Impressions on a First Hunt
On Friday, July 13th another dream came true
Dream here means a very important experience which I value as desirable achievement for life. Being introduced to new diets like the Vegetarian or Vegan one through friends, books and documentaries I began to think about the impacts of my eating habits. One aspect of this conscious development is a connection to the source of food. Eating meat involves the killing of an animal. In order for me to justify eating animals and not feeling bad about it, I said to myself: "As soon as there's a possibility to hunt and kill an animal myself I want to take it. Because if I can't do it, or feel disgusted I should not eat meat."
7:00AM: The alarm rings. Philipp got up staight away to make coffee and tea. After last nights Kumara dinner feast I stayed over night in his cosy cabin. I'm pulling over a bright yellow fleece jacket and have a cup of tea. "You have another jacket, don't you?" Philipp asks with a big, doubtful question mark in his face. Honestly, I didn't think about it, but my final outfit was dark and good enough.
7:45AM: We set off through the forest behind the house with just enough light to see a few hundred meters. Hunting involves all our senses Phil told me last night and now said: "Smells like deer, can you smell it?" And to my astonishment I could indeed! The unmistakable odor of game rose up my nose, indicating deer close by. "Wruuah!" a deep and loud doglike voice breaks the silence, hooves shake the ground, branches crack and we hear a big red deer running away right in front of us. Shortly after we're looking down a hill and notice more movement. But it's hard to tell whether it's a white tail deer or not, it's still dark. We focus long enough and finally see their white rears clearly. This means no action, because white tail deer are protected. We continue walking towards the mountain.
8:30AM: The ascent is steep and we make our way through the forest close along the its edge. During morning and evening hours deer usually eat in open fields close to the forest - preferably with some sun. Phil's strategy is to approach these areas from inside the forest, where they would naturally flee to. Every now and again we hear cracking branches and can smell game. They are moving almost constantly, so we follow them uphill - slowly, carefully navigating step by step between bushes and branches. We stop to listen, smell, look for fresh poo, sense what is going on around us. And go again - slowly & carefully.
9:30AM: A path opens up towards the forest's edge, the open terrain well visible and hit by sun. Perfect location, and sure enough Phil spots four red deer across the hill. One straight ahead, maybe 200m away, moves slowly, a good target. To our right up the hill there's a group of three. We freeze, hide in the dark of the forest, waiting for a good moment to take a shot - I'm holding the gun. The one ahead moves out of sight and the group notices us, sprints up the hill and is gone, too.
10AM: We keep moving through narrower and steeper parts of the forest. Focus and attention fade slightly while I'm following Phil. We stop, hear them, smell them and keep going. It's tiring to be constantly alert, not eating and not drinking. We're focused on our goal. We stop - and keep going.
11AM: 3/4 up the hill we go out into the open terrain. It's warm now, no deer in sight, and we sit down to rest. I will never forget the picture of this moment: sitting in golden grass, the steep forest to our left, the warming sun above it, snow capped mountains right in front, and in the right corner of my view I see Phil in his manly appearance with beard, camouflage outfit and a gun around his shoulder. I try to save this moment, so quiet, calm, without any perception of time. I'm happy, and don't even want to shoot a deer any more. It would mean carrying it all the way down - no thank you!
11:45AM: We made our way up a little further, approaching a long ridge covered in light forest. The ground is covered with leaves and perfectly soft as we move very slowly along the ridge, maybe 5m apart from each other. I'm holding the gun, ready to aim any time. The feeling I had up there is hard to explain, but I'll try. First of all, every thought was gone. It's pure intuition, feeling, connection. It felt right, without knowing at the time, my senses were highly alert. Step, by step, by step I keep walking, watching my near surroundings. It's absolutely quiet. "There, quick!" Phil tries to bring my attention to the running deer on our right. I'm too slow to react, for some reason not in a rush. Then I see the deer clearly for the first time, only its head is visible above horizontal trees. I lift the gun, look through the scope and search for the head, but can't find it. So I try again.. shit!! Ok,... again... There it is! And it really looks like in movies, the head clearly visible, marked with a thin black cross. For the fraction of a second I make the conscious decision to pull the trigger and "BOOOM", a loud shockwave hits my ears, my right shoulder thrown back by the pressure. A feeling of being grounded, connected, overwhelmed and shocked spread though my body and I'm only able to sight a short and quiet "haa" of relieve. Phil approaches me, grabs the gun while telling me to pick up the bullet case and runs towards the deer, prepared to give him another shot in case it's not dead. Again I don't feel rushed, knowing deep inside that I hit it right.
12:00PM: I see it laying on its side, eyes wide open, blood around its head and a piece of brain next to it - I know it's dead. For a few seconds it keeps jerking. Phil and I stroke it, trying to calm it down. I feel for the fading life, stroking the soft fir, sad to witness a life ending. Immediately the work begins. Phil shows me how to make the cuts and I try my best not to mess anything up. In the beginning I'm trying to keep my clothes clean, but soon Phil says that there's no point, because I'm gonna carry it soon anyways. Taking the guts out, removing the intestine and cutting of the damaged head. A Bavarian tradition suggests to leave the animals head with some greens in its mouth, symbolic for a last meal and a sign of respect. Once everything's removed, I get shown how to make a backpack with the deers legs in order to carry it back home. I need some help standing up with the heavy load.
1:30PM: The front legs are hard on my shoulders, we find a stream and take a break. Over some freshly filtered water, an apple and some cookies we talk about hunting. I am incredibly grateful to have Phil as my guide and friend to make this special experience possible. He's prepared, experienced, intuitive and very trusting! Everything that happened this day felt absolutely right, natural. Even the next two hours of carrying home 50kg in pain and with lots of breaks.
4:00PM: Hard work and the feeling of pure satisfaction arriving at home make this adventure one of the most important in my life. After a cup of coffee we go back to the killing shed to skin the animal and quarter it, meaning to cut out the good meat: Legs, ribs, backstrap. Phils dogs are happy to get some cut offs and we leave the meat hanging to dry. At this point I allow myself to continue eating animals with respect and gratitude.
6:00PM: To finish this day perfectly, Phil whips up a simple, but amazing dinner: Butter on baguette, fried mushrooms, blue cheese and, of course, venison. It was sooo tasty! And because I like Phil's company and his cabin so much I stay for another night.
On the following Monday night Phil prepared the dears heart so nicely and I could share this gift my wonderful friends that came for the Farewell Party.
Phil, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity, your patience, your trust and your inspiration. You are a good man, and I'm so grateful to know you brother. Heart to heart, life to life.