Friday, April 19, 2019

Hunting in Germany: Part 1

Der Weg zum Jagdschein

For more than a year now I have been seriously interested in pursuing falconry and becoming a Falknerin. In order to meet this goal in Germany I need to first earn my hunter's license. I went back and forth for months wondering whether I really had a chance at accomplishing this, and by now I have taken the leap and begun my pursuit.

These two brochures from the Landesjagdverband e.V. and
Deutscher Jagdverband e.V. contain lots of helpful information
about hunting in Germany, some of which I include below.
As is my style, I wanted to find out everything I could before signing up for a class. I want to go into this with my eyes wide open. I didn't necessarily anticipate that my eyes would pop open with shock and awe, but oh well. At least I know what I'm getting into.

To help me mentally prepare for what is upon my doorstep (my hunting class begins in June), I wanted to write this post - perhaps also for posterity. I suspect anyone from the homeland who knows about hunting and hunting license requirements there will be rather surprised at the way things are done in Germany.

Prerequisites for Hunting in Germany

  • Completion of a certified Jagdkurs [hunting course] (min. 130 hours)
  • Successful completion of the 3-part Jägerprüfung [hunting test]  (written, oral, shooting)
  • Possession/purchase of Jagdhaftpflichtversicherung [hunting liability insurance]
  • Minimum age of 16 (limited/probationary license)
    Minimum age of 18 (regular license)
  • No criminal record
  • Mental and physical fitness and aptitude
  • Cost: €1500 - €2000 (hunting course + test)

Jagdschulen / Hunting Schools

There are many private hunting schools in Baden-Württemberg. I needed to shop around to find the type of class that fit best to my learning style and schedule, and with the help of a family friend - the former Landesjägermeister of Baden-Württemberg - I've settled on the Landesjagdschule Dornsberg, (LJS) not far from the Bodensee.

Types of Courses

Except for evening classes, the courses are generally made up of 18 or so eight-hour days. Those days include classroom work, practical and hands-on instruction (identifying flora & fauna, gun handling & safety, and field dressing [gutting] prey, for instance) and shooting. The LJS allows students to combine sessions from the various types of courses when flexibility is required.

Compact Course, Summer

The "summer holidays" in Germany are only six weeks long, so this class is quick and intense. The one at the LJS runs for three weeks including one two-day break and an intensive three-day review session before the test.

Weekend Course

This course is run one weekend a month, Friday through Sunday, followed by a final eight-day block, and stretches over five to six months.

Compact Course in 3 Blocks

This course extends from June through August, one week per month. This is the one I've chosen because I know I need time in between blocks to review and prepare for the next one. This also includes the intensive three-day review session before the test. The test is scheduled for the time we'll be in Scotland, so I will be taking it in November. We'll find out if that's an advantage (more time to study) or a disadvantage (more time to forget stuff).

Theory Topics

There are five different areas of study for the theoretical portion of the class, which takes about 100 hours of instruction. This is where I will be wishing I had paid better attention in the few science classes I couldn't avoid taking while still in high school. Seriously, I believe I took one year of basic biology. In college I took geology because it was the lowest/easiest science class one could take to meet the graduation requirement. My 50-year-old self would like to travel back in time and whack my 16-year-old self with a 2-by-4.

  • Wildtierökologie & Revierbetreuung [Zoology; Animal Biology & Care of Hunting Ground]
  • Waffentechnik, Waffenrecht, und Führen von Jagdwaffen [Weapons Technology, Gun Laws, and Weapons Use and Safety]
  • Jagdausübung, Jagdarten, Jagdeinrichtung, tierschutz- und artgerechte Haltung &  Haltung, Führen und Einsatz von Jagdhunden [Hunting Practices, Types of Hunting, Hunting Devices, Species-appropriate Care and Training of Hunting Dogs in accordance with Animal Welfare]
  • Jagdrecht, Tierschutzrecht, Naturschutzrecht und Landschaftspflegerecht, Jagdethik [Laws pertaining to Hunting, Animal Protection, Environmental Protection andLandscape Maintenance, Hunting Ethics]
  • Wildkrankheiten und Behandlung von erlegtem Wild [Wild Game Illnesses and Handling of slain Game]
In addition I will be learning about and tested on:
  • Wildhege [Gamekeeping]
  • Biotoppflege [Care & Maintenance of Habitats]
  • Land- und Waldbau [Agriculture & Forestry]
  • Wildschadenverhütung in Feld und Wald [Prevention of damage caused by wild game in field and forest]
At the Jagdhundetag
LJS Dornsberg, April 2019

Why do I have to learn about the care and training of dogs? Because in Germany "Jagd ohne Hund ist Schund" ["Hunting without a dog is rubbish"]. I have read again and again that there is no type of hunting for which a suitable and well-trained dog is not necessary. In other words, one should never hunt without a dog. The dog can assist the hunter in flushing out game, but perhaps the more important part is finding and retrieving or leading the hunter to the dead or wounded animal.

