Join the hunt
Hunting and owning guns in Germany was once a privilege reserved only for nobility until the mid 1800s. Today, while it is still considered an honor and privilege to become a Jäger, the opportunity extends to those who qualify and obtain the required skills, education and licenses. That privilege also extends to U.S. Forces active duty servicemembers, their dependents and DOD civilians stationed in Germany.
“It’s actually a common misconception,” says Michael Wolske, volunteer hunting instructor at the Kaiserslautern Rod & Gun Club, operated by the USAFE 86th Force Support Squadron (FSS) Outdoor Recreation (ODR). “Many Americans don’t realize that they are able to hunt and purchase guns while stationed in Germany. The process to get a license is definitely different than what they may be used to back in the States, but it’s a very rewarding process. We have a really tight-knit group,” he adds.
For Germans, obtaining a Jagdschein, or hunting license, can cost a few thousand euros and take a minimum of a year as they complete intensive courses in German wildlife biology, husbandry and conservation; forestry and farming; hunting hygiene and traditions; firearm safety and techniques. Participants must also pass qualification standards courses in shotgun, handgun and rifle, as well as pass rigorous written and oral examinations that cover the entire course.
Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Regulation 215-145, U.S. Forces may provide a condensed version of the German course, taught in English, with fees a mere fraction of the host nation cost. Those interested in taking the course must be 18 years of age at the time of testing, be covered under SOFA, complete an FBI background check before the course begins, and gain command approval. The Kaiserslautern Rod & Gun Club provides two three-month hunting instruction courses each year during spring and fall seasons, and fees are approximately $250 per course. Courses are also provided through the 52nd FSS ODR in Spangdahlem and Rod & Gun Clubs/ODR programs operated by USAG Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) in Ansbach, Baumholder, Garmisch, Grafenwöhr, Hohenfels, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden.
“We cover what the German program does, just over a shorter period of time. We also emphasize German hunting traditions, as they are an important and historical part of the local hunting community,” says Wolske.
“In fact, after the course and testing are complete, each new hunter receives official knighthood in a special ceremony performed in their honor.” The ceremonial Jägerschlag can be traced back to the Middle Ages, and is used to both reiterate the Jäger code of ethics as well as welcome the JungJäger into the German hunting community.
Once the classes, tests and ceremonies are done, it’s time to head for the woods. Some of Germany’s popular wild game includes red and fallow deer, wild boar, fox, chamois, rabbit, pigeon, partridge and mallard. Hunting grounds, called Reviere, are territories of land that average around 1,000 to 2,000 acres; the rights to hunt them are controlled by landowners, which may be an individual, group (hunting club or cooperative), community or the government. Landowners have the right to hunt the property, or lease the rights to others. Hunters will need specific permits for each type of game and its respective season, as well as permission to hunt specific Reviere. The local Rod & Gun Club can help hunters obtain permits and connect with local hunting cooperatives and clubs for opportunities to join the hunt.
Another perk of obtaining firearm qualification and getting that German Hunting license through the program is the opportunity to purchase firearms while living in Germany. The local Rod & Gun Club provides a pro shop with firearms for both rental and purchase. However, enthusiasts and collectors should note that Germany and Austria are home to some of the world’s top gunsmithing schools and gun makers. Whether you seek a basic rifle or engraved masterpiece, exceptional weaponry can be found through makers such as HEYM AG in Gleichamberg, Merkel Jagd- und Sportwaffen in Suhl, J.G. Anschutz in Ulm, Blaser Jagdwaffen in Isny, and Germany’s oldest gun maker, J. P. Sauer & Sohn, also in Isny. See your local gun club for firearm ownership regulations.
This is only a small sample of what your local FMWR or FSS ODR program offers. To find out more about fishing, hunting, sport shooting and other outdoor recreation programs, services, classes and tours, contact your local facility:
86th FSS Kaiserslautern Rod & Gun Club
Commercial: +49 (0)631-536-7274
52nd FSS ODR Spangdahlem Air Base
Commercial: +49 (0)6565-61-7170
USAG Ansbach Outdoor Recreation
Commercial: +49 (0)9802-83-3225
USAG Bavaria Garmisch ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)8821-750-3593
USAG Bavaria Grafenwöhr/Tower Barracks
Wild B.O.A.R. ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)9641-83-8524
USAG Bavaria Hohenfels ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)9472-83-2060
USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Baumholder ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)6783-6-7182
USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Kaiserslautern ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)6313-406-4115
USAG Stuttgart ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)7031-15-2774
USAG Wiesbaden ODR
Commercial: +49 (0)611-143-548-9803