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Women discover thrill of the hunt

The Local · 16 Jan 2012, 18:10

Published: 16 Jan 2012 18:10 GMT+01:00

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Johanna Hofmann, 31, watches and listens with her rifle at hand in the forest near Nauen, about 40 kilometres west of Berlin.

Every animal, be it a wild boar, fox, deer, rabbit or bird, makes a different noise in the forest, she said. When she spots a potential target, she picks up her rifle, takes aim and holds her breath.

"I try to keep completely quiet, composed inside and concentrated, and breathe quietly because of course I'm quite excited. And I have to be sure it's safe and it'll be a good shot," she said.

Hoffman loves nature and the thrill of the hunt. And she’s one of a new breed of women hunters in Germany who are sweeping away stereotypes about the long male-dominated sport.

"Fifteen years ago we had about one percent female hunters in Germany. Today the ratio is about 10 percent female hunters, so that adds up to roughly 35,000 female hunters," Torsten Reinwald, a spokesman for the German Hunting Association, told AFP.

He said women currently made up just under a quarter of all those who sit the exam to obtain a permit to hunt in Germany.

Women often take up hunting because they want to eat fresh game, which they consider to be healthier and of better quality than store-bought meat or to spend time outside the city getting close to nature, he said.

Nature conservation is another factor cited by women. By law, land used for agriculture, fishing or forestry in Germany has to be hunted to prevent disease due to overpopulation or damage from over-feeding.

With the knife she carries in her shoulder bag, Hofmann removes the innards of whatever she hunts, takes it to be weighed and registered at the forestry office, pays for the meat and then takes it home.

She cooks and eats what she kills and shuns supermarket meat – Christmas dinner this year was a deer she had hunted and prepared herself which she said gave "real value" to the meal.

"Many people eat meat that comes from the supermarket and they don't question where that meat comes from, but (say) a hunter is a murderer. That's a paradox," she said.

Having studied forestry, she works as an adviser at the Hunting Association and, unless it is raining heavily, hunts once a week with her boyfriend, whom she met at a game biologists' conference.

Mother-of-three Nathalie Bunke, 46, passed the hunting exam 10 years ago after devoting two evenings a week, plus weekends, for six months to studying. At the time, her two eldest children were aged two and four.

"It was hard but it was so interesting, also the biology aspect," she said. "And it was for me, I wanted to do it and it was so fascinating. I failed (the exam) the first time and did it again."

Having later got her husband into hunting too, the Berlin couple go into the forest together and have even taken all three of their daughters – the youngest now six – on hunts with them, she said.

Her eyes lit as she described the thrill and surprise of seeing an owl silently fly by, of watching a sunrise, taking in the noises, smells and peace, or enjoying a moment that no one else will ever experience.

"Even when you're sitting in the raised hide and there's no animal, which also happens, you can be sure a beetle or a spider will run by, and usually I have a camera with me," Bunke said.

With the bone of a roebuck she once shot hanging around her neck, she said she now uses animal parts and fur to make and sell jewellery and educational materials, as well as volunteering to train other hunters and teaching.

Those in the know see differences in the way men and women approach hunting.

Men are more interested in trophies and tend to be knowledgeable about the guns, Hofmann said.

"The women I know who hunt are more prudent, are more cautious, they're not so quick to shoot," Bunke said.

While women were never formally restricted from hunting, around 40 years ago they might have disparagingly been referred to as a "Flintenweib" (roughly translated, gunwoman), Reinwald said.

Story continues below…

Now, women-only hunting events take place in the North Rhine-Westphalia state, he said, adding that many women he knew were better shots than their male counterparts.

"I think some women, if they decide to become a hunter, feel that they have to be even better than their male colleagues, and they sometimes are," he added.

Hofmann acknowledged that hunting was still a male-dominated field but said her interest had been welcomed and accepted.

She recounted that as the only woman in a group of six on a course to train her dog for hunting, she had heard that behind her back she was referred to as "the little girl".

"But in the end, I passed and the five men failed," she said, laughing.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:37 January 16, 2012 by carlm
Can't wait for the idiot/intolerant vegans to show up on this story.
20:17 January 16, 2012 by X13F
I'm American and I think it's great that women of any country take up shooting sports. It lets them realize all the propaganda against guns is just that, propaganda. Glad to hear that German women are joining gun clubs. When I was stationed in Germany going to the Rod & Gun club on Saturdays for breakfast then pistol range before a couple beers then home. Good memories. Access to firearms and firearms training should be available to ALL FREE PEOPLE. If you don't like guns, don't buy one.
00:58 January 17, 2012 by Tanskalainen
Girls with guns?!......My pants are ripping...
03:58 January 17, 2012 by heyheyhey

STFU you pathetic loudmouthed fool! If you had a brain you would have blown it to bits ages ago!
07:25 January 17, 2012 by insight101
@everyone but heyheyhey since a conversation with him would be pointless...

reading his other posts on this website and reading your posts in comparison, i have to say if anyone fits his description, it is him...should do some of that introspection he preaches about on other postings. i suppose now he's going to explain how one of the dictionary definitions of blow your brains out is none hateful and aggressive...
09:00 January 17, 2012 by Englishted

Now I know why you are called insight ,because you were right with you know who .
15:59 January 17, 2012 by Al uk
Killing for fun. Sad really sad!
16:20 January 17, 2012 by Bravo2
You need to take classes and pass to hunt in Germany? Imagine that. Leave it to Germans to take the fun out of humankind's oldest sport.
16:24 January 17, 2012 by heyheyhey
@Al uk

well said. far too many of the people posting here have no problem with killing others.

it would be preferable that they remove themselves from this planet. I don't use the word humanity because they have none.

it is a very sad day that women go out killing defenseless animals, and even take their children, and then defend that by calling it enjoying nature.

How sad and pathetic.

of course there are several posters here who would never understand,
08:24 January 18, 2012 by Englishted
@Al uk

I agree with killing for fun being wrong but the first part of the article says the woman kills to eat the meat.

If this is better than factory farming is open to debate but it can not be done on a scale to feed the general public the meat they want.
16:49 January 18, 2012 by LecteurX
@ heyheyhey - I'm sure you wouldn't mind giving these people "without humanity" a little hand in "removing themselves from this planet". After all, they're unworthy of life, aren't they? How about building a few camps complete with air-conditioned showers and huge ovens?
14:34 January 19, 2012 by Al uk
@lecteurx your above comments are as ridiculous as the old favourite used by the killing for fun brigade "you eat meat though". Farming has done away with the need to hunt for food, hunting now is just for "pleasure" but what pleasure one gets out of killing things is beyond me!

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