Kuntsvolle Ziele (Artful Targets)
Recently, after a successful week of hunting in the Tyrol region of Austria, I had a free day to spare before my flight. While visiting some friends in Kufstein, I toured the Festung Kufstein, or Kufstein Fortress. If one is traveling to Bavaria, Tyrol, or South Tyrol and are going anywhere near Innsbruck, the Festung Kufstein is worth a stop (just don’t forget to purchase a vignette toll sticker before entering Austria!). Though better known for having the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ, the fortress has some pretty great arms-related exhibits. Tucked away in a tower was one exhibit in particular that I found fascinating: hand-painted targets of the 19th and twentieth century.
Celebrate Good times
These targets-primarily from the Schützengilde Kufstein-were used in Schützen (sometimes spelled Schuetzen) matches held to celebrate various events. Schützen-style shooting matches from the mid-1800’s onwards were shot at anywhere from 200-1000 yards, using primarily breach-loading rifles in 8.15×46 caliber (comparable to .32-40). These were often commemorative matches, celebrating such events as the Kaiser’s golden jubilee, the royal couple’s silver wedding anniversary and weddings of shooting club members. There was even one to list the upcoming year’s eligible maidens and bachelors of the town! Also from a darker period of Austria’s history was a target from 1943. The tradition of using painted targets for such matches primarily occurs in Central Europe, though there are examples of such targets historically used in Croatia as well. Though I was aware of scheutzen-style matches before, I must confess that the use of these beautiful, hand-painted target shields was a new discovery for me. I do apologize for the photo quality, as many of these shields were behind two layers of glass in order to properly preserve them.
Also exhibited was a marvelous collection of Schützenkette- Shooting medals dating from 1520-1934. It was great to see these all together, spanning many technological eras and advancements in firearms technology. Seeing medals won in the 1500’s with crossbows and matchlock arquebuses (arquebii?) next to ones won with wheel-locks, flintlocks, percussion and cartridge arms was really interesting.
Also present was a flag designed for the Schützengilde commissioned by Archduchess Stephanie in 1899. Flown at various shooting matches, this flag was also carried into battle. It saw action in the First World War during the Trento offensive of May 1916. This was due to the fact that many shooting clubs, including the Schützengilde Kufstein, formed the nucleus of various mountain and rifle units in the Austro-Hungarian army.
A continuing tradition
These painted targets, and the Schützengilden that use them, continue to be part of the tradition of Central Europe. I zeroed the rifles I was to use on my hunt in the indoor rifle range of one such club. Looking back at my photos, they had a few of these targets up on the wall (as well as an integral bar/restaurant as part of the range and clubhouse!). I may even have to practice a little “cultural appropriation”, and make some of these beautiful targets for upcoming significant celebrations. They would make quite a memento. For those of our readers traveling to or residing in Europe, keep your eye out for these fascinating, artistic targets.
Danke an meine Tiroler und Bayerischen Freunde für ihre Gastfreundschaft!