "einstechen" because I don't think guns used in the US have this feature.


This is me aiming at the laufenden Keiler
(running boar) with a Blaser R8.
All of these are things I was sure I would never do in my life. "Never say never," they say.

The journey continues as I spend the next eight-and-a-half months re-reading, re-learning, and reviewing the life cycles and antler/horn development of Boviden and Cerviden, learning to identify important trees, bushes, and crops as well as the inner organs of boars and deer and whether those organs are normal or diseased, gun and hunting laws in Germany, and at some point get back to a Schießstand so I can refresh my shootin' skills.

I wish my classmates success (Waidmannsheil!!) and hope to hear good news from them all in our WhatsApp group in a few weeks!


For further reading:
  Jagdschule Report 1
  Jagdschule Report 2