American hunters welcomed to brotherhood of traditional German hunters
June 22, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany, June 22, 2010 -- Think of hunting and “I’m sure you picture two bubbas in a forest with guns,” said Michael Boehme, with U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden’s Outdoor Recreation Hunting, Fishing and Sport Shooting Program.
While that may be a common stereotype in the United States, hunting in Germany takes on a completely new meaning of brotherhood and aptitude that is steeped in tradition, he said, adding it is a great cultural activity for outdoor enthusiasts stationed in Germany.
Twice a year Outdoor Recreation offers hunters the opportunity to learn about and test for the prestigious German Jagdschein or hunting license.
“Our program is very similar to the German programs, but it is also a lot different," Boehme explained.
“The Germans have two options. They can do the ‘long school,’ which will take a year and they learn everything in wildlife management as an apprentice, but they can’t hunt or shoot,” Boehme said. “They can only watch. Once they graduate, they can hunt and continue to learn for three years and eventually purchase the hunting rights to land.”
The other option is to take an intensive two-week crash course.
“These guys will be in the classroom or out training in the forest every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then they do an additional four hours of marksmanship training on the range in the evening.”
“The Americans need to learn everything the Germans do in order to shoot and be safe,” Boehme said, “but we normally don’t stay in Germany long enough to purchase rights to a revier (or hunting area) because most of the Soldiers are only here for three years.”
That is the main difference between the German programs and the U.S. Army Europe program, but there are other differences as well, he said.
“Our classes and tests are in English, and although the regulations require 58 hours of training, we usually offer 100-plus hours in our program," Boehme said. "We meet several nights a week at the Rheinblick Recreation Complex in Wiesbaden, and we are required to teach certain material for specified lengths of time, so our program is very specialized.”
When the training is completed, the tests are then administrated by German hunting officials.
“The test is split into three sections,” he said. First there is a shooting test where the student must demonstrate proficiency with the rifle and shotgun. The students must shoot both stationary and moving targets with a shotgun and rifle.
It isn’t a “give me exam,” Boehme said, adding, “We’ve had people fail because the Kipphase (three-piece metal rabbit) moved too fast and they just couldn’t hit it.”
Then comes the 100-question examination, followed by an intensive oral exam regarding all aspects of the program.
“If they don’t like your answers, or if you didn’t give them enough information, they’ll fail you right there. The examination and ceremony is just the beginning though -- the real work and education begins once you receive the license,” he said.
Once the students pass all of the examinations, the “JungJägers” are expected to attend a “Jägerschlag” ceremony where they are knighted and acknowledged by the German-American hunting community. This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages and takes place in the forest, where the hunter is struck three times on the shoulder with a Hirschfänger or short sword.”
Eight members of the graduating class were knighted at a ceremony June 5, 2011.
“I’d say we had about 120 people present for the ceremony” said Boehme, including host nation officials such as the president of Wiesbaden Jagdverein (the Wiesbaden hunting club).
Attendance of these officials is important, he said, because it shows acceptance of the American hunters into the German hunting society.
The USAG Wiesbaden Hunting, Fishing and Sport Shooting Program frequently works with host nation hunting clubs to share events.
“The fall 2010 class was knighted with the Jagdverein Rheingau at the Kloster Eberbach last fall and the Jagdverein Wiesbaden indicated they would like to join together for the spring Jägerschlag next June,” Boehme said.
“This is a great program -- it touches each of the pillars of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program,” Boehme added. “You can imagine an international group of hunters on top of a hill after a hunt, overlooking a city, with torches burning on the corners of the Strekelegen (or game layout) and the sounds of the traditional horns and the dogs howling. It kind of takes you back to the origin of the hunt -- and it’s spiritual. You can definitely feel a presence in the woods.”