Thursday, January 2, 2020

Life Update: Jägerprüfung

I hope you all made it through the holidays with grace and joy! Welcome to 2020!

M and I enjoyed a quiet and stress-free holiday season with lots of delicious meals, no snow, hours of studying, phone calls with family members, and some tradition holiday movies: Dinner for One, Die Hard, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel. There is also an astounding number of nature documentaries aired on German TV, which we watch with renewed interest these days along with Youtube videos about Waffenhandhabung and hunting.

Some of you know I love reading - historical novels, anything by Ken Follett, books about falconers and falconry... In 2018 I read the most books since I started counting, but 2019 ended with me having read only 12! That's not counting all the reading I have done for my Jagdkurs and Jägerprüfung, though. These days I'm reading descriptions of infectious diseases in wild animals, the original text of German hunting and nature protection laws, hunting magazines, details about the biology of wild animals including those we're not allowed to hunt and explanations of how different kinds of rifles and shotguns are put together and used.

bi-weekly or monthly reading
To be honest with you, although (or perhaps because!) this is incredibly challenging, I am thoroughly enjoying it. I love learning! It surprises me that I even enjoy learning about guns and ammo, especially since I still don't plan on actually hunting, but so it is. Some people my age have a mid-life crisis, but that's not what this is. I developed an interest in Falknerei in mid life and I'm just pouring all my energy into learning everything I can and need to. A year from now I hope to have my Falknerjagdschein!

It was just about a year ago that our family friend and former Landesjägermeister and his wife drove me to the Landesjagdschule near the Bodensee for a Schnupperstunde. Schnuppern means to sniff around, and the purpose was for me to sit in on the class that was already in progress to see how much I'd be able to understand. I also met the Schulleiter  and main teacher, who was confident I would do fine. I should have been more realistic, but maybe then I would have lost my nerve.

I had serious doubts about having to "field dress" a dead animal and even more serious concerns about handling and shooting a gun (at a shooting range, NOT at real animals!). I went into this with less knowledge than the average German child in grade school gains by simply growing up in Europe and watching "Sendung mit der Maus".

What prior knowledge did I have that has been helpful this year?

  • I knew what a badger looks like (thanks, Wisconsin).
  • I could identify a maple tree (thanks, Canada).
  • I knew something about rabies (thanks, Jeanna, though I wish you'd been spared that).
  • I am pretty good at identifying dog breeds.

Yep, that was about it. Here's a short list of things I didn't know and wish I had:
  • the difference between a rabbit and a hare
  • more species of trees than the maple and the birch
  • how many times a year and for how long a female dog is in heat (Buffy was male)
  • how to aim a gun, especially at a moving target
  • the yearly life cycle of any animal
  • the difference between a virus and a bacteria


Jumping ahead to today, my best subjects are Waffenkunde (gun-ology) and Jagdrecht (hunting laws) - how ironic is that?!? On the first day of Jagdrecht in class I wondered how on earth I was ever going to learn the details of hunting laws here and be able to understand Juristendeutsch (German legalese), but by now I am pretty comfortable with the 250 questions about it as well as explaining how to handle certain situations. I can explain terms such as:
  • Kirrung
  • befriedeter Bezirk
  • Eigenjagdbezirk & gemeinschaftlicher Jagdbezirk & their minimum hectars
  • Jagdrecht and who has it
  • Jagdpächter & jagdausübungsberechtige Person
  • Begehungsschein
  • the difference between Nothilfe, Notstand and Notwehr 
  • such verbs as: erlegen, aufbrechen, erwerben & führen
I'm told the average German might not be able to define all of those terms, yet by now they're not infrequent topics of conversation here in the evenings.

While M and I were studying on New Year's Day, he found one of my bookmarks from last spring. On it I had written "Büchse = rifle // Flinte = shotgun" and noted that a Flinte can be "broken" in half to open it. We had a good laugh about how far I've come. Nowadays when M explains something to me in English about guns, I have to interrupt and ask for the specific terms in German!

source
Anybody: "What is this?"

Me a year ago: "I don't know. Some kind of goat?

Me today: "That's a Gamsbock. It's a Bovide, meaning both males and females have horns that they don't shed. The males' horns are more curved than the females' and their base is round whereas the females' horns are oval. Their Paarungszeit is in the winter (Nov/Dec) and the Kitze are born in May/June. The males are territorial during the Brunft and they live in the Alps, Bavaria and in the Schwarzwald. They're Mischäser and have 32 teeth."

Anybody: "What's it called in English?"

Also me today: "I don't know."


