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As a young child, maybe 8 or 10 years old I remember seeing a documentary on Russia. In particular it was a documentary on Lake Baikal in south eastern Russia which contains 20% of the entire worlds fresh water. Lake Baikal has its own species of seal the only type found in fresh water and crustaceans that are normally found in the world’s oceans. I was so in awe with what I saw that I knew one day I would visit Russia!
It may have taken 40 odd years but I finally got there. Russia is truly a huge country, by far the largest country on earth covering some 17,125,200 square kilometers, 8,000 kilometers from east to west, 10 different time zones and 37,000 kilometers of coast line with a population of 147,000,000 people. Some fairly impressive statistics but for like minded people such as myself the hunting in Russia is some of the best you will find anywhere in the world.
I have been very fortunate to hunt in the present-day Russian Federation and some of the independent states that used to make up the former United Soviet Socialist Republic or USSR. Countries like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. To list all the hunting opportunities in these afore mentioned countries I could fill a book, so I intend to stick with the Russian Federation for the purpose of this article.
The jewel in the crown of hunting destinations in Russia would no doubt be the Kamchatka Peninsula on the far east coast and a short distance from Alaska. Kamchatka has an area of 270,000 square kilometers and is 1,250 kilometers long. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the eastern side and the Sea of Okhotsk on the western side and the highest mountain is Klyuchevskaya Sopka at 4,750 meters.
Probably the best-known big game animal on Kamchatka is the brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus) only slightly smaller and a close relative to the Kodiak Island brown bear. With a body length of 2.4 to 3 meters and weight of 650 kg to 700 kg. Most trophy bears square out an average of 9.5 feet with a few bigger specimens taken each year measuring 10 ft and the odd 11 ft monster.
Hunting is best done in Spring, late April to mid-May when the bears have recently left their hibernation dens and head for the coast in search of food. At this time hides are at their best prior to rubbing out the Winter fur in preparation for Summer. Hunting can also take place in Autumn when bears are “fishing” on the salmon runs.
Kamchatka have the same species of salmon as Alaska starting with the king salmon run in July and finishing with the silver salmon in September and providing an important food source for Kamchatka’s bear population. Bears also feed extensively on berries and nuts from pine and ash trees which provide 70% of their fat reserves for Winter hibernation. Fall or Autumn hunts are a little hit and miss with the larger males tending to feed at night. At this time bears are mostly taken as an add on animal combined with snow sheep or moose hunts. For those seeking the best possible chance to take a huge trophy bear then your chances are much better hunting in Spring.
At this time, you will be hunting from a sled towed behind a snowmobile and a good coverage of snow is essential which during late April early May is the case. Average price for the hunt is around US$15,000 depending on the access to the hunting concession. Some concessions are only accessible by helicopter. Camps have a range of facilities but a good camp would have warm huts or tents with wood stoves, a kitchen/dining area and of course a Russian banya (sauna). Nothing better than relaxing in a steaming hot sauna after a day of having your bones rattled on the snow sled! Food is a mixture of western and Russian cuisine but is hearty and filling, some camps have a fulltime chef if you are lucky as these guys can produce some masterpieces on a small gas stove and a wood fire.
These hunts are usually 10 to 12 days in duration including travel into and return from the hunting concession. Another bonus for hunters is you can take a second bear, this will usually cost between US$5,000 and US$7,000 and will require a second CITES permit. Very reasonable price when you consider the price of a brown bear hunt in Alaska, you could shoot 2 huge bears in Kamchatka and still have some change in your pocket!
Kamchatka Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola nivicola) is a close relative of the Dall Sheep (Ovis dalli) in Alaska and the Stone Sheep (Ovis dalli stonei) of Canada when some 750,000 years ago the snow sheep crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia to Alaska. The name “Bighorn” sheep is incorrect as like the Dall and Stone sheep Kamchatka snow sheep are thin horned sheep as are all the wild sheep in Russia. Kamchatka snow sheep are the largest sub species of Russian sheep standing a height of 1 meter at the shoulder and weighing in at around 80 to 95 kg. The coat of the Kamchatka snow sheep is a brownish grey colour with a distinct white rump patch and white muzzle as well as some white markings around the horns. Any sheep found on Kamchatka Peninsula below the 60th Parallel are considered Kamchatka snow sheep.
Kamchatka snow sheep hunt is a typical wild sheep hunt and requires a lot of physical fitness to have a successful and enjoyable hunt, anyone contemplating this hunt should start a fitness regime at least 6 months prior to the hunt and continuing right up to departure. Most rams are found in steep terrain during the day with access to grassy high basins for feeding. Rams are usually found in small groups of 3 to 5 animals and once spotted a stalk can be planned. Be prepared to spend plenty of time glassing and a good quality spotting scope is essential and can save a lot of leg work. Accommodation is in tented camps if transfer into the hunting area is by helicopter, when horses are used to access hunting areas there are usually small huts with bunks and cooking facilities.
