In late 1964, while stationed with the US Army in Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany, I decided to complete the requirements for getting a German hunting license. In my job as German American Coordinator for the Armerican troops in Schwaebisch Gmuend, I met many of the German city and county officials in the area. One of these county officials was the head of the local Forestry office with the title Oberforestmeister. I told him that I hunted deer in Texas and wanted to find out more about hunting in Germany. I had brought my 30-30 Savage Model 99 saddle rifle with me to hunt. He informed me that a 30-30 rifle could not be used to hunt in Germany. He referred me to the Army Rod and Gun Club to get the necessary training and testing for the license. After I got my license, he told me to contact him, and he would take me on my first Rehbock hunt.
I signed up for the hunting class at the local American recreation center, took the test, and received my German hunting license. The American Hunting office then issued me a U S hunting license. This license allowed me to kill 6 rehbocks and several other game animals each year. Checking with the Rod and Gun Club, I was able to checkout a 30-06 rifle. To familiarize myself with the rifle, I took it to a rifle range and sighted it in. I was now ready to go hunting,
In early 1965, I contacted the Oberforestmeister and told him I had my license and wanted to take him up on a hunt for rehbock. He agreed to set up an evening hunt for me and would call me when he had it set up. A few days later, the Oberforestermeister called me that the hunt was set up. He would be my hunting guide and would pick me up at the American Hunting office at 3 PM the next day.
After a 15-minute ride we arrived at the hunting site. He parked his car at a farm haus, and we walked quietly about 300 meters to the edge of an alfalfa field. There we quietly climbed into a covered tree stand called a Hochsitz (high seat). My guide told me that it was most important to remain very quiet because the reh deer have an especially keen sense of hearing and would not come out of the woods if they heard unusual noises and voices. He talked to me in a whisper to preclude being heard by the animals. He told me that the bock we were hunting for would generally come to the alfalfa field to graze at about one hour before dark. A mature rehbock stands about 18 inches tall at the shoulder with a live weight of about 30 lbs. The alfalfa in the field was about 9 inches tall which meant that we should be able to see the buck standing in the alfalfa.
At about an hour before dark, we observed a rehbock coming out of the woods. The guide carefully studied him with his binoculars and confirmed that it was the correct bock that he wanted me to shoot. The bock continued into the alfafa field and began grazing. The guide told me to wait until I had a broadside view of his body. I should aim for the shoulder blade, about 4 inches below the top of his back. The distance was about 150 meters. I got a good firm position against the side of the stand, took a deep breath, quietly moved the safety to the fire position, aimed for my target, and slowly squeezed the trigger. When the gun fired, the bock disappeared. I asked the guide: “what happened; where is he?” He just smiled and said: “He is down in the alfalfa.”
My guide and I got out of the hochsitz and walked toward the dead bock. I was elated when I saw my first kill in Germany. The guide and I then briefly knelt next to the bock to pay our respects. The guide took some alfalfa and put it into the bock’s mouth. That was his “Letzter Bissen (last bite).” He then went to the woods and broke of the tip of a branch, came back to the bock, brushed the branch against some of the blood from the bock. With his left hand he handed me the branch which I took with my left hand. We the shook hands and he said “Waidmannsheil” (hail to the hunter) to which I answered “Waidmannsdank; Waidmannsheil” to which he answered “Waidmannsdank” I then placed the branch into my hat band for me to wear for the rest of the day to signify a successful hunt.
These rituals of the hunt have been passed down for many generations and the hunters take them very seriously. American hunters are expected to participate in the rituals and the guide is highly insulted if the hunter does not know the rituals. In addition to these rituals, hunters have a special vocabulary used by hunters which they call “Jaeger Latein” (Hunter’s Latin). As an example, using the word to eat. Humans “essen”, most animals “fressen”, but game animals “aessen”. We learn about these rituals and hunter’s latin in the course leading up to getting our German Hunting License.
After all the rituals were completed, the guide put the entire rehbock into his rucksack (backpack). The only thing showing was the head and antlers. We then walked to his car for the short trip back to Schwaebisch Gmuend where he dropped me of at the American hunting office and he went to his office. He still had to process the meat and take it to the butcher shop where it would be sold the next day with the proceeds to the owner of the hunting area, which in my case was the German Federal Government. I was authorized to purchase the meat at a discount, but I declined. There was always a demand for fresh venison by the local German citizens.
