As it turned out, we went out for our hunt already late yesterday. The weather report I’d read was a bit more optimistic than the one Johan and Frida had seen, the latter promising rain early Sunday morning. When it rains, the hare hides in its nest and won’t move. That means that we’d waste our time sitting up waiting for ’em at dawn, witch was what the hunting tour and staying out over night was mostly about.
So we decided for a quick change of plan and after work we got our gear together and walked out in the woods at sundown. A hunter must be flexible in his plan, this of course must have been the reality for our medieval predecessors also even if they had other ways predicting the weather than we do.
I’ve got no problem walking far since I’ve got a really good pair of shoes. Frida on the other hand joined us on other terms, her only pair of shoes gave up during her pilgrimage on Gotland a few weeks ago. Therefore she walked all the way in thin leather soled hoses. Respect! When we look on contemporary pictures of hunters on foot, this is not uncommonly seen. Perhaps the hunters wanted to spare their shoes? Or is it easier to sneak about if you have an even thinner sole than on an ordinary medieval turnshoe?
To try to find out if this shoeless sneaking-style is any good, Johan took of his shoes and tried to do it in his bare hosefeet. He concluded that he could sneak twice as good without shoes as with ’em, but I also heard him swearing occasionally when hurting his feet. With this experience in mind, I’d say that it is likely that those medieval hunters pictured without shoes probably have some special task, a role requiring them to be able to sneak more quietly than others in the hunting party? Often it is those handling the dogs that go for the shoeless look…?
In medieval times hunters and maybe occasional shepards were the only ones moving about in the forest. The woods was unfamiliar, roadless, wild and dangerous ground for most people. The deep forest was believed to be inhabited by criminals, outlaws and dangerous creatures – and it was. Our folk lore from the time tells us about a rife fear for werewolves among other monsters, but the fear for predators like wolf and bear must also have been very real.
Today it is quite the opposite. Many of us are used from childhood to trekking, scouting and hunting or just enjoying ourself outdoors for fun. I like the idea of reenacting the medieval hunt because it is so easy to do for leisure. Where we live it is never far to the forest. Most of the year you’ll need to bring no tent or other heavy gear unless perhaps if you’d like to do some more advanced cocking.
We arrived at our destined camp site by a ready made timbered open shelter late in the evening. We just had time to gather some firewood before it got dark. Then we huddled up around the fire and had our dinner, marinated grilled meat, wine and a nice piece of cheese.
By midnight we called it a day, rolled out our blankets in the shed and tried to get an hour or two of sleep before dawn. I tucked myself in beside Johan and his great wolf hound Boudica rolled herself up against my back. That sweet dog and I, we have something special together! I was glad she decided to sleep with me both because of the flatter in it and because she generously shared her warmth with me.
But it was not long before the birds began to sing and we woke up to a new day, only 3 hours later. The sun had not yet risen, but it was time for us hunters to do just that. The dog, Johan and I left Frida sleeping in camp.
We did a rather good job sneaking around I think, being the first time and all. We were out for about 1,5 hour and saw the sun rise over the fields and the forest. Even thou we were very quiet we saw nothing but a few birds. Yet the woods was magically beautiful and our long walk would have been all worthwhile were it not for all those painfully itching mosquito bites we earned. I was both happy and surprised to be met by a burning camp fire, Frida bright awake and a ready made breakfast when we returned to camp!
By this one experience I dare not say if I think it true or not what I told you yesterday that Edward Norwich stated in his Master of Game:
The hunter is more joyful than other men, and he is never idle and has no mind for sin as he returns tired and pleased with himself after hunting. Every man that has good sense, knows well that this is the truth.
I know for sure that he/she is very, very tiered after a hunters night and morning out. And I definitely have no mind for sin today, as tiered as I am. So he’s right about that one anyway.