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.


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!” 


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...

Friday, October 11, 2019

Worldwide Photo Walk 2019

Last Saturday, for the second year in a row, M and I participated in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. This time we were the leaders! We learned plenty from our walk leader last year in Tübingen, and almost right away we started planning for our 2019 walk in Esslingen.

Click here to learn more about Scott Kelby’s annual Worldwide Photo Walk.
This is my description of our walk last year in Tübingen.

We were a small but international group – really the perfect size, if you ask me. Although up to 50 can register for a walk through the website, I think that would be too many people for me. The photographers don’t have to stick together or even necessarily follow the route planned by the walk leader, and it's fine if walkers have their own plan and wander off. The thing I really like about having a more manageable size group, though, is that we can get to know each other much better! Most stayed for dinner afterwards in a restaurant near the beginning and end of our walk, and that gave us extra time to chat, compare notes, and exchange contact info.

We are originally from Germany, Romania, Syria, and the U.S., ten in total. The equipment people brought came from Sony, Nikon, and Canon, and two used their smart phones. Everyone had different ideas of what to photograph, and M and I just basically led them through some of Esslingen’s pretty bits. Those of us with less experience watched the others and got ideas from what they were shooting. And yet we were spread out often enough that we didn’t always know what the others had in their view finders. It is fun to see the others’ photos and creativity, and I especially like it when I’m looking at a photo afterwards and think, “Very nice! I would not have thought to take that!”

photo credit: Dominik Thewes
We had planned our walk from 15:30 to 17:30, but knowing how things would likely go, I reserved our table for dinner at 18:00. Good thing, because we only arrived at the restaurant at 18:10! You can’t rush photographers, nor would you want to.
photo credit: Dominik Thewes
The sky was drab and dull, but despite the clouds it didn't rain that afternoon. Solid blue sky and bright sun isn't actually the best for afternoon photography, but a little mix and interesting cloud formations would have been nice rather than basically solid grey. Maybe I can arrange that for next year...

The quote of the day came from one of the guys, who’d set up what he thought would be a great shot. Frowning at his display after the picture, “Well, that’s not what I was going for. But I’m hungry.” We were at the Hafenmarkt at that point, and I asked them if they still wanted to see the oldest continuous row of half-timbered houses in all of Germany (ca. 1331) or rather go right to dinner. Like the dedicated photographers they are, they set their hunger aside and went for the houses. And then they found the back side of the altes Rathaus, a statue, a shop window, more Fachwerk

That is my favorite candid shot of most of the hungry group. Hungry, but, “Wait! This could be a good shot!

What could be better in today’s world? A worldwide peaceful activity that promotes creativity and passion for photography. An opportunity to spend a few hours with other creative minds and folks who want to exchange ideas and learn more about framing, exposure, optimal camera settings for various conditions, and photo editing. Before last year’s walk I only shot in jpeg and used a basic program to do very simple editing – rarely anything beyond cropping and fixing red eyes. After the walk I finally got interested in Lightroom® and semi-serious photo editing. I still have much to learn, but M gives me tips ("Ease up on those sliders!") and I’ve been watching instructional videos when time allows.

photo credit: Dominik Thewes
It wasn't all serious photography! We fooled around a bit, too. I didn't know Dominik was taking the above shot, but later he returned the favor!

I must admit, though I hope someday to capture some creative "Wow!" photos as the other photo walkers with more experience did, my favorites from my memory card are the candid people shots of our group members. 
Ein Selfie muss doch sein!
Photo credit: Hasan Hesso
After last year’s walk I wondered if my childlike enthusiasm would fade, and the WWPW would be one of those “Oh, that was fun once, but we’re busy, it’s a Saturday (the only day when we can get serious yard work done), and what if the group isn’t as fun and interesting as last year…?” But it never faded at all during the year! I’d noted in my calendar when the walks would be open for registration, and I submitted my leader form at the first possible moment. Then I checked my email ridiculously often for confirmation, which came just a day or so later. I contacted last year’s photo walkers so they knew about our walk in Esslingen, and one of them signed up! I also let a few area friends know, and two of them joined us. It was definitely worth the time, and our gang was just as fun, interesting, and eclectic as last year's group.

Leading the walk has been little extra work. The location (Esslingen’s Altstadt) was obvious, and we knew roughly which areas we wanted to highlight for our photo walkers. The hardest part was deciding what to cut out (Stadtkirche, Zwiebelbrunnen, Burg) for lack of time! We’ll surely do another one next year and will include other parts of the Altstadt, perhaps starting up at the Burg.

(Assembly area)
Next year’s walk will be on Saturday, 3 October – which in Germany is a holiday! It's always on the first Saturday in October. Wherever in the world you are, if you are interested in photography or just enjoy taking pictures and meeting people, mark your calendar! The walk registration starts near the end of August, and all you need to do is google “Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk” to start searching for one near you. And remember, if there isn't one close enough to you, check back often and/or apply to be a leader! It is not difficult (contact me if you want some tips from a first-time leader)!

I'll leave you with some of the other walkers' images of Esslingen.