For the shooting part of my education, I will need to learn how to handle and shoot with the Langwaffen [rifle and shotgun] and Kurzwaffe [pistol and revolver]. At this point I can't even tell a rifle apart from a shotgun, so the gun business might be my biggest challenge.


The state hunting test stretches over two or three days. The entire test is conducted in German; there are no accommodations for non-native speakers like me.

1. Written Test

This is a multiple-choice test with 25 questions on each of the five topics I listed above. In B-W, there are anywhere from three to six possible answers to choose from, and any number from 1 to 5 could be correct. You are not told how many answers are correct, but grammar can help here with the phrasing of the question. (“Which of the following animals IS…” vs. “Which of the following animals ARE…”) I have 150 minutes to answer the 125 questions.

Thank goodness the entire pool of 1250 questions
is available on the internet.

2. Weapons Handling and Shooting Test

For this part I need to demonstrate skill and accuracy at shooting with rifle and shotgun as well as handling the weapons safely. If I fail at this, I fail the test; I cannot compensate for lack of competence with guns with really good performance on the written portion of the test.

Büchse [Rifle]: 
I need to be able to shoot a stationary deer target from 100 meters (328 ft) and a moving wild boar target from 50-60 meters (164-197 ft).  None of the targets are real/live!

Flinte [Shotgun]:
I must shoot running rabbit targets from 35 meters (115 ft).

Kurzwaffe [pistol and revolver]:
This is for short-range, as in ending a wounded animal. It sounds like I won't be tested on this in B-W, but other states might require it.

Büchse? Flinte?
Clay pigeons were the target.
Tennessee USA, 2014

3. Oral and Practical Test

I will be tested on all five topics here as well, this time in front of a panel of judges. This could involve a walk through the hunting ground with a hunting simulation in which I have to tell how it should be properly handled. I will be required to identify hunting dog breeds, game animals, internal organs of game, plants, and trees from photos, models, or in the field. I am as yet unsure if I will need to actually "field dress" an animal during this portion of the test.

Can you identify this breed?

What about these two?

If I pass that test, I will then be able to apply for my Jagdschein [hunting license] and then a Waffenbesitzkarte [license to own a gun]. If I do not feel confident with the guns and shooting, I can skip that part of the test, and passing the other two sections, I could then get an eingeschränkter Jagdschein [limited hunting license]. That would be enough for me to then pursue my Falknerschein [falconer's license].

Hunting in Wisconsin

If I had written this blog post about what I personally would need to do to obtain a hunting license and go hunting in Wisconsin (USA) if I were still a resident, it would have been much shorter:
  1. Obtain (buy) a gun.*
  2. Register the gun with the proper authorities.
  3. Pay $165 for a Conservation Patron hunting license (allowing me to hunt all types of large and small game available in Wisconsin).
  4. Find somewhere to hunt.
*This used to involve a 48-hour waiting period, but ex-governor Scott Walker repealed that in 2015. There is now no waiting period in Wisconsin, though the required background check does take 3 to 5 minutes.

Since I was born before January 1, 1973, I would not need to take any kind of class: Not a hunter's safety course, and not a course on how to handle a gun. I could buy any type of legal gun at a sporting goods store.

If I decided a class would actually be a good idea so I have some clue how to aim and shoot, which animals I am allowed to shoot, etc., I could find a Hunter Education Course in most communities or take an online class. The one I linked to costs $24.50. A hunter over the age of 18 pays an additional $10, though I don't know why. I found an in-person weekend class in southern Wisconsin which runs Saturday and Sunday for eight hours each and costs $10 total for the two days. Many such classes are taught by volunteers - experienced hunters who are enthusiastic about teaching.

The German Jägerprüfung, or hunting test, is often called "das grüne Abitur." (The regular Abitur is the graduation test students in Germany must pass at the end of high school in order to qualify to study at a university.) This is serious business, and it requires weeks and months, if not years, of study and preparation. I hope I am up to the challenge.