That concluded my rehbock hunting in 1965 during my first tour of duty in Germany. It was not until I returned to Germany in 1977 for my second tour of duty that I once again got active with German hunting. I had not forgotten the joy I had on that first rehbock hunt and planned to do a lot more hunting during my second three-year tour. I becamed very familir with the staff in the US Hunting office in Heidelberg. I would tell them when and where and what animals I wanted to hunt, and they would make the arrangements. Since I was researching my and my wife’s German ancestry, I would ask to set up some of my hunts in the areas where our ancestors came from.
Most of the hunts took place from daybreak for about an hour or two and then again about and hour or two in the evening until dark. I used the middle of the day to conduct reserch in churches, archives, libraries and any other places where old family records were kept. Where they were available, I would camp out in hunters’ cabins in the forests. I had a very simple camp—a folding table, a sleeping bag, pillow and air mattress, a one-burner propane stove, a propane lantern, and my hunting clothes and jackets. I had a small Volkswagen station wagon for my hunting vehicle. Many times, I would camp out by sleeping in the Volkswagen in the forest. I thoroughly enjoyed spending the night alone in the forest because it brought me back to nature, with all the sounds of the animals and the darkness of the isolated forest. I felt secure in those days; however, I would have to rethink camping alone at night in these turbulent times.
Shortly after arriving in Heidelberg in July 1977, I applied for the trophy hunt which resulted in my bagging the Class IA fallow deer which I discussed in my previous article posted in Texas Outdoors Network. As soon as I had unpacked our household goods and my wife and I had organized our apartment, I took short evening hunting trips in the Heidelberg area after working a full day in my office. After I had more free time, I booked hunts further away from Heidelberg. Initially I had to have a guide to take me to my stand and sat with me during the hunt. After the guide became familiar with me, he allowed me to go by myself to the stand. He told me what class of rehbock I could shoot and what to do with the animal if successful. I shot a couple of lower class rehbocks in 1977.
In early 1978, I booked a hunt in the Bad Hersfeld area near Michelsrombach by Fulda where my Scheel and Schwab ancestors had emigrated from in the 1850s and 1860s. My guide told me that he had a very nice Class IA rehbock and several does and fawns in his area that he wanted harvested because they were damaging the newly planted trees they were trying to establish in the area. Since this guide was not familiar with me, he took me to the stand and sat with me early in the morning. Shortly after daybreak we saw a reh doe and twin fawns about 150 meters from our stand. The guide told me that I should kill the doe and he would kill one of the fawns at the same time when I shot. We both took aim at our target animal. He apparently had experience doing this because at the instant that I shot the doe, he immediately killed the fawn. The other twin ran away. He advised me to remain still, and the other fawn would return and look for its mother. As predicted, a few minutes later, the fawn returned. He told me to kill that fawn. I took careful aim and shot. The fawn disappeared. The guide told me that we should wait a little while before we left our stand to find the dead animals. A few minutes later, there was a young deer a little further away from where the dead doe was laying. We were not sure whether I had missed or whether this was another young reh which just happened to come by the area. He told me to kill the young reh which was grazing in the area. I shot and it disappeared. After a little while everything was quiet and no more live reh deer could be seen. The guide told me to remain in place and shoot any more live reh that showed up. He would go out and try to locate the carcasses of the deer we had killed. Shortly after he left the stand, he waved that he had found the doe. A little while latter, he waved that he found one fawn. He then looked a little more and waved that he found another fawn. Then he went out a little farther where the last one had been when I shot. He waved that he found that one as well. He waved for me to join him. I was rather pleased with my shooting—three shots, three dead reh. The guide congratulated me on my excellent shooting. After going through the rituals that I mentioned earlier, he handed me my twig with blood on it for me to put into my hat band. The guide then loaded all four dead reh deer into his car and dropped me off at the hunter’s cabin for me to rest until the evening hunt. We planned to hunt for the IA rehbock which we talked about but never saw that morning. I wore the twig proudly for the rest of the day and others who saw me congratulated me on my successful hunt.
At 5 PM my guide picked me up at the hunter’s cabin and we drove to the stand we had hunted in the morning. We sat until dark but never saw another reh. We then made plans to hunt the next morning. I needed to get back home in Heidelberg by mid-afternoon.