I'm also using an online trainer to prepare for the written test. That test is multiple-choice, but there are anywhere from 2 to 6 possible answers and any number from 1 to 3 of them can be correct, though it never happens that all answers are correct (that doesn't apply to the online trainer, only to the real written test). 


On this screen shot you can see the 5 subjects I'll be tested on. Very roughly for those who don't know German but are curious:
  1. Wild animals and forestry
  2. Weapons: Laws,  technology and handling
  3. Hunting practices
  4. Laws: hunting, animal protection, nature conservation
  5. Animal diseases and dealing with killed animals
The green circles show how many questions I've gotten right, orange and red show how many I've missed (red = repeatedly wrong), and grey shows how many questions in that category I have not yet answered in their system. I've answered all the law-related questions and score in the 84-87% range.

Quick life hack if you ever find yourself taking a multi-choice test: If you truly have to guess because you don't know the answer, go for the longest one. This is a tip I've known forever and it has rarely failed me. Turns out it's not just for tests in English!

The written test should be no problem in the end with continued hard work. For the shooting bit M and I continue to spend many Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoons at the Schießstand in Stuttgart practicing the disciplines we'll need to master for the shooting test. I still need some review and practice with gun handling because in that part of the test I have to prove that I can handle several different types of long guns, a pistol and a revolver without making a single mistake.

My real concern is still the oral test, in which I'll be tested on all of the above topics but in the form of an interview, and I'll have to answer and explain my answers in coherent German.

Here's one example (in mostly English): 
"You are on a hunt and have shot a Rehbock (roe buck) who gets up and runs into the farmyard of a neighbor of the Revier (hunting ground). What do you do?"

"The law prohibits hunting or firing a gun in a farmyard (that is a befriedeter Bezirk). However, in order to spare the already-shot deer from additional pain and suffering, I must follow it and put it out of its misery, for instance with a Fangschuss with my pistol as long as the energy at the point of leaving the barrel is at least 200 Joule. If the Rehbock is on pavement I cannot use a gun because of the danger from a ricocheting bullet, so I need to use my Waidblatt (large knife) to kill it" [as I learned and practiced in my hunting class - I have a photo, but I'm not posting it here]. 

Sound easy? 

I also need to be ready to list 7 diseases that can be passed from animals to humans, which diseases are viruses, which are bacteria and which are parasites, when 25 different wild animals have their mating season, which trees and plants are appealing to roe deer or red deer, how, why and when to einstech a Drilling, which wild animals are under Naturschutz, which dog breeds are best for which type of hunting, ammunition caliber in American and European measurements, and and and...


But I'm not complaining and I have all the books, brochures, charts, and videos I could possibly need to prepare for this. And I have M. He has helped me so much with language and details, and since he decided to go for his Jagdschein as well, I've been even more motivated!

I spend much of my time studying and reviewing. Now and then I'm interrupted by things like grocery shopping, laundry, and emails (or blog posts), but I don't leave the house without one of my study books to read while on the train, standing in line, or waiting for my turn at the running Keiler at the Schießstand.

And with that it's time to get back to the books!


I wish you a successful and happy 2020!!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Cracking the Code: Making Friends with Germans

I have read on many expat groups and forums that it is very difficult to make friends with Germans and I have heard the same from my students here over the years. Germans have the reputation for being distant, stand-off-ish, not warm, and even unfriendly or rude. For my readers who don't believe me, there are chapters written about this in books about Germans, and I just yesterday asked two Germans during the office English lesson if they think there's anything behind this idea. They both agreed that's a pretty common impression, as did M. Yes, I know Germans - even Swabians - who defy this stereotype, but that doesn't mean it isn't based in reality.

Ok, so how do you make friends with Germans? 

Ask them for help with something you need/want to learn that they are already good at.

Seriously, that is all.

Well, not quite all. You have to mean it. If you're faking it, don't bother because they will see through that in a New York minute. Be sincere.

Friends for nearly 30 years (old photo).
No one in the world has ever understood me like he does.
Here's where I'm coming from:

As you know if you've read my blog during the last year, I have embarked on a crazy journey - to become a Falknerin. This would not be crazy in the US or the UK because there all I'd need to do is start volunteering with a falconer, learn about the birds and how to care for them, gain some confidence, and buy a bird. But this is Germany. I must first become a hunter, and in order to do that, I need to really want to become a hunter because of the time and money it requires.

