The Leica Hunting Experience – Season 2, Final Act. The summer course, rather underwhelming in terms of animals shot, was mirrored by the autumn course. Was it the weather’s fault? Maybe. However, strange sounds were running through the pine forests, undoubtedly making an impression on the novice hunters who were pursuing their game. They had reason to be impressed…
It was the end of January, and we were witnessing a harsh Siberian cold snap, that came around just in time for the final stage of this season’s Leica Hunting Experience. This time it was not a question of stalking or sitting in a blind, but a driven hunt that should facilitate the fulfilment of the management plan. First, we had a lecture explaining the security protocol. After that, each of the 24 participants signed that they would scrupulously respect the orders given by the organizers. Then, it was time to depart for the hunt.
The mercury was stuck at -10°C, as the hunters reached their designated posts. Walking the few hundred metres to their places was a welcome warm up for the participants…before a long wait under snow cloaked foliage began. A few young hunters were familiar with driven hunts. Here however, the game would be pushed towards the posts, while causing minimum disturbance. Only six dogs were used, accompanied by four beaters, who set out in two distinct zones. Both groups started the drive at the same time, once the flight paths of the 200 hectares were overlooked and “closed off” by hunters in strategic positions.
With dogs released, the valley swiftly echoed back rifle shots that promised good results. The walkie talkies that each person was equipped with, allowed the declaration of fallen game. It was a very useful accessory to avoid overtaking the management plan, since only a single crowned red stag could be taken by the group. Black beasts were announced, plus a roe, but no long-legged ungulates. Theoretically, the noise of footsteps in the snow had already alerted them. While the drive was slowly and silently coming to and end, the dogs suddenly pushed up a large boar that passed not too far away from a post.
A shot was fired, but dogs stood between the hurt beast and its pursuers, so it was impossible to stop him. It wasn’t until after a crazy chase over more than a kilometre that Jean-Luc finished off the boar who was being held by his pack of hounds. After these highly emotional events, the animals were recovered, and field dressed by their hunters who were aided by comrades.
The team work was fantastic, and allowed the novices to learn proper venison handling skills. In the afternoon, the group of nimrods took off towards Coquin, that stands at an elevation of 842 metres. There, the snowy carpet attained a depth of 35 centimetres, and considerably delayed getting the hunters settled. Once again, the large stags had cleared the area… all except three crowned ones that crossed paths with Matthias, one of the organizers, who didn’t shoot the stag, since they were reserved for the young hunters.
Nevertheless, a roe doe was taken by surprise, killed by a masterfully precise shot. After the drive, everyone gathered back at the meeting point to enjoy the setting sun. There, a photo was passed around, and dulled the good mood. Laurent had stumbled onto funny tracks in the snow. We didn’t want to believe it, but they resembled those of a big cat. It seemed the novices were not the only ones hunting here! It was time to put the game into cooling, and go back to the warmth of our bedrooms, where we would spend a short night.
In the morning, a soft breeze blew over the Vosges summits. It was no more than -2°C, but the sky was already a lovely blue and the day promised to be great. It sure was! The beaters were down one member, Laurent’s ankle had not supported him on his way between a trunk and a boulder the previous day. Oh yes, nature can be cruel to city-dwellers!
Once the last hunter was placed at his post, no less than ten shots had already rung out, and they wouldn’t be the last either, since wild boar had been caught in our well planned ambush. However, the animals used their home-turf advantage and despite having plenty of rifles placed in strategic locations firing, the bullets drove into the snow without attaining their targets. It’s really hard to be a young hunter and keep your calm in such a downpour of shots! Nevertheless, four wild boar now graced the accumulating bag.
They were soon joined by a fifth, who was found after following the blood track for over 400 metres. A special mention to Bastien, who not only accompanied the search for his boar, but also shot his first double! It’s in these moments of euphoria, that the hunter’s joy is truly contagious. There was still one drive to go, and despite the cold, the fatigue, and the burning thighs, everyone went back to their spots. Up top the dogs were released, but the morning ruckus seemed to have disturbed the forests’ inhabitants.
We were lucky that two roe deer were pushed up, but they fled like a bat out of hell, right out from under the nose of Oryx, the Small Münsterländer. Strange, very strange. Thereafter, during the gathering, the potential reason for this comportment was exposed. Posted towards the end of the drive, Pierre had the surprise of his life! Observing a russet silhouette approach him without a noise, it perched itself on top of a boulder: a lynx.
The two predators caught sight of each other, but the biped had been significantly more impressed than the big cat, who silently disappeared into the thick pine forest. The cat left behind a stunned young hunter, who would certainly not forget his first outing at the Leica Hunting Experience!
First Hand Accounts
Alexandre Mercier of Doubs
On the way to the Vosges, I was already delighted to meet the hunters coming from the four corners of France. The first evening, I learnt that I would be the group leader for the first drive of the next morning. It was a short night, and after having positioned all the hunters in my line, I arrived at my post on the crest of a mountain. Ten minutes after I had arrived, I heard animals below me. Suddenly, I spotted two wild boar (one sow and one reddish beast), thirty metres from where I stood. My adrenaline was flowing like water, and once the young boar stopped, I dropped him on the spot with one lethal bullet, leaving the sow to flee into the drive. It was the first wild boar of my life. It was unforgettable! At that moment, a thought for my grand-father crossed my spirit, since I would have loved to have told him about this marvellous hunting weekend in the Vosges.
Bastien Delahoche of Paris
I was very happy to participate in this experience for many reasons. Firstly, for the beauty of the region, that boasts its own lot of surprises and emotions. Secondly, for the people I met that weekend, since it was very enriching to discuss and exchange things about hunting with people who come from all sorts of backgrounds. Finally, I am extremely happy to have taken my first two wild boar!
Robin Frèrejacques of Isère
This experience allowed me to converse with seasoned guides regarding new hunting techniques and very complicated topics, allowing me to deepen my knowledge of hunting. The hunting territory is splendid, in the heart of a Vosges forest, and dense, where the game must be earned. This trip remains equally memorable in terms of meeting nice people, such as Jean-Luc and his son with their pack of dogs, who were top notch. It was an overall success, graced with memorable moments that could be shared with equally passionate hunters. It was instructive, amusing, and unique. A huge thanks for these privileged moments!
Anthony (novice hunter) and Jean-Luc DESCHAMPS (whipper-in), of Maine and Loire
The Vosges trip was a new hunting experience for us and our four-legged friends, in an unfamiliar territory for those of us coming from the flat lands. It was very well organized in terms of the level of the hunting, our accommodation and reception. Meeting the other novice hunters from different regions allowed us to exchanged our anecdotes of hunting amongst other passionate people. We would do it again without hesitation. Thank you for your invitation and for allowing us to discover this magnificent territory. Thank you Leica!
Antoine Cherbonnier of Maine and Loire
These two days of hunting were an emotionally rich change in scene. I had been dying to discover this new territory, and most certainly share it with peers. The organization was top notch to say the least, in terms of rigour, good instruction, good drives and very good accommodation. From the first evening onwards, a lovely atmosphere and humour were present. The next morning we discovered the exceptional setting in which we would be hunting, the snow added an extra touch of charm. Quick photos were snapped here and there, to immortalize these moments. Arriving at our posts we discovered a new way to hunt: “the silent driven hunt.” It didn’t take long to hear the dogs barking and the first shots.
Filled with adrenaline, I heard a noise in the snow of an animal that was approaching. Fifteen minutes later I had the opportunity to see three wild boar and shoot one, unfortunately a miss, yet I was still so happy to see these first Vosges wild boar. I didn’t see anything in the afternoon, but we had our first snowball fight, like real children! Day two of hunting, and after ten minutes at my post, I had the chance to get my revenge by shooting a young wild boar. I was thrilled. That afternoon I saw two roe deer, shot at and missed by my neighbour, too bad!
To end the trip we laid out the bag, a nice homage paid to the animals and the young hunters, some of which were baptized, conform to the tradition. Then, it was already time to go back, exchange numbers, Facebook accounts and thank everyone for the magnificent trip. It went by far, far too fast!
The Leica Hunting Experience Continues in 2017 / 2018!
Philippe Jaeger is originally from Alsace and in his youth he was opposed to hunting. He changed his opinion when he met people who explained to him that the foolish behaviour of some hunters had nothing to do with real hunting. Philippe got his hunting licence and bought a hunting dog, which he trained himself. Today he can’t imagine his life without hunting. He is now 46 years old and has a son, and, when he is not travelling around the world to go hunting, he enjoys his family life in the Vosges Mountains.