Sunday, October 17, 2021

Saarland Hunting Weekend, Part 1

These posts are family-safe. Whether you are a Jagdgegner (opposed to hunting) or a hunter, have no fear to read on.

The last vacation trip M and I went on was to our beloved Isle of Mull in Scotland in September 2019. 2020 was all about earning our hunting and falconry licenses, so the only trips we took that year were to Saarland to the Jagdschule Seibt. 2021 has also been free of travel until this weekend when we returned to Saarland for a guided hunting experience. We booked three Ansitze each (sitting in a hunting stand with an experienced hunter to show us the ropes) with the option to buy the meat of a deer or wild boar if we shot one (or one each). We booked “our room” at the Pension we’ve now returned to 3 times from Thursday to Sunday and had arranged with Herr Seibt to meet him and another hunter at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning for our first Ansitz.

We went to bed quite early and got up at 4:00 a.m. to make sure we were fit. We are more punctual than the Swiss, but the other two hunters were there before us. Herr Seibt himself accompanied M, and the Jagdaufseher of this Revier (Berthold) took me. I had prepared a large backpack with all the things, of course, but Berthold told me all I needed was my Gehörschutz (hearing protection), Fernglas (binoculars), gun and ammo. What? No water? Müsli bars? OhnmachtsSnickers? Immodium? Turns out he was right. I left my backpack in his Geländewagen (SUV), shoved 2 tissues in my pocket, and off we went.

In order to get ahead of the Wild (wild animals open for hunting), you need to get to the Hochsitz before daylight. This means tip-toeing through the forest – QUIETLY – in the pitch dark. We each had a small flashlight, mine fading spectacularly with each use, but by the time we got to the Hochsitz we’d turned those off. Ok, time to climb up a ladder in total darkness with my unloaded gun slung over my shoulder, my binoculars dangling from my neck and my Gehörschutz clipped to my arm, and feel my way into an unfamiliar box without banging anything against the wooden rungs, walls, or door. I failed at that bit, but not badly enough to get scolded. Once we were settled, Berthold told me to load my gun, cock it, and put the safety on. Holy shit. In total darkness?!? Oh! That’s why they say one should know her gun well enough to load and unload it without the use of light. I managed, swearing under my breath like a drunken sailor, but without wetting myself. Baby steps.

Then we sat. And waited. And listened.

a forest clearing sometime after 5:30 a.m.

Now and then Berthold used his thermal-imaging-camera to see if there was anything moving around out there, and when there was he handed it to me so I could see. I saw two Rehe (roe deer), probably a Geiß and a Kitz (doe and yearling), and a mouse at a puddle. When the light improved a bit my binoculars worked well enough to see as far as I would have shot. In this light, however, we saw nothing. Still, I was entranced with the experience of being in the dark forest, in a Hochsitz at the edge of a small clearing and watching the world wake up.

the small clearing in broad daylight

At first the only thing I heard was my tinnitus. But would you believe when it’s that dark and quiet you can hear leaves fall to the ground? Bats screeched by, birds started to waken and scold, geese flew honking overhead to their daytime hangout, and eventually we heard other sounds of life, like cars on a distant road and an airplane overhead, but thankfully no people. Then my stomach gurgled, and I realized how loud one’s body can seem when everything else is deathly still.

We had agreed to meet back at the cars at about 8:30, and the others were equally unsuccessful at seeing Wild we could erleg. (erlegen = to bag or kill)

We arranged to meet that afternoon again at 16:30 for an evening hunt, and M would be at a different stand with a different hunter guide.

I looked forward to being able to climb up the stand in the daylight to start the waiting, until I realized that meant everything in reverse, or climbing down and tromping out of the forest to the car in the pitch dark.

Once again, though, it was a special experience to sit quietly at the edge of a clearing this time to watch the forest settle in for the night. The geese flew back in the other direction returning to their Schlafplatz (where they sleep), but again, we saw no Wild. Hunters know this is the way of things. As our Schießtrainer told me, “Jeder Tag ist Jagdtag, aber nicht jeder Tag ist Fangtag." ("Every day is hunting day, but not every day is 'bagging day'.”

We already knew we were all-in for every hunting experience we could have from this point on.

For further reading:
Saarland Hunting Weekend, Part 2: The Hornet Nest

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