"Here in Alsace, things are a little bit different."

Pine Marten

Well-Known Member
Prologue:

Once upon a time, PM’s granny had a house right at the end of the Munster Valley in Alsace, just before the goat pastures started. In the river Fecht next to the house, PM caught his first trout which started him on a slippery slope. Coincidentally, she died the year the Simson drilling that features in this tale was made in Suhl. In the intervening years, the Internet was invented with its’ hunting forums enabling new friends to be made in a way that was impossible before, the house at the end of the valley crumbled and was demolished, but online rentals came along, and so PM’s family returned to the village for a holiday which, for the first time, included hunting.

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The village, the two churches, the darker hills at the back right being the setting for this adventure.


Episode 1: the old “Platzbock”.

It was the second morning of my much anticipated holiday in Alsace, and therefore I had set the alarm for 4.30am. I crept out of the side door of the chalet into the darkness all dressed up in my finest green, laced up my boots and grabbed my Simson drilling which had yet to be used on deer. In the absolute silence, I heard my friend D’s Land Rover at the end of the lane and we set up further down the valley, past the last village which used to be a lumberjack and charcoal burners’ settlement, and up the slope on the forest tracks towards the crest, just under the skiing pistes 1000m up in the Vosges. It wasn’t August yet so only roe bucks and boar were in season. Before dawn, around 5.30am, we sat in a wooden hut on stilts overlooking a steep dip on the mountainside, hoping boar would come to the automatic feeder that drops a kilo of maize every day. This is partly done to keep them away from the crops below the forest, partly to offer more chances of actually staying on top of the numbers in these dark, dense woods.

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The sun rises 1000m up.

The sun rose, the boar didn’t oblige, so we set off on a stalk on a rising forest path round the mountain, glassing in front and up and down the slopes between the fir and the ash trees. Around 6.30, we spotted a doe around 50m up a 30 degree slope, who was soon joined by a decent six pointer slightly higher up. “If you can, take that one, he’s fine” whispered D. “Do you think you can shoot him from here?”. I declined and opted to stalk in closer, so we went down the track, and started quietly climbing diagonally up, hiding behind a slight ridge in the terrain. The buck spotted something was up, barked, ran further up the slope, turned, barked again, a few more steps. I reached a diagonal tree trunk which with the sticks provided a solid rest for the drilling. I calmed my breathing from the climb and excitement, slid the manual cocking lever forward, found the buck in the crosshairs (the red dot battery is dead!). He ran up a little more, turned again, BANG! Off went the 7x65R round, and the buck vanished. D had been watching him through his binoculars. He turned to me and with a huge smile said “Waidmannsheil! I saw him roll over, congratulations on your first Alsatian buck!”. “Waidmannsdank, and thanks for making this possible”. We gave the buck ten minutes then went along the path round the mountain to retrieve it from above. D broke a branch off a tree, snapped it in two, placed one in the deer’s mouth, gave one to me. The church bells rang through the woods from the village below: 7am. Whatever else happened that fortnight, this experience was already enough to make it an unforgettable holiday. We placed the tag on the bug, gralloched it, and examined its teeth: worn completely flat, probably ten years old, D was very happy with the result. He gave me the kidneys, heart and liver which traditionally go to the hunter in Alsace, the carcass being sold to help finance the association that has the hunting lease for 9 years at a time. This is a completely different setup from everywhere else in France as it's derived from the legislation in place when Alsace was part of the German Empire before WW1. Because as Eric Cantona says, things are different here.

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A first note on bullet placement though: although the buck was stone dead, the shot was high and had smashed the spine. It was my first time shooting on a steep slope and I forgot to aim lower than I do on flat ground. Lesson learned for another time.
 