Once I got back to the hunter’s cabin, I used my propane stove to heat up some dinner and some hot coffee. I then spread my air matress and sleeping bag on the table and got into my sleeping bag for a good well-deserved rest. It had been a great hunt, three shots—three dead reh. What was still missing was the IA rehbock. We hunted again the next morning, but the class IA Bock never showed up. My guide promised to keep the IA rehbock for me and not let another hunter harvest him. We made plans for me to come back in two weeks for my next hunt. I asked to be able to camp in the hunter’s cabin which he approved.
Two weeks later, I came back for my scheduled hunt. The guide picked me up at the hunter’s cabin in the woods before daylight and took me back to the same hunting stand. Shortly after daylight, we saw the Class IA rehbock about 200 meters from the stand. The guide asked me whether I could kill the bock at that range. I assured him that I could. I took careful aim, slowly squeezed the triggerand let the 30-06 Nosler partition bullet do its thing. My quest for the Class IA rehbock was over. Two weeks later my guide called that my skull cap plaque mount was ready for pickup. I added the plaque to my collection of wildlife trophies.
After that hunt, I concentrated on my Fallow Deer (Damhirsch) hunt which was coming up soon. See smy separate Texas Outdoors Network article: “Hunting Fallow Deer (Damhirsch) in Germany “. After I got my mounted Fallow Deer trophy from the taxidermist, I was very pleased with the job the taxidermist had done.
It was at that time that I decided I wanted to shoulder mount as many different species of deer and other game animals I could. At that time, I already had mounted the fallow deer, a white-tailed deer, and a mule deer. I already had a scull cap mount of a Class IA rehbock, but no longer had the cape to mount it on. I asked the taxidermist whether he could procure a rehbock cape to use on a mount. He suggested that I kill another rehbock and use that cape with the Class IA rehbock antlers I already had. He stressed that I bring him a very mature rehbock cape, not a young bock, for the mount. This would make my mount look more natural.
With that as my next task, I planned my next rehbock hunt. Since I had already killed a Class IA rehbock, the German hunting office would probably not let me kill another IA. Therefore, I needed to set up a hunt for a mature buck with a lower class of antlers.
Since I wanted to conduct family research on my wife’s ancestors, I set up a hunt for the area near Dillenburg and Herborn from which they came to America. These two cities are located in an area called the Wester Wald (Western Forest). I booked a hunt for two days so that I could kill one or two mature rehbocks so that I could take the best cape to my taxidermist and mount it with the antlers from my class IA rehbock I killed earlier. Since Dillenburg is a three-hour drive from Heidelberg, I left in time to get to Dillenburg at noon. I met my guide at the Foresthaus. I told him that I wanted to get a very mature rehbock less than Class IA and get a cape so that I could take it to my taxidermist in Heidelberg where he could complete my shoulder mount. The guide told me that my timing was just right because the Blatt Zeit (rut) was in full swing.
The guide explained that there were three different methods for calling a rehbock during the rut. He would try each of the methods on three different rehbocks. The squeaking sound he would make sounded like the sound that a reh doe makes when she is in heat.
The guide took me to a spot in the forest where he thought I could get that mature bock. The place that he selected had very good open areas to observe and which had some trees I could use for a gun rest to shoot from. Once we were in position, he selected a firm green leaf from a nearby tree to use as his calling instrument. He told me to get ready to shoot because if a bock is in the area he would come running to the site where the sound came from, looking for the doe in heat. He then took the leaf, held it with his thumb and index finger in both hands, and proceeded to blow on the leaf making a loud squeaking sound. It was not long before a bock came running toward our location. It stopped about 100 meters from us and looked around to locate the doe. The guide whispered to me that it was a mature buck and I should shoot whenever I had a good broadside shot. I slowly moved into a good standing position behind a tree, got a good rest against the tree, quietly moved my safety to the fire position, squeezed the trigger, and my 30-06 180 grain Nosler Partition bullet did its thing. After going thru all the rituals, the guide field dressed the bock because we wanted to hunt a little longer for a second buck that afternoon. The guide put the entire field dressed buck into his rucksack and we walked to his car to drive to a different location in his hunting district.
