•   Game & Nature

In UNISON


Text: Gunther Stoschek; Photos: Gunther Stoschek, Agnes Köhler

Professional hunter Sepp Rinner has the good fortune of being able to work on a private estate with an owner who has a soft spot for game. Small wonder: the landowner is Baron von Cramer-Klett, son of the widely-known German hunting author Ludwig Benedikt Freiherr von Cramer-Klett.

Profitable forestry operations also play an important role on his private lands, of course. Therefore, it is understandable that Baron von Cramer-Klett is highly interested not only in a healthy forest but also in a well-considered, sustainable cultivation strategy. But anyone who has the opportunity to visit his Chiemgau hunting grounds will be astounded by how well the woods harmonize with the game. This may come as a surprise to those who have only known the theses put forth by state-run forestry operations.

“It is all about the great interdependencies. No species – whether flora or fauna – can exist without the other.”

Since Sepp Rinner took over the hunting grounds five years ago, he has passionately continued the work of his predecessor.
Since these open refuges are vital to the survival of capercaillie and other animal species, not every clear cut is reforested.
Natural rejuvenation occurs constantly. Above all, the good mix of deciduous and evergreen trees here is a sure indicator of a healthy ecology.
Areas where a storm blew through his territory are the center of Sepp Rinner’s hunting interest.

For Sepp Rinner, managing the Cramer-Klett operation is by all means an extraordinarily demanding job. For one thing, the operation sits in the middle of a region of Bavaria that is known for its long history of strife between forest owners and hunters.

This makes it all the more commendable that, thanks to his vision, technical knowledge and idealism, Baron von Cramer-Klett has been able to establish a refuge that offers red deer, chamois and many other wild species an intact mountainous mixed forest homeland. His professional hunters have also done truly remarkable things. Like Sepp Rinner, the man mainly responsible for maintaining this important heritage for us all despite being in the middle of a region heavily frequented by tourists. Gunther Stoschek visited him there in August in order to learn more about his concept.

Herr Rinner, when one sees the exemplary conditions of the forest in your hunting area and can observe red deer – in broad daylight, no less – coming out right next to well-traveled walking paths, one cannot help but ask what is going wrong in other hunting areas?

I cannot and will not judge the strategies of others. I know that problem areas exist, of course. I also believe that the populations of red deer and chamois in the Bavarian Alps are not, in fact, too high.

 

But there are forest owners and forestry operations that don’t see it that way.

Yes, complaints of bark damage have occurred in some areas. In the so-called ‘protective forest rehabilitation areas’ it may well be so, mainly because they often are found in steep south face sites, which are places that game animals like to occupy. They are less disturbed by humans there.

 

Is the call for further increasing the number of culls justified?

Not if you put it that way! Increased hunting pressure can also promote tree damage. Also, they may have been too hasty in the past in declaring some places as rehabilitation areas in the first place. Their open – that is, not forested – nature also makes some of these quiet dells especially important to the survival of many other animals.

 

What other animal species do you mean?

Countless insects and other small life forms need open areas and quiet, but it is the capercaillie above all which thrives in these conditions. When it comes time to decide, you should always keep the big picture in mind. This could not apply more to chamois and red deer: I’m a little vexed that those who generally see the game populations as being too high will hardly make their calls for increased culls in front of tourists or the non-hunting public. Such calls would find no sympathy with the general public – not to mention the very idea of culling in the midwinter off-season.

Not all damage is caused by red deer or chamois. Here, a snow hare was the culprit.

Do you yourself ever come into contact with hikers or bicyclists?

Every day! But they don’t make me their enemy since I am the one looking for a conversation. People are simply thankful when someone actually takes the time to communicate with them. It is not uncommon to see red deer in broad daylight where we are. That is a real ice-breaker, and it often needs explaining. I am often asked why we feed the game throughout the winter just to shoot them starting in the summer. The fact that we humans have overtaken their ancient winter refuges is news to most people.
It is unfortunate that this fact – which is responsible for many of the problems we see today – is completely ignored by the proponents of higher cull numbers.

 

Kampenwand Mountain is picture-perfect. Ancient beeches stand in the foreground.
Sepp Rinner trusts his R8 Professional Success. The silencer allows him to execute low-impact hunting strategies.

Mr. Rinner, it appears that your ‘Forest with Game’ concept is working out well for you. What is the secret to your success?

Yes, it is. We have higher red deer and chamois populations than many other hunting areas in our region, but our woods are in good condition. The numbers of capercaillie have significantly increased. It makes for more work but it is worth it when you are an idealist. And my boss, Baron Cramer-Clett, is definitely one of those!

 

But what does that mean in concrete terms?

When it comes to chamois, we shoot as many as necessary to keep the population stable. Red deer require more effort since they are more sensitive. We like it when they remain visible during the day, and so do the tourists. But that also means that we do practically no hunting up on the Alpine pastures. They don’t cause any damage there anyway. We have three mangers that we use to feed them throughout the winter, and these also serve to steer their movements.

 

When and how do you hunt for red deer?

Yearling hinds and spike deer in our area remain close to their mothers through at least June. If we were to shoot during that time we would cause a large disturbance followed by well-known negative results. From mid-October to about mid-December I concentrate on certain partially-open forest clearings which the game will cross in the mornings on their way back to their woodsy retreats.

 

But wouldn’t the red deer soon get wise to this danger?

It is true that one has to keep a cool head, as the hunting strategy is by far the most important factor. In the morning, the hunter has the advantage because the game passes by in good light, meaning that the cull can be identified with certainty very quickly. The deer also like to linger longer in the clearings. When three or four shootable deer are all standing together, you stand a much better chance of getting them all. That should be the objective since red deer are very quick learners. However, I never shoot if a larger group passes through. One who has an instinct for the weather and a good sense for game behavior can easily fulfil a large portion of his culling quota in relatively few outings on the high seat. Add one or two driven hunts with a few experienced hunters, and that does it. But, unfortunately, this is not for beginners!

“The correct hunting strategy is decisive! It yields much more than constant hunting pressure.”

Sepp Rinner proudly presents the biodiversity of his timber stands.
Game grazes in full sight of hiking paths and vacationers. Evidence enough that the concept of low hunting pressure works.

We see that you use a silencer on your R8. Is it a big help when you want to bag several at one time?

The only reason that I bought a silencer is to protect my ears and those of my dog. I know way too many hunters that are hard of hearing. I must admit that a silencer can be helpful when hunting. Although the deer still hear the sound of the report, they have a more difficult time determining where the shot came from. That is a big help when you need to shoot several at one time. But I must make it perfectly clear once more that the most important thing when hunting red deer is the correct strategy. That is where most mistakes are made. You can always increase the hunting pressure, but if it is not done right, it actually provokes more tree damage. Unfortunately, the little that is said about this is not nearly enough.

»Sichtbares Rotwild heißt unser Konzept. Wenn das Wild mit dem Menschen nichts Negatives verbindet, hält es sich vermehrt auf Freiflächen auf und schont den Wald.«