When I started this quest I also started reaching out to everyone I could find who had something to do with hunting and Falknerei. While listening to a radio report about Falknerei and Vergrämen (chasing pigeons away from airports or towns using birds of prey) in Baden-Württemberg, I heard the name Wulf K. How many "Wulf Ks" could there be in B-W?? I contacted a family friend who has a son of that name, and sure enough, he's a Falkner. I asked if I could contact him, and he spent more than an hour with me on the phone talking about Falknerei and giving me advice how to pursue this goal. Among other things, he told me not to go for the "kleiner Jagdschein", which is valid for Falkner but doesn't include the shooting bit. He said if I'm going for my Jagdschein, I should go for the Full Monty. That was the first, but not the last, time I heard that advice.

Another family friend who is a hunter took me down to the Landesjagdschule for a short visit because I had said I was considering a different school near Stuttgart. He thought the Landesjagdschule would be a better choice. There I met the director and sat in on a class, and decided I would indeed attend that school instead.

M and I have visited the Garuda Falknerei several times and always seek them out when they are at the Horber Weihnachtsmarkt. Last year and this year the Falknerin has spotted us at the start of her show and waved with a friendly, "Hi! I know you!" Last year when she did this I turned to see who was behind us, but there was no one. She was greeting us! Haha!

I have known for several years that my Frauenarzt (Ob/Gyn) is a hunter and organizes each year a Treibjagd in his Revier. So in the Spring I sent him a letter saying I am pursuing my Falknerjagdschein, am therefore interested in learning what I need to learn about hunting, and if he would be willing to help me I'd be grateful. 

While chatting with the chef at our favorite local restaurant one evening this summer, he told us there is a Falkner who lives in the village just on the other side of the valley! He told me his name, I googled him and sent him an email. A few weeks later he was sitting in our Wintergarten talking with us about hunting, learning to shoot well (I was having a real problem with that at the Jagdschule), and Falknerei. He spent two hours with us!

Not long after that I got a phone call from my Frauenarzt. He told me he'd received my letter and thought that he would ask JM, a friend of his and local Falkner, to get in touch with me, but when he did JM told him he'd already been at our house for a 2-hour chat!  I think this is what proved to him that I was serious and this wasn't just a whim. He and his wife invited M and me to his house for Kaffee und Kuchen and a drive through his Revier.

A former student (friend by now - a Scot!) told me her boyfriend's father is a hunter, and I practically begged for an introduction. He called me up one evening from his Hochsitz and invited me over to watch him gut the deer he'd just shot. I dropped everything and dashed over. He also took me out with him the next evening when he went to his Hochsitz again, and 25 minutes later I was watching him gut another roe buck.

Several weeks ago M and I met with a group from my summer Jagdkurs, and it was so good to see them again! My Tischnachbar (the man who sat next to me in class) was there, and I was glad to introduce him to M. He often helped me with words or phrases in class when I felt lost and frustrated. Many of my other classmates who offered me encouragement at the Schießstand or help translating now and then were there as well. We've agreed to try to arrange a get-together once or twice a year.

A classmate and friend from my Jagdkurs introduced me to a Schießlehrer (shooting instructor) in Stuttgart who has been a godsend. For the past two months M and I have been going nearly every Wednesday afternoon and Sunday morning to the Schießstand (shooting range) in Stuttgart for lessons. I never wanted to shoot or even touch a gun. I had serious problems during the Jagdkurs and dreaded our days at the Schießstand. Zip forward to today, and it's a whole different world for me. This Schießlehrer has done wonders for me - even when I shoot badly, which has been often, he stays cool and tells me I'll get it eventually. On Wednesday (2 days ago), I finally saw that day.

Datenschutz-approved photo of my very patient Schießlehrer
coaching me on the damn Kipphasen
Every "regular" at the Schießstand has been helpful, friendly and welcoming. We recognize each other and everyone is per du (we use the informal "you" and first names with each other). The ones who are working volunteering as Aufsicht (supervisors) offer tips even when we don't ask, and we appreciate everyone's input and help! We are improving and it is because of their help. I have exchanged emails with some of the other students there. One of them sent me 35 pages of potential questions for the oral test of the Jägerprüfung that she and her classmates had created!

Are all of the above-mentioned Germans my friends? No, not yet. At least not in the German sense. They wouldn't refer to me as their friend either (Germans frequently use the word Bekannte - acquaintance - and that's a good thing to be!). But I have gotten to know a whole lot of wonderful people this year who are willing to work with me and help me reach my goal. I genuinely enjoy spending time with them and learning from them. 

Ok, so what if you don't know German well enough to carry on a conversation yet? Same tactic: Ask a German for help! One of my closest friends here is a woman I met at our second Kochkurs five years ago. We exchanged emails so I could share our photos with her, and I asked her to be my Sprachpartnerin (language partner). I'd help her with English, and she could help me with German. She agreed, we met a few times, she invited me to a Kaffeekränzchen at her house, and since then we meet every few weeks or months whenever we have time. And she continues to help me with my German during our conversations!

