My friendship with Steen goes approximately 25 years back, so the challenge was taken very seriously when his wife asked me to arrange a hunting trip as his birthday present.
Instead of going through the established hunting travel agencies, I wrote to Martin as I met on another trip to Slovakia this summer and it resulted in an authentic Slovak hunting experience, which we in no way could even have planned from home.
The blacksmith doesn’t complain.
Steen and I have shared several good hunting experiences through the years, but the prospect of several days together and even abroad was a major upgrade. After a little writing back and forth with Martin, the plan was three days of free hunting for wild boar, but also red stag and fallow deer game, with regulation of female and calves at a good, fixed price. In addition, it was agreed that Martin’s Danish business associate Lars was coming too, so we were three to share the transport expenses and the driving. The well over 16-hour drive to Slovakia was an excellent opportunity to get to know each other and share hunting stories. Acute back pain from a few days before, however, was a challenge Steen could have been without. But with an overnight stay and some good breaks he made it. And a blacksmith doesn’t complain…
The smell of the good old days
We were meeting Martin after work. We were a little early and chose the smaller mountain roads instead of the highway. Slovakia is a truly beautiful country worth the trip itself! Mountainous terrain with very varied forests that do not bear the mark of forestry, interrupted by wetlands and agricultural land filled with traces of the many wild boar. Our first destination was a restaurant where we really got the feeling of “a boy’s night out”. After dinner it was allowed to find cigarettes and pipes that could be enjoyed in the reclining chesterfield furniture. An extinct Danish tradition that is probably remembered with mixed feelings, but for us it smelled a bit like the late nights on a bachelor’s room, if you closed your eyes and imagined a worn-out couch instead.
Martin præsenterede os for en mulig, men valgfri ændring i planerne. Hans far havde inviteret venner og bekendte til en større drivjagt i anledning af sin fødselsdag, og vi var mere end velkomne til at deltage. Vi greb det generøse tilbud uden at vide helt, hvad vi kunne forvente.
Den første nat overnattede vi i familiens overdådigt velindrettede jagthytte i det sydvestlige Slovakiet med mange og flotte trofæer, som sendte tankerne på langfart.
No guaranties in nature
Next morning, we went out on the first hunt for female deer and calf. Martin offered a single fallow stag, as part of the agreed price. We pulled straws, Steen won a pürsch, while Lars and I was each assigned a stand but with no less action.
My shooting tower was almost a little hunting lodge on high legs. Not necessarily my favorite way to hunt since I love the contact with nature and the unpredictable parts the hunt. It turned out to be a good combination of pürsch and sitting in a stand, because I could often hear animals moving around the tower. Suddenly, a female deer and two calves came out into the open and stopped as they crossed my scent. I knew I only had a few seconds before they would take the flight. They stood close together and gave no option for a shot. But when she started running, one of the calves became isolated and I made a successful shot.
It was different for Steen. He only got a single chance of a big fallow stag, passing at full speed at 100m, but chose to let it go because of the risk of only wounding it. Hunting in nature gives a lot of possibilities, a few chances, but no guaranties.
We continued to a mountain area in central Slovakia on 3,500 hectares for our evening of hunting wild boar, female deer and calf, and were each given a stand. My tower was called “bear-bait” …! Bear and wolf can be hunted on license in this area, and I hoped to just get a brief view of some real European big game. With my place followed explicit instructions under no circumstances to go down before I was retrieved. Not even to step down on nature’s behalf. Fortunately, I did not need creative solutions to that problem.
The driven hunt
After the obligatory handshake and a nice reunion with another three friends from this summer’s hunt, breakfast was served, while everyone was registered with the weapon number and caliber, as well as the hunting license number. Hunting instructions were given in a, for me, new way. We were not in a horseshoe formed line, as you often do in Denmark, but instead, you stand in lines from each side of a square area, with the hunt leader in front and the beaters in similar rows at the base of the area. Cut off branches marked where the rows should stand. We would receive the instructions in English on the way to the place, so we just nodded and smiled while the parole was held in Slovak. There was no doubt that the hunt was well-organized, focusing on security despite the friendly forms.
They drove us in the old military trucks. Often on really narrow and poor paths, where the branches scratched off the wagon’s sides. Impressive how they managed to pass through even the smallest places in the forest.
Read more in part two…