Sunday, July 26, 2020

I'm a Jungjägerin!!

On Friday I passed the third and final part of my Jägerprüfung and can now apply for my Jagdschein! I can now call myself a “Jungjägerin,” which in direct translation is “young hunter.” The German concept has nothing to do with age, but rather refers to someone who has passed her test and earned her first Jagdschein. She keeps this name for the first three years of having the Jagdschein. It’s not an official or legal term, just a title used among hunters.

a gift from my dear friend Hedda and the Glücksbringer
from my Falkner-Lehrprinz - a newly molted feather from
his Habicht (hawk), Frieda.
My first attempt at this three-day test was in early March. I did pass the written test and the oral-practical test, but I failed gun handling. My re-take was scheduled for May, but by then we were in full-blown Corona Virus mode and that test was cancelled.

The Waffenhandhabung & Schießen (gun-handling and shooting) test was at a Schießstand near Esslingen, and we – our Schießtrainer (RS), the four of us being tested and our spouses – all met there at 8:00. It was 11:30 before we were called up, so there was a lot of time to pace around being nervous. We all were, including our spouses, who didn’t let their nervousness show until we’d been called in! RS told story after story non-stop, and I knew he was trying to distract us from our nerves.

There were groups from several other Jagschulen there also, and one by one they emerged, some having passed and some having failed. The nice thing about being a non-native speaker is that I can easily block out what others are saying in German. If I’d heard how and why they failed (especially those who’d failed at gun handling), I would have been even more twisted up. I was never worried about the shooting disciplines because RS has been such a great teacher. He and another trainer at the Schießstand had helped us a lot (as in private lessons for several hours!) with gun handling also and we were all ready, but I already knew how quickly one can forget something and fail. The major mistakes are called “K.O.-Fehler,” “K.O.” meaning “knock-out.” An obvious example is if your booger hook is on the bang stick (finger is on the trigger) before you simulate a shot at a deer. To this day I keep my finger far away from ALL triggers, including on the gas pump when I’m picking up the nozzle to fill the tank.

I was the second of our group to be called up, and I entered the room where our six guns were lying on a table hoping I wouldn’t barf on the Prüfers (proctors’) shoes. There are two Prüfer: one gives me instructions while the other takes notes. Prüfer A said to me pleasantly, “So you are interested in hunting” but unfortunately I didn’t hear him well and had to ask him to repeat it. I then answered, “Actually in falconry, but that starts with hunting.” They indicated interest, and Prüfer A said, “Your native language isn’t German, is it?”  I said no, it’s English. He asked if I was able to do the whole test in German, and I affirmed that, adding that I never learned a thing about guns until I moved to Germany and only know the important terms in German.

Ok, so then off we went. Prüfer A wondered aloud which gun we should start with. The test requires that we train with four long guns, all different types, a pistol and a revolver. He said to me, “Should we go on a duck hunt?” Shit. I’ve practiced simulating shooting stationary land animals a lot, but seldom flying birds. I understood his question to mean “Are you planning on going duck hunting in the future” and started to answer, “Actually, I’d rather not. I will probably…” and then it dawned on me that he was politely starting the test. He chooses how we start, not I! So I recovered and said, “But if you say we’re going on a duck hunt, then we will!” 

To cut this short, all four of us passed the Waffenhandhabung (gun handling) with flying colors, to the extent that the Prüfer told RS when he picked up the guns that we were an impressive group - we didn't make a single mistake! We also all passed the three discplines of shooting (all artificial targets!):
  1. Stationary buck at 100 m, seated, rifle resting on wooden brace (3 of 5 Treffer*)
  2. Running boar at 50 m, standing freehand with rifle  (2 of 5 Treffer)
  3. Running Kipphasen (rabbits) at 35 m, standing freehand with shotgun  (5 of 10 Treffer)
*A Treffer is a shot that counts based on the requirements for the test.

