THE FIRST and the Last


Text and Photos: Julia Numssen

It is 10 o’clock in the morning. Karl Hörmann, a professional hunter with the Bavarian State Forests, slings a light-green rucksack over his back. “Time to go, Hannes. Let’s see if we can find that female chamois I picked out for you. She is old and fallow and won’t be having any more kids.” And off he goes. With him is his Tyrolean Hound, Bella. The sun is hidden by overcast skies, clouds hanging like a veil over the mountain peaks. Hannes follows in the footsteps of Karl’s mountain boots. They advance rapidly up the hiking trail. The lake before us twinkles grey and its banks are parched.
“Been really hot this summer,” says Karl. “The lake usually has much more water and when the sun hits it, it glows emerald green.” Karl raises his binoculars and systematically scans the rock faces. “There are a couple of chamois back between those pines.” Hannes looks through his ZEISS VICTORY RF 10×42. Four of them are revealed amongst the pines. “Are those billies or nannies, Karl?” “We’ll have to get a closer look at them with the spotting scope to find out. But first, we must cross this meadow and then climb further up.”

The scree is loose and gives under the weight of their mountain boots. “Watch out! And keep your eyes on the ridgeline in case a chamois comes from above. It could trigger a landslide!” professional hunter Karl calls out to Hannes as they advance.
The chamois relax among the crags and view the hikers and hunters from above.
The Tyrolean Hound Bella scents the game long before the hunter sees it. If she looks pensively upward, watch out!

After a 15-minute stalk over shallow ground, Karl sets up his spotting scope as Hannes leans back. The triathlete is in peak condition and is feeling good. “Strange that the chamois haven’t fled. They spotted us long ago.” “Well,” answers Karl, “they’re used to hikers and, besides, this is just the beginning of August. Chamois season has just begun and the game hasn’t yet felt any hunting pressure.” Each one is identified with both binoculars and spotting scope. Out of all five chamois, Hannes can have none. “All young or middle-aged males,” declares Karl. It is getting warmer. The sun now burns away the clouds and the sky above us turns a clear blue. The first hikers cross our path. They pass by the chamois standing in the grey crags 200 meters above them. “You think the tourists see those goats?” Hannes wants to know. Karl: “Nah, I don’t think so.”

THE SHORT RIFLE CARTRIDGE FOR CHAMOIS HUNTING

Handy rifles with very short barrels are preferred for hunting chamois. The trend of hunting with a silencer has caused many to choose barrels between 42 and 55 centimeters (16.5 and 22 inches) in length. In order to eliminate any resulting drop in performance, RWS have developed the Short Rifle cartridge. This is a special loading that combines fast-burning powder with a balanced bullet weight and an extremely high-performance primer. In practical terms, this means full performance from short barrels! In addition, the Short Rifle cartridge increases the life expectancy of silencers because all of its powder charge is burned completely within the barrel. Short Rifle cartridges are available in .308, .30-06 and .300 Win. Mag., each with a choice between two bullets: the lead-free HIT or the SPEED TIP PROFESSIONAL. Both bullets are known for their great shocking power and penetration – even at longer ranges. In addition, the 8×57 IS is now available in a Short Rifle loading topped with a 10.4-gram (160 grain) HIT bullet.

After half an hour, Karl uses his alpenstock to indicate the direction of the next stalk. “We will climb toward the cliffs, then cross the pine stands and go behind the ridgeline into the gorge below. Maybe she is hiding in there somewhere.” The ground is stony, and scree lurks under the meadow and between the pines. Hannes braces his alpenstock against the slope to support himself. He walks more slowly, carefully. The triathlete is not struggling with his stamina but rather with his balance, a secure footing, and the looming abyss. On the way to the ridge we spot at least 30 chamois but none are suitable. Karl: “We’ll take a break. You never find everything all at once.” From this height, Hannes and Karl unhurriedly glass the surrounding area – still no chamois for Hannes. Hannes nudges me with, “I think that’s it for today.”

The last stage is before us: Up to the gorge. It nearly takes everything out of us to traverse a very steep slope covered in loose scree and slippery grass but, in half an hour, we accomplish the slantwise stalk. Before us lies the gorge, a gigantic crevasse filled with twinkling white boulders. And in the middle of it all – chamois! Female! Karl, who had long since set up his spotting scope, whispers to Hannes, “Get ready!” Hannes rests his R8 on his rucksack and racks a round of RWS Short Rifle SPEED TIP PROFESSIONAL in .308 Win. into the chamber. “The nanny in the back, the one lying in the sun on that big, square slab, she’s the one! It’s not the same one I had in mind for you but this one has seen better days – it’s at least ten years old. And she has no kids!” Two others spring away from us and the nanny gets restless, stands up, and slowly crosses the scree-covered expanse. Hannes has already measured the range: 212 meters (232 yards). No problem from a rest. Just a few clicks up on the ASV range setting. Karl: “When she stops, shoot!” The old dame veers to the right and stops directly in front of us. The shot resembles the sound of a cork popping out of a champagne bottle. The chamois crumples immediately and stays down.

Amongst grass, gentian and boulders, Hannes sets up for the shot. The fallow female is already in his crosshairs when she moves to the right and stops. Hannes takes his chance. The bullet strikes behind the shoulder and the chamois drops at the shot.

“Now you’ve gone and shot the last chamois in Mittenwald!” says a slender woman in her mid-fifties, arms akimbo. She is wearing green shorts with a pink raincoat and has short, grey hair. Hannes, straining under the burden of the nanny in his rucksack, her head and hooves guiltily poking out the top, manages to veer away from the hiker at the last moment. He is on the way down; she is on the way up. The path is narrow and steep, and the gravel is as slippery as soap. Karl stops and says with a laugh: “There are so many chamois up there that we can afford to shoot a few.” “I don’t believe it! I’ve been coming here for ten years and have never seen a single one!” By now, Hannes has regained control over rucksack, feet and gravel. He offers the hiker his binoculars as he says, “Take a look up there. A big group is standing right on that boulder!” She takes the glass and looks toward the rock face. “Sure enough, there they are. And a few wee ones are with them!” Her mouth goes slack. Karl grins and mutters, “Come, Hannes, that goat isn’t getting any lighter!” The hiking lady gives the binoculars back to Hannes, narrows her eyes down to slits and lightly shakes her head. “Imagine how often I must have just walked past chamois without ever knowing it?”
Hannes continues walking downhill. The gravel crunches under his boots. Before the tiny path takes a tight curve into the valley, Hannes turns to take one last look around. The woman is still standing there, transfixed, reveling in her good fortune. And so was Hannes, despite having told me “I think that’s it for today” just two hours before.

With his chamois in his rucksack, Hannes carefully makes his way toward the valley below.

We hunted in the Bad Tölz district of the Bavarian State Forests. An innovative and successful Three-Zone hunting concept is practiced here: Zone 1 = rigorous, targeted culling, e.g. in a protected forest or in new plantings; Zone 2 = normal hunting, i.e. woods hunting; and Zone 3 = moderate, selective culling in the chamois biosphere at and above the tree line.