Teckel Talk - the NATC Newsletter
From the December 2001 issue
GERMAN HUNTING TRADITIONS
by Lore Mahler
When I joined Deer Search more than a decade ago, I read several books by German "master searchers" to gain more knowledge and understanding about this subject. Not only did I learn how to train my dog, I also read a lot about German hunting traditions. Those NATC members who participated in the Zuchtschau in Pennsylvania heard Herr Ransleben talk about these traditions regarding blood tracking. Let me share with you what I have learned about this, I find it very fascinating.
These traditions were handed down from generation to generation for over a hundred years. The foremost of which is the clothing. One will always recognize a hunter by loden green clothing he will wear most of the time. The "green" is certainly worn proudly.
Another tradition is the breaking of branches in a certain way after a deer has been shot or wounded and has fled. A responsible hunter marks the site of hit with a broken off branch from a nearby tree. This is not only tradition, it also has a real and important purpose. The spot of the hit is marked so the hunter will find the exact spot after he goes for help, namely a tracking dog and a handler. After several hours and during the excitement the hunter may have forgotten the exact spot where he hit and wounded the deer and a marker will remind him.
To mark the spot where the deer was hit, a broken-off branch is stuck upright into the ground; this branch is called the "hit break" = Anschussbruch. The "hit break" should be followed by the "trail break" = Fährtenbruch. The hunter lays an approx. 2-3 feet long branch in the direction of the flight trail. If it is a buck, the cut point of the branch should be placed in the flight direction, if it is a doe, the branch part should be placed in the flight direction. This branch is "ended" with a shorter stick in the cross direction. These "breaking signs" should become part of a hunter's silent communication in the field and woods.
The breaking of "Pürschzeichen", signs of a wounded deer like blood, hair or bone fragments are also important, so as to be able to backtrack yourself once you think your search dog has lost the trail, this way the dog handler can start at the last break again.
Another hunting tradition is the "Shooter's Break" - Schützenbruch. This is purely ceremonial and has nothing to do with the practical side of hunting, however, nice it is. A "hunter's break" should be broken preferably from a spruce, pine, fir, oak or alder tree, but of course any branch of a nearby tree will do to signify a "Waidmannsheil", a hunter’s success. The little branch should be dipped into the deer blood and worn on the hunter's hat. When it is given to the hunter, it should be presented on the hat of the person presenting it. If the deer was found and killed through the efforts of a tracking dog, part of the "hunter's break" should be presented in the above-mentioned manner to the handler of the dog, who in turn fastens the break on the dog's collar. A break on the collar of a tracking dog says more than THANK YOU and is greatly appreciated by the owner of the dog.
Since the handler of the dog usually has the right to kill the wounded deer found, it is he who first presents the "break" to the hunter, who in turn returns part of the break to the handler and he in turn hands it down to the dog. All "breaks" should be broken off a tree, as the name implies, only the "trail break" should be cut.
If you would like to continue the hunting ceremonies in the traditional way, we now turn to the field-dressed deer on its right side. The deer will be covered with the "taking possession break" = "Inbesitznahmebruch". Here again, the breaking side of the branch is placed towards the head of the deer if it is a buck and the branchy side is placed towards the head if it is a doe. A buck also receives his "last bite to eat" = "der letzte Biss" by placing a branch into his mouth.
This ends the successful hunt and its traditional ceremonies as it is done in Germany and other parts of Europe.