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Protecting the forest and its animals

Protecting the forest and its animals

Protecting the forest and its animals

The Deuring family runs a hunting and outdoor store in Bezau in its 3rd generation. After the death of the founder, his son Albert, who is a sports shooter with multiple championship titles, took over the store along with his wife Angelika, who is also a hunter. These days, Hubertus and his sister Isabella are also part of the family business. Isabella, also a hunter, sees herself primarily as a person who cares for wildlife and nature conservation.

Night has fallen over Bezau and all the shops have closed. With one exception: the Deuring hunting and outdoor store, where the lights are still burning. The welcoming family meets in the back room, where trophies hang on the wall and binoculars and hunting magazines rest on the table. Albert Deuring sits at the computer while his son Hubertus screws a scope onto a rifle. Daughter Isabella is on the phone with a customer, making sure the store is running smoothly. The siblings are leading the business into its third generation. Handling weapons is as natural to them as riding a bicycle, and shooting is only a fraction of what they do for animal and nature conservation while hunting. The family are concerned with the big picture, with diversity and balance in the forest. Contrary to many opinions, hunters protect our nature. On the wall hangs a painting of Isabella’s grandfather. His name was also Albert and he was a gunsmith. In 1955, he founded a gun shop in Bregenz. In 1986, he was shot by a murderous customer who was on the run and needed ammunition.

His son Albert took over. As a sports shooter, Albert won numerous state championship titles, European and World Championships, and even took part in the Olympic Games. From an early age, he was drawn to the Bregenzerwald, where he met Angelika from Au, the mother of his children. Even as a young girl, Angelika preferred hunting over going to school. She took her hunting exam when she was pregnant with Isabella. They took their six children with them everywhere. A Sunday in the Deuring family typically began with the children climbing into the back of the pickup truck and hiding under a blanket. As soon as they hit the gravel road, the kids peeked their heads out to catch all the action. They spent their winters on the slopes, all six of them skied in the ski association squad. During the summer months, they slept in the bunk beds of the hunting lodge. “We were always travelling in rough terrain,” says Isabella. “They once loaded us in a material ropeway and it got stuck. We had to be rescued with ladders and ropes.” The kids were responsible for chopping wood, making the fire. “There were no mobile phones. We had to occupy our own time and we were happy.” Whenever someone arrived at the hunting lodge with an animal that they had hunted and shot in the forest, it was cause for celebration. If Isabella was fortunate to shoot a deer, she would first go to a fir tree and break off the tip in order to “give the animal one last bite.” In doing so, she paid tribute and showed gratitude. She would then tuck a part of the broken tree branch into her hat and decorate her dog’s collar with another part. “If someone came in with a broken branch on their hat, we knew they were celebrating. Soon there would be fried liver to enjoy.” The first buck that Isabella ever shot was a yearling. It was an animal that her father had been targeting for some time. One shot, one hit. These were the standards she held herself to. “The last thing I want is for an animal to suffer because of me. If the shot is no good then it is better to let it go.” It was a hot day in July.

It is rutting season. The roebuck that Isabella planned to shoot was in its element. He drove his fellow deer in circles across a meadow at high speed. In German, the name given to this herding from which mating takes place is called a Hexenkessel, or “witches’ cauldron.” In her crosshairs, she tracked the buck, waited for her father’s command, relaxed her body, and pulled the trigger. It was a smooth shot right to the heart. Thus, her career as a hunter began with a positive feeling. “Not because I shot, but because I helped to maintain balance.” Red deer once lived in alluvial landscapes until human settlements displaced them into the forest where the animals struggle to find grass when the snow cover is heavy. Depending on the winter, they can lower their body temperature, but any movement robs them of energy. The worst case scenario is if they get sick. The deer feel safe and comfortable at feeding sites that hunters like Isabella set up for them. If people unintentionally disturb them there, they are forced to flee. Without a warm-up period, this can lead to cold shock or exhaustion. “Anyone going on a hiking tour should head to to inform themselves about where wildlife rest areas are,” explains Isabella. “It is important to give such areas a wide berth as soon as you see the ‘Stop: Red Deer Feeding’ signs. By law, you have to keep a distance of three hundred metres.” Without feeding stations, the deer cause damage and snack on the shoots of young trees within the protection forest. These trees protect people against rockfall, avalanches and landslides. To keep damage due to excessive browsing by game low, shooting rates are then increased. The hunters care for and feed the game, and they also fulfill their legally regulated shooting numbers. In the Deurings’ territory, that’s about seventy animals. As soon as the snow melts in April and hunting season begins, Isabella sets off. She wears a pair of hiking boots so that she has a foothold on steep terrain when she has to fetch a chamois. She takes a mountain pole to support herself, binoculars, a rangefinder, a rifle, a recovery aid and a knife to “open” the animal.

She trudges cross-country to the Schreiberesattel area through the Hellbock and Geser Tobel ravines. The family takes care of a huge hunting ground. Isabella comes here almost every day to observe. She shoots an animal only when she has enough time and no appointments. Otherwise a lot of unforeseen things can happen. Axel, her Bavarian Mountain Hound, always walks by her side. He lies down next to her and peers in the direction she is aiming. As soon as the shot is fired, he whines and leaps into action on command. Isabella realised how important he is when she had to go stalking without him because he was having surgery. “I walked past the shot animal five times until I finally found it in the bushes. Hunting without a dog is very difficult.” He performs important work before and after the shot. Isabella Deuring simply does not understand why we do not make better use of the finest source of food right in front of our noses. “Why is there no venison or venison burger being offered at local supermarkets or grocery shops?” These are the types of changes she wants to fight for. Game meat is chemical-free, organic, sustainable and ethical. It’s a natural resource, superior to conventional meat in many ways. Isabella wants to offer cooking classes for such meat. Together with two of her four brothers, she founded the company Waffenwald, an online platform where you can buy not only weapons and clothing. Their goal is to make the overall image of hunting more understandable to the outside world and to promote the protection of animals and nature.

Author: Irmgard Kramer
Issue: Winter 2023-24 Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine