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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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A lot of the questions on the written and the oral have to do with law—the protection of animals and plants, the firearm laws, the law on the examination of trichinous meat, the law on the commerce and transport of game, the laws on leasing hunting land and the laws governing hunting clubs and societies. I wondered how the guys I knew in the Perth Amboy Rod and Gun Club would do on that last question.

The J�gerpr�fung is a long book, just 19 pages shorter than my edition of Crime and Punishment, and it has very small print. I asked Hans to let me see it and when I held it in my hand and hefted it, it reminded me of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I asked Hans, "But why do they make it so hard?"

"Some say it is because of the Hirschsprung," he said.

"What's that?" I said.

"It is a deer, a white deer that jumps over valleys to save the maidens from distress. The examination is so that no hunter will shoot the white deer."

I figured that life insurance on that deer must be pretty cheap, all things considered, but I wasn't so sure about the maidens. I reached for my glass of wine, picked up a piece of cake and the hunting horns went off again.

"Is that the end of lunch?" I said. "It is the beginning of the afternoon hunt," Hans said.

We hunted that afternoon. We hunted valleys and hills, old roads, stands of trees, cornfields and vineyards. There were more pheasant and partridge, and there were hares. They shot the hares in a flat valley with brush lines dividing the ground into rectangles. The dogs would drive the hares out of the low trees and bushes, and the hares would start out across the open ground dodging, turning, running until they saw the other line of hunters, and then go back, jinking, jibing until somebody guessed the right lead angle. Once, later in the afternoon, the drivers spooked a boar.

But it wasn't just one boar. It was the boss boar and his harem and all the kids from the open classroom. I never saw that boar, or his ladies, or the future boars of Freiburg, but I heard them. They took off like the start of a stock-car race. Somebody who spoke English told me later that the male just picked the weakest hunter and ran right at him with the seraglio and the nursery right behind. They blew through the line of hunters before anyone could get a rifle cartridge out of his pocket and into his Drilling. I found out afterward that boars were on the list that day, along with birds and hares and foxes, but that if you're not thinking boar, you don't get one.

Finally, when the sun was nearly down and the green of the trees was darker, we were on an old road that led up a little hill and down into an orchard. There was green grass on the ground and some yellow apples on the trees, and when we got to an open place in the middle of the orchard everyone slowed down, spread out and stopped. Just as in the morning, the hunters were in one place, the drivers in another, the horn players off a little way and me by myself. The sun was going down fast now, heading for the black mountains, and the light appeared to be coming through a window in the late afternoon. Everything had green and yellow and brown edges, and I wondered if the sun was as tired as I was.

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