German Hunting Traditions

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German Hunting Traditions

Post by Dom »

By Dom

I do believe that since Germany requires a Hunting Course prior to obtaining a Hunting License, this is a very good thing. For one, it brings hunters together, as they all know they have all completed the course. Everyone is treated as being responsible and trustworthy, they have learned a lot of information and know what is expected. Those that do dumb things, well if they do this as a Jungjaeger or one who has not completed 3 full hunting years, are somewhat excused. All others better know better or they will be chastized. Jungjaeger, which is a term for young hunter, has nothing to do with age. A 60 or 70 year old in his first 3 years is also a Jungjaeger 8-) It is not a derogatory term, just that you are new to hunting in Germany. Americans sometimes need to adjust, especially if they have hunted the states for 20+ years, they think they know it all. Hardly the case and we make sure they get set back a few notches :shock: Learning the history and traditions of hunting in Germany is part of the course, and the below is a good background, Waidmannsheil, Dom.


The hunting traditions that have evolved during the last centuries are as important to the German hunters as the actual search for the game. These customs have been handed over from father to son. A violation of these customs sometimes is considered as serious as a violation of the written law. US hunters must fully understand these customs and imitate their German hosts in observing them. Important traditions are:

Waidmannsheil, Waidmannsdank: One of the first customs notice by the new hunter is the use of “Waidmannsheil” and “Waidmannsdank”. . Waidmannsheil is a greeting exchanged when two or more hunters meet or separate, when a hunter joins a group of hunters, and the congratulation for a successful hunt. The answer to the greeting is Waidmannsheil, too. The hunter replies “Waidmannsdank” when placed on a stand or accepting congratulations for a successful shot. Waidmannsdank is an appropriate reply in any situation in which one would say “thanks”.

Branch Signs (Bruchzeichen): Branches are used in many ways in the hunt. The use of branch signs is interesting as well as practical. The branches are always broken from trees. Hunters break the branches only from trees native to Germany. These trees include Alder (Erle), Fir (Tanne), Oak (Eiche), Pine (Kiefer), and Spruce (Fichte).

Shot Branch (Anschussbruch): An arm length branch that is broken and put into the ground at the point where game has sustained or may have sustained a wound. The shot branch is used to aid in the search for the crippled animal. A shot branch will only make sense if it can be found easily, even hours after the shot has been fired. If undergrowth or trees make it hard to spot a shot branch, it is common to use a fluorescent ribbon to mark the point where the animal was hit by the bullet.

Warning Branch (Warnbruch): A branch from which the limbs and bark of the lower section are removed and that then is formed into a circle or loop. The warning branch is hung from a tree or other conspicuous object indicating danger in the vicinity (for example, a trap, poachers, or an unsafe high seat).

Ownership Branch (Inbesitznahmebruch): A small branch placed pointing toward the head of the animal after the animal is killed and laid on its right side. For male animals, the broken end of the branch points toward the head. For female animals, the tip of the branch points toward the head.

Last Bite (Letzter Bissen)
A small branch placed crosswise in the mouth of all male cloven hoofed game as a token of the last respect.

Hunters Branch (Schuetzenbruch)
A branch dipped into the blood of cloven hoofed game following the kill. The branch is then placed on a hunting hat and presented to the successful hunter with the word “Waidmannsheil”. The hunter answers “Waidmannsdank” and places the branch at the right side of his or her hat with the upper side of the branch outward. When wounded game is tracked down by a dog, the dog handler will present the branch to the hunter. The hunter will return a piece of the branch to the dog handler who, in turn, breaks off another piece and puts it in the dogs collar. When hunting alone the hunter should not forget to place the hunters branch in his or her hat.

Hunter’s language (Jaegersprache): Over the centuries, a special language has developed among hunters. For instance, the tail of an animal in standard German is Schwanz; in hunter’s language, the tail of a Rabbit or Hare is Blume; of a Fox Lunte; of a Wild Boar Puerzel; and of a Red Deer Wedel.

Last Drive (Schuesseltreiben): The last drive is a festive meal or gathering held at a hunting lodge (Jagdhuette) or local Gasthaus. Hunters who participate in drive hunts are expected to attend the Schuesseltreiben.