Several times recently I have struck up a chat with a total stranger on the train which has led to a genuinely interesting talk! We did not exchange contact information, which I find really cool as well - if the fates align, we'll meet again. If not, I enjoyed the time chatting with a stranger about topics that interested us both.

I've made acquaintances and friends with Germans by volunteering, teaching, taking cooking classes, joining a Verein (club) and through my pursuit of the Jagdschein. We've made friends with our neighbors as well. None of this was instantaneous, though.

Making friends with Germans takes time and effort. The only things worth doing take time and effort. If you sit around waiting for them to come to you, it's not going to happen. Tell them you want to learn something they can teach, and prove to them that you mean it.

Trust me.


White-tailed Eagle, Isle of Mull, Scotland
Just because.

I guess in a way this blog post is my effort to throw out into the universe a heartfelt THANK YOU to all those who have been willing to help me. This is the most difficult thing I have ever tried to do, and without these folks I could never have made as much progress as I have.




Saturday, December 7, 2019

My Second Treibjagd

M and I went on another Treibjagd today, and it was quite an experience! This one was in a huge Revier (hunting territory) and the neighboring one as well, and the organizer is my Frauenarzt. We had the feeling a lot of people - hunters, Treiber and helpers - would be here, and we assumed we would know no one. Turns out we were wrong about the latter!

Friendly warning: There will be at least one photo of the "Strecke" near the end of this post, which is the deceased animals laid out on pine branches to honor them and the hunters who shot them.

If I understood correctly, there were 75 Schützen (hunter-shooters), who were taken to their assigned Hochsitze to spend 2.5 hours sitting in the rainy cold hoping that we Treiber would drive a wild boar, Reh (roe deer) or fox past them. I don't know how many Treiber there were, but I think there were ten groups, and we were six in our group.

Hochsitz
(Not all are enclosed with a roof)
M's former landlord appeared out of nowhere holding the leash of a dog he doesn't own, and we were surprised and pleased to see someone we knew. Afterwards I saw our acquaintance JM, who is a Falkner in a village not far from us, and had a quick chat. He was one of the Schütze, got a Reh today,* and he is also in the Jagdhornbläser group. Another of the Jagdhornbläser popped over to greet us - he is our former neighbor from over the hedge!

*JM, if you read this, Waidmannsheil!!

The day after our first Treibjagd, we each ordered a new set of outdoor clothes: hardy orange hunting pants and hunter-orange jackets that were at least water resistant. I missed a great opportunity to have our neighbor take a photo of us suited up for tromping through the forest in our as-yet unused hunting gear and bright orange baseball caps. Damn.


We packed up our gear last night, and having learned from our last experience the entire car was loaded full with an extra set of clean, dry clothes and socks, towels, hand and foot warmers, two extra jackets, a spare set of boots, and Snickers bars. The weather forecast claimed the rain would stop around 6:00am and it would be warmer than it had been the past few days (around 10 °C). Liar.

The temperature was fine, actually. Ok we got cold standing around before the hunt actually began, but that's to be expected. But I don't think it ever stopped raining. It only changed from annoying to light to misty to steady rain. However, the fact that I made it to the end (2.5 hours later) with mostly dry feet means it was a damn sight better than last time.

And as a bonus, I also didn't lose my eyesight from the branches slapping me in the face, I didn't break an ankle tripping over moss-covered rocks, I didn't fall down the steep hill I had to walk along sideways, and I didn't get permanently stuck trying to fight my way through blackberry patches. All of those things almost happened, but didn't. I cursed like a drunken sailor again, using all the expletives I'm familiar with, but that was mostly near the end when I was getting tired.

Jagdleiter Rudi is welcoming and giving instructions to the
hunters and Treiber. It is his Revier, and this Treibjagd should help him
meet his quota of Reh and Wildschweine for the year.
"Quota" isn't really the right word, but hunters who own or lease Reviere here are responsible for shooting a certain number of roe deer and wild boars each year to keep the numbers managable and to fend off the ever-threatening Afrikanische Schweinepest (pig plague). If he does not fulfill the written goal, there may be serious consequences including - if he misses the goal several years in a row - losing his hunting ground. I just wanted to point out that this type of hunt isn't just for fun. The herds need to be culled because we humans keep reproducing and needing more and more fields for growing crops, and herds of deer and wild sows with their Frischinge do horrible damage to crop fields, which the hunters have to pay for because it's their job to keep the wild animals out of the crop fields! We also killed all their predators (wolves), so nature can't regulate things on her own. I've learned about all of this during the Jagdkurs.

