By Mike Smale, Current Staff
In November, Simon Huth experienced the exotic thrill of a lifetime—sitting in the cold for hours.
Huth, a German exchange student from Frankfurt, embarked on the classic Wisconsin tradition of gun deer hunting during opening weekend. This casual tradition for West Bend students was a foreign experience for Simon.
“Yes, we have hunting in Germany, but I am from the city,” Huth said. “I never hunted before.”
However, Joe Rathsack, fellow deer hunter and husband of East English teacher Gail Rathsack, said that Huth gave the impression that he had hunted before. “It seemed like this was not Simon’s first run at deer camp,” Rathsack said.
Huth and his exchange father, Bruce Schmoldt, joined Rathsack’s deer camp in Bayfield County on a Thursday night. The camp arrived to see a driveway filled with 16 inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures.
“It was so freezing,” Huth said.
After shoveling a pathway to the cabin, starting a fire, and unloading the truck, the campers decided to let Simon try out the snowblower. Huth loves anything with an engine, so snowblowing seemed like an appropriate chore for him.
“Before we knew it, the driveway and much of the yard was clear of snow. Lucky his hands were freezing off and he finally came in or I think he would have cleared half of the county,” Rathsack said.
“My hair was frozen.”
– Simon Huth
The next day, Friday, was when the party went to scout out the property, set up stands, and check the deer tracks. “We had fun using some of Simon’s translations, such as ‘fresh tracks’ became ‘fresh steps,'” Rathsack said.
Huth was eager to get to his deer stand, which overlooks a patch of spruce trees and grass that abuts a swamp, called “the meadow.” “Simon was very comfortable climbing 25 feet to his crow’s nest,” Rathsack said. “Safety gear, harnesses, ropes, gun safety and the rest of the tree stand gear seemed to be second nature to the guy.”
Saturday was the opening day for the big hunt. “The 4:30 a.m. opening morning alarm went off and set us into motion… slow motion for some of us,” Rathsack said. Saturday brought warmer, but incredibly cloudy and foggy weather. The group walked out into the woods and separated, and Huth climbed into his stand.
With the melting snow, slush kept falling from the tree above and hitting Huth in the head. “My hair was frozen,” Huth said. Schmoldt and Huth made it to 11 a.m. until heading back for a bit to eat, and then headed back out again. Hopeful of the evening sit, Huth saw two does walk through his spot. “Unfortunately, you can’t shoot does up there,” Huth said. The group also saw four does and one small buck.
Even though the deer camp came out venison-less, Huth still enjoyed his time out in the woods. “The experience was fun. I think if I never came to the US, I would never hunt,” Huth said. Recalling his hunting experience, Huth also commented on how hunting is more popular in Wisconsin than in Germany. “I like how everyone can hunt here,” Huth said. “It’s so cheap.”
In Germany, it isn’t easy to participate in hunting. In order to own a gun, one has to be older than 18, have a gun license, and have gun insurance that covers liability up to one million Euros. “The only people who have a gun are police, soldiers, veterans, or hunters,” Huth said. In addition, there are hurdles associated with attaining a hunting license. “Hunters are not very common,” Huth said.
West German teacher Corey Petzold explained that hunting is a more affluent pastime in Germany than it is in Wisconsin. “It’s not something a common person would do. It’s a more esteemed pastime,” Petzold said. Also, the European land has been developed, farmed, and hunted for centuries, so native deer aren’t as common as they are here in Wisconsin. “They may hunt on special properties where game may be stocked, like a farm,” Petzold said.
(Top image: Simon Huth learns to blow snow. Photograph courtesy of Joe Rathsack. Middle photograph courtesy of Simon Huth.)