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Ancient Extravaganza In the Black Forest
George V. Packard
October 04, 1976
Hunting is not usually considered a spectator sport, but the author was privileged to accompany a party of German hunters and was deeply moved by the reenactment of a fall ritual dating back to Charlemagne
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October 04, 1976

Ancient Extravaganza In The Black Forest

Hunting is not usually considered a spectator sport, but the author was privileged to accompany a party of German hunters and was deeply moved by the reenactment of a fall ritual dating back to Charlemagne

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7) When is the latest that one must begin to feed pheasants?

8) Which of the following are protected but not huntable: hedgehogs, bats, field mice, dormice?

9) Cite two means the hunter can use to help birds that are useful in the forest.

10) What ratio between the sexes of the pheasant must be maintained?

The second part of the examination, the proof of the ability to shoot and handle firearms, is in parts, too. First there are the targets at 100 meters—you shoot standing, sitting and braced against a tree. Then you get two shots at a running rabbit, but you can't use your own rifle for the targets or your own shotgun for the rabbit. The examiners provide the guns, and you better have the safety on every second, because the guns they give you have ultrasensitive triggers, and if one goes off you flunk right there. Two or three times during the examination the examiner will call out, "Roebuck disappear," and when he does you have to unload immediately. Then he calls, "Roebuck is there," and you reload. Between shooting at the targets and shooting at the rabbit you get a chance to demonstrate your knowledge in the nomenclature and handling of firearms: disassembly and reassembly, manipulation of safeties, trigger positions, types of bullets, calibers, cartridge lengths, chokes, everything you learned in the last five years of reading Gun Digest. Finally you have to unload a Drilling perfectly. A Drilling is one of those three-barreled, multipurpose monster-killers I saw on the road, and you have to tip it up twice to unload, both times manipulating the triggers. You get a very simple grade on the unloading of a Drilling, "yes" or "no," and whichever it is, the examiner yells it out so everybody in the field can hear.

The last part of the examination is the same as for an average doctoral exam for the Ph.D.—the oral. I took an oral once for a degree, and I remember the guy who went in just before me. His name was Tom Eppley, and he came from Memphis. He had two packages of cigarettes, one in each coat pocket, and his hands were shaking. He got up to go in, patted his pockets to be sure he still had the two unopened packs, and he said to me, "George, they don't like you in there," and he started down the hall, patting his pockets like a gunfighter on his way to meet Wyatt Earp.

There are six examiners for the oral, and each one asks you 10 to 12 questions. The grading is simplified, as it is in the unloading of a Drilling, just satisfactory and unsatisfactory, and if you get two unsatisfactories, you flunk. A typical question comes in the form of a picture of 70 huntable birds. You tell their names, their sexes and their moulting seasons. Another question comes in a jar. It's the head of an animal, and you tell the examiner the species, the age—from the condition of the teeth—and whether or not you can hunt it, and if you can, when? In the next room there is a table five yards long covered with animal jaws, preserved fetuses, dried plants, animal paws and different kinds of wood. You identify those. But mostly in the oral you don't look at things. You look at the examiner and answer his questions. It's quite an oral, and I wonder if they let you smoke when you take it.

What you have to know for the written and the oral examinations is contained in a 550-page book, Die J�ger-pr�fung. Hans had one with him. I asked him to translate some of it for me.

It discusses the animals you can hunt and what season of the year you can hunt them in, the basic regulations of gamekeepers, the preparation of game for eating, the table of protected plants, tables of grains and berries for game. There are pictures and descriptions of the tracks, the trails, the leavings of huntable and nonhuntable animals. For the exam you have to know the cries of the game, and the book tells you what phonograph records to buy to learn them. There is a long list of customs, symbolism, the vocabulary of hunters and the signs and sounds used in the hunt.

You have to know about dogs, too: pointers, setters, terriers, spaniels, bloodhounds, griffons, Drahthaare, Weimaraner, M�nsterl�nder and something called a "polyvalent" dog. I must have missed that one at Westminster or when I was taking chemistry. The dogs have to take an examination along with you, the V.J.P. for young dogs, a prelim, and the V.G.P., which is the main event for hunting dogs in Germany. The best Hans could do with the V.G.P. was, "The ultimate test of command in the woods, plains, water and blood-tracking." To pass, you have to be up on dog anatomy, dog breeding, dog care, dog diseases and the complete training of the hunting dog. For the dog to pass, he has to be one hell of a dog.

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