Thursday, 27 March 2014

Waidmanns Heil

If you go wandering around the Brandenburg countryside you are sure to notice that in almost every field, and also deep in the forests, there are many wooden structures that vary from a simple look-out platform to almost a shed on stilts.

What can they be for? Are they used by farmer's overlookers making sure the peasants in the fields are gathering all the crops in that they can? Or put there as hides for bird-watchers? Or are they look-out posts for checking if the Russians are advancing? Or just to get some height in these usually flat landscapes and get the relief of an elevated perspective?

In fact they are used by huntsmen (sometimes huntswomen) who are employed (sort of) by the state to keep down the numbers of foxes, deer, rabbits, wild boar, and other 'undesirable' wildlife from over-running the crops and village gardens.

In German they are called a Hochsitz, or high-seat, and also Jägersitz where ein Jäger is a huntsman (and yes, that potent liquer Jägermeister means 'master humtsman').

The way it works is, licensed hunters (usually as part of a Jägerverein or hunting club) pay thousands of euro to lease a hunting area for nine years. As a term of the lease, the hunters must match a quota set by the state for the number of deer, foxes, rabbits etc. to kill each hunting season. They can do this individually, or raise a 'Waidmanns Heil' on their Jagdhorn (hunting horn) and call in the assistance of other hunters.

To obtain a hunting licence, hunters must undergo a year of courses where they train how to shoot guns with a licensed mentor and study agricultural and forestry legislation and wildlife conservation policies.Then they must finish it off by passing a hard four-hour exam.

The exam includes a written and an oral test as well as a shooting test. The main areas covered are:
  • Knowledge of different species of game 
  • Basic animal biology 
  • Game damage prevention
  • Farming and forestry 
  • Firearms laws and techniques 
  • Hygienic inspection and treatment of game 
  • Determination of game meat for human consumption 
  • Wildlife, nature and landscape conservation laws
In Germany, there are 350,000 recorded hunters from a population of almost 90 million.

I don't know how to feel about them. I have seen the damage that wild boar can cause and you certainly wouldn't want them in your garden, and I am always thinking about our cat Tosca who might have been killed by a fox. And at least the animals are despatched by professional huntsmen (and women) with a clean rifle shot rather than being hunted across fields and dales by strangely attired toffs on horse-back and ending up ripped apart by beagles. But when you see a herd of deer from the train, or hares leaping around the fields, it feels wrong that we are killing healthy animals because they don't fit in with our lifestyle.

According to the newspaper today (the Berliner-Zeitung, BZ, or Bay-Zett - about the equivalent of the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper, but I'm not proud; it is easy to read) during the hunting season 2012-2013 last year, Berliner huntsmen despatched:
  • 54 Waschbären (raccoons!)
  • 1,500 Wildschweine (wild boars)
  • 400 Rehe (roe deer)
  • 150 Füchse (foxes)
  • and 870 Wildkaninchen (wild bunnies)
That is quite a lot of wild-life shot. And it is the numbers for Berlin alone, not Berlin-Brandenburg.

The BZ notes that over 131,000 € were recouped by the Berlin Forestry Service selling off some of the kill as game meat. I assume that didn't include the raccoons.

My gut instinct is to get on my own 'high-chair' about the wrongs of killing such wonderful creatures - for fox sake ban hunting! as our car-sticker used to say, which was a slight embarrassment telling the Police when our car was stolen and we had to describe it - but maybe you think I am being sentimental. Whatever, die Hochsitze are for sure an intrinsic part of the landscape and characterize the Brandenburg countryside.

Hochsitz in a field in Teltow-Fläming
Taken May 2015
By the way, the Hochsitze are property of the hunters. Indeed, even the owners of the land might not have much say about where they can be located. So, don't think anyone will mind if you use them for a picnic; you might be shown off by a licensed hunter with a gun!

P.S.If you came to this page expecting the Rammstein song or video, then sorry for hi-jacking you. I think you need this link instead!

1 comment:

  1. Saw loads of these, all different designs, from the train travelling from Berlin to Dessau


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