Photo credit: M
photo credit: Dominik Thewes
Photo credit: Jim Martin

Photo credit: M
Photo credit: M
Photo credit: Hasan Hesso

Photo credit: Hasan Hesso
Photo credit: Mohammad A Khawandah

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Life Lately October 2019

Although I haven’t blogged in what feels like ages, I have some ideas brewing. I’d like to say the reason I haven’t been blogging is because I’ve been spending every spare minute studying for my Jägerprüfung (hunter’s test), which I’ll take in May, but that wouldn’t exactly be the truth. I am certainly studying often, but my intentions are better than reality. Still, I have made progress. Ask me about Jagdoptik. Go on, ask me!

I thought I would put up a short report about what’s been going on around here since my last post.


M and I spent two wonderful weeks at Glengorm on the Isle of Mull in Scotland in early September. Took some new walks and some old ones, booked a wildlife boat tour, spent time in the nature hide watching wildlife, spotted eagles, buzzards, and even some red deer, spent a few hours with a falconer, had fish-n-chips, visited the Great Polish Map of Scotland, cooked with Glengorm beef and lamb, and I (with M’s help) finally learned the difference between a Fichte and a Tanne. I also now know the Hasel, the Buche, and that “gemeine Buche” doesn’t mean “mean beech,” but rather “common beech.”


Goodreads must think I’ve died. I haven’t finished more than a handful of books, and I have several (possibly 8) unfinished ones lying around. I’ve lacked the commitment in part due to the Jagdkurs. I feel guilty reading anything but my hunting books and magazines, but I’m hoping to finish one or two books for pleasure before the end of the year!


I’ve started a new class once a week (Tuesday evenings) with a colleague, teaching adults who have difficulty reading and writing. It is not just for foreigners; there are plenty of Germans who struggle with this as well. The class is called “Deutsch Spezial” and it’s open to anyone.

I also have my private student from the Philippines who comes for German lessons two hours a week, an acquaintance whom I’m helping with conversational English, and the now-less-than-weekly English conversation lessons with M’s employees.

The other day when I was having coffee with a friend and doing some English for his business English class, a woman overheard us and asked if I give Nachhilfe (tutoring) in English. I don’t really, but perhaps I can give it a try. Her daughter needs a boost with her 8th grade English class. It remains to be seen if I can help with 8th grade English here in Germany – I never taught anything like that in the US, despite teaching English for 16 years. Weird, huh? Language classes here are challenging, especially with regard to grammar. I'll need to be able to help her with present conditional, present continuous, gerunds, past perfect, future perfect, passive voice, etc. and under what circumstances those constructions are used. What do American kids in 8th grade learn in English class? That spelling and grammar don't matter - it's your thoughts that count.


We had our last portion of homemade Hirschgulasch last night. Good timing, since it’s now high hunting season and we’re getting to know more local hunters. J

We also reserved for “Ihabs Arabische Küche” at our favorite restaurant and had falafel, Guzi (a lamb dish) and veal steak with a delicious sauce and bulgur. Martin S. admitted the dishes had to be a little “eingedeutscht”, at times to Ihab’s dismay. Ihab is his Azubi (apprentice) from Iraq. I learned from him that Arabic food is not necessarily very spicy, but rather herbal (würzig) and full-flavored. That may explain why many Syrians I know don’t like German food: It’s bland in comparison. 


Well, M came home for lunch yesterday and announced, “I think we should participate in ‘Sober October’.” Say no more, I’m all in! Except that having a Gläschen Wein in the evening is my second favorite thing. That evening I had apple tea with honey. It was not satisfying.


M drove us to the Naturpark Schönbuch so we could take a walk through the woods and experience (from a distance!) the Hirschbrunft, or red deer rut. I wish I had known how to make a video with my smartphone, because that was really something! It's one thing to listen and watch on TV or YouTube, and quite another to be standing meters away from these bellowing beasts.


M and I were invited to the home of a local hunter for Kaffee und Kuchen, and we spent three hours there chatting with him and his wife (also a hunter) about my upcoming test, hunting in general, and falconry. He took us in his Landrover through his huge Revier, in which he organizes a Treibjagd (group hunt) every December. We both said we’re interested in participating, either as Treiber (who walk unarmed through the forest to flush out wild game) or as photographers. At the Jagdschule they worked hard to advise us against ever participating in a Treibjagd, but at the same time I’m expected to know details about it to pass my test. This hunter has also said I’m welcome to accompany him out when he goes to one of his Hochsitze during the coming months.

That's the most of what we've been getting up to in the last little while. Here's what's coming up...


Scott Kelby's World Wide Photo Walk:  This Saturday afternoon in Esslingen!

Celebrating* M's birthday: Dry, because it's in October. 
*We don't actually *celebrate* our birthdays. We go out or cook a nice dinner, have a toast, and otherwise spend the evening like every other. That's how we like it!

Trip to Breisach am Rhein: On the weekend of my birthday to visit extended family.

Treibjagd: 1st Saturday in December

What about you?!?