We drove about two kilometers to another wooded area in his district to hunt another mature bock.
We parked the car and walked a short distance and found another shooting spot like we had used earlier. He told me to get ready because he expected a bock to come running to his call. He used his mouth to make a squeaking sound similar to the sound he had made with the leaf. We waited a while, and nothing came. He whispered to me to get ready. He then made the mouth call again. Again, nothing came. He then decided to find another location.
We got in his car and drove about two kilometers and set up again. Once I was in a good position, he called again with his mouth. Almost immediately a very mature bock ran toward us. He whispered that it was a mature bock and I should shoot when ready. Once the opportunity was right, I made my shot. Now I had two mature bocks. After all the rituals, the guide asked me to carry his rifle and he would carry the two bocks, one in his rucksack and one on his shoulder.
My guide with first of two rehbocks I killed that day.
Me with my rehbock. Note the leaves in the bock’s mouth which was his “Letzter Bissen” (last bite). Note also the twig in the right side of my hatband which signified that I was a successful hunter that day. Although not visible in the photo, I was wearing a dark green jacket, brown knee-length knickerbocker trousers (kniehose), dark green long knee-length heavy socks, a long sleeve green dress shirt, and a green necktie. Note that I was similarly dressed as the guide in the previous photo. This is the way that I always dressed on my German hunts. And the guides were always formally dressed as well. (No blue jeans and tennis shoes here.) The Germans took their hunting seriously and expected the American hunters to do so as well.
The guide took me to the Foresthaus where my car was located. He explained how to get to the hunter’s cabin in the forest for me to camp in. It was still long before dark, but he still had a lot of work to do-butchering two rehbocks. I compared the two bocks and decided that I wanted the cape of the second rehbock for my mount. That bock seemed more mature and would make a better mount. I reminded him that I wanted the second rehbock caped out, ready for a US style shoulder mount. The guide made a skull cap mount of the second bock’s very impressive antlers on a pine branch plaque which I have shown in this article. That buck’s antlers do not qualify it as a Class IA because it only has two points on its left main beam. I don’t remember exactly how to classify those antlers, but it is definitely less than a Class IA. I display that plaque mount in my home because that bock’s cape was used to shoulder-mount my Class IA antlers which came from a different bock. I discussed the successful hunt for the Class IA buck earlier in this article.
The cape from this mature rehbock was used to mount my Class IA Rehbock
I drove to the Hunter’s cabin, set up my bed on the table, and fixed myself some supper. Soon after dark, I crawled into my sleeping bag for a well-deserved full night’s sleep. I had killed two mature bocks. Two shots—two rehbocks. Not a bad hunt.
Very early before daylight the next morning, I met my guide at the Foresthaus. We drove to a different spot from the day before. We quietly walked to a site he had selected and got ready. Once it got light enough to clearly see the area, he began calling. This time he used a small rubber ball which had a squeaker implanted in the ball. He would squeeze the ball with his hand, and it would squeak. It sounded like a toy which a puppy would play with. It was not long before an immature buck came running toward us. The antlers on the bock were very poor. It was a bock the guide wanted killed to improve his herd, so he told me to shoot. The bock was about 100 meters away. I waited for a good broadside shot and squeezed the trigger. Now I had my third bock, using three different calling methods.
The guide put the rehbock into his rucksack and we went back to his car. We then drove to the Foresthaus. I loaded up the cape from the previous day and was on my way home to Heidelberg. What an exciting two days of hunting.
As soon as I got to Heidelberg, I went by my home to pick up the Class IA antlers of the bock that I had killed at Bad Hersfeld earlier that year. I delivered the cape and the antlers to the taxidermist. He said the cape looked good and he would have my mount completed in about two to three months. I told the taxidermist that I wanted a shoulder mount on a decorative wooden plaque. About two months later, the taxidermist called and told me the mount was finished. I was very pleased with my mount and proudly hung it in my home in Heidelberg, next to my shoulder-mounted Class IA Fallow Deer.
Since I now had the two mounted trophies that I wanted, I decided to do some more rehbock hunting. But I would hunt for lesser classes of trophies which helped the forestry officials to manage their herd. Having killed four rehbocks and three antlerless reh, I was still authorized to kill two more rehbocks. The Dillenburg area seemed to have a lot more reh deer than other places I had hunted. I asked my hunting office to book two hunts for me with the same guide at Dillenburg.
