Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Drückjagd 2020

M and I participated in our third Drückjagd last weekend, again as Treiber (Hemingway would call us “beaters”) and not as Schützen (shooters/hunters). The weather conditions were fine, it had snowed overnight but wasn’t snowing or raining during the hunt, and it was a degree or two above freezing.

Every new Drückjagd yields a new experience, though as Treiber the plan is generally the same: Follow the instructions of the group leader and fight your way through the forest making some noise to drive the animals out of their daytime cover and make your presence known to the hunters in the stands with guns. We spent much of the time on Saturday walking along the side of steep hills, battling our way through thick and thorny blackberry patches, getting smacked in the face by branches, climbing over and under logs, slipping on wet leaves and branches, tripping over loose rocks, blaspheming, and trying to maintain our balance.

I was obnoxiously orange, but by the end of the hunt I was still warm, dry (except for my hands), and uncut by thorns, so forgive me for not caring how I looked. Those clothes are fit for the job!

The Treiberstock (beater's stick) is handy for lots of purposes: poking into places where you’re not sure how deep your next step will be, holding it “at the level of your eyes” to avoid having to fight through branches with your face, using it as a third leg to keep or regain your balance on a steep slope, beating it against trees to make noise, and laying it on a patch of blackberries you have to walk over because you can’t walk around it.

I hoped this photo would show the steepness of
the hill we had to walk along

We learn something with every Drückjagd. This time M and I had walkie talkies on our belts in case we got separated, as has happened on past hunts. That’s damn scary, to be honest, knowing there are hunters with guns all over the place. Every hunter in Germany knows you need to clearly see the animal you are about to shoot, judging its gender, age, and condition before you shoot. This prevents accidentally shooting a Treiber or a hunting dog, but still.

Our group leader this time was a young pup along with his brother. There was also another young guy who is attending a Jagdschule, and an older seasoned hunter, Bruno. After smiling politely a few times behind my Corona mask while we were standing around before the start, I told them I am from the US and “have difficulty with dialect.” That’s code for “I don’t understand a thing you’re saying.” Bruno laughed and said they would give it an effort to speak normal German, and he did. The others, not so much. I seriously did not understand more than about 5% of what they said. I don’t need to be part of the local conversation, so that was no big deal, but after every time it seemed we’d been given an instruction, I had to say to M, “Ok…what?” Bruno helped me with body language – basically just pointing in the direction I needed to go. Good enough!

Someday I'd love to get a photo of the difficult terrain we have to struggle through, but at those moments when I'm fighting Brombeeren (blackberry patches), slippery rocks, or beech thickets, I don't feel like getting out my camera.

About half the number of Treiber and hunters participated this year, and yet more Wildschweine fell than in past years. This year the hunters got 31 Wildschweine, 18 Rehe (roe deer) and four foxes. The Wildschweine are especially important to cull because their population is out of control and the afrikanische Schweinepest (swine flu) has made it to Germany. Bachen (sows) can reproduce before they reach one year old, and each sow can have up to 8 Frischlinge (young'uns). They can cause unbelievable damage to forest floors, fields, and parks, for which the hunter then has to compensate the landowner. Shortly before the hunt I contacted the organizers and placed an order for some cuts of Wildschwein and Reh, which are on our Christmas meal plan!

Rehrücken mit Kräuter-Nusskruste
(venison tenderloin)

Because of Corona there was no celebration afterwards and the organizers couldn’t offer delicious warming Gulasch, bread and beer as he had last year. That was ok, though. We were tired and I was starting to get cold now that we weren’t moving anymore, so we said good-bye to the few people we knew and headed home.

There is something about this that is enjoyable, even though the job of Treiber is not easy! Being a part of a yearly tradition? Getting to know more hunters in the area? The sense of accomplishment having done something difficult outside in the cold without breaking or spraining anything? At any rate, we’re doing another one this weekend. 

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