Monday, August 19, 2019

Jagdschule Report 3

I have completed the Jagdkurs (hunting class). In total, not including lunch breaks, we were in class and at the shooting range for about 174 hours, several days in this last week running for 12 hours (8:00am to 8:00pm). During the first two weeks in June and July we were 14 or 15 students, and in the last week we were about 30 because two classes combined. My classmates will be taking their test in just two weeks! Since M and I will be in Scotland then (a vacation planned before I'd signed up for the class) and because I need lots more study time to be ready, I will be taking my test in May.

The test has 3 parts (multiple-choice, oral & practical, and shooting) and is administered over 3 days.

Wildpark Allensbach
As I reflect on these past three months I can't help but be pleased by the changes in myself and the things I have learned. I do not mean this in a bragging way, so forgive me if it sounds like that. And in case you're new to my blog, I can tell you I do not ever plan to hunt. This is the first step to becoming a Falknerin (falconer) in Germany, and that is my goal.

I have a whole new vocabulary that I would never have acquired had I not started this journey. Much of it is not useful beyond the world of hunting and Falknerei, but if you know me, you know I love learning. I've learned new dog breeds - and some breeds I knew already but now I know them in German, too. I've also learned about the skills of various breeds - Apportieren (retrieval), Vorstehen (pointing), Buschieren (flushing), and Brackieren (??) - and qualities that are desired, such as spurlaut, Wildschärfe, Führigkeit, and those that are not - waidlaut, schussscheu, and Knautschen.

kleiner Münsterländer
demonstrating Apportieren without Knautschen
At the start of this class I would not have confidently been able to tell the difference between a Rehbock (roe buck) and a Rothirsch (red deer stag). A deer is a deer, right? Nope. There's also Sika and Damwild around here - two other types of deer - and I still have trouble identifying the calves, fawns, and yearlings.

Interestingly I have also started losing my English - I just had to look up "Kitz" to come up with the English word "fawn." That happened more and more frequently during the course.

I can now also tell you how many teeth a fox and a Marderhund have (hint: it's also the answer to "life, the universe, and everything") and why a red deer has two more teeth than a roe deer. I can explain the difference between a deutscher Stecher and a französischer Stecher (hair trigger), give you seven different words for "tail," and list 15 different Vorstehhunde (pointers), 3 Schweißhunde (bloodhounds), and 6 Bracken (hounds) that are commonly used for hunting in Germany. I can identify Gerste and Buchweizen in jars and Gerste and Weizen in the field. 

The biggest change in myself is that I am no longer terrified of guns. Other people with a gun in their hand still freak me out, but the guns themselves are not scary. In no way am I implying I now understand the American mindset of "I need a gun to protect myself" business. I have a healthy respect for guns just like I have a healthy respect for large wild animals and sharp knives. But having learned how to safely handle several long guns and handguns, I see them as I see sharp knives. If you're careful and use your damn head, you can usually avoid major injuries or death.

großer Münsterländer
learning not to knautsch (bite into the animal he's retrieving)
However, I also now know how bloody difficult it is to aim and shoot a gun accurately. Apparently handguns are even harder to aim accurately than long guns. So the whole "we need more good guys with guns" is still horseshit to me. When I shot the four different guns I was required to shoot, right up to the last day it felt pretty random to me whether I hit the targets or not. I had eventually learned how to aim at a moving target with the rifle and the shotgun, but on my second last go at the wild boar I shot four 9s and a 10, and at my next round I shot three zeros, a 9 and a 5. I had as much time as needed between shots to take a deep breath and lower my heart rate. I was calm, there was nothing to be nervous about, and whether I hit the target or not didn't really matter. There were still plenty of times when I did not hit the thing I was aiming at.

Rotwild Alttier
red deer hind
I made some friends during the course (my classmates ranged in age from 15 to 67 and included in the last week six other women), and everyone was really helpful when I didn't understand something and had to ask for clarification on a word or concept. I appreciated their patience, and some of them told me they were glad they weren't doing this in a foreign language. We shared some frustrations with the way things ran during class some days, carpooled to and from the Schießstand (shooting range), and had meals together when there was time.

