law says that the quota be reckoned so that the ratio of male to female deer
shall be 1 to 1 and for chamois not greater than two males to three females.
While this provision is often questioned by conservationists, the reasoning,
based on generations of experience, is that an excess of females leads to
degeneration of herds.
approved shooting quota for our 2,500-acre reserve was one first-rate stag,
four smaller stags, 12 hinds, eight roebuck and 14 does. This quota is not a
large one for the acreage, but it should be pointed out that the area lies in
intensively worked dairy farmland and is within one or two miles of a bustling
village of 6,000. Since the quota is on an annual basis, the seasons are
limited only by biological considerations—the breeding season and the
development of the antlers. Thus the roebuck season begins in June but does may
not be shot before September. Young hinds can be shot beginning in July, and
stags beginning in August. All shooting stops as soon as the heavy snow comes,
and in any case not later than January 15.
The quota is not
simply permissive. It must be fulfilled unless unusual circumstances, such as
an early winter, prevent it. Since the system automatically makes the hunter a
conservationist as well, there is often a reluctance to shoot the whole quota,
particularly the hinds and does, on the theory that the population can be built
up for later years. The county agent, however, aided by state game wardens and
often by the farmers themselves, keeps a sharp eye on what is shot and can
impose heavy fines if a hunter fudges his reports.
example, I suggested to my partner that we report more does shot than was the
case, he was shocked. "All they have to do is ask the innkeeper how many
deer we sold him," he objected. When I suggested we claim we butchered them
ourselves and used them at home he laughed in my face. "The county agent
caught on to that trick a hundred years ago," he said.
The contract we
had signed also required us to pay for damages done by ourselves or by the game
to crops or to the forest. As a result of a long hard winter the previous year,
the deer had attacked a newly planted nursery of spruce and nipped the tops of
the young trees. An impartial commission of forestry experts had evaluated the
damage at $50, which The Knogler and myself had to pay.
The reserve owner
is also obliged to provide feeding stations for his game during the winter.
This is particularly important in mountain areas, since neither roe nor red
deer are naturally mountain animals, having been driven there by population
pressures from the plains. While the cost of maintaining feeding stations and
providing hay and nutrients is not great, it is often a hard job, especially
when heavy snows make it necessary to carry the feed long distances on one's
The reserve owner
shares with the forestry officials and the police the obligation to protect the
game against poachers. The law deals sternly with illegal hunters. Even for the
first offense their weapons are confiscated and the fine is considerable.
Second or third offenders can be and often are jailed. Because of this, the few
poachers who cannot control their hunting passions usually go to extreme
lengths to avoid arrest. The prewar German law authorized game wardens and
owners to shoot armed poachers after a single warning, but now a more lenient
law requires three warnings. Wardens resent this change, with some
justification, claiming that nowadays more wardens are shot by poachers than
owner of a reserve must pay a substantial yearly sum for his privileges. This
is divided among the farmers on whose land he shoots. The sum varies according
to the amount of game in the area. In my neighborhood each farmer gets about
40� per acre, which, as one of them told me, just about covers the cost of the
artificial fertilizers for their fields.
landowner-hunter relationship that has plagued hunting in many areas in America
is scarcely a problem in the European system. The long lease guarantees that
hunters will not overshoot or exploit the territory. It also protects the
farmer against damages caused by both the hunter and the game, and it provides
a small but sure cash income that the poor mountain farmers, at least, value
highly. Since the farmers themselves select the hunter by vote from the highest
bidders, they can make sure that he is agreeable to themselves.
Whenever I come
back to the United States and exchange hunting experiences with my fellow
Americans, they complain that our own fences are in a sorry state of disarray.
Yet our problems are basically the same as those on the other side of the
Atlantic—growing population pressures, intensified land use and in consequence
dwindling of areas where game can thrive and hunters may shoot. In my
discussions with sportsmen from Maryland to the West Coast, I often have been
asked whether or not some European practices could profitably be adapted to