Wild Boar at the entrance of the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum
We all know how hard it is to become a new hunter around here (here being Southwest Michigan, USA). If you were born after January 1st, 1960, you will need to get a hold of Greg Anderson or other Hunter Safety instructor and sign-up for a course that may consume two full Saturdays and cost you ten dollars. Greg will feed you very well on those two days, but most people will complain about the price. Then you will have to take a test that most children twelve and older will pass, but again, you may complain.
After that you will receive a Hunter’s Safety Card, and you can go to any of the thousands of retailers that sell Hunting & Fishing licenses and complain again for paying fifteen dollars for a “small game” or the same amount for a deer or turkey license. For waterfowl you also need to buy a Federal Duck Stamp for the princely sum of twenty dollars.
Finally, if you don’t have access to a private property, you may have to call the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to receive, free of charge, maps for thousands of acres of public land all over the state. But again you will complain that public land is too crowded and there is no good hunting there.
Well, in order to make us Michigan (or most American) hunters feel less miserable I had a long conversation with my friend Thomas Fritz, who lives in Southern Germany, and is currently in the process of becoming a hunter, which off course includes getting his first German hunting license.
The odyssey is more or less like this: first you decide that you want to become a hunter, and then you find a way of setting time aside for the four to six months required to complete the course.
A minimum of one hundred and thirty hours of theory are administered on Mondays and Thursdays (two hours each evening), and on Saturdays you will have field activities, shooting lessons and veterinary training in order to identify potential illnesses in the game animals or its meat.
After that you will take a written test on the following subjects: animal natural history & health, hunting practice, forestry & farming, hunting dogs, and hunting & firearm laws.
Then you will take a shooting test that includes:
· Handguns (although German law prohibits hunting with handguns, they may be used for “coupe de grace” or dispatching wounded or trapped animals);
· Shotguns: a minimum of 150 clay pigeons (but not shot on a single day), and 10 rabbit targets. The hunter must hit at least half of the targets;
· Rifles: five shots from bench at 100 meters (must hit 9-ring or better) and five shots off-hand at “running game” (must hit 5-ring or better). In both cases, the three best shots count for score.
Finally there is an interview or oral test during which the “hunter-to-be” must be able to identify several animal “parts” and if approved in all tests the person can now apply for a hunting (and also trapping) license. The cost up to this point is about three thousand Euros or about four thousand dollars.
At some time during the process, it is necessary to become a member of a hunting club or society, and along the duration of the course, the “hunter-to-be” can be a beater on drives or even gut animals under the supervision of a licensed hunter, but he cannot handle firearms. Actually he cannot purchase firearms or ammunition without the hunting license.
The cost of the hunting license is ninety Euros (about one hundred and twenty dollars) and is valid for three years; however there is no public land available for hunting, and therefore it is pay to play. Either the hunting club has a leasing, or the hunter pays for each animal. A deer typical cost is three thousand Euros (four thousand dollars), while boars are much less due to overpopulation.
One of the alternatives to make hunting costs more manageable is to sell the game meet, which is legal in most of Europe, and this is one of reasons that animal health is one of the required subjects of the hunting course.
Similar to the United States, Germany is facing a declining on the number of hunters and the complexity and cost associated with new hunting licenses is probably one of the reasons. One of the consequences is that ungulate wildlife (deer and boars) is on the rise throughout Germany with associated damage to the environment (over browsing) and crop depredation, and foresters are requesting hunters to shoot as many deer and boars as possible.
If you are willing to volunteer to control the Germany wildlife population, foreign hunters can apply for a limited term (14 days) license, but Thomas was not aware of the specific rules. But even as volunteer you may have to pay your own way.
Different countries have diverse and very particular culture, and one is not inherently better than the other, but just different. The point is that many times it is difficult to appreciate what we have without parameters for comparison.
From what I could learn while traveling the world, talking with friends and researching the subject, the North American wildlife conservation model is the most inclusive and affordable in the world. Let’s cherish that.