On the scheduled day, I arrived at the Foresthaus at about 11:00 AM and met my guide. He told me that the rehbock rut was still going on and that the rehbocks were still chasing the does. They had been fairly active during the middle of the day. Since he had guided me and called up three rehbocks, he told me that he did not need to guide me because I was familiar with the process. He lent me his rubber ball call and told me to go to one of the areas we had hunted before and select a good location and start calling. He told me that I should select a mature buck with inferior antlers. I should not shoot a young bock. I asked him whether I could camp out in the Hunter’s cabin that night and he said yes. If I were successful, I should bring the entire carcass to him so that he could process it. He would be working in his office at the Foresthaus.
After everything was settled, I left the Foresthaus and went to one of the areas we had hunted previously. Since it was noon and I had not eaten, I decided to heat up a can of soup. I set up my propane stove on my folding card table and started heating my lunch. While waiting for my lunch to get hot, I messed around with the rubber ball in my pocket and made it squeak. A bock and doe must have been in the area. To my surprise, I saw a doe running full-speed crossing the trail I was parked on about 75 yards in front of my Volkswagen. Shortly behind her was a mature buck running full speed following her. The buck must have heard my squeaking of the ball and thought it was the doe making the sound. I quickly grabbed my rifle and watched as the doe and bock ran down the hill away from me. By this time my lunch was ready, so I started to eat, I kept my gun ready and pointing to the area where they went down the hill, hoping that the buck would return. I squeaked a few times, but nothing showed up.
About ten minutes later, I saw a buck slowly walking up the hill where I had last seen them. He was obviously tired from the chase. I closely studied the buck and decided that it was not a Class IA and was obviously mature. I decided to shoot him if I got a broadside shot. As soon as he tried to come across the logging trail about 125 meters from where I was sitting, I gave him a dead shot and he dropped on the spot. Following the rituals, I briefly knelt next to the dead bock and gave him his last bite. I then got the tip of a branch from a nearby tree, wiped it in the bock’s blood, and put it into my hatband. Once all the rituals were completed, I loaded the buck into my vehicle and took it to the Foresthaus. The guide congratulated me on the kill and told me that I could go out to a different part of the forest and try to get another bock that evening.
By about 3:00 that afternoon, I was set up for another hunt. I began squeaking the rubber ball. Before long a two-year old rehbock came running toward me. Since I could not shoot him, I scared him of. I then began calling off and on for about 30 minutes and nothing came. I decided to move to another spot.
By about 4:00, I was set up in another location. Similar to the previous location, I called on and off for about 30 minutes with no luck. Finally, when I was ready to give up for the day, I made one last call. A bock answered the call. He met my criteria, so I killed it. Again, I went through the ritual, loaded the carcass and delivered it to the guide at the Foresthaus. I was now finished with my rehbock hunting for the year—I had killed six rehbocks. I told the guide that I would spend the night in the Hunter’s cabin. I planned to research the records at the local church for my wife’s ancestors. After that I would be heading back to Heidelberg. I thanked the guide for his outstanding services. I bade him farewell with a final Waidmannsheil, Waidmannsdank.
The next day I stopped at the local church to look up my wife’s ancestors. Unfortunately, I had no luck with that endeavor. Failing at that, I headed back to Heidelberg. My hunting in Germany was finished.
Sometime later, I had to crate up the Rehbock and the Fallow Deer buck, ready to ship them to my next home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There I started my second career after retiring from the Army in September 1980. The mounts made it in good shape and I proudly displayed them in my rec room.
Now that I was in Colorado, many hunting adventures opened up for me. No more rehbock or fallow deer hunts were available for me, but the diversity of various other species was almost beyond comprehension. I have written several articles about them on this website and will continue to write other articles in the future.
After I retired from my second career and I fully retired from the active workforce, my wife and I moved to Garden Ridge, Texas. Again, the Rehbock made that trip okay. In 2020 when I moved to New Braunfels, Texas, my Rehbock made the move with me and is now displayed in my office, in front of my desk, where I can always see him and relive my many Rehbock hunts in Germany.
Admiring my Class IA Rehbock Mount in my office in New Braunfels, TX in 2022
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