Kamchatka snow sheep hunts can vary quite a bit in price from around US$16,000 up to US$26,000 for a hunt that includes helicopter flight into a remote area. Generally, a hunt would last for around 8 to 10 days in total and depending on the density of sheep numbers this is usually enough time to look over a few good rams before finding a shooter. Season opens the 1st August with the first 3 weeks being the premium time, hunters can also add on a brown bear as there is a good chance of coming across bears whilst on this hunt.
Hunters could also include a fishing trip if time permits as this is right in the middle of the salmon run. There are plenty of fishing outfitters that have some exceptional fishing available in some pristine rivers that are also famous for rainbow trout and further south fishing for the mighty taimen.
These moose are the largest antlered animal in the world originating from the Chukotka Moose (Alces alces buturlini) of north eastern Siberia. Moose were not found in southern Kamchatka peninsula prior to 1978 as the severe climate, deep snow and lack of vegetation on the mountain passes prevented their migration to the south. The regional hunting department tried to relocate a group of adult moose onto the peninsular in the early 1970’s however due to the stress on these mature animals this attempt failed. In 1978 a group of 45 young moose from Chukotka region were again relocated to the Kamchatka river valley in central Kamchatka and this attempt proved successful. With the mild climate and abundant food source these animals soon flourished and over the next 20 years the population had multiplied to some 3,000 animals.
Hunting moose in Kamchatka is carefully controlled and only limited licenses are given to outfitters each season. These moose have earned the reputation of the biggest trophy quality moose in the world with the number 1 SCI world record with a score of 756 1/8 inch being taken in 2017. Hunters can expect to take a moose averaging 60 inches as the norm especially in the late season November/ December. At this time there is snow on the ground and most rivers and swamps have frozen making access on snowmobiles possible. Also, the vegetation at this time is devoid of leaves so you are able to see much further than during the fall season. My experience has indicated that certain areas are favoured at this time by big bulls, whether this is due to available or preferred food source I am not sure. However, this theory was supported in December 2019 when 3 huge bulls all over 70 inches were taken within 1 kilometre and they weren’t the only big moose in this area.
Hunting camps consist of wooden cabins including separate sleeping quarters, kitchen and dining room and sauna/ washing areas. Most camps have a full time cook and food consists of western style and some wonderful Russian cuisine including borsch (soup) salmon caviar, fresh caught trout, game birds (capercaillies and ptarmigan) and of course moose meat probably the best venison available.
On a fall hunt you have a good chance to come across a brown bear particularly after a moose kill when bears will come to a gut pile. Again, this is a good time to add on some fishing for salmon and trout. As I alluded to earlier, the fall season has nowhere near the success of the winter season, there are several reasons for this. Most good moose country is very wet and boggy, an ideal habitat for moose but not so kind to humans, this environment is also crisscrossed with hundreds of rivers and streams which in winter are mostly frozen allowing access for snowmobiles. During the fall season most of the cover is quite dense and this cuts down the visibility and distance you can see dramatically. Even though the moose is a huge animal standing around 2 meters at the shoulder they can be surprisingly hard to find in the dense undergrowth and particularly in undulating country near river beds. Obviously in winter the bush is devoid of leaves giving a lot more distance to sight animals, also moose tend to congregate in valley bottoms feeding on twigs and branches in small bachelor groups.
Whilst there are other huntable species on Kamchatka I have only concentrated on the major big game animals. There are large populations of caribou on Kamchatka but these are mainly farmed by the local indigenous communities of Koryaks, Avens, Chukchies and Itelmans. These people are similar to the indigenous populations in Alaska and Canada and have Autonomous regions across the Russian federation. Caribou are herded and moved between summer and winter pastures and farmed for meat, skins and milk in a traditional lifestyle that has lasted for centuries.
Other species hunted in Kamchatka include capercaillie, ptarmigan, waterfowl, fox, lynx, wolverine, wolf, hares and rabbits. There is also a large trapping industry still functioning today mostly for sable (Martes zibeline) and other members of the martin family. Many of the cabins used for big game hunting originated from the trapping industry built to provide warmth and shelter for the long winter season.
There are 3 other species of moose in Russia besides Chukotka Moose, there is the Siberian or Yakutia Moose (Alces alces pfizenmayeri) which is widely distributed in most forested areas of eastern Russia and Siberia excluding the Chukotka ranges in the north. The Amur or Ussurian Moose (Alces alces cameloides) in the Amur- Ussuri region of Russia and north east China. This is the smallest subspecies of moose in Asia and the world standing between 1.65 and 1.85 at the shoulder and weighing in at between 200 and 350 kg. Then there is the European Moose (Alces alces) that inhabits the western parts of Russia and the Scandinavian and Baltic countries.
There are extensive hunting opportunities for these other species of moose with hunts ranging from US$3,000 up to US$8,000. Trophy size of these moose are all inferior to the Chukotka Moose of Kamchatka and the far north east of Russia with the Siberian/ Yakutia Moose being similar in size to a central Canadian Moose.
There are 7 recognised species of snow sheep in the Russian federation, however most of the areas that contain snow sheep overlap and natural cross breeding occurs. The only species of sheep that is completely isolated from other populations is the fully protected Putorana Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola borealis). This is the western most population of sheep found in the Putorana mountains south of the Taimyr Peninsular some 1,000 klm from other sheep populations further east.
We have covered the Kamchatