Blaze orange, the salute of the brass horns, baying dogs, the echoing of gunshots, and the tusks of a large keiler boar. Night after night, these were the images in my dreams before the 6th of December arrived. What am I talking about but the annual Zeiss media event hosted by Zeiss each year to bring hunters, journalists and ambassadors from all over the world together to celebrate and participate in the famous driven hunt.
Landing in Frankfurt airport, I was soon enjoying a welcome cup of coffee with other hunting journalists and ambassadors, David CP and Ulrick Orksov before setting off to our Hotel in Laubach. There was a time when I first started to travel on hunting trips when nerves and lack of confidence would get the better of me but I found over the years the more trips I was taking, namely between 5 and 10 each year in my offseason, that my confidence grew as did my knowledge of the hunting scenarios and of course recognising faces from Instagram and Facebook. Quickly dressing into my Harkila clothing and grabbing essentials, I was soon engaging in conversation on the bus to the firing range with none other than the Norwegian huntress, Anette Dahl, Zeiss ambassador and a well-known face in the hunting community. This being my first organised driven hunt on a massive scale was everything I’d imagined as I stepped off the bus to the sights of Zeiss banners flying and of course that too of Sauer, Hornady and Harkila, all sponsors for the event.
So, what exactly happens at an official sponsored driven hunt? This is what I’ve been asked numerous times so here is a quick but concise breakdown.
After my German hunting license was approved and granted by the German hunting office, it was then checked by the Authorised individuals from Sauer rifles and Zeiss Head of Marketing and Content, Johannes before assigning me a new Sauer 404 with a Zeiss V8 scope 1.8-14 x50 and Hornady Superformace ammunition in 30-06 calibre. I was then shown to the shooting range where first I zeroed the gun to my liking and then I proceeded to try the running boar. “Try” is a better word for the feeblest effort ever of shooting running “game” but after some words of wisdom and help from David CP, I was soon striking the kill zone from approximately 100 metres possibly less. Shooting at a live running animal requires a lot of mental technique and skill as well as lots of practice. We never want to have a situation with a badly placed shot and a non-successful follow up so I made full use of the unlimited supply of Hornady Superformance ammunition until my confidence grew to a 100 % standard. Putting the rifle into its slip, it was time to meet everyone and grab a bite to eat so over a chilled soft drink and some wild boar steak, I finally got to sit down with my very good friend, Alena Steinback, who hunted with me as a client some years back but now Alena and her Partner, Max Gotzfried are great friends of mine and we enjoy many hunts together for boar and sika also. Then the legend who is the kickboxing champion and Zeiss ambassador also, Paul Childerley, sat down and after introductions, we were soon hitting off and having the banter about hunting and our thoughts for the weekend ahead.
Following a splendid meal and drinks, I finally got into my room and like a child on Christmas day, was finally able to sit down and examine the Sauer 404properly. I’ve never had any experience with the Sauer guns until at the event but I really liked the feel and build quality and the action was superb. After a surprisingly good sleep, the alarm sounded to the first day of the Zeiss driven hunt.
We went at the designated hunting lodge where the Jagermeister for the hunt addressed all 50 plus hunters on safety and what was on the planned list of animals that could be hunted. Red stag, boar, roe doe, mouflon and fox were the quarry and with certain restrictions of antler size and management etc.
After the sounding of the hunting horns as the first indication of an enjoyable and safe hunt, we were off in our chosen groups. Anette and I would be in one group along with an Italian hunting journalist, Matteo Brogi and the Wildboarbrothers duo also. My driver dropped me off at my stand which luckily had a roof as there was rain forecast. The first thing I always do whenI’m in a stand on a hunt is clear the platform of any debris such as leaves and dirt. A steady shooting position is vital when taking a shot. After that, I scanned the shooting area for positions to shoot safely and also where animals might emerge. Then I adjusted my scope to the lowest magnification for a greater field of view and switched on the red dot on the reticule. Soon the gunfire began around me and I waited with baited breath, the Sauer sitting comfortably in my arms waiting to unleash its deadly dose of lead. NOTHING!!! The gunfire ceased, occasionally the odd shot in the faraway woods could be heard but nothing was coming my way. Then I could hear the dogs in the distance yapping and barking trying to put an animal to flight. The powerful barking orchestra grew louder in my direction and I grabbed the rifle in earnest of what might break my way.
