AThe king of the forest is not present. But in the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund they still call for him. And that alone makes the German championship in deer calling come across as a rather bizarre competition. Again and again an imitation roar resounds through the hall, which usually increases slowly, sometimes drags on for a long time and can sometimes sound like a cow mooing.
Behind all this, however, as hunters and organizers always emphasize, there is a “demanding hunting craft” and a “century-long tradition”. Calling deer is an art, they say. And the best artist this year is once again Fabian Menzel. “Of course it’s great, but it doesn’t mean that much to me now,” says the German champion, who comes from Nüdlingen in Bavaria and already triumphed last year. Meeting the other callers at the hunting fair is important to him.
For many in the audience it was a fun event. “But that’s no problem. This also serves the echo of the hunt. The more it becomes public, the better.” Many in society still see it as a hobby for murder – but hunting is by no means that, says Menzel.
Jury as in “The Voice”
The stag is usually called during the rut, i.e. during the mating season. It runs from September to early October. The hunter wants to use his imitation to pretend that the deer has a rival in order to lure him out of hiding. He can then better assess whether the animal meets the shooting guidelines.
The aim of the championship, which is held as part of the “Jagd und Hund” fair, is to imitate various situations as faithfully as possible. Because young and older stags, for example, differ significantly from one another, different-sounding sounds must be intoned in three disciplines: the voice of a young, searching stag, the voice of the top stag in a herd of red deer and the duel of two equally strong stags at the height of the rut getting up the program.
The competition is reminiscent of the singing talent show “The Voice”. When the deer is called, the jury sits in such a way that they only hear the voices of the candidates. The eight participants in Dortmund were evaluated by a district hunting master and two forest rangers, who awarded points. The seven men and Hildegard Zervos, who was the only woman present, were allowed to use various tools to make their calls sound as lifelike as possible. For example, ox horns, triton snail shells, glass cylinders or various special instruments are used for this purpose.
Menzel taught himself how to call a deer “by listening”, as he says: “But you do need a musical ear for it. Either you can do it or you can’t.” The former applies above all to those who will be performing in Dortmund this Saturday. Then the European Championship takes place, for which the first three Germans qualified on Friday. Menzel hopes to survive the preliminary round. Deer callers from several countries will come to Dortmund, including those from Eastern Europe. They are traditionally the strongest because they have larger populations and are encouraged, says Menzel. Only one will not appear again – no matter how authentic the calls will sound: the king of the forest.
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