Schneeschaf auf Kamtschatka!
Jan Prinsen ist ein erfahrener J?ger! Dieses August hat er auf Kamtschatka gejagt. Unten ist seine Reisebeschreibung, die er in "Hunting report" ver?ffentlicht hat.
Editor Note: Anyone who has traveled to hunt (or fish) in Russia knows exactly how rewarding and frustrating that can be. Usually, a-l-m-o-s-t everything goes as planned. Subscriber Jan Prinsen filed this lively account of a recent snow sheep hunt on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. As he says, "Why worry? Enjoy!"...
My August 2008 Kamchatka snow sheep hunt saw nearly two weeks of rain, without any possibility of hunting. My wife suffered through it uncomplaining but refused to accompany me on my recent return to Kamchatka August 1-7, 2012. Of course, I came home sunburned.
I booked this trip through Westfalia (phone from the US 011-49-2161-9278-0) from Germany, with Moscow-based PRO Russian Outfitters (telephone from the US 011-7-499-714-5514). My contact on the telephone with PRO was Eugenie; she spoke and wrote English perfectly.
On this hunt I was accompanied by my guide Alexander, his "assistant" Nikolaj, both from the local hunting region and Ilya Fedorov, a young photographer from Petropavlovsk, who was also the cook and very fluent translator in the base camp. I did not have any problem communicating with my guides in the field, but it did get boring listening to them talk and not being able to participate. I was very happy to have my iPod with me when not in base camp.
My flights into and across Russia were hassle-free, as I did not have a rifle with me. I was promised the use of a Blaser R93, the same rifle I have done all my hunting with since 1999. I did take my own scope and, with the Blaser saddle mounting, needed only a few test shots to have my scope sighted in..
The Karymchina region where we hunted is only 100 kilometers southwest by air from Petropavlovsk, but to get to the hunting area, we had to drive over 200 kilometers. From Yelizovo, we travelled by Toyota Land Cruiser to a village, then by truck to the base camp. From there we used a tracked military vehicle to the tent camp at the foot of the mountain. Of course, the tracks fell off twice when we were deep in the Kamchatka wilderness, hours from civilization, with millions of mosquitoes besieging us. The gear box needed repairing too. But why worry? Alexander and Nikolaj were great repairmen.
Finally, in the hunting area at an altitude of 970 meters, we made camp and ate some soup. We saw sheep two kilometers away (as the crow flies), but decided to try to find some in a more accessible spot. What we did find were bears, five in total, including one real big bear at 1,100 meters in altitude. In this region a combo sheep/bear hunt would surely make sense!
Next morning started with some fog, but we climbed 400 meters to have a view from an outcrop 2.5 kilometers away from our camp. We saw only the same sheep from the day before and decided to go for these. This involved going down 500 meters, climbing back up 500 meters and walking 2.8 kilometers to get us, at 1 pm, within 600 meters of the sheep. But there we stopped. No way to get closer! This gave me the opportunity to have a good look at the four real good rams and one even better in a mixed herd of eleven sheep.
Fortunately for us the sheep moved to siesta in a shaded ravine, and we could get closer. As it turned out, real close! When we found them again they were only 50 meters away. It only took few seconds to find the oldest ram and shoot, with Alexander yelling "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" like any full-blooded Russian. And, of course, from that distance the shot could have been made with the original scope . . .
My ram was 12 years old, with horns 92 centimeters (36 inches) long, and bases of nearly 40 centimeters (15.7 inches). After caping, it took more than four hours to get back to our tent, where we had some soup and fell asleep. We broke up camp next morning at 9 am, left the mountain, drove back to the hut where we had left Ilya the day before, had some soup, and drove further to a very nice camp, originally meant for bear hunters. Here we stayed the night. In the morning the skull was cleaned, we had some soup (yes, Russians love soup and it was very good!) and then left for Petropavlovsk, where we arrived at 8 pm, just in time for a nice dinner.
On Tuesday morning we rescheduled my flights and filled out the necessary paperwork to get the trophy to Moscow. I was supposed to give the trophy and the paperwork to a Russian taxidermist in Moscow for proper processing before having it shipped to the EU. But this did not work out. I was not told where I was to meet the taxidermist, so I went on to my flight expecting to see a Russian with my name waiting. He wasn't, nor did anyone call my cell phone. From a business lounge I was able to reach the taxidermist and we decided that I would go back through security and customs where the taxidermist would meet me. When I got there with a police officer helping me, the taxidermist was nowhere in sight and I only got his answering machine. When I finally reached him, he said he had been walking around and on the telephone with Eugenie from PRO. Police then said to hurry and check-in, with the trophy. I had the choice to leave my trophy unattended somewhere in the airport in Moscow or take it with me and risk EU customs. I chose the latter, and when I got home at 11:30 pm after a 27-hour day, I breezed through customs in Germany with the trophy. They did not even look at me!
Traveling through Russia without an accompanying translator is not always easy, and hiccups like the trophy that should have stayed in Moscow do occur. I was lucky as EU Customs could have confiscated my trophy. But why worry?
On what was supposed to be a 10-day hunt, I spent only two days in the "mountains" (really just hills). I saw five bears and 11 sheep including my trophy. I have hunted with PRO before and would recommend them. In fact, I have a Kyrgyzstan hunt with them already lined up!
Postscript: Prinsen seems to have a habit of getting very close to game normally taken at long range. See his report (ID 8436) on a November, 2011 Texas aoudad hunt. We hope he'll file a report on 50-meter shots in Kyrgyzstan.