Pine Marten

Well-Known Member
Episode 2: D's stag

A week later, D returned and with him the pre-dawn hunting expeditions. The first morning, I was assigned to a hut overlooking some pasture up to the edge of the woods down the slope, with the crest of the mountain behind me. This is a favoured sport for chamois (not on the menu), however boar, roe and red deer also frequent it. Apparently. Not today they didn't. So again, I left the hut after sunrise and stalked down the path.
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Apparently, this is where chamois hang out of a summer morning.

This time, all I found was a red - almost black - squirrel, and a fistful of wild raspberries for breakfast. I met D at the bottom, he had bumped a hind and a fawn on the edge of the cattle pastures, but that was all. We decided to return the next day, same setup, different hill. The next day, again nothing came past the hut, but maybe 25 minutes into my wait, just when I thought to myself that I could now identify any game that game by enough to make a decision on whether to shoot or not, I heard a load BOOM, which had to be D's 7mm Rem Mag Kipplauf. The woods settled again, and when I gave up the highseat, rather than begin a stalk, I saw D sitting under a tree with a big grin. "Do you lift weights?" he asked. "Mostly just children" I answered. "That'll do". We went a few hundred metres up the track he'd been stalking and there, lying against a granite boulder, was what seemed to me a huge stag.

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My turn now to wish D "Waidmannsheil!". That was his alloted stag for the year, turned out to weigh 130kg (apparently , and extracting it was a whole new experience for me. We used a tree trunk up the slope to attach a pulley, with a rope threaded through it, attached to the Land Rover, winched it up the slope, and after two attempts managed to lower it and bundle it into the car.

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Then we headed to meet the "Guarde Forestier" to do the paperwork that comes with stalking stags and chamois, because, once again, things are special here.
 

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opticron1

Well-Known Member
Next episode please! Had some entertaining riding through the Vosges hills on our way back from the Schwartzwald, some stunning scenery!
 

Pine Marten

Well-Known Member
Episode 3: boar in the trenches.

There was just about time to squeeze in a last morning outing. So far I’d had an amazingly successful first outing, a blank, a weightlifting experience, had seen a group of hinds with a single stag in the dark, and a couple of chamois out on a pasture on the way back from stalking. No boar yet though. This time, there was to be no sitting about in huts. D decided to guide, and we set off again about 1000m up, along a path that wound its way upwards through the forest towards the pastures above, going around the mountain over about 5km. D said he stalked this route about four times a year and had always spotted something. I muttered my customary entreaty to the woods… There is a first time for everything, and at about 7.30am, we emerged onto a little plateau, the sun peeking over the hill to the left, and a grandiose spectacle was in front of us. “Well” said D, “I’d better show you them”. “Show me what?”. “The Bernese Alps!”. And indeed, below us was the Thur valley shrouded in clouds, behind them the Jura, and on the third feint blue line, the Alps! It’s very rare to see them in August due to the haze, but the huge thunderstorm the night before had cleared the air. We still had an hour to go, so we headed back into the woods.

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Switzerland in the distance.

We spotted some freshly overturned ground where boar had been rummaging, and a quite amazing piece of wood just below the crest where well spaced-out tall ashes grew over a forest floor of lush green grass. This hillside showed that there had been man-made terraces here, and these were in fact the mountain equivalent of trenches, where German and French troops had spent four years in a stalemate in WW1, building a network of cable cars and sniper positions. The landscape here is pockmarked with shell craters. As we arrived at the end of this wood into a darker, denser part, a little mobile reception came through and D received a message from his wife that he stopped to answer. I glassed around to kill time, not really believing in it anymore. But I didn’t need the binoculars, because perhaps 30m in front of us, I saw three russet shapes in the undergrowth: young boar or betes rousses as they’re known here. I poked D, pointed, and he confirmed: “If you can pick out a small one, go for it”. Up on the sticks, I spotted one head down facing up slope, rested the red dot (I found the spare battery) behind its’ shoulder… BANG! For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then all the boar ran off deeper into the woods, except for one that streaked out to our right before stopping in the scrub behind us. “You hit it, they always stay together otherwise, reload and let’s give it ten minutes”. In the meantime, I covered the path behind us in case it got up and tried to escape that way. After ten minutes, D approached it from above. It was still moving but there was a lot of blood. D approached cautiously with his knife drawn, but it tore down the slope, across the path faster than I could draw a bead on it, and crashed into a tangle of brambles 5 meters below us. We let it lie a while, then D approached it again, as I stood down the slope with the drilling. I could see it, had a clear shot, but D told me not to fire unless he asked me to. Mistake it turned out, because the boar rose up and ran left all the way down the slope 100m below, onto a patch of grass and lost from sight.