This is one of my classmates. On one of the test days,
we have to demonstrate that we can handle a long gun safely
while climbing up into a Hochsitz, load it, aim after confirming
the shot is safe to take, unload and climb down again.
Besides all the shooting, the other previously-unfathomable experiences I have had during the last three months include: watching Aufbrechen ("field dressing") six times, holding the still-warm heart of a Rehbock in my hand, handling and identifying several other vital organs of a Reh and a Wildschwein, sitting with a hunter in his Hochsitz for just 10 minutes after which he shot a Rehbock, sitting with my classmate and friend Katharina in a Hochsitz for 90 minutes and seeing nothing but a few pigeons, stabbing an already-dead Reh (she'd been hit by a car and then "field dressed") with a bowie knife to practice the technique because a hunter here will be called after a traffic accident involving Wild and might have to finish it off if it's not quite dead yet - and if it's lying on the pavement s/he can't shoot it because there is no sicherer Kugelfang (the bullet could ricochet), and failing no less than six times so far to understand why one aims a shot a few centimeters low on the target with the Zielfernrohr (scope) when shooting UPwards in the mountains.

Deutscher Wachtel
I'm reading hunting magazines instead of novels when I take the train somewhere these days, I'm watching every documentary about the wilderness and wild animals I can find on TV in the evenings, and practicing safe weapons handling and my Anschlag (shooting stance) often with one of M's Luftgewehre or the Hantelstange, which lies permanently on the living room floor. And I am practicing statements like this, which I have to say during the weapons handling part of the test as I simulate a situation in which I would be aiming my gun at an animal:

"Vorder- und Hintergelände sind frei,
ein sicherer Kugelfang ist vorhanden,
das Stück steht breit.
Ich entsichere die Waffe,
ich steche die Waffe ein,
ich bewege mein Finger zum Abzug
und löse den Schuss aus."

The words in red are ones I'd never heard or used in my life before this. I can't even translate "einstechen" because I don't think guns used in the US have this feature.

This is me aiming at the laufenden Keiler
(running boar) with a Blaser R8.
All of these are things I was sure I would never do in my life. "Never say never," they say.

The journey continues as I spend the next eight-and-a-half months re-reading, re-learning, and reviewing the life cycles and antler/horn development of Boviden and Cerviden, learning to identify important trees, bushes, and crops as well as the inner organs of boars and deer and whether those organs are normal or diseased, gun and hunting laws in Germany, and at some point get back to a Schießstand so I can refresh my shootin' skills.

I wish my classmates success (Waidmannsheil!!) and hope to hear good news from them all in our WhatsApp group in a few weeks!

For further reading:
  Jagdschule Report 1
  Jagdschule Report 2


  1. I've loved reading your reports. I'll never hunt, either (mostly vegetarian, if not vegan here!) but it's fascinating to learn about what a hunter must first master. I wish the US did things like this.

    1. Thanks for sticking with me! I realize I'm on a thread that has limited interest for most readers, but it's such an incredible challenge with the language that I just need to share it. I wrote that earlier, but in Wisconsin since I was born after 1973, all I would have to do to officially hunt there is obtain a gun and ammo and find some public land where hunting is allowed, and shoot something. 3 months ago I had no idea how to even aim a gun, and I was doing it wrong (holding the gun right-handed, aiming with my left eye - that's what I do with my DSLR camera)!

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    3. Oops - I'd also need to pay $135 for a one-year deer hunting license ($20 if I still lived there). The books I had to buy for this class cost more than that.

  2. Did you see this event at the Hohenzollern castle? I'm thinking about a trip there (not this particular weekend though) and saw the falconry weekend. Have you been to this castle yet? It looks gorgeous!

    1. We have seen this one! It's good, but the same Falkner does a really fabulous show at Hohenneuffen, and it's far better than the one he does at Hohenzollern because that's their usually site. Search my blog for it; I wrote a post just about that show. Except when they are at Hohenzollern, they are at Hohenneuffen every Sunday and holiday.