We toasted with a Schnäpsle (Ouzo, actually, because the restaurant at the Schießstand is Greek), profusely thanked our fabulous Schießtrainer, I sent a message to literally everyone I know who had wished me luck, and then M and I drove home as two Jungjäger!

Now just like M after he passed his Jägerprüfung in Saarland, RS lets me shoot a higher caliber with one of his guns! M took the photo above today, where I'm shooting at the running Keiler (boar) with the same type of gun I ordered for myself - a Heym SR-21, caliber .308 with a Schalldämpfer (suppressor).

Seriously, folks, this is something I could never have imagined myself doing - and enjoying! - even just a year ago! I genuinely look forward to our hours at the Schießstand, and now that I've passed my test the real learning begins. The goal is no longer to get enough Treffer to pass the test, but rather to learn to shoot well. Well enough, perhaps, to actually go hunting.

So tomorrow I will drive to Freudenstadt to apply for my Jagdschein, we will keep returning to the Schießstand, and also turn our focus at home to Falknerei, since our class starts in three months.

There is much yet to learn!

Update: I applied for my Jagdschein this morning (Monday) and M's was sitting on the clerk's desk (along with a bill for €200). She gave it to me so I was able to hand-deliver it to M on my way home! In about six weeks I should have mine as well.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Ami Gets Her Gun

If you've been following my blog for the past year+ you know that I have been pursuing my Jagdschein (German hunting license) so that I can then pursue my Falknerjagdschein (falconer's license). At the end of this post I'll include some links to earlier parts of this journey for those who want to catch up.

One important update since I last wrote is that M took his Jagdkurs (hunting class) in Saarland as Germany started slowly emerging from the Covid-19 lockdown and passed the whole test on his first go. He applied for his Jagdschein (hunting license) four weeks ago and we're hoping he'll have it sometime in August. If I pass my gun handling & shooting re-take at the end of this month, I'll be able to apply for mine as well.

near Nonnweiler, Saarland
I wanted to write today about our ongoing journey to become hunters and therefore gun owners here in Germany. If you know the previous version of me, you have some idea how absolutely absurd that sounds in my head. I was never a fan of guns and am still not. But I have learned a lot and have lost enough fear to legitimately look forward to our time at the Schießstand (shooting range) on Sundays and Wednesdays. Gun handling and shooting is now a skill I want to keep improving.

How does one go about getting a gun in Germany?

In order to be issued a Waffenbesitzkarte (gun license) in Germany I have to first earn a Jagdschein (hunting license). In order to earn a Jagdschein I have to pass the Jägerprüfung (hunting test). And before I can take the test I have to successfully complete a hunting class.

In order to register to take the Jägerprüfung (hunting test) I needed:
  1. Proof of having successfully completed a Jagdkurs (hunting class - ca. 170 hours)
  2. €350 (for the test - the class costs €2000 - €2500)

The prerequisites for getting a Jagdschein are:
  1. Zeugnis (certificate showing I passed the hunting test)
  2. Jagdhaftpflichtversicherung (liability insurance for hunters, €1 million minimum)
  3. €€ and Passfoto
  4. Extended background check (state does this behind the scenes)

In order to get a Waffenbesitzkarte (gun license) I need to prove or provide:
  1. Zuverlässigkeit (responsibility / trustworthiness)
  2. Persönliche Eignung (mental & physical aptitude)
  3. Sachkunde (knowledge - proven by hunting test certificate)
  4. Bedürfnis (need - proven by possession of a hunting license*)
    *other legitimate reasons: you are a sport shooter or work in security
  5. Minimum of 18 years old
  6. Another extended background check

In case that wasn't clear yet, in Germany you cannot buy a gun just because you want one or because you think you need to "protect your family" from some unknown threat. There is no second amendment in Germany and owning a gun is a privilege, not a right.

One of the things the Bundesverfassungsschutz (German FBI) checks for in the extended background check is that the applicant is not a Reichsbürger or connected to extremist groups.

M is using our Schießtrainer's Heym SR-21 (cal. .308).
This is the rifle I have ordered.

