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Experience the autumn

In autumn, nature has a lot to offer. For example, colourful forests invite you to take a relaxing walk or a bike ride. For all explorers, it is the time of nature's spectacles. Mushroom hikes, deer rutting or other nature observations are possible, but should always take place in accordance with the conservation regulations. We have some tips for you.

Guided mushroom hikes

September and October are the main season for mushroom pickers. This is when meadow mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, chanterelles and other mushrooms sprout. East Belgium’s vast forests provide the best conditions for picking the delicious forest fruits. Since not everyone is familiar with the different mushroom varieties and in order to protect the plants and forest animals, we recommend participating in one of the many organised mushroom walks that are offered in East Belgium.


 

Other things to see in the great outdoors

Everywhere, rowan berries gleam in the most beautiful hues of coral, and temptingly juicy blackberries are there for the picking. For many nature enthusiasts, a great attraction is to go foraging for mushrooms on their own, unless they prefer to join a guided mushroom ramble led by experts of the Naturparkzentrum Botrange or the Naturzentrum Haus Ternell.

The conservation organisations such as AVES-Ostkantone or BNVS/Natagora invite you to take part in interesting bird-watching rambles in October, with the focus on the observation of migrating birds. The autumn in particular is ideal for paying a visit to a large number of manor houses, castles, churches, chapels and museums, since they can be enjoyed by visitors at their leisure during the “best” hiking time without the usual crowds of tourists during the summer months. 

So it is that, particularly for nature enthusiasts and individualists, the autumn is the right time to enjoy the entire spectrum of its ruggedly beautiful natural attractions. They're out there just waiting to be discovered, with an open heart and watchful eye.


 

Hunting season in East Belgium

In East Belgium hunting can be carried out in an expansive forested area spanning some 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres). The right to hunt there can be obtained by leasing a hunting ground of at least 50 hectares (123 acres) from the forest owners (the Walloon region, the municipalities or the private owners). This lease runs for 6, 9 or 12 years. It goes without saying that every hunter must hold a hunting licence which is obtained by passing a suitable examination.

In East Belgium, game predominantly consists of stags, deer and wild boars, the hunting of which is strictly organised by legislation and the large gamekeeping communities. Contrary to popular belief, hunting is not only organised for the pleasure of hunters but, above all, for the purpose of regulating the number of animals in the forest so that the economic utilisation of the forest is ensured. If game numbers are too high, this can result in substantial damage being caused to the rejuvenation of leaf trees and to trees of economic value. For this reason, culling plans were already introduced many years ago which specify the exact number of animals which may be culled during the hunting season. These are based on the game population counted by the forest administration in the spring.

Conservation

Approximately 500 people have permission to hunt in East Belgium, either as tenants of a hunting ground or because they have received an invitation from such a tenant. The hunters are members of a large game ring whose primary objective is to organise hunting by respecting the manner in which the wildlife lives and the conservation of nature – in direct collaboration with the forest administration.

Game is extremely popular among gourmets as a gastronomic delicacy. The sale of culled game is strictly regulated in order to guarantee that it can be traced. The sale is carried out by specialised, approved companies which have applied for a licence.


 

Rutting stags

The marriage of the king of the forests also takes place in the autumn. The rutting period is the mating season of the stags, lasting around three weeks in Central Europe from the middle of September. Several stags can be found near the herd of does at the beginning of the rutting period. During this time, intense battles to win the favour of the does are staged. The outcome of these contests is that subsequently only the strongest stag, also referred to as the dominant male, remains near the herd.

The roaring typically heard during the rutting period is very often to be heard from a dominant male. The roaring is a series of three to eight individual calls. These are frequently emitted at the sight of a rival and often vary greatly in terms of voice level and timbre, depending on the animal.

How can you watch this rutting?

The rutting of stags in the autumn is an occurrence which spectators find impressive. It is well worth setting off on a hike at dawn or dusk. With a bit of luck you may get to see the stags. Whatever happens, visitors must definitely observe the existing forest rules and regulations.

The best way to see stag rutting is by taking part in guided hikes, such as the ones offered by AVES-Ostbelgien. The hiking guides of the conservation organisation provide the participants with information on how the stags go in search of their “bride”, and other useful and interesting facts covering all aspects of deer rutting. If you are lucky you will not only get to listen to these impressive animals in their quest to win the favour of the does, but also to watch them.

Guided tours & observation

Guided tour “Stag Rutting” by AVES Ostbelgien:

Guided tour "The deer rut" by AVES East Belgium:

  • Friday, 25.09.2020 from 18:00 to 20:30
  • Saturday, 26.09.2020 from 7:00 to 9:30
  • Saturday, 26.09.2020 from 18:00 to 20:30
  • Sunday, 27.09.2020 from 7:00 to 9:30

Participation is free of charge, registration is required.
Information and registration with Berthold Thomahsen +32 (0)471 19 31 67.
Start: Meeting point is the church in Rocherath. The tour continues to the platform of Dreiborn (D), 10 km away, in the Eifel National Park with a view of a clearing. Note: Please bring weatherproof clothing and binoculars.

More info

Watch red deer in their natural surroundings

  • Unforgettable spectacle of nature from the viewing gallery in Dreiborn (D)
  • More info

 


 

Information for hikers and mountainbikers

Hunting can be done from raised hides or in the form of an organised shoot. These shoots take place over the course of an entire day and over an extended area of land, which is marked out with special signposts and therefore strictly out of bounds for hikers. It is vital that these signs are adhered to as staying in the forest can be dangerous on these days. However, there are not so many organised shoots in East Belgium and they are announced in advance. Shoots are restricted so that they do not interfere too much with the use of the forest by tourists.

The procedure is very simple. The main hunting period extends from 21 September to 31 December (with some brief, additional times in the spring and summer, and bearing in mind that wild boar can be hunted at any time of the year). During this period the hunters are obliged to mount prohibition signs at the entrances to forests when there are organised shoots for deer and red deer for the safety of the guests. They must also notify the responsible forestry office at least one week before the start of the shoot. Sometimes, shoots for wild boar need to be scheduled on the same day – they are, however, signposted accordingly.

It is essential that hikers observe these prohibition signs for their own safety and that they fall back on other forest areas when a shoot is taking place. Hikers should keep strictly to the paths and officially signposted hiking trails at all times.

In general, it can be said that very few organised shoots are held on Sundays or public holidays. Since hunting from hides is the most widespread form of hunting in East Belgium, the forests here are only closed on a few days of the year. As a rule, hunting from hides normally takes place away from the hiking trails.


Hunting season: Which areas are closed?

We have put together a list of the registered dates from the forestry offices for you. Since October 2018, the new trail management on the Wanderroutenplaner GO Ostbelgien “Hiking route planner GO East Belgium” has made it easy to find the hunting times.

> Further information on trail management


 

Contact addresses

Forestry offices in East Belgium:
Direktion Malmedy Tel.: 080/ 79.90.41 oder -42-44-45 
Forstamt Büllingen  Tel.: 080/ 29 25 30
Forstamt Elsenborn   Tel.: 080/ 41 01 71
Forstamt Malmedy Tel.: 080/ 79 90 40 emergency service (weekends) - GSM: 0477/823.001
Forstamt St. Vith  Tel.: 080 / 280851
Forstamt Eupen   Tel.: 087/ 859020