Drahthaar Making Game
Note: More Pheasants are killed annually in Germany, a small nation about the size of Montana, than Kansas or Iowa, or Nebraska!
Annual Game Harvest Numbers can be seen at the bootom of the page. There is also a link to Pheasants Forever and each US states harvest can also be seen.
Hunting in Münsterland
Pheasant is the only bird hunted in Münsterland. Most hunters only shoot roosters; and there is no limit, because all hunting is on leased farmland. The going rate for good farmland in Münsterland is about 8€ – 10€ per hectare for a year, which translates to about $4-$5/acre. Usually groups of hunters get together to lease an area whose size is on the order of 1000-5000 acres (there is a legal distinction associated to farms of less or greater than 75 hectare, about 185 acres, which can be seen by reading the documentation given below).
There is an enormous difference, however, in the way leased land works in Germany versus America. Not only do you get the complete hunting rights for the land, but you have the responsibility to maintain the farm as far as game and predators are concerned. If animals damage the farmer’s crops, he can turn to the leasing group to collect damages.
Thus, if wild pigs invade the farm or if the deer start to cause excessive damage, the hunters must control them by any legal means possible. It is also the duty of the hunters to keep down rabbits and other vermin, and the hunters take the responsibility to keep predators in check.
One interesting phenomena with which the Münsterländers are just now coming to grips is the invasion of Canadian geese. Honkers have only recently shown up in Northern Europe, but we all know what that portends for the near future; and, indeed.
The government and the farmers are now in discussions concerning hunting these new immigrants or obtaining compensation for crop damage.
In one leasing example, for instance, there are nine hunters that have leased a 1500 hectare (~3700 acres) tract at a cost of 15000€ per season.
For that money, they harvest about 250 pheasants and about two dozen roe deer (small deer weighing about 60 lbs) as well as foxes, hares, multiple small predators and the occasional larger deer. With this type of arrangement, it’s small wonder that the German approach to a hunting dog requires that the dog be able to hunt fur and to kill small predators and vermin; and it’s also clear that German dogs should not be expected to transfer directly into the American hunting scene, but, rather, should be adapted to our conditions.
The difference between the German and the American approach to wild game stems perhaps from the difference in the ages of the two cultures.
In America men entered a largely untouched wilderness in historically recent times. After an initial settling in period, the environmental degradation produced by the rapidly expanding population became apparent to several ecologically advanced thinkers near the end of the 19th century. Men like George Bird Grinnell (who founded the magazine “Field and Stream”) as well as Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir and others, not only succeeded in having large areas of land set aside for public ownership, but put into effect laws that made the commercial sale of harvested wild game illegal; even when the game was taken off private land.
In the case of migratory wild animals, this type of legislation was essential. For birds it extends to both Canada and Mexico and includes non-game species.
During much of the 20th century, most American hunters grew up with the concept that wild game was public property, a concept that has had a fundamental role in how Americans think of hunting and conservation.
Only near the end of the 20th century did the idea of game farms start to flourish. Of course, there had always been large private estates and game clubs, but these were highly restricted and involved few hunters. Private estates and game farms come closer to the European approach to game management than most American hunting, but even here, there are important differences.
On large private estates, there are employees dedicated to maintaining estate’s “game herd”. There have been–exceptionally–ecologically enlightened estate owners, but frequently the hunter on such an estate has an attitude that the game is a possession to be used for the sports of shooting or dog work. Such dog work is almost exclusively dedicated to game location and highly focused on matters of style. Retrievers, when utilized have a utilitarian–rather than sporting–role to recover shot game for use by the kitchen. Dealing with predators, poachers and other “details” are left to the estate staff.
Today, American game farms vary from Orvis approved “pretend estates” down to tracts managed for game for which the hunter pays a fee for the right to hunt the property. The hunter has no responsibility for the management of the property.
As you might expect, there are lots of pheasants, deer and hare in Münsterland. While driving the many country roads, its not unusual to see 2-3 pheasants and 1-2 hare in a couple of hours. On walks through the woods and CRP along the sides of farms, you may average about 5 pheasants and 2 hare per hour. Of course, this was just after their hunting season had ended the previous week; I have no idea how plentiful they were at the early part of the season.
Although there are plenty of ducks (usually mallards) that are hunted in Münsterland, pheasants are the only upland bird they hunt there.
Perhaps the closest analogy to the German concept of hunting (referred to as the “Reviersystem”) is that of a cooperatively owned game club, where the club members, themselves, are responsible for managing the game herd. If one thinks of such a club operating on a leased farm from which the farmer derives substantial income and cooperates with the club by using appropriate farming techniques and planting crops (or allowing the club to plant crops), but in which he requires that the club keep its game herd under control or pay reimbursement for damages, then you have the American equivalent of the German approach to hunting.
The government still sets seasons, but there are no limits for non-migratory game—that is seen as the obligation of the farmer and the hunting club leasing the farm.
To belong to such a hunting club in Germany, you must understand the principles of wild game husbandry and be dedicated to the maintenance of a healthy game herd. This is accomplished in part by demanding a level of knowledge and skills acquired during the process of obtaining a hunting license in Germany.
As you might expect, getting a hunting license in Germany is an expensive and drawn out affair, and, as mentioned, the entire ethic there is different from what is commonplace in America.
It certainly differs remarkably from the competitive sporting dog tradition that is so prominent here.
To give a detailed description of the German laws and approach to hunting lies beyond the scope of this brief survey, but I’ll provide two links that readers might find interesting. The first is to the English version of the “Fédération des Associations de Chasse et Conservation de la Faune sauvage de l’U.E.”, which is the hunter/conservation group in the European Union: http://www.face-europe.org/fs-hunting.htm. Clicking on Germany brings up an English summary of German law and hunting organizations.
Germany Annual Harvest Numbers
Red deer 45’000
Roe deer 260’000
Wild boar 25’000
Brown hare 200’000
Wild ducks 90’000
Red fox 60’000
Roe Deer 1,080,000
Red Deer 70,000
Annual USA Pheasant Harvest By State
Interview with German Hunter: http://www.opb.org/news/series/gunstories/mandated-shots-hunting-in-germany-is-a-different-game-/