The job of the Treiber is to tromp through the forest making enough noise to convince the wild game to abandon their cozy shelter from the rain and dash away from the stupid noisy human. The Schützen need to be on alert with all their senses, being ready to shoot a sow or deer passing by but watching out for - and not shooting - the hunting dogs and the Treiber. They listen for the Treiber shouting out their location, the animals running or strolling through the forest, the dogs barking to indicate they've flushed something out... And their noses can tell them if a rauschiger Keiler (boar lookin' for love) is anywhere near.

Teckel/Dackel/Dachshund
staying warm before the hunt
The dogs' job is to wait patiently and quietly until they are let off the leash (punctually at Jagdbeginn, 10:00), and then run willy-nilly through the forest, barking and unsettling the game so they move to where the Schützen can get them. Their barks have a different tone, usually more frantic, when they're on the trail of a fleeing deer or Wildsau. The dogs I saw here today were several Teckel (Dachshunds), a Deutsch Drahthaar, a Brandlbracke, at least three Slovensky Kopovs*, and a black lab or two.

*I had to ask the handler for this breed because I didn't recognize it and it's not on my list to study for the Jägerprüfung. They had the look and coloring of Brandlbracken (black-and-tan hounds) but were too small and yet clearly not puppies.

Shortly before 10:00 our group set off from the shelter of Rudi's Jagdhütte and headed toward the forest. The terrain here was much more challenging than that of our first Treibjagd, being very hilly and full of blackberry patches. Treiben is a great (volunteer) job for people who like being out in nature. You're not restricted to paths - in fact you're really supposed to avoid the paths and stick to the rough, and you might get to see some wild animals. I only saw three dashing Reh, but M also saw a few foxes as well as a Wildschwein (wild boar).

We fought our way through thick forest undergrowth, up steep hillsides, down into valleys, and over ditches. The blackberry branches bit through our pants but couldn't tear them, the tree branches did their best to poke out our eyes, and everything on the forest floor gave its best effort to trip us and throw us on our asses. But in the end we prevailed - we made it out unbroken and unshot, as did everyone else.


After the hunt the organizers provided us all with delicious and warm Gulaschsuppe, good German bread, tea, coffee, or Glühwein, beer and water. There were two firepits burning to help us thaw the cold bits, and three Metzger (butchers) were on hand to do the Aufbrechen (gutting). One of the Metzger had a crowd around him and didn't just gut the boar - he talked about what he was doing, teaching how it's done and what to look out for (abnormalities in the organs). Several of us were clearly students who will have to identify internal organs for our test, and he showed us each of the important steps and parts.

I'll spare you those photos, but I have them and was not the only one taking pictures. All in the name of learning!

The traditional Strecke legen followed, where the animals are laid on pine branches to be counted and also honored along with the hunters who shot them. Rudi's wife thanked everyone for the good and safe hunt and called up each hunter who'd shot an animal (or three in one case!). Following custom she took a pine branch, stroked it against the animal the hunter had killed, and handed it to her or him to put in the band of his (or her - there were at least two women who were successful hunters today) hat with a "Waidmannsheil!"

12 Sauen, 22 Rehe, 9 Fuchse
After that the Jagdhornbläser performed several traditional tunes including Sau tot, Reh tot, and Fuchs tot."


This brought the hunt to its official end. The Metzger still had a lot of work to do, but the Treiber und hunter-shooters could slowly make their way to the pub/restaurant where Rudi said they are welcome to celebrate "bis zum Erbrechen."

One of my many questions was answered when I heard one hunter say he was going to drive his "Kanone" (gun) home and then come back to the pub. I've always wondered what a hunter does between a Treibjagd and the Schüsseltrieb afterwards - the social celebration. In Germany if one is caught in possession of a gun AND has more than 0.0% blood-alcohol level, he faces stiff penalties including likely the loss of his hunting license and gun license. I know what the hunter is supposed to do - not drink any alcohol as long as he still has his gun with him, or drive her gun home, lock it in her Waffenschrank (gun cabinet), and return to the party. A relative can't just come, pick up the gun and take it home because one is not allowed to transport a gun without a gun license.
Anyway, I was glad to hear this hunter's answer to the situation, which reflects the law.

This was our last planned Treibjagd for the season, and after I hit "publish" on this post I'm going to drag my tired Kadaver to the sofa for an evening nap. But we will very likely do this again next year. After all, we now have the proper outdoor clothing, so it would be a shame to just let it hang in a closet.


To all of today's successful hunters: Waidmannsheil!!



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...