Stalking the game

Hunting in the Black Forest with Johannes Fuchs

What's going on off the beaten track in the Black Forest? To learn more about wildlife in the forest and hunting, we accompany Johannes Fuchs as he goes on a hunt. As well as being a hunter he is chef at the romantic Hotel Spielweg, so we’ll also peak over his shoulder as he cooks when we meet again for a barbecue at the Hotel Hirschen, idyllically located at St. Märgen in the highlands of the Black Forest.


It is still dark at our early meeting with Johannes Fuchs. He runs the romantic Hotel Spielweg together with his wife Viktoria, and Johannes is in charge of the kitchen. Despite the early hour he is in high spirits. "The light at dawn and the backdrop of the forest is truly something special," he enthuses. Sure enough: The sun is just rising, bathing the Black Forest in an orange-pink morning glow. Johannes retrieves his backpack and rifle from the off-road vehicle, because we intend to stalk some game today. We learn that there is much more to hunting than shooting animals. "As a hunter, you also have the task of gamekeeping, caring for many types of game. You check the area for damage and maintain the elevated hides," explains Johannes, for whom the Black Forest has long since become his second home.

On the pathway into the forest, he informs us it was his uncle who first got him hooked on hunting at an early age. After completing his journeyman years as a cook, he gained his hunting license and today, together with his father-in-law, he looks after the hunting grounds adjacent to the romantic Hotel Spielweg in the Münstertal. We reach the edge of the forest and step into the trees: this is the home of deer, wild pigs and mountain goats. Or, as they are called in hunter's language: roe deer, wild boar and chamois.



"It is extremely important to me to have sharp knives when I go hunting," explains Johannes as we venture deeper into the forest. "They don't need to be so delicate and finely ground as those in the kitchen, because of course it's more rustic here.” Before setting out he sharpens his cold weapon, as a knife is called in hunters’ jargon – in the same way he sharpens his kitchen knives. "I give new kitchen knives a thorough initial sharpening and then resharpen them all once or twice a week," the chef explains. "We have a HORL®2 Pro in the kitchen, where anyone can use it. What's particularly handy about the HORL® is that it's so compact. You can take it anywhere and whenever you need it, you can sharpen a knife without delay!" That's why Johannes takes his HORL sharpener along when he goes hunting - because whether in the kitchen or in the forest, he finds a properly sharp knife indispensable.


Johannes has not only prepared his knives well, but also planned today's hunt. Specifically, for stalking the game we seek today he has already scouted out some wild boar that often cause damage to adjacent farmland. Not so easy, as they constantly shift their territories. "I was looking for tracks and reading the trail. When stalking, you walk quietly through the forest, following the tracks of the wild boar," Johannes explains. "It is important to have light equipment and sharp tools at hand." Stalking is active, whereas the static form of hunting is waiting until the game appears, usually at night and hidden in an elevated hide. Warm clothing, a seat cushion and what’s known as a sitting bag are needed while waiting, because it can take a long time.

We follow Johannes silently along the small paths in the forest so as not to alert the game - until he signals us to stop. He takes out his binoculars and peers through the thicket, obviously we are now very close to a wild boar. We wait with bated breath while Johannes continues alone and disappears between the trees. And then: a shot.

When Johannes returns, he is dragging a wild boar behind him. He has shot what he calls a renegade sow. "This is a young wild boar in its second year of life," Johannes explains, cutting off a fir twig and placing it in the young sow's mouth. This symbolises the last bite, an old custom as a sign of respect for the animal. In the meantime, the sun has risen and we make our way back together. Along the way, Johannes discovers oxalis, better known as wood sorrel, and takes some of it with him for his cooking. "It has a pleasant acidity," he explains. As a farewell, Johannes invites us to a light morning snack with a view over the Black Forest. The panorama is magnificent and it feels good to review the eventful morning together.


A week later we meet Johannes again, this time in the garden of the Hotel Hirschen in St. Märgen in the Black Forest. The meat from the sow that Johannes shot last week is now ready for butchering. "Venison has to be properly seasoned," Johannes explains. "First it hangs in its hide for three days, then it is skinned and stored for another two days. Only then is it cut up." The hide, or in the case of a wild boar, the rind, refers in hunter's language to the skin of the game with its fur on. Johannes begins to expertly butcher the wild boar. In the end, about 7 kg of meat remain from the 14 kg animal. "This meat is perfect for the barbecue," the chef remarks happily as we set off for the barbecue with our filleted wild boar.


At the barbecue we meet grilling master Peter Amann, who is preparing tomahawk steaks, and Michael Wickert from the Glut & Späne smoked fish factory, who has freshly caught rainbow trout with him. Johannes cuts the wild boar belly into fine strips. "We can grill these directly on the fire, mixed with a little barbecue sauce," he explains as he winds the strips around metal skewers in a snake shape. "Some will go into stuffed dumplings, a sort of game dim sum. And everyone knows bread on a stick - I will bake the bread directly on the grill and make a kind of Black Forest kebab with the rest of the meat."


The enthusiasm with which Johannes puts his plans into practice is infectious and it heightens our anticipation of tasting the result. We are far from disappointed! "The secret is to only use local game. It's best to work with a hunter you can trust so you can be sure the meat is well hung and it’s of good quality," advises Johannes. "That is extremely important." The hunter that we trust is clearly Johannes himself. We ask him what fascinates him most about hunting. "I have always loved nature," Johannes says with a smile as the sun slowly sets. "What I like about hunting is that you are always in nature. Sometimes you have quiet moments, when you can think your own thoughts. Sometimes it's mega exciting and crazy things happen fast - there’s a lot of variety. Hunting is just something very special for me."



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