Just then to my right, I noticed a black shape emerge from the trees and run parallel beside some thorny bushes so I followed the direction in which it was running. Suddenly it broke from cover and a single boar made a burst across a small opening heading for the opposite woods. Picking him up in my Zeiss scope at an estimated 80 metres I followed through and just as the head came into the scope lens, I squeezed the trigger and continued the follow through. The shot felt good and I saw the boar tumble head over heels before disappearing into the wood. There are simply no words to describe the feelings and emotions that were running through my body for those few seconds. Ecstatic, shocked, love of hunting, everything came flooding spontaneously. I looked at the rifle and scope with a new found passion, admiration, and an almost “deeply in love feeling”. A perfect combination of the brilliance of gunsmithing, optical ingenuity and ammunition development at the highest level. Not five minutes had passed and I was still reliving the moment when another movement to my right caught my eye as a mouflon ram came rushing past eager to escape to a safer area.
The gun came to my shoulder instinctively and I was rewarded with the resounding thump of a well-placed body shot. I was literally in shock, my first major driven hunt with an unfamiliar rifle and I had been so fortunate to shoot both a boar and a mouflon ram. The beaters horn soon signalled the end of the drive and I was picked up and the group were all sharing their experiences as we drove to the hunting lodge. After a welcoming and hearty meal of hot soup and mulled wine, the traditional ceremony to pay respects to the fallen animals was performed as the boar and other hunted animals lay on their right-hand side encircled by a ring of branches and burning torches blazed furiously. To witness such an eventful ceremony and tribute to the animals is soul searching and meaningful beyond words and it certainly brought a tear to my eye. That night we dined on the finest foods and the talk, of course, was all about the day and how eventful it was.
The following morning after breakfast we again met up at the hunting lodge and after the hunt discussion was ended, we were taken to our new hunting areas to see what luck would bring. This time around I was positioned in heavy woodland where the visibility was a lot scarcer and shots a lot more testing. I quickly made a mental note of my limited shooting areas and loaded up the magazine. The sound of gunfire came quickly as did the light rain but my spirits never dampened. How would they possibly!! I was in Germany at the Zeiss media event with wonderful people having the time of my life. The yapping of the scent hound and terriers grew louder and a red hind followed by her yearling and two more hinds came my way.
I picked my shooting lane and as the yearling came through, I swung my aim past and again the Hornady round found its mark followed by a roe calf also. This was just getting better and more exciting than I’d ever imagined. I marked both positions and got ready should anything else come along. It did but unfortunately, it was a magnificent red stag with possibly 12 or more tines which was off limits as per strict management. Happy with my first hour, I decided to check my Facebook account as one does when things are quiet, ha, ha, ha, and just as opened the phone alone red fox came running through at approximately 90 meters, a sheer ball of speeding fur through the line directly in front of me. Dropping the phone, I grabbed the rifle and picked the nearest and most visible shooting lane.
The Goddess of hunting, Diana must have been looking down on me as the fox came right into my scopes eye and tumbled dramatically to a stop 60 metres away. For anyone who has not shot a running fox at full speed, believe me when I say it’s a huge challenge through a limited window of view. The drive was over soon after, I had seen lots of red deer and roe but no boar on this drive but such is hunting. Once again, the traditional ceremony was performed and each hunter was called up to receive his/hers “stecke legen” which is the traditional giving of a small piece of a branch as congratulations on the successful shooting. Our last night was one of the great celebrations as Charlie Jacoby from Fieldsports Britain entertained everyone with many wonderful and cheery songs as he struck every cord upon his mini banjo. The camaraderie was so great amongst everyone, we really are like a huge hunting family separated by birth but always together when it matters. We danced, sang and laughed until the early hours and after a few hours sleep, we were all saying our sorrowful goodbyes and wishing of one more day together. It was my first time at such a remarkable event among others but we left as lifelong friends and with many more exciting trips planned with each other.
Zeiss certainly organised a huge and most memorable event and made us all realise even more so how important hunting is to the community and how strong our dedication, efforts and commitments are to knit together and keep our love of the outdoors and hunting and friendship alive.
I’m sure I speak on behalf of every hunter present at the event when I say from the bottom of my heart, Danke Schon und wertschatzung, and also to Harkila for providing our Safety vests and hats, Sauer for providing fantastic rifles and Hornady for the ultimate in precision ammunition.