Since M passed his test and has applied for his Jagdschein and I am hopeful of following suit in two weeks, we have ordered two Büchsen (rifles) from the German company Heym. In my case that's a bit like ordering a car before you've passed your driver's test, but we've got a good trainer and I am confident.

In order to legally have guns in the house, we needed to first purchase a Waffenschrank (gun safe). There are strict regulations concerning the resistance grade of the safe, these laws having changed after the school shooting in Winnenden in 2009, in which a 17-year-old got access to his father's guns and killed 15 people.

Once I have my rifle, it must be stored when not in use in this safe and unloaded. Not under the bed, not behind the sofa, not in a closet. At home I can have it out (unloaded!) to clean it or to pack it into a Futteral (locked gun case) to take it to the Schießstand, the Büchsenmacher (gun smith) or to a hunt. It may never be loaded in the house, and it may not be loaded while transporting it in the car. If my Revier (hunting ground) is within walking distance of my house, I still may not load it until I reach the Revier. As our Schießtrainer explained it, our guns are for hunting only and the gun may only be loaded when I am actively engaged in a hunting-related activity.

Who's to know if we keep our gun behind the sofa or if they're loaded? The authorities can show up at any time to check how our guns are being stored. (In Germany there is a national gun registry.) They know how many and which guns we have, and if I show them the safe and one is missing, I have to answer for where it is. If only M has the Jagdschein and WBK, only he may know the combination. If the authorities show up to check and I open the safe for them without having a Jagdschein/WBK, we've broken the law. If they determine that we are not storing our guns according to the law, we do not get a slap on the wrist; we lose our hunting licenses, our gun licenses, and our guns.

I was recently asked by an American what M would do if an intruder broke into our house in the middle of the night while we were sleeping and his gun were handy. It wouldn't be. It would be unloaded in the locked safe in the basement. If we had to call the police because M shot an intruder in our house, during the investigation we would have to answer how one of us was able to get from our bedroom, through the single-story house past the intruder into the basement, unlock the gun safe, load the gun, return upstairs and shoot the guy before he decided he'd better leave.

M has been waiting so far four weeks for his Jagdschein. With the Jagdschein he can pick up the rifles we ordered (they should be ready at the end of August). Within two weeks of possessing the guns he needs to request that a WBK (gun license) be issued in which the rifles are registered. If I have my Jagdschein by then also, then I will request a WBK for myself. An aquaintance of ours has been waiting for his WBK for several months. Anything involving government agencies takes ages here, and Covid-19 has made things even worse.

For anyone who is still reading and would like to know what we ordered, my rifle will be a Heym standard repeating rifle, caliber .308 with a silencer* and a Leica scope.

M has ordered a Heym straight-bolt-action repeating rifle, caliber 8 x 57 IS also with silencer and scope.

*Silencers are legal in most states in Germany including Baden-Württemberg in the interest of hearing protection, but they have to be registered in our WBK.

"Deutlich Luft nach oben!" my Schießtrainer would say.
("Much room for improvement!")
50 meters, freehand, moving target

The Rehbock target isn't moving and I get much better results here.
100 meters, aufgelegt (resting on a brace)

We will continue to spend a good amount of time at the Schießstand before we ever consider actually going hunting with an experienced hunter because we want to be confident we can do this right and Waidgerecht. This thing that I was never against but certain I would never do (hunting) has become something I could consider doing. There is no meat that is more Bio than Wild, and I can imagine cooking (or rather helping M cook) meat from an animal I shot well and field-dressed myself can be a satisfying experience.

Roe buck and yearling season in B-W is
May 1st through January 31.

Previous Posts:
  Jagdschule Week 1 (hunting school)
  Jagdschule Week 2
  Jagdschule Week 3
  Jägerprüfung (hunting test)
  Jägerprüfung result
  First Treibjagd
  Second Treibjagd

Funnily, six years ago the previous anti-gun me wrote a blog post about the topic of guns in my home state of Wisconsin, USA. I know more about the German gun laws now than I did then, so I need to go back and correct a few things!