Alex Ochsner

On the Prowl – The Craft of Hunting

Schloss Landshut

Hunting is both intriguing and provocative – which is reason enough to pick up its trail. The special exhibition ‘On the Prowl. The Craft of Hunting’ at the Swiss Museum for Wildlife and Hunting at Landshut Castle puts its audience in the shoes of four mountain-dwelling hunters.

Hunting is one of the oldest crafts in human history, yet it has long since lost its relevance. We buy our steak in the supermarket or at an organic farm – or we eat plant-based alternatives. Even so, the Swiss Hunting Association has noted a marked increase in the number of people registering for hunting courses in the past few years. David Clavadetscher, the association’s president, states that this is partly due to an influx of individuals new to the practice: ‘Today, we are seeing far more people showing an interest in hunting who are not directly connected to it. This includes many urbanites and a great deal more women.’ For some, hunting – as a pure battle of wits between human and animal – represents one of the last natural experiences available, making it far superior to any other form of ‘meat production’. Others see it as a cruel blood sport. Hunting reflects the social tensions underpinning urban and alpine Switzerland. Ultimately, there are no easy answers.

Observe, wait, shoot

‘On the Prowl. The Craft of Hunting’ takes its audience on a journey into the world of Eduard Epp, Kurt Huggler, Pirmina Caminada and Arnold Berchtold. Each year, these four hunters from the mountains wait impatiently for the hunting season to start in Grisons, Bern, Valais and Uri. What drives them to hunt? What relationship do they have with the animals they are hunting? What do they need to know to be able to prepare the animal and dress the meat? The focus of the exhibition is on craftsmanship, with an attempt to look beyond the usual polarising terms: planning, preparing, observing, waiting, shooting, dressing. This much is clear: anyone who wants to hunt an animal must understand the craft behind it. Arnold Bärchtold: ‘I have a single-shot rifle. That means I have just one shot. By the time I reload, it’s too late. As a hunter, you only squeeze the trigger when you’re certain you will hit your mark and the animal will not suffer. If you cannot guarantee this, it’s better not to take the shot.’ Photos by Anne Golaz and Alex Ochsner in the exhibition shed light on the different perspectives that surround hunting. They both accompanied hunters in the field and found a powerful visual language in their coverage that is certain to elicit discussion.

‘On the Prowl. The Craft of Hunting’ is an exhibition by the Swiss Alpine Museum and has been adapted for the Swiss Museum for Wildlife and Hunting by the Natural History Museum of Bern.