The Red Baron Could Hunt

By Seth Ahonen

Manfred Von Richthofen, more commonly known as the “Red Baron,” was a German fighter pilot who racked up 80 kills during WWI. Most know of his exploits in the air, but some of his greatest—and lesser known—hunts were on land.

Growing up in what is now Poland, Richthofen spent his early years hunting boar, birds, elk and deer with his brothers. When the war first broke out he was a reconnaissance officer in the calvary, seeing action on both the Eastern and Western Front. By early 1915 however, the trenches had been dug and boredom set in, so he took to the woods, returning to a pastime of his childhood. The forest of La Chaussee provided for him and proved to be fruitful, often hunting wild boar, even going so far as to build a stand in a tree and wait for them at night. One day, a line of boars caught his eye, he jumped off his horse and grabbed his subordinates carbine. After moving several hundred yards in he saw, in his words: “a mighty boar. I had never yet seen such a beast and was surprised at its gigantic size” he killed it and kept it as a trophy, one of many he killed in the late winter months of 1915.

In July of 1917 he took a British .303 to the head, which resulted in daily vomiting, nausea and throbbing headaches. Due to the symptoms he went on convalescent leave from September through October, and ended up in East Prussia in search of privacy. It was there he met Albert Mohnicke, a forester and the father of a Jasta 11 squadronmate.

Albert took him to a hunting lodge built by the Kaiser, knowing what he needed, and the next day Manfred set off on an elk hunt. After walking for what he assumed to be eight or nine kilometers, he took a seat to rest. While seated he saw a large stag, shouldered his rifle and made what he estimated to be a 170 meter shot—pretty solid for a dude who’s got a walking-into-walls level of TBI.

That elk made five kills for the month, having already bagged three large deer and a ram. During the hunt, Manfred entertained ideas of what he might do after the war. One thought was becoming a big game tour guide in Africa. This aspiration, however, never came to fruition as he was killed in action on April 21st, 1918. The only African prey he ever bagged were the three South African pilots he shot down.

When his body was recovered by the Australian Air Force, they buried him with full honors. Nearby flying squadrons gathered to present memorial wreaths, one reading, “To our gallant and worthy foe.” 

From the FE Films Archive

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