By Robert (Doc) Mann
It was 6 February 2011 and I had just gotten out of bed. I had a smile on my face because I was getting ready to go hunting. 0600 in the morning and I was preparing to leave home to go to the meeting location of a social hunt. We would be hunting rabbits using Ferrets to drive them from their boroughs. I was taking my Browning Gold Fusion 12 gauge semi automatic shotgun and my Armscor 12 gauge pump action shotgun. I took both from my weapon storage cabinet and placed them in their lockable cases. After pouring a cup of coffee into my portable coffee container, I grabbed my range bag that contained four boxes of No. 6 and 7 shotgun shells and departed the house.
It was a brisk 47 degrees Fahrenheit, overcast with a slight breeze, l loaded all my gear and weapons in my Jeep Liberty and off I went. An hour and forty five minutes, 107 miles later, I arrived at the main gate of the Wiesbaden Army Airbase, Wiesbaden, Germany. The Social Hunt was being held on the Army Airbase by the Federal Forestry service (Bundesforstamt) on the request of that installation.
Upon arriving, I met with the US and Bundesforst points of contact. The first hunters that I met were the key performers of the hunt (the two ferrets and their handler). As always, German hunting tradition started well before the actual hunt began. As the hunters arrived, each greeting one another; there were several old friends and lots of new acquaintances.
All the hunters arrived at 0900; we had an informal breakfast of coffee and pastries. The pre-hunt tradition continued with the buglers blowing of hunter tune “Gather the Hunters”! The Bundesforst Director formally welcomed all of us and went into an explanation of how the hunt would be conducted with a short safety briefing added on the end. The 15 German and American hunters were divided into two groups at about 0915 and each received their set of ferrets. Shortly afterwards, we departed to start the hunt with a pre-determined end time of 1300.
Figure 1 “Photo” Robert (Doc) Mann with one of the ferrets used to drive the rabbits out of their dens.
Soon, we reached the first hunting site, an obvious rabbit hole on a dirt mound. It became painfully evident that either the hunting party was not prepared for the speed at which the ferrets worked or we were not into the rabbit hunting mindset. When the first ferret was sent down the rabbit hole and two rabbits popped out at a full run, nobody shot. We were all a little startled, realizing we better get ready! It did not take long for everyone to wake up to the fact that the hunt was on, and when the third rabbit popped out, it was shot before it could get two feet from the hole.
W e quickly realized that the groups of seven were too large and we broke ourselves down even further into a 3 and 4 man groups. Each group again got their own ferret. Each of the subgroups of hunters focused on different rabbit holes. The ferrets were released into the rabbit holes to do their work. This time the hunting parties were more prepared for the speed at which the ferrets worked and each group harvested three rabbits a piece.
Figure 2 “Photo” Hunters standing on line while the ferrets do their work.
The hunt continued from one potential rabbit den location to another and at 1300, the predetermined end time, we unloaded and started taking a count of the day’s harvest. My hunting group had harvested 13 rabbits and I had shot 5 of them.
The two main groups reassembled at 1315 near the start point of the hunt. All the harvested rabbits were brought to this central location. We constructed a game layout (Strecke) and found out that 32 rabbits were harvested for the day. Following the layout of the animals, the Bundesforst Director conducted the hunter’s award ceremony. He presented a hunter’s branch and shook hands with each hunter that was successful during the day’s hunt.
The ceremony culminated with the appropriate hunter horn tunes being blown and a group photo was taken. With the formal portion of the hunt complete, we all settled in for the Kesseltreiben consisting of American style hotdogs, hamburgers and some German cold cuts. As mentioned in the previous article, this is when additional hunting opportunities present themselves, many a time.
Figure 3 “Photo” A group photograph of all the participants in the 6 February 2011 hunt. 32 rabbits were harvested during the approximately 3 hour hunt.
As soon as the informal meal was over, some of the group and I had the opportunity to go out with a local Revier leaser and do a small drive hunt, this time without the ferrets. This small drive hunt lasted about 30 minutes and was performed with two dogs. The hunt was also very successful. 11 rabbits were harvested and group camaraderie was exceptional. It was a full day of hunting in the timbers and in upland areas. We enjoyed good conversation and comradeship with friends and fellow hunters. This is what it is all about. It does not get any better than that. Waidmannsheil!
Figure 4 “Photo” Dan Boehm and Doc Mann retrieving rabbits following the Hunt.