My adventure begins as the sun rises, a sure-fire way to reap Instagram glory. But social media vanity aside, there are other reasons for getting up this early once in a while, especially if you’re as far north as I’ve ever been. As daylight creeps over the pines to the east, the sun glinting across the still, glass-like lake it feels like I’ve slipped through a gap in the universe and landed in a new dimension of immeasurable magnificence.
Back on planet Earth, I’ve travelled to the remote location of Boda, Östergötland (Sweden) for the field testing of the new and existing Browning dog vests at Mamima Jakt – a specialised training centre for hunting dogs.
What was unique about Östergötland straightaway was the sense of freedom I felt, the sound of sheer silence as you walked outside that encompassed you for miles and miles – the pure essence of serenity. Even though I had shared the experience within a group, I had an overwhelming feeling of solitude there, a chance to reflect on the busy schedule of day-to-day life back at home, it fascinated me and continues to.
The Nordic form of training at Mamima Jakt is carried out by Lars Schepler and his son Michael in different enclosures of varying sizes, from two to six hectares. Across all 9 enclosures there are wild boar that match every level of dog, from the young beginner to the older and more experienced. Each enclosure is based on level, so the entry level enclosure (“Sumpen”) has much tamer wild boar and is a lot smaller in size compared to that of enclosure 9 (“Kandidaten”) – making it easier for the dog to find and react to the boar. Together Lars, Michael and other helping students train around 800-1000 dogs a year.
Before the dogs are released in the enclosures, a full review is conducted to judge the ability of the dog. A totally inexperienced dog will usually begin in the “Sump” or “Ravine”, the lower level enclosures, trainers will then review how the dog reacts mentally, how it acts in contact with the boars and how it develops with increased severity. Mamima Jakt train a whole variety of hunting breeds from Spaniels, Terriers and Hounds. But, there was one that had my utmost attention, the Jämthund.
Born and bred in Sweden, the Jämthund is eponymous to Jämtland and finds itself right at home in the dense pine forests of Scandinavia, together with it’s hard-working, loyal attitude the dog faces no problems with the typical undulating landscape whilst hunting.
The Hunting Culture
What I find so fascinating about the Swedish culture of hunting here is that the dogs are specifically trained to ‘bay’ – to find, chase, and then bay (bark), from a safe distance from large animals during the hunt. With this certain method of hunting, you rely heavily on the dog before you even think of pulling the trigger. There has to be a connection, a sense of trust in your dogs abilities – which makes training so vital! You let the dog off the lead and in a moments notice it’s gone, off into the thick, doing all the work for you.
Unlike the familiar deer stalking I’m used to, the excitement here comes from tracking, following and understanding your dogs every movement on the GPS, with it being over 2km away a lot of the time. It’s only when you hear the faint sound of barking in the distance you know the chase is on. What captivates me so much about this certain culture is the bond between hunter and dog – you will only reap the rewards of the hunt with teamwork at the heart of it,