The driven hunt - there is hardly a hunting method that fascinates us hunters in the German-speaking world more. What could be more beautiful than a herd of wild boar in an autumn forest covered with hoar frost? Certainly, other types of hunting have their charm too, but no other hunting method seems to fascinate us hunters as much as driven hunting.
The question why driven hunting fascinates us cannot be answered in general. After all, I cannot even answer this question for myself. Maybe, their many-faceted character make driven hunts so special. Or perhaps, it is the crucial social aspect that fascinates me most of all. A driven hunt can only be successful if all its participants, be it beaters, shooters or dog handlers, are working together and use all their senses.
That is what makes a driven hunt something special: sharing a joint experience. While on an individual hunt you mostly hunt alone, the driven hunt is pure teamwork. The outcome depends on all of us equally. Without beaters and dog handlers, you cannot drive game out of the thicket. Tirelessly, they comb even the thickest of undergrowth and blackberry fields, always taking care not to lose anyone from sight or hearing and – in the best case – to keep the driver chain.
For myself as a dog handler, the most beautiful thing is to see the dogs working during the hunt. When the dogs are pursuing the game barking loudly, the adrenaline level of every passionate hunter skyrockets. Everything else is faded out in a flash. The dogs bay and suddenly the blackberry bushes, which had been lying there so quietly before, begin to move everywhere.
"Sooooooows!" sounds through the forest. Even today, I still get goose bumps at this moment. The herd breaks out of the thicket and the chain of beaters waits for the sows to reach the shooters. When the first shots are fired and all the dogs have returned unharmed, the joy is written all over everyone’s face – no matter whether they harvested any prey themselves or not. It is difficult to describe this sensation running through your body at this instance. Probably, the decreasing tension mixed with the pride about one's own work and the effort of the dogs gives you that amazing feeling of complete satisfaction.
The actual harvest is up to the shooters. Even before the chain of beaters starts moving and the dogs are unleashed, the shots move to their stands as quietly as possible. On most hunts, it is possible to start hunting the game passing by after reaching the defined post and making sure safety procedures are followed. Whenever it is my turn to be a shot, I always try to reach my post as quickly as possible. There is nothing more annoying than missing a chance to harvest game due to dawdling, because the prey passes by you before you arrive at the stand.
At the post, I first get an overview. Where are my neighbouring shooters and where are the zones in which shooting is not allowed (if any)? Where could game come from and where could I shoot at it? On posts with a wide field of view, I quickly measure the distance to a few prominent points in the terrain with my EL Range 10x42. When looking at strong sows or massive boars, one quickly underestimates the distance. However, if you know the exact distance, you won’t be tempted to try a risky shot. After all, the following principle also applies to driven hunts: only fire safe as well as clean shots in order to avoid animal suffering and to produce first-class food.
“Hahn in Ruh” (which means “trigger at rest”) announced by the hunting horns in former times signals the end of the hunt. Today, an alarm set on your smartphone serves the same purpose. Now it is time to retrieve the game and bring it to the formal meeting place, where a warm soup is already waiting for hungry shooters and drivers. On most hunts, a time set by the hunting management replaces the traditional end signal. Technology does the trick. Of course, technology replaces some traditions to a certain extent, but it also makes hunting safer.
Dogs wear tracking collars, so you can find them quickly and care for them in case of injury. If the temperature is too warm, the display of the game is only done in a symbolic way in order to quickly cool the precious harvest and ensure its quality. Silencers on the rifles protect our hearing and that of our four-legged friends. We no longer leave innards in the forest, but adequately dispose of them, not least because of the current problem of African swine fever (ASP).
Nevertheless, we hope that some traditions, such as those of hunting signals, will be preserved for a long time to come, even though they have almost completely disappeared in practice. In the beginning, the melody for the „start of the hunt“ sounds. After the horns have honored the prey on display and the successful hunters have received small symbolic tree branches, which they wear on the right side of their hats, it is again the horn that ends the hunt with the signal “Hunt over and Halali”.
While the official part of the hunt is now over and most of the shooters are on their way home, the work for the search teams is just beginning. I myself have been assigned to tracking with my dog on many driven hunts. Centrally coordinated we track party leaders often make our way back into the forest without the shooter. We control every shot and check every alleged miss very carefully. For miles and sometimes into the darkness we follow the dog, in order to find wounded game as quickly as possible. In most cases, we are successful. It is an indescribable feeling to stand with your dog at the found animal released from pain. The pride about the performance of the dog, the respect for the hunted animal and the certainty to have ended suffering give me (and probably many others) the strength to do this kind of work. The bland aftertaste that unfortunately not every animal can be found remains after every unsuccessful search.
Even if the appreciation of this work, which is in my opinion indispensable, is rather low from some hunters, the driven hunt is only finished when the last open tracking mission is completed.
better known as The.Passionist
Influenced by my father who has also been my hunting mentor, I have been drawn to hunting for as long as I can remember. As I have always been very interested in the forest and its wildlife, I am now studying Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology for my Master's degree to turn my passion into a profession. As a keen dog handler, it is working with dogs that gives me the greatest pleasure when hunting. To bring hunting closer to others, I share my hunting experiences on YouTube and Instagram.