Heart and Soul
Since the beginning, handling bloodhounds has been the domain of men. The success of ambitious female bloodhound hunters proves that today this is the domain of women as well.
The idyllic forester’s lodge of the Sachsengrund hunting area is enviously situated. Here in the Vogtland, between Saxony’s Ore Mountains and its border with the Czech Republic, chief forestry inspector Gabriele Thomae has performed her duties for over twenty years. Her forestry area encompasses around 2000 hectares (5000 acres) of contiguous woodland. Boredom is an unknown word to Forester Thomae, due in no small part to the extraordinary history behind this region’s forests. Mining operations for iron, silver, copper and tin have consumed unimaginable quantities of timber here over the centuries, resulting in gigantic clear cuts. The need for firewood for smelting ore was so enormous that only fast-growing spruce trees were used for reforestation. This transformed the original mixed mountainous forest into a spruce monoculture.
A second chance for mixed woodland
Today, the goal of the forestry service is to restore the mixed woodland. Here the hunt plays a very special role. Of course, not all hunters are happy about this. The red deer populations that were so high as to be a source of wonderment to outsiders for years after German reunification are now long gone. More than one hunter wistfully recalls this time of plenty. But it is now more important than ever to keep the bigger picture in mind. Gabrielle Thomae wants it to be known that she works with knowledge, intuition and sound judgement – especially when it comes to hunting and forestry matters. The great importance of the hunt is, after all, what drew her to her engagement as a bloodhound handler.
She appreciates that her employer, the Sachsenforst, or Saxon Forestry Office, supports and promotes in every way her work in trailing wounded game. Control searches are a matter of course, even in the cases of a presumed missed shot.
Prize-winning duo: Hound and mistress
Gabriele Thomae has achieved an outstanding reputation that reaches far beyond the borders of the Saxon Forest. She has successfully resolved countless game searches with her Hanoverian Bloodhound sire Siro vom Silberbach, many of which were executed under extremely difficult conditions. At the main trials of the Hirschmann Club at Grafenwöhr in 2007, she and Siro won first prize and took home the Gussone Challenge Cup. Unfortunately, Siro is no longer alive. The fate of a premature end claimed him, as it has with so many other excellent dogs. His successor, Luna vom Silberbach, is now in her fourth year. Gabriele Thomae has already achieved distinction with her as well, in part because the young hound had an excellent teacher in her mother, Ayla vom Hirschmoor. It was very important to her owner from the beginning that Luna’s training be done without any form of force or violence. Gabriele Thomae makes a point of emphasizing that following a blood trail entails factors other than the hound’s performance. The success of a search also depends a great deal on the skills of the handler himself. In this case, herself. Above all, it requires intuition, instinct and knowledge of the game animal’s behavior. Equally important is an outstanding level of physical fitness since trailing spoor can lead one through kilometers of difficult terrain. Condition is everything here.
The proper rifle
When the bayed animal is finally reached, the dog handler must be able to work his rifle with his eyes closed. Gabrielle Thomae dishes about her special tracking variation of the Blaser R93, and not only because the rifle is very robust and insensitive to dirt, but because this is a gun that can be used in any hunting situation. “It is very reliable and always shoots well,” is her résumé of its virtues. “This is the only rifle I carry, and that is why I am so familiar with it,” a conclusion to which we need add nothing.
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