“Actually, in my belief, deer are there to be eaten. And we so happen to make clothes from the animal’s skin”, Tobias Zant recalls his firm belief, standing in his Säcklermeister leather workshop in the small town Zell am See. “Hunters are actually a companion, a guardian of the wild deer. Only old and sick animals are being shot by us. However, our main task is to protect the deer as well as the forest they live in, and keep up a certain harmony with nature”, Gerhard Schaffer, responsible for the deer feeding in Thumersbach near Zell am See, lets us in on quite some contradictory beliefs.
What to think, then?
One thing’s for sure: The quaint little lakeside town Zell am See offers us a chance to meet all kinds of local characters. Take for instance young fashion designer Mirabell Plummer, who has made a name for herself starting with home-knitted woolly hats featuring the logo “Eat, Sleep, Ski, Repeat”. The team of hunters, or animal guardians as it is, enchanting both adults and children as part of a fascinating wild deer feeding. The Almhütten cosy alpine huts as well as the cosy Genusswerk bar & restaurant right in Zell am See, home also to the likes of Tobias Zant who love to rebel against cheap leather productions around the world. “I hardly have to leave my hotel walking around Zell am See, stories line up as if made for us!” I smile, thinking to myself. Then again, my eyes wander over the mighty mountains at our side, which we have come to explore in the two days that follow.
Let’s first take a step out and around Zell am See, shall we?
If where you are headed is out of Zell am See, I cannot recommend Schmittenhöhe & Kitzsteinhorn ski resorts highly enough. Alternatively …
…you may opt for a ski tour. Locals tell us that the Ronachkopf mountain, about half an hour’s drive from Zell am see, is perfectly suitable. But be aware: You need at least some prior experience with ski-touring, as we unfortunately failed in our attempt to tour up the mountain due to icy bits and steep inclines. I am, however, very tempted to try again! Did you know that tour skis are first being “dressed with fur” for the climbing part, before turned back into alpine skis for the downhill part? Check this out.
Last but not least, it’s time to stalk up some red deer and mouflon mountain sheep as part of our journey to Zell am See.
For right about an hour, up here at 1.500 metres above sea-level, all we can here is … the sound of silence. Outside, that is. We are inside a small, purpose-built little viewing hut, with tinted glass and sound-proof wooden walls, so that no sound can escape us and chase away what, or who, we have come to see: “Deer & mouflon sheep are extremely shy. The only noise they are used to is the tractor and the voices of our hunters during feeding hours”, Gerhard Schaffer and his team of young hunters tell us inside the hut. “The red deer which you can see here, is able to see the blink of an eye from a distance of 100 metres”. Incredible! My eyes widen, and I am shamed to think that not even my zoom lense camera is able to see THAT well. Respect for the life of mouflon sheep & red deer ahead of us rise, as we continue to watch more and more animals flock to the front.
Disclaimer: We have been invited by SalzburgerLand Tourism on this trip to Zell am See – Kaprun. All opinions are my own.