HEIDELBERG, Germany - Soldiers and Airmen from across Europe took part in a prestigious hunting opportunity with the German federal forest office at Grafenwoehr in early October assisting German officials in managing natural resources within the military training area.

According to the Grafenwoehr federal forest director, Ulrich Maushake, the hunting season let 36 U.S. Force hunters play an important part of many responsibilities that the forest office has in managing natural resources within the training area.

"In addition to annual harvests of wild game and timber for construction and firewood, the forest office is responsible for environment and nature protection," said Maushake, who explained that there is a link between the size of the deer herd and the health of the forest.

"When the deer herd gets too big, we lose too many trees," said Maushake. "The hungry deer chew on young trees when they can't find enough food on the ground."

The hunting event took place on four separate evenings in October during times that the military ranges within the Grafenwoehr military training area were not active. The overall harvest of 38 red deer stags assisted the federal forest office with its responsibility for managing a herd of more than 1,500 red deer that live within the training area.

Hunters paid registration fee for the hunt, and those who were successful paid an additional fee for the trophy. In return for the fees, the forest office provided the overall hunt organization and a guide for each hunter. Guides served to ensure safety and confirm identification of deer that may be hunted.

"This is a hunt where nothing goes to waste," said Mike Boehme, a volunteer hunting instructor from U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.

Boehme said hunters were able to buy the deer antlers and the venison from what they harvested. All venison that not bought by hunters is distributed to restaurants throughout Europe that offer the seasonal delicacy.

Nicholas Oliver, a Soldier stationed at USAG Grafenwoehr, said he enjoyed all aspects of the hunt close to his community and commended the guides.

"The guides are really friendly and they know so much about the wildlife and the forest," said Oliver.

While Oliver liked being able to hunt close to home, other hunters travelled from afar. Michael Kortright, an Airman stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, said civilian hunters travel even greater distances to enjoy the privilege of being able to hunt with the Grafenwoehr forest office.

"During the 100-year history of this military training area, the forest office has done excellent work in managing the environment and conducting safe and enjoyable hunts. It's well worth the drive," said Kortright.

"We expect these great opportunities to continue," said Ulrich Sibbers, who manages U.S. Forces hunting, fishing, and sport shooting programs in Europe from his office within the Grafenwoehr installation. "We are always looking for U.S. Forces personnel to come out and enjoy hunting and fishing while they are stationed in Europe."

Sibbers said people said individuals interested in future hunting opportunities should start planning now for next year's hunt. Planning now, he said, gives people more than enough time to complete training for the German hunting license, set some money aside, and put leave requests in to ensure availability for hunts that will happen during early October next year.

There are many other hunting, fishing, and sport shooting opportunities that happen throughout the year, explained Sibbers.

"There's more to this than just the seasonal hunts at Grafenwoehr," said Sibbers. "During hunting and fishing courses and events, and during sport shooting training and competitions, our folks meet others who have the same interests. That often results in great friendships and fantastic outdoor adventures in beautiful places that they never would have gone to. That normally won't happen for those who stay near their barracks while they're stationed in Europe

U.S. Forces hunters who wish to get their German hunting license or German fishing license should contact their garrison or air base outdoor recreation program or rod & gun club.