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A magnificent nightly spectacle - In the woods with deer caller Tasso Wolzenburg

from Stefanie Stoltenberg · October 13, 2020 · Travelog · Siegerland-Wittgenstein
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  • Photo: Friedhelm Stark, Touristikverband Siegerland-Wittgenstein e.V.
It is twilight on a mild, summer evening, the narrow crescent moon provides hardly any light. It is quiet in the forest as we creep along carefully on silent feet over the soft, fragrant forest floor. The first leaves have already turned yellow and there is a hint of autumn in the air. We try to stay as quiet as mice and keep our ears pricked. Because very close by in the forest, there is a powerful red deer stag and we wait for it to react to Tasso Wolzenburg’s special call.

Then suddenly, rustling and cracking right in front of us - what was that? Was it the deer we are looking for? A small branch breaks underfoot and the sound reverberates. We listen in the silence of the forest and try to see what is in front of us. Tasso Wolzenburg listens and then calls to this impressive animal again. With both hands, he holds an extendible pipe to his mouth and skilfully imitates the rutting call of the red deer.

More rustling, and a large stag appears in the forest clearing. He eyes us up with curiosity and is probably asking himself what we are doing here in his forest. Then he shows us quite clearly who is boss. He bellows – deep and loud. The dominant stag defending his territory. His voice carried far and wide, impressing more than just the female deer. We respect him too and are glad the expert Tasso Wolzenburg is with us. Up close, such a proud red deer stag is very big and his mighty antlers look really impressive too.

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The annual rut takes place from the end of August to the beginning of October every year. While many other animals are trying to put on weight for winter, the deer are in the full stress of the rutting season. Especially the males, who now have to defend their territory and their females. They want to procreate and one of the ways they demonstrate their dominance is through their rut call. Once twilight falls, their bellows echo through the forest. You can experience these imposing and often shy creatures up close with Tasso Wolzenburg. The rut is a magnificent spectacle, showing the breath-taking beauty and fascination of nature.
As a boy, Tasso Wolzenburg spent lots of time in the forest. His father and grandfather took him with them and his passion for this special habitat grew. Years later, he made his passion a career and hobby. Tasso Wolzenburg knows the forest here around the Forsthaus Hohenroth forest information centre like the back of his hand. He has worked for the Forstamt Siegen-Wittgenstein regional forestry administration since 1989 and also enjoys spending his free time here. He has also worked at Forsthaus Hohenroth for almost 20 years:
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“There has been an almost 50 hectare red deer enclosure at Forsthaus Hohenroth since 2006. The boss of the enclosure was a tall, dominant stag called Manni. I had a very special relationship with him; he was my four-legged best friend. And he was the one who drew the visitors. Everyone wanted to see and marvel at Manni. On my guided tours, I would call Manni twice and the old, fat stag would follow my calls. Unfortunately he is no longer with us, but his two sons have grown up to become dominant stags too. I also have a very good relationship with Alnuss; he comes when I call”, says Tasso Wolzenburg, full of enthusiasm.
“But in spring, from May to June, the deer spend more and more time eating because they must be physically prepared by the end of August – when the rut begins. Fully-grown animals can weigh between 250 and 280 kilograms! At the same time, their testosterone level is so high that they feel no pain – otherwise they would not survive the rut”, the expert explains. “Their antlers can weigh up to eleven kilograms and be over a metre long! You can imagine how strong the neck muscles of such an animal must be.”

Tasso Wolzenburg is one of the best deer callers in Germany, has won the German deer calling championship several times and has also participated in championships throughout Europe. He has also appeared on radio and television on numerous occasions. His love of nature and respect for animals, plants and the environment are clear to see with every word. He enjoys taking visitors into the forest and guides us to beautiful, enchanted places, showing us the nature surroundings. We are impressed, because Tasso Wolzenburg clearly knows what he is talking about. He inspires, informs and fascinates his audience – old or young, everyone gladly listens to him.

Deer caller Tasso Wolzenburg
Deer caller Tasso Wolzenburg
Tasso Wolzenburg, born in 1965, is a trained forester and has known this terrain since childhood. As an employee of the Landesbetriebs Wald und Holz Nordrhein-Westfalen forestry agency, he tends the forest, offers guided tours and excursions and takes care of the red deer enclosure. He is involved in teaching school classes from all over NRW at the Jugendwaldheim Gillerberg forest youth hostel in Hilchenbach-Lützel and is currently assisting forestry management with the bark beetle problem. He is also a chainsaw artist and creates wooden sculptures of all sizes.

Deer: A fully-grown red deer is an imposing sight. Only the males have antlers, which they shed every spring. A completely new set of antlers grows in about 130 days – including rubbing. The antlers, which grow until the beginning of August, are bigger than the previous pair. The antlers are initially covered by perfused, hairy skin called velvet. At the end of the growing period, the stag scrapes off this skin by rubbing his antlers against branches and tree trunks. Hunters and wildlife biologists call this rubbing. The colour of the antlers comes from the colours of nature, so if the deer mainly rubs his antlers against spruce trees, they are very dark and sometimes almost black. If he lives among willow and birch trees, the sap tends to turn the antlers a lighter colour.


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Stefanie Stoltenberg
Updated: October 13, 2020


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