An Alternate Universe: Hunting and Shooting in Germany, Part I

by David E. Petzal

From January 27-30 I was the guest of Carl Zeiss at its first Media Hunt in Wetzlar and Laubach, Germany. The company invited 60 or so people in my line of work from Great Britain, all over Europe, and Russia, to tour the Zeiss factory in Wetzlar, shoot at two very different rifle ranges, and go on a traditional driven hunt. From this, I learned that hunting/shooting in Germany is not just different; it's an alternate universe.

Germany issues a national hunting license (which is a prerequisite for obtaining a firearms license) which you get only after passing rigorous written and oral tests and a shooting test with rifle and shotgun. The program is the equivalent, I'm told, of getting a master's degree, and the failure rate is high. In addition, you need to carry insurance and have a spotless police record. Germany's gun laws are equally restrictive. I doubt if American hunters and shooters would be very happy under this system.

On the other hand, I found that if you're traveling with a gun, you are treated as a standup guy who knows what he is doing. There is no hassle, harassment, or BS. No official or airline employee ever looked at my rifle, or gave my Customs form or other paperwork more than a cursory glance. (Unlike the Fish & Wildlife officer at JFK who, as I went through U.S. Customs, gave me the third degree on suspicion of bringing in foreign wildlife products.)

At the two shooting ranges and the hunt itself, there was no lecture on safe gun handling, the assumption being that if we didn't know how to handle firearms correctly, we would not be here in the first place. As I said, an alternate universe. More to come.