Americans join German hunting group after finishing rigorous course
By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 1, 2016
WIESBADEN, Germany — At a colorful ceremony inside the historic, 12th-century Eberbach Abbey, 18 Americans were inducted on Sunday into the German hunting community after graduating from an exacting three-month course.
At the ceremony, known in German as a Jaegerschlag, or hunter’s stroke, each of the 20 had a sword placed on his shoulders three times by Christian von Wallenbrunn, of the Rheingau Hunting Association, symbolizing acceptance into the centuries-old German hunting tradition.
“This is one of those things that you’ll always remember,” said Les Waller, a civilian contractor at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden.
The three strokes of the sword represent the three parts of the hunter’s creed — the first to anoint the inductee as a hunter, the second to give the strength to always conduct the hunt righteously, and the third binding inductees to never break the hunter’s code of honor.
After the final stroke, von Wallenbrunn said “Waldmannsheil!” to each of the new hunters, meaning “good hunting.”
Aaron Garrett, an Army veteran who is pursuing his master’s degree in nearby Wiesbaden, was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the occasion, pointing to the period-dressed German horn players.
“The ceremony was very cool, being knighted, how many people get to say that unless you’re rich in England?” he said.
It was the culmination of three months of training in conservation, hunting regulations and marksmanship, taught by American volunteers who are certified by the German hunting governing bodies. German auditors frequently visited the classes to ensure Americans were being taught properly.
“It’s a very different environment, a very different culture,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Angelucci, president of the Wiesbaden hunting and fishing council, which runs the training. “But most of the time our hunters are very well-received by the Germans.”
The induction ceremony is meant to impress upon new hunters their special responsibilities to their communities, something Angelucci referred to in his pre-ceremony speech to the new hunters and roughly 150 attendees.
One of those responsibilities and one of the key emphases of the training is conservation and hunting with a purpose.
“There’s so much to learn,” Waller said. “Part of the training is learning a killing shot, a clean shot because if you don’t the animal will have undue pain and suffering. And we were taught that sometimes the best shot you can make is one you don’t take.”
The 18 Americans inducted represent one of the larger classes of recent years, said Albert Klaver, the Wiesbaden director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s outdoor program. Usually classes number about 15 students, and induction ceremonies are held twice annually — once in the spring and once in the late fall.
Waller came out of the ceremony ready to take advantage of his new training, he said.
“It’s great, a lot of hard effort, for three months a lot of shooting and studying,” he said afterward. “I can’t wait to get involved. I’ve already volunteered for a couple of hunts — I just can’t wait.”