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Hunting Story: Waidmannsheil

Hunting Story: Waidmannsheil

Waidmannsheil is a German expression, that literally means ‘good hunting,’ in two ways. First wished to you by your fellows before the event and secondly after, as a congratulation, usually by the guide who has brought you to the game. They then shake your hand and break off two springs of foliage and put one in your quarries mouth (last meal) and give the other to you to wear in your hat, as a mark of your prowess that others may see. You respond Waidmannsdank, which means thank you. Sounds daft to a Brit, well not quite, as when it happens for the first time, it’s quite a rush believe me.

As a younger hunter, I was always mad keen to get out there and shoot things and, if I didn’t get lucky, I would get really annoyed. Ridiculous, as I got older, things settled down and I suppose I got more realistic and, even if I got nothing, I was always happy to be out, taking simple pleasure from that. Things like seeing two hares boxing each other in a misty morning, owls out early cruising for rodents and bucks fighting in the rut, really connected me with nature. Once, I was in a ditch, waiting for Fallow deer and a baby rabbit came and sat next to me for an hour and seemed perfectly happy; go figure. Another time, in Canada, I came face to face, literally, with a big Timber Wolf; amazing.

It’s a lottery

Now, I still go out with great expectations and if they are unfulfilled, which happens (more often than not), I come back happy and take the jibes with good grace; because I have learned one thing, hunting in the main will always be a lottery, although I have met some very lucky people, it never lasts. However, my job for the last 30-odd years has been writing about all things shooting and I’d be the first to say it’s been and is, a privileged position, which allowed me to hunt overseas in many countries by the grace and favour of others. So, here are a few of my highs and lows; some of which can happen at the same time.

17HMR

I love the 17HMR and got a Ruger M77/17 All-Weather as soon as they appeared. It’s flat trajectory out to 120/130 yards and impressive terminal performance makes it the ultimate rimfire cartridge. It replaced my 22 sub-sonic Ruger M77/22 for all work but the really quiet stuff. Generally, I pushed it out to 150/170 yards, but doing the ballistics showed at 200 it still carried more energy than a 22 sub at 100, so why not? Picking a windless summer evening, I set up on a wide field and waited. A big rabbit obligingly popped out on the tree line at 200, winding in 11-clicks, I placed the cross on his noggin and fired. Wop! Straight down. Fluke, well no as I did it four more times that evening; quite some cartridge and rifle!

Bird dog

I’m no shotgunner, but have been to Africa twice (Burkina Faso and Morocco) with Browning for product launches; the Maxus and reimagined A5 semi-autos. With walked up shooting in the mornings in temperatures over 30º C and doves in the afternoon it was hard but fun. After missing a lot of birds, I finally got my eye in and with a good few on the ground, best shot of the day was at last light, three doves came in over my shoulder and without thinking too much (best way for me) I dropped all three; sweet. In Burkina we were crossing a small stream and one hunter stood on what he thought was a log, which turned out to be a crocodile, never seen a guy run so fast! LOL.

The run around

I got invited to do a hunting story for the Bulgarian tourist board. I was to be allowed representative, Red and Fallow stags and wild boar and the ranch was thick with animals. I took my M03 in 30-06; I met my guide and interpreter and we started walking and must have gone past a lot of representative animals. However, we never stopped, which continued all day and I was confused. That evening, we were in a high seat after boar. Overlooking a feeder, the boar with piglets appeared; oh, yes; I was ready.

The interpreter told me that I could only shoot the piglets and I told him that was not going to happen, the evening fished soon after. The next day was a repeat, then it dawned on me that I was getting the run around. I spoke to the organiser and said if he wanted a story about why you should not hunt in Bulgaria I would oblige. Later, I was told that tomorrow I would get into something. Off the record, he told me it was the old communist’s system of accountability, as no one wanted to let me shoot for free, just in case they got reprimanded. Next day, they got me into a heard of Fallow; sod representative animals; I shot the biggest buck I saw. Not going back there again!

Africa

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My first African trip was a dream, I’d been promised Springbok, Blesbok and Red Hartebeest. I got them all in the same day with my Winchester Model 70 in 270 WSM, the Springer was at 200 yards and I told the PH to get back from the muzzle as it had a brake, and the blast was fierce, he just shrugged. It was a quartering shot on the ram and it went straight down; not so the PH, who was rolling around the floor, screaming with pain and holding his ears, well, I told him!

