For any anti-hunters who might be reading this, this journey for me is not about hunting. I cannot imagine a future in which I ever get up at crazy-o-clock in the morning, grab my gun, and go shoot something (and btw, that is so not the way Germans go hunting). I am in no way against hunting - I love meat including venison, wild boar, and some fowl. I just wouldn't trust myself to do it right - Waidgerecht. Besides, I'm going for my Jagdschein because I want to be a Falknerin and help rehabilitate and release injured or sick birds of prey, not so I can hunt.
This is about facing a daunting challenge in a foreign language.
|This is the Landesjagdschule Dornsberg|
|the upper foyer with cabinet full of Präparate,|
most of which I will need to be able to identify
and speak intelligently about
So yeah, the number of times I wondered during that first week "What the actual hell am I doing here?!?!?" was more frequent than I wish it had been.
I was warned. People told me this is no easy thing. And it shouldn't be! There is a lot of Verantwortung - responsibility - with hunting. To prepare for the test there's a lot of reading, a lot of memorizing, and a lot of learning to do. IN GERMAN. I would have a hard time learning this even in English, and the teachers go fast through the material! We are 14 students, and I'm the only foreigner. I wouldn't expect them to slow down just for me, and there wouldn't be time anyway.
Already on the first day, though our teacher was the school director, whom I'd met before, I found myself realizing there was much I didn't understand when it came to the content (Topic: Wildhege, or gamekeeping & forestry). Then on day two the topic was Federwild (wild fowl) with a different teacher, and I learned that there are more ducks than just the Mallard (Stockente) and more geese than the Canadian. Ok, I had read much of the corresponding book in the weeks before class started, but I hadn't started trying to really identify them. One activity was to take the various Präparate and organize them on tables according to which group they belonged to. I felt sorry for my partner. I did learn, though, and can now identify a number of the ducks. The Greifvögel (birds of prey) are less problematic for me, but we only need to know two of those.
|R to L: Stockente, Reiherente, Tafelente, Pfeifente (?), Krickente|
|a table full of ducks (and a Graugans, if I'm not mistaken)|
And I was so proud of myself a few months ago when I finally got the difference between a Büchse (rifle) and a Flinte (shotgun). Idiot.
I'd been afraid of guns before starting to read about how they work - the inner mechanics. Eventually I thought my fear had developed into a respect and interest. But it turns out it is still downright panicky fear. Saturday morning was our first Schießtraining, practice shooting at clay pigeons with a Flinte.
|Hofgut Dornsberg, where I had a lovely room during the week|
|the breakfast I could unfortunately never fully enjoy|
I saw a wonderful story this morning where a girl who didn't want to dive into a pool said loudly "But I'm afraid! I'm so afraid!" An old woman was swimming by, stopped, raised her fist defiantly and said, "So be afraid. And then do it anyway!" I wish I had seen that on Friday night, because that's the attitude I needed.
On Saturday morning when I opened my window, a beautiful Rotmilan flew right over the house, closer to me than I've ever seen one before. I thought briefly that could be a good omen - and a reminder of why I'm putting myself (and my instructor!) through this. Then I drove to the Schießstand (shooting range), hoping to heaven they had a WC.
My stomach was twisted all during the Waffenhandhabung (weapons handling) demonstration, although the instructor was as calm as a Zen master and spoke very clearly. Then it was time to shoot. I had fear and "I don't want to do this!" written all over my face, and one of my classmates tried to reassure me it would be fine. I had no idea how to stand, hold a gun, or aim, but I was able to load a Patrone, say "Hopp!" almost loudly enough for the guy releasing the clay pigeon to do his thing, pull the trigger, open the Kipplaufwaffe and unload the Hülse without killing anyone and without crying.
|the view toward the Bodensee from my accommodation|
One of my young classmates asked if I'd at least enjoyed it. I did not. I was only concentrating on not screwing up. The gun was heavy, despite being a Damenwaffe, and I was not at my physical strongest, having not eaten much in three days. But I did it, and my first interaction with a gun and live ammo is behind me.
Several times during the week I acknowledged to myself that I am in way over my head. I should have studied the books I have for several years before signing up for a class. There are just way too many words I don't know - and I mean normal German words, not just the Jägersprache. As an example, the instructor sent us home with a 50-page booklet about safety to read by the time we return. My classmates will be able to read through that during a Kaffeepause. It took me about six hours on Sunday because I had plenty of words to look up and I took notes. It's not enough this time for me to skim over words and say "Ja ja, I get the idea." I have to know this because I will be tested on it.
Still, I am looking forward to Week 2 - despite the fact that we will be going to the shooting range five days of the six. There is an impossible amount of material to learn, and if I spent every waking moment studying between now and July 1st, it would still not be enough.
So then...back to the books.
|This is Markie. He was staying at the Hofgut Dornsberg|
while his humans were on vacation. He was my therapy dog
during the last few days of class.
And funnily enough, I think that was the expression on my face
on Friday and Saturday morning.