At this point, I was very unhappy. It was the first time I’d had to track down a wounded large animal, I was worried we wouldn’t find it and that I had caused undue suffering through my own fault. But D who is an old hand at this told me not to worry, that we’d find it, and that anyway he could always call his friend with the hound. He let me walk ahead down the hill under my own dark cloud, but half an hour later, we were at the base of the slope where the patch of grass I’d seen through the trees was. “It’s going to there” said D. “But this time, no more fiddling about, the first one who can shoots it”. We headed up the slope, and as I approached the boar that we spotted lying at the foot of a tree, still moving, but not much, I heard the BOOM of D’s Kipplauf again. “Waidmannsheil for your first Alsatian boar!” said D. “Waidmannsdank, for my first boar generally” I answered. “What? Then Super-Waidmannsheil!” shouted D, coining a new phrase. But it didn’t feel all that super. Nevertheless, it was a young sow, exactly the right kind of cull animal, and we did find it, and I made it back in time for birthday celebrations down in the village, partly thanks to some hairy mountain driving on the way down.

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Boar and Drilling. Artfully posed.



Another lesson on bullet placement: boar aren’t the same inside as deer. Shoot them further forward.
 

Pine Marten

Well-Known Member
As I said, the default position is that venison is sold to help pay for the eye watering leases, and also because there's no way the 9 holders could eat it all. That said, the hunter has first refusal and can buy a carcass at wholesale prices. The roebuck was butchered and shared out because it wasn't very big and I'd messed it up a bit. I was given a haunch which I used first to make kebabs for YPM's 6th birthday, and we ate the rest over the course of the week. And on the evening I shot it, I ate the kidneys which were given to me. As for the boar, it came too late in the trip so went to the game dealer. More to the point though, the area is on the border and under surveillance for African Swine Flu, so you can't really carry the carcasses around. Unfortunately, I missed that. Shame as at 14 kg, it was a perfect a freezer size.



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LeftHandGuy

Well-Known Member
Got it. Know how that one goes - just curious to know what you’d have done with the boar meat if you’d have had that too.
 

Klenchblaize

Well-Known Member
Good stuff PM and as I've said before, much respect for your unflinching honestly. Something I fear all too many members of this site will find outside their comfort zone. That's assuming they get as far as reading your well written story that took no little effort to post.

Are you shooting this year's BSRC Chamois competition with your drilling?

K
 

Mike L

Well-Known Member
Great read thank you for posting, I have knocked about the area for years on my motorbike trips, a very beautiful area, by the by is that a langiole knife?

Mike
 

Pine Marten

Well-Known Member
[QUOTE="Mike L, post: 1593959, member: ] by the by is that a langiole knife?

Mike[/QUOTE]

Yes, it's one of five I had made for my best men and I for my wedding. They're brought out to illustrate adventures by all five owners. They're a very french design, only really good for opening wine bottles and slicing saucisson!


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dodgyknees

Well-Known Member
The weight of that stag, after you'd gutted it right? Hard to get a sense of the size of it, without a rifle in the photo.

Very different looking animal in the head in the first photo, to what I'm used to. Fine timber! Looks like that left front leg was properly broken. I'm curious to know where the animal was hit and what the bullet did after, did it exit? Did it run (or hobble) far?

Wonderful story from a wonderful part of the world with its own distinctive history, customs and rules. Thanks for posting.
 

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