All things to do with hunting in Germany begin and end with horn blowing.
LJS Dornsberg, Jagdhundetag, April 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Manners and Etiquette: Knigge Part 2

I promised in a post from last month that I would come back and write more about Knigge, focusing on travel. As it turns out, my flights to and from Newark, NJ (USA) to visit my kids in Pennsylvania weren't as bad as expected. However, looking through Silke Schneider-Flaig's book about German Knigge and reflecting on my own experiences did give me a few ideas.

So here we are for Part 2. Some of these are from the Knigge book, and some are my own pleas tips.

At the Check-In & Security

  • Arrive early enough to cut down on your own stress. Know that at every major airport in the world, traffic to the terminals is thick and chaotic, so plan more time than you think you need.

  • Do not blame other passengers or airline personnel for your misfortunes or bad planning. You will have much better luck getting assistance if you are calm and reasonable.

  • Have your passport or i.d. at hand (take it out while you are waiting in line) rather than approaching the counter and then starting to dig for it.

  • While waiting in line to approach the nudie scanners at security, remove everything you can (watch, belt, bracelets) and put it all in a jacket pocket or pocket of your carry-on. Have your tablet or laptop ready to be placed separately in a bin, as well as your "freedom bag" (the 1-quart Ziplock bag containing your dangerous liquids and gels).

  • Watch the travelers in front of you. If they are required to remove their shoes and place them in a bin, be ready to remove yours.

At the Gate

  • Before they call for boarding, put the items you will need during the flight (for me those are my noise-canceling headphones and MP3 player, a book, a notebook, a pen, reading glasses, hand lotion and lip balm because it's dry as buggers up there) into a smaller bag you have packed in your carry-on for this purpose.

  • Everyone boarding the plane will be taking off together at the same time. So pushing, shoving, and trying to sneak in before your section is called is foolishness. 

In the Airplane

  • Get to your seat, stow your carry-on in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, and sit down. Get out of people's way and do not block the aisle.
    This is easy as pie if you have done what I mentioned in the section above, because you have the most important items in your little bag - which you will need to put under the seat in front of you for take-off! You can live without everything else until the plane reaches cruising altitude.

  • Silke Schneider-Flaig recommends to help older folks and parents traveling alone, but I would change that to offer your help. Don't just step in and grab their stuff to toss in an overhead bin. ASK if they would like your help.

  • Do not put your seat back unless you are actually trying to sleep. When you fail at sleeping, put your seat back upright again. Honestly, folks, that extra inch of recline will not help you and will be a torture to the person behind you.

  • Put your seat back upright during meals! If the person in front of you doesn't do so, ask him or her politely rather than seething in silence.

  • If you expect assistance and cooperation in the event of an emergency, pay attention to the safety video or flight attendants going through procedures, or at least shut up long enough for the rest of us to listen. It's a matter of respect in my view, and it doesn't matter that I've heard this spiel 86 times already.

  • For the love of all that is  holy, wear socks! Do not display your bare feet to others, and do not rest your foot on the arm rest of the poor soul in front of you.

  • Take cues from the person next to you as to whether s/he wants to chat or not. Just because you're excited to start your vacation doesn't mean the business traveler next to you wants to chit-chat.

  • On most international flights these days the planes are equipped with touchscreen displays on the back of the seat in front of each traveler. Thanks, airplane designers; that was a great idea. They never work as well as our mobile phone and tablet touchscreens, and this leads to people banging their fingers on the displays. To see what this feels like, strap a book to your upper back or neck and have someone bang on it repeatedly with her finger.
    DO NOT BANG ON THE TOUCHSCREEN! It's a touchscreen, not a bangscreen.

Honestly, everything regarding Knigge for travelers boils down to keeping calm and not causing problems for those around you. For this you need a healthy dose of self-awareness as well as acknowledgement of people around you.

One final tidbit of advice: WASH YOUR HANDS whenever you have the chance. On my flight home last month I saw the 10-year-old kid across the aisle from me sneeze a goober into his hand, and since he was too proud to ask his mom for a tissue, he wiped in on his seatbelt that was dangling into the aisle. As fate would have it, his dad wanted to switch seats with him for landing. They did, and the goober ended up on Dad's hand. At least it stayed in the family. 

One of the many morals of that story is that you never know what filth has been on the things in the plane you have to touch. The cleaning crew does their best in a very short amount of time, but they cannot possibly disinfect everything you will have to touch. It really isn't that much of a mystery why people commonly get sick with a cold or the flu after flying...

What etiquette tips do you have for international flights??