Oliver Dorn, leaseholder of hunting grounds, keeps the buck hunt traditional. He, his wife Ilka, and his two sons look forward to eventful spring days on their “home turf”.

UNREACHABLE DEER AND A HAPPY ENDING

When spring arrives, the hunting community eagerly awaits the advent of the buck hunt. No matter whether it’s May 1 or May 16 – bucks have long been confirmed, invitations issued, and equipment is at the ready. Some countries and regions start earlier and hunt the buck already in velvet. I admit, this is out of the question for me. Not because of the trophy, but simply because I like to hold on to this last remnant of tradition in our lives.

Our lovely hunting grounds are located in the Rhine-Hunsrück district and are incredibly crowded on weekends (also due to the pandemic). Recreation and sports enthusiasts populate the fields and forests from the crack of dawn until well into the evening. To make matters worse, the municipal and forestry authorities are very keen to protect new plantations from excessive browsing. None of this makes it easy to pursue our passion, but it does not diminish our love of hunting. And so our whole crew arrives in the afternoon of April 30 at our hunting lodge. First, we fire up the stove. It’s still early, so there is time to check some rubbing trees and to scout the surroundings for prints – a few smaller groups of second-year boars had been recorded by the game cameras. At night, we want to scan the fields with the Calonox thermal camera to detect any wild boar present in the fields.

But first, we want to set up in two places agreed on with our forester – here, trees have been planted without protective gates or the usual plastic sleeves. So we want to return the favor by focusing our hunt there. Equipped with rifle, binoculars, and thermal camera, I climb onto a raised hide near a hiking trail. Here, at some distance, I look down on a sea of blackberries surrounding countless tender saplings. To the right and behind them is high beech forest, littered with remnants of the last felling. Long-range view? Not anymore. The only thing that helps is the proven, now indispensable thermal camera, which has already given us invaluable support. Since making friends with this new technology, we’ve used it successfully as a pair – hunting wild boar in the fields – but also to track down well-camouflaged game in the dense forest. Before buck and young doe hunting season began, we could already see where masses of roe deer gather, and where the populations have a compatible and balanced level. With these thoughts in mind, I keep scanning the dense undergrowth in the beech forest. Meanwhile it is after 8 p.m. and the binoculars reach their limits in the depth of the forest – the roe deer are still gray and somewhat shaggy, and thus difficult to make out.

Late in the evening, the roe deer exit through the popular hiking trail. I recognize the first outlines with the help of the thermal camera in the deep twilight. But I can accurately identify the deer who now emerge to graze on the blackberries. This will likely be an advantage in the morning.

At 4:15 a.m., my phone’s alarm clock sounds and we get ready, somewhat drowsily. On the way to the raised hide, I scan the surroundings and the plantation with the thermal camera. A little later an I’m sitting above the game, unnoticed by them. It is still dark – so I continue to use the thermal camera. In front of me, two pregnant does, a young doe, and two bucks are grazing. A glance through the binoculars proves once again how much practical support hunters can get from thermal imaging. As the day slowly dawns, the game moves unerringly in the direction of the beech forest. Already the first individuals have disappeared in the lush undergrowth. A doe and a weak young buck linger briefly at the edge of the forest. The rifle has long since been aimed. The Geovid had measured 105 meters to the two deer at dusk. Now the doe also moves into the trees. The buck stands wide, head up. The muffled shot whips briefly through the silence and the May buck goes down. My wife also had a successful hunt this morning and so we meet at the hut, carrying fresh bread rolls. After preparing the game, we reward ourselves with a hearty breakfast.

Equipment:

Rangefinder binoculars: Leica Geovid HD-B 3000

Riflescope: Leica Magnus 1.8–12 x 50 i

Thermal camera: Leica Calonox View

Rifle: Steyr Arms Monobloc, .308 caliber

Jacket: Deerhunter

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