The Blesbok was taken without drama. However, the Hartebeest was different. He was a must-cull animal with a broken front leg, the PH put me too far back for a good view and, as the animal was near, I had to crawl about 50m forward across the baking hot ground for a better firing position, ouch! He finally came and I could see the leg was a mess. I shot him cleanly and he dropped, but it was an exciting time, as the stalking was hot and hard, but I would not have missed it for the world. As an aside, the PH thought my calibre was too small, even if it had killed three species easily. I said that if he wanted to put me in front of a Gemsbok, I’d drop it with one shot, but it would be free; if not, I’d pay for it - he declined.

Home ground

Back in the UK, I’d not long got my Blaser R8 Professional Success in 270 Winchester. One dark morning, I managed to brilliantly reverse my Land Rover into a ditch; no damage, just stuck. I called my friend and he said he’d be to me in about an hour, so I loaded up and decided to use the Landy as a rest. About 30 minutes later, a Roe Buck appeared to my right about 50 yards away; well, he’s going to run, I thought, but it just stared at me, so I kept still. He stood there for about 5 minutes, then, to my amazement, he walked out into the field and stopped broadside on at 100 yards. Well, what’s a boy to do?

Roe on the ladder

After a cold and unsuccessful afternoon up a high seat with my daughter Chloe, I was halfway down when a Roe Buck appeared at 100 yards on the ride. I told her to keep the binos on the deer and let me know what was happening. We stared at each other and he did not move and all I could do was carry on, I got to the bottom and he was still there. Worth a go, I thought, as I slid to the ground, my 6.5 Grendel was empty, but I had a full mag in my pocket. The noise it made going in and cycling the bolt sounded like it would wake the dead, but he still stood. I then had to deploy the bipod, again so loud, but he didn’t move. Just as I was lining up, he turned 180º dropped his head and started feeding; great, as I was not up for a Texas heart shot.

Well, I was down, so I’ll wait, who knows? He slowly browsed along, and I lay there for 10-15 minutes, still arse-on and at 160 yards, he turned into some low brush, so again no clear shot. Finally, he moved out and I fired, Chloe saw him fall after he ran 25 yards, result and a very tense time.

The fall

In Hungary I go a triple on boar and nearly broke my back. After a mile walk over a waterlogged field, I got to the high seat; this was a mixed species, clean up hunt, with Red Roe and boar on the menu. Not a lot happened for the first two hours, with some deer well out of range. Suddenly, at 100m, a pod of pigs ran out and I started firing with my 8.5x63 M03. They stayed as a mass then suddenly turned as a group and started running back; now that’s firepower. One dropped out wounded and I finished it, I thought that’s pretty bad shooting on my part, but was pleased I got something.

I stepped onto the ladder and the rung broke and I remember falling backwards and having the sense to throw my rifle away. I hit the deck and it knocked all the breath out of my body and I thought I was dying, luckily my pack had taken most of the hit, but god it hurt. When the beaters came, they told me that I’d got three pigs, good news, and my rifle was undamaged, even better news. That evening, when they laid out the game in the square, standing amongst the fires with the hunting horns blowing, was another moment to never forget.

Wakeup call

My first ever Moose was shot in Sweden where they use dogs to drive them to the hunters. I’d been dropped off on the side of a logging track and though cold it was a sunny day and after about an hour I decided to sit against a tree and promptly fell asleep. I was woken by the barking of the Jempthund (Moose dog), looking to the left I could see the scrub pine trees moving as if something big was pushing them aside. It was a large male. Leaping up I readied my 308 Scout rifle and he came out at 25 yards I shot him behind the shoulder, and he went down like his strings had been cut. Second, biggest damn thing I’d killed to date, I reckon the pile of guts we took out of him would have made two Roe deer.

I’ve hunted Moose in deep snow in Sweden, burned in Africa on the plains and shot Chamois in the Austrian Tyrol, also hunted in the UK in seemingly more gentile and easy surroundings. But my memories, although they invoke different things, are all as precious. Waidmannsdank!

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  • Hunting Story: Waidmannsheil - image {image:count}

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