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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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"Does that mean they're not in season, that it's illegal?"

"No," he said. "It is not that. It is that today we hunt the pheasant, the partridge and the fox," and he turned back to Riehle.

I stood there for a while saying to myself, "It is not time for the roebuck," and thinking about some guys I knew in Jersey. The guys I knew there hunted in full camouflage outfits, with jump boots and flak vests, with more armament than the 101st Airborne and they didn't just shoot at anything that moved—they just shot. They shot at parked cars, telephone poles, turnpike toll stations, road signs, and one guy I knew even blew in the side of his own Dodge truck.

Suddenly a big cock pheasant broke out and up and Riehle raised his hand. "There is coming a cock," Stefan said, and someone off to our left shot once and the bird dropped. Then birds started up one after another from different parts of the valley.

Every time a partridge or a pheasant would break up into the air Riehle would point at it and one of the hunters would fire, but once in a while he wouldn't point and then the bird just flew over the hunters and out of the valley. I couldn't figure out why the hunters didn't fire when the bird was coming right at them so I asked Stefan.

"It is too young a bird," he said, "and then also one must care for the hens, but there is coming a hen!"

I looked up and a big female was coming up from the valley. Riehle raised his hand and pointed. "But he wants that this hen is shot," Stefan said, and a gun went off and the bird fell. I was wondering how someone knew how old a bird was when it was flying, when Stefan said, "You must look! There is coming a M�mmelmann."

I looked up to see if it flew but all I could see were pheasants and partridges crossing in the air above us like at La-Guardia Airport. I looked down into the valley and something was running through the low brush. It could have been a M�mmelmann, but I couldn't tell what it was. It was running faster than anything I had ever seen run, dodging, taking right-angled turns at full speed, a tan blur flickering through the brush. It looked like a greyhound but built close to the ground so it wouldn't drift on the turns, and it didn't. It just ran, and once it did a 180 in a blink and started off in the opposite direction. Guns were going off all over the place, but nobody was having much luck hitting it.

"What kind of animal is that?" I asked.

"The M�mmelmann" Stefan said. "A Rammler, but how do you call it in America?"

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