Taking the shot - my first successful harvest
Graduating my hunting course in April 2019, I was a young and eager jungjager excited to get out into the bundeswehr and see my first rehbock come May 1st. My husband had taken the offered MWR hunting course the previous fall, and we spent the month of April purchasing our safe, registering our first German rifle, and prepping our hunting rucks with first-aid kits, granola bars, and ear pro.
And we waited. Luckily, we'd made some friends with connections to reveres through our coursework and (what was then called) the Bavaria Rod & Gun Club, and were gifted with opportunities to sit in high seats on and off throughout the summer. However, it turned out to be a summer of sitting without seeing much. As a first-time hunter, I was starting to worry that I was breathing too loud and scaring off the game... was that possible? I spent the 4th of July weekend sitting in a couple of high seats just south of Munich, watching for reh and pigs - nothing. I went back to the same high seats over Thanksgiving - still nothing.
My husband and I then were selected for the Partnership Hunt at Hohenfels over December 12-13; in order to guarantee childcare for the two-day hunt, we decided that one of us would hunt on Thursday, and the other on Friday. At this point, we were at a 'venison or bust' mentality; he'd seen Hohenfels' herds while training in 'the box', and he just *knew* I'd see something and get to take my first shot.
I arrived early on Thursday morning, signed in, and mooched off of a friend for a cup of coffee out of the snack stand in the parking lot before the hunt began. I paid close attention to the trophies that were paraded around during the opening brief, because although I was eager to get my first deer, I was on a budget right before the holidays and was NOT willing to fork over anything more than the price of venison. I was taken out to my stand by a seasoned hunter and instructor from the MWR Hunting Course, who gave me some last-minute tips on how to conduct myself on an official drive hunt. Settle quickly into your seat; you're likely to see something in the first 30-45 minutes as other hunters 'bump' deer. Don't take shots you're not comfortable with, and know how far you're shooting. Stay in your seat, no matter what, until jagdpause and hahn in ruh are called.
Sure enough, 45 minutes into my four hours in the stand, I watched a rudel of 25 red deer trot past me, through a ravine, at 400 meters. A straggler crested the hill I was on, and strolled past me at 10 meters at a leisurely pace; this confirmed for me that I was not, in fact, breathing loud enough to scare off game, and I could maintain my stillness to watch a stag out of my price range slowly fade off around a bend. A while later, I watched (the same?) herd come down from the other side of a hill where the first group had disappeared, and after that, return through the ravine. For the last 30 minutes before the noon jagdpause, the herd stood at 450-500 meters on top of a hill, seemingly watching me and a fellow hunter 600 meters down the road. None of these passing groups were close enough to take a clean shot, but it was exciting just for me to finally see something while on a hunt.
I finally had my chance to take a stag at about 1300 - one hour left in the hunt. It sounds far-fetched, I know, but a group of 8 stags (stragglers who had survived the grueling drive hunt so far) joined me on top of my hill and formed a straight line at about 75 m from my stand. Walking one by one, with the older stags prodding along the spiesers, they crossed muddy tracks carved into the top of the hill by some large military vehicle. They moved slowly, and I honestly had my pick of the herd, from young spiesers to seasoned 1A Hirsch. Taking my spieser was a simple blatt shot at close range, and the other stags joined me in hesitating, and watching, as the younger deer dropped to the ground three steps later.
Having carpooled up in a small SUV, and having expected to return home with some priced-to-sell reh venison, I was unprepared to bring home a whole red deer. Some quick thinking and networking from my fellow hunters stationed in Grafenwoehr helped me to line up a butcher, a taxidermist, and a ride for 'Francis' from Hohenfels to Weiden (who was accidentally named as I grumbled under my breath, dragging him out of a large puddle where he'd lain for the last hour of the hunt). So after the strecke, overnight stay in a snowy truck bed, and weekend stint at the butcher, our red steaks and ground meats were finally taking up room in the freezer.
If anyone is looking for a killer red wine and venison chili recipe, let me know ;)