Hunting Invitations (Einladungen): Hunting invitations are personal and may be accepted only by the person to whom they are extended. It is improper to bring additional guests to a hunt.

Hubertus – Patron Saint of Hunters (Hubertus-Schutzpatron der Jaeger): Saint Hubert lived from 656 to 727 in the Luettich area of Belgium. He was the Bishop of Maastricht and Liège, Belgium. According to legend, Saint Hubert was an avid hunter until the fateful day when he had a vision. In his vision Saint Hubert encountered a Red Deer stag with a golden cross between its antlers. The stag reproached him for his excessive killing. Saint Hubert was thereby converted to asceticism, and from then on he devoted his life to the service of God and God’s creatures. European hunters have chosen Saint Hubert as their patron saint. The Saint Hubertus holiday is observed by hunters in Germany on 03 November. For most hunters it is the day for reconciliation and recollection in the spirit of Saint Hubert. German hunting clubs arrange various special activities (for example, Hubertus drive hunts, Hubertus masses, social gatherings) on this day.

Sportsmanship (Waidgerechtigkeit): In Germany, sportsmanship is a combination of customs, traditions, and good hunting practices. One aspect of sportsmanship is the observance of German customs and traditions. Customs and traditions change and the same custom may differ slightly from one area to another. U.S. Forces personnel will find that skill in the observance of customs and traditions will come only through attentiveness and experience. Good sportsmanship requires that hunters make clean kills. Ammunition size plays an important role in the hunter’s ability to make a clean kill. As a rule of thumb, good hunters do not shoot at game using shotguns beyond the 35- meter range mark. Hunter should avoid crippling game.
Minimum shot sizes:
Fox 3.5 to 4 mm
Geese and Hare 3.5 to 4 mm
Rabbit 2.5 to 3 mm
Pheasant and Duck 3.0 mm
Partridge 2.5 mm
When using steel shot you have to use one size up.
A hunter who wounds an animal will mark the spot where the animal was wounded and will be available for the mandatory search. Normally hunters will shoot only birds that are in full flight. Two exceptions are the Black Grouse and the Capercaillie. The Black Grouse may be shot on the ground while performing his strutting act and mating dance. The Capercaillie may be shot while perched in a tree performing his mating ritual. Crippled birds also may be shot when not in full flight to stop them from escaping.

The energy with which the bullet hits the target is the most important factor in determining if the game will be killed cleanly and quickly. German hunting law requires a minimum energy and caliber:
Roe Deer minimum energy 1,000 Joules E/100m
All other cloven hoofed game minimum energy 2,000 Joules E/100m plus minimum caliber 6.5mm (.25)
Handguns for finishing shot minimum 200 Joules E/0
Shotgun slugs are not recommended for still hunts, but they are legal for short range shooting and are used primarily in drive hunts for Wild Boar.
The use of shot of any size is forbidden for all cloven hoofed game.

A true sportsman believes in the “one shot – one kill” philosophy. The objective is not to see how much ammunition the hunter can use but rather to use as few shots as possible. The good hunter will make a clean kill with every shot and track any animal that has been wounded.

By German standards, hunting is not a sport or a hobby; it is a mission of public concern. The responsible hunter carries out this mission in an attempt to maintain a stock of healthy wildlife in numbers and variety consistent with the carrying capacity of the range involved.


II. History of German hunting

Developments in Europe around A.D. 800 are considered to be the most significant influences on German hunting customs of today. During this period, the sovereigns of Europe proclaimed the right to hunt as the prerogative solely of the royalty. After this proclamation hunting became a major recreation of the court. With the court hunts came all the elegance of court protocol and ceremony. Many present German hunting customs may be traced to these old customs.

An excellent example of this link with the past is the categorization of game into two principle divisions, high game (Hochwild) and low game (Niederwild). High game was reserved for the sovereign, or for the few who were selected to hunt with the sovereign’s permission.

Although there is no longer the class distinction among hunters, the terms Hochwild and Niederwild persists. Hochwild includes all cloven hoofed game, except Roe Deer, and it includes Capercaillie and Eagles.

The use of the hunting horn is another aspect of the hunt that has persisted through the centuries following its origin as part of the court ceremony. In modern Germany, a social hunt is not complete unless buglers are present with their hunting horns to add flavor to the hunt and to signal instructions to the hunters and beaters. The most common signals are:

- Aufbruch zur Jagd (departure to hunt)
- Anblasen des Treibens (start of the drive hunt)
- Hahn in Ruh (unload firearm/end of drive hunt)
- Hirsch tot, Sau tot, Reh tot, Fuchs tot…….. (to honor the killed game)
- Jagd vorbei (end of the hunt)
- Halali (at the end of a social hunt, hunters take their hats off).

Also in use today is the language peculiar to the art of hunting (Jaegersprache). This is a language of several thousand words developed over the centuries; and many of the old words are traceable to the old courts. By A.D. 1500 hunting generally was regarded as a royal sport for gentlemen and was accompanied by a complete court ceremony. Drive hunts, with game being driven into confined areas for shooting by the nobility, became popular during the next three centuries. Elaborate hunting castles were erected in areas where game was plentiful. Many of these castles along with their trophies and artifacts are still present.

At the same time the common people (Volk) were suffering from the damage that the game (Wild Boar, Red Deer) did to their fields, these people had to serve as beaters during the drive hunts for no pay. Common people were not allowed to kill any game, for poachers severe punishment was the rule, including death by hanging. Sweeping land, social, and religious reforms followed the French revolution. These reforms resulted in the virtual elimination of the royal prerogative. With the land, formerly owned by the feudal lords, now in the hands of the common people, the right to hunt on their property also went into the hands of the common people. Extensive hunting, and the lack of any Germany wide hunting laws and regulations during the 1800’s made experienced and responsible hunters and foresters work for a change.

The German Reich after 1870 had no federal hunting laws, all laws and regulations were on state level, sometimes just for specific areas, these laws covered police regulations about poaching etc., but nothing like game management, animal or nature protection. Ulrich Scherping, born 1889 in Krackow/Pomerania, is the most famous “father” of a modern German hunting law. Plans for such a modern law already existed prior to WWI, but the war, the chaotic days of the Weimar Republic and the narrow-minded, selfish politics of the old German states made a law making process impossible.

When the Nazis won the German elections in 1933, they quickly took over all important government functions. Hermann Goering, a WWI fighter pilot, became President of the Prussian state. Goering was also hunter since childhood, which made it easy for Scherping and other foresters to get his attention for the hunting law. Goering was one of the most important members of the Nazi party and from his position it was no problem to push the new law through the Reichstag. The Hunting law was followed by several other new laws, like Animal Protection law, Forestry law and others. Goering also reorganized hunting organizations by forming one nationwide organization called “Deutsche Jaegerschaft”. Goering himself became the Reichsjaegermeister and was head of all hunting in Germany.

After WWII Germans were banned from hunting until 1949, the actual hunting law, the Bundesjagdgesetz, dates back to 1952, when it replaced the old Reichsjagdgesetz. Most of the German states created their own Hunting laws (Landesjagdgesetze) during the years 1949-1952, copying the old Reichsjagdgesetz. The former DDR had a totally different, “socialist” hunting law. Since the reunification of Germany in 1990 the federal hunting law is binding for all German States, separate state laws still exist, but cannot ease the federal or European law. The state laws set different hunting seasons and the procedures for the testing of hunting students are different from state to state.

Today German hunting is still deeply influenced by the old traditions. The basic color for a hunters outfit is still green, in the southern parts of Bavaria the traditional color for Loden pants and jackets is grey or brown. Meanwhile many wear surplus army gear, but still the color is green. Camouflage jackets and pants can be seen in some places and blaze orange vests or parkas are required by law for participants of social hunts in Baden-Wuerttemberg, other states just require fluorescent hatbands.

The use of the special “Jaegersprache” is still common and is encouraged by the hunting organizations. Most German hunters are members of the DJV, which is the German Hunters association, the DJV is organized in State hunting associations, the Landesjagdverbaende. The local groups are organized in county groups, called the Kreisgruppen. American hunters may join the German Landesjagdverbaende, being a member of one of the local Kreisgruppen may offer a lot of contacts among the local hunters.

-------- There are those who only reload so they can shoot, and then there are those who only shoot so they can reload. I belong to the first group. Dom --------------

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