When Roland Schörkhuber feeds his herd of deer near Allgäu’s Lake Bannwaldsee, spectators can watch over 150 free-range animals - with no need for hides or binoculars
Game Feeding: a Magical Encouter
Twigs crack in the undergrowth. A black nose pushes through the thicket, then another, then dozens. Magnificent antlers perch on slim, grey-brown heads and the fresh snow crunches below delicate hoofs: the deer arrive at the wild feeding site.
Just ten metres away, around two hundred people have gathered to watch, well wrapped up in warm coats. They have come to marvel at the kings of the forest as they feed. All of them are quiet as mice, even the children.
Feeding Wild Game is Good for the Trees too
As a professional hunter, one of his tasks is to feed the wild game in winter. “For wild game, it’s all a matter of survival, and since no living creature can live on air and love alone, they end up eating the buds of young saplings or peeling the bark off trees. If this were to continue, not only would the animals cause economic damage, but they would also inevitably destroy their last remaining areas of habitat,” explains Roland Schörkhuber.
As is the case almost everywhere in Germany, the native game in the Füssen region can no longer find enough of their natural winter habitat as soon as the frosts set in. Remote valleys and mild water meadows used to offer enough greenery in winter, but people have now settled in these areas. That’s why the deer now spend the whole year in the beautiful but harsh mountain terrain.
Through a Winter Wonderland by Sleigh
Feeding the wild game here, halfway between Buching and Schwangau, helps man and deer live peacefully side by side. “Visitors develop an understanding of these beautiful animals and their needs,” says the hunter.
"Respect the wildlife reserves"
He tells spectators how important retreat areas are for the survival of these shy deer: “When wild animals are startled, they run away, which uses up a lot of calories. That can have dramatic consequences in winter, when their bodies are running on empty. In the worst-case scenario, over-exertion of this kind can lead to the death of the animal.
So please stay on marked routes, keep your dogs on a lead and talk in a normal voice so that the animals hear you coming from a distance. Respect the wildlife reserves.”
The encounter that happens every afternoon at 3 o’clock here by Lake Bannwald is almost magical: the wild animals come face to face with their deadliest enemy, mankind. They approach the feeding troughs calmly and graze on the fragrant hay.
The fawns press tight against their mothers, throwing an occasional glance at the awestruck visitors in the spectator area. They, too, appear unafraid. “They know full well that the feeding station is a safe place for them,” explains Schörkhuber.
An hour passes in no time. Sated, the deer strut majestically back into the forest. The visitors walk through the magical winter landscape back to the nearby car park, trudge onwards to Buching or climb into the horse-drawn sleighs and dash off through the blindingly beautiful Alpine scenery with a jangling of bells.
Schörkhuber knows they will long remember watching the feeding of the wild game: “Our visitors are genuinely moved by the enormous sense of trust the deer show towards us.”