Paul Childerley reports from Germany where, as a guest of optics manufacturer Zeiss, he enjoyed two days’ driven hunting
The highlight of my annual hunting calendar is attending the Zeiss Media Hunt in Laubach, Germany. Last December the event was held over five days, with the first afternoon spent at Zeiss Headquarters touring the factory.
We were taken through different products from start to finish and shown how the intricate parts of the equipment are made and put together. We also had a secret preview of the brand new products being made – all will be revealed at IWA this year.
On day two we were in the classroom. Lectures are not my favourite pastime, but a full run down of technical explanations of the products that are a day to day tool in my business and then again in my hobby made for a very interesting subject to study.
We then headed to the range for a briefing on the ammunition and rifles we would be equipped with for the next two days. We were kitted out with the new Sauer 404 carbon thumbhole stock rifle, which is well balanced and ideal for driven hunting. The gun has several features which can be adjusted using the Sauer multitool, which is easily accessible at the front part of the stock where the sling attaches. The trigger has a three-way adjustment; there are options for left or right-handed users, or you can keep it standard in the centre. It also has a trigger pull adjustment which is handy if you are using it for different disciplines.
I was issued with a .30-06, which has great stopping power for driven game. Jens Tigges from Hornady gave a rundown of the new Precision Hunter cartridges we would be using for this event. And obviously we were using the Zeiss V8 1.8-14×50 optics on top, a perfect combination for driven hunting.
After lunch we collected our hunting licences and headed down to test the rifles to check zero for the following day’s hunt. After two shots my rifle was slightly high and to the left. With a few clicks and a few more shots I had it set smack on at 100m.
The hunt is on
On the morning of the first day of hunting it was cold but dry with no wind, all in all good weather conditions. We all arrived early at the main shooting area where we were greeted by the head forester, the guides, the beaters and the notorious pack of hounds, not forgetting the horn band who started the ceremony of the event. The head forester opened with a welcome speech followed by the quarry list, and then went on to assign us with a guide.
We headed out to an open field between tall beech trees on one side and mature fir trees going up a steep bank on the other. The guide took us up into the beech trees to a tower facing a big, thick conifer plantation that I knew would be a good hiding spot for the game. He told me the safety areas before leaving me to stalk in, ascend the seat and prepare for the morning’s excitement.
As I was getting sorted in the high stand, a trio of roe scuttled in on the beech leaves from behind. I could have taken one of the youngsters, but I thought it would be best to hold fire and not disturb the area in front; I had a good feeling there could be a group of boar hidden up in the undergrowth. Seconds later a massive red stag came belting over the ridge from behind, departing as quickly as it had arrived across the grass field at the bottom of the beeches. What a magnificent looking stag!
I could hear the dogs in the distance, so the tension was building; I knew they would work the thick conifer plantation towards me, which meant I would have my own small private drive as most of the animals would flee towards me.
The dogs were in full cry, heading straight towards me, then slightly breaking out towards the sides, then back into the middle again. There were several moments of quietness before they picked up the scent again and then I could see movement from several roe deer crossing the plantation’s rides, putting me on high alert.
When I’m in a stand I try to work out the paths that the animals could take and figure out the best opportunities for shots, but I can always guarantee they will take the most awkward path possible at full speed. True to this principle, a large pack of boar broke cover at the lowest corner of the conifer plantation, heading towards the grass field below. The window of opportunity was small and I had to take the shot within seconds of seeing the group. The group was about 10 strong with several larger animals in the pack. We had been instructed not to take the lead sow, so I chose one of the middle animals that presented a clear shot.
They were about 60m down the bank travelling full speed so I placed the red dot a few inches in front and fired a shot. As I fired the whole pack disappeared behind the tall pines and I couldn’t see if the shot was good or not but I was confident in my judgement. Moments later I heard a few sticks cracking a bit further back so was sure it was down. The dogs went into full cry again and a big German fox leapt out and ran towards me, which was a big mistake.
Moments later a team of beaters and dogs were milling around everywhere. One of the beaters collected the fox and brought him to the high stand so I could carry him out later. I explained to him that I had shot a boar and showed him where I’d last seen it so he headed off with the dogs to find it. He soon came across the boar, stone dead 30 yards back. Giving me the universal language of thumbs up, he carried on with his team through the forest and out of sight. I had several other roe deer pass by but they were all bucks with no antlers, which weren’t on the quarry list. This gave me a great opportunity to test out the new SF binoculars as the main flurry of animals was finished and I could check out the roe deer as they slowly passed back to their daytime hideouts.
At 1pm the session came to a close and it was time to gather up the equipment and go and inspect the morning’s bag. I collected up the fox and paced out towards the boar. It turned out to be 64 paces from where I’d taken the shot. Approaching it, I could see it was a sow in great condition and looked very healthy. On inspection the shot was slightly back but still hit all the vitals and had the right result.
The guides returned, gathered all the morning’s quarry and took it back to the castle for the evening’s parade.
We were welcomed back at the castle with mulled wine and an inspection of the day’s game presented in neat rows, surrounded by fern and the corner fire torches.
The head forester started with a short speech, followed by a short chorus of horns. Then all the successful hunters of the day were asked to come forward to be congratulated and take a sprig of spruce in respect for the animals they had taken.
Once they had all been presented, the horn blowers went through each species’ own tune, which is a mark of respect to the animals from everyone taking part. Once the final fanfare was blown we headed back into the castle for a festive German banquet and to share the tales of the day’s events.
Hit and miss
Before we knew it the alarm was sounding for the second day of hunting. The hunters were even more keen and excited than before. We met at the same hunting area and went over the rules again to ensure the hunters knew the correct quarry.
The location on the second day was great for me – a really wide view with very few obstructions and a thick larch plantation behind. On my left there was long ridge stretching away 300m. Once again I worked out where I thought the game would pass but expected the worst scenario of tricky shots. There was a small young buck in the brambles to my right that hung around for the first half hour until he heard the dogs barking and bounded away over the ridge.
The dog handler and his pack of terriers passed by, heading to a large fir block I could see in the distance. Clearly he knew that was where boar would be holding up for the day. As soon as they entered the forestry block the pack announced their presence with a full cry in every direction, but sounding as if they were all heading away from me. I was concentrating slightly more on the right hand side as I thought it would be the main place to see game. How wrong could I be?
I heard one slight crack of a branch and there was already a single boar halfway across the narrow path to my left. With one swift movement the safety was off and I had taken a shot, but I knew it was a clean miss. I recycled another shell and took a second quick shot as it was running back through the trees unfortunately connecting with a branch, another clean miss. I was devastated with not one but two misses. Was my chance of another wild boar over?
After a short wait I heard what sounded like two or three dogs chasing something on the other side of the ridge in front of me, then circling round to my right to the thick cover behind me. This time I was 100 per cent ready. Whatever the dogs were chasing had placed itself in the thickest cover possible, but the dogs were not giving up.
This battle between the dogs and the hidden animal continued backwards and forwards through the plantation. I knew it was a boar and guessed it was a keiler resisting the constant bombardment from the dogs. Several times they pushed him to the edge, almost 30ft from the high tower where I was poised waiting for him to break cover.
This carried on for well over 30 minutes until he finally broke cover, way down the plantation, heading out through the beech trees. I would have an opportunity before he was of sight. I guessed a shot over 100m so I gave 2ft of lead, swinging at the same speed as him. With one crisp shot he rolled over and lay dead on the spot. I was so relieved that my patience and concentration had paid off.
It was one of the last shots of the day. I was soon packing up and pacing out the distance of the shot with a big grin. I knew it was a keiler from the body shape but was unsure of the age of the beast. After 116 paces, on examination, I could see he was an überlaufere, a two-year-old male – an absolutely fantastic result to top off an unbelievably well-organised media event, using the latest equipment on the market, in the stunning German countryside. All that was left was to head back to the castle and celebrate.