planned economy is very well suited to the old quota system of
conservation," an ancient, bearded jaeger told me with a sly twinkle.
Also, as in
prewar days, game is regarded as a crop, and the meat shot as a harvest belongs
to the owner of the land—in this case, the state. Gun clubs are assigned a
specific quota of game they theoretically must harvest and deliver to the
But, as often
occurs in a socialist system, the theory is not always the practice. On my
recent trip I spent a day hunting with a gun club, and a wild boar was shot.
Then the head of the club deprecatingly pointed out that the club had not
filled its annual quota of meat. "Shouldn't we deliver this boar to the
authorities?" he asked his fellow hunters a bit tentatively. "Or should
we eat it now?" The response was immediate, and a loud, "Eat! eat!"
echoed through the forest. A few minutes later the boar was turning on a spit
over a roaring blaze.
My first stop was
Czechoslovakia. I had been invited to go hunting at Krivoklat, about 25 miles
from Prague, where I was told I probably could get a shot at a bargain-priced
stag. A large, gloomy medieval castle, once the home of the F�rstenberg family,
brooded over the village. Under its walls the district game warden met me and
took me to the gamekeeper's lodge a few miles farther on—a small green cottage
on the edge of the forest.
The first day's
shooting was disappointing. The keeper explained that the rutting season was
over and the stags had retired into the thickets to rest from their exhausting
courtships. But on the second day, after a long stalk, we climbed an elaborate
stand built in the middle of a clearing. As dusk approached we were startled by
a stag roaring deep in the forest. A few minutes later he roared again—this
time at the very edge of the clearing. Then, as we sat motionless, he broke
cover hardly 50 yards away. His heavy 12-point antlers lay back against his
withers as he raised his snout and let out a challenging bellow. At a glance,
we could see he was no bargain-basement stag, and I lowered my rifle and
watched him trot purposefully across the glade in search of a mate, pausing now
and again to roar.
old lecher," the gamekeeper muttered. "Doesn't seem to know the season
for lovemaking is over."
The stag had
disappeared across the glade and darkness was falling fast when a rustling
attracted our attention. Four hinds and a calf emerged from the thicket to
graze, and the gamekeeper cautioned me to get ready for a shot. A moment later
a small stag followed the harem. His thin, stunted antlers marked him clearly
as a reject, the kind every gamekeeper tries to eliminate, lest he beget
As he turned,
exposing his shoulder, I squeezed off a careless shot. It hit back of the
shoulder, and for a few moments he stood looking about quizzically before he
sank to the ground. The gamekeeper frowned, and I mumbled an apology for my
clumsiness. But we soon had the beast back at the lodge, and next morning the
warden arrived to evaluate him. Apologetically he put the price at $80.
"Actually, we ought to pay you for getting rid of him," he added.
Back in Prague I
bade my farewells and turned southeast through southern Moravia and Slovakia,
the wonderful pheasant area where hundreds of Westerners come each year to
shoot. The bird season had not opened, so I could only walk through some of the
better shoots teeming with pheasant, partridge and hare, which popped up at
almost every step.
In Budapest I was
warmly greeted by Josef Gabor, the genial and able head of MAVAD (the Hungarian
Game Trading Corporation), under whose auspices foreigners are provided with
shooting facilities. Gabor put me in the hands of Dr. Michael Halasz, MAVAD's
leading shooting expert, whose faultless English had been acquired at Oxford
before the war.