Saturday, January 1, 2011

Decoding the "hochsitz"

I have never looked from the train windows so attentively as during the trip home from Berlin. In the white abstract landscape I had spotted the classic German "HOCHSITZ" - a wooden perch built for hunting.

At that moment I started hunting myself. I was hooked - I wanted to collect and analyze these improvised architectures and decode their placement. As a city person I know little about hunting - but I'm not opposed to it. Man has always fished and hunted, and hunters (and gatherers) have intensive and intimate relationships with nature.

It was hard to spot and photograph the perches from the high speed train. Other travellers must have wondered about my obsessive behaviour. But I wanted to collect as many samples a possible. This is the rest of the collection:

My first guess at the placement rules for these perches was:

  • In a rural area, not too near a village but also not too far.
  • Camouflaged by trees or bushes.
  • Clear lines of sight covering a large area.
  • Covered in the back (many were next to the railway and thus impossible to photograph).
But checking a few German hunting websites shows that I have less than half the story right:

  • Location is all important: seeing, hearing, lines of fire, directions from where the game is expected to come, direction of sunrise, sunset and moon.
  • Often at the boundary between forest and farmland.
  • You must be able to walk to, and enter the perch without disturbing the game so the prevalent wind direction must not be towards the game. There must be enough cover to reach the perch.
  • Building a perch disturbs the game and it will take some time before they get used to it. You should first build a light temporary structure and try it out one year long.
A fascinating domain with classic rules - the same traditions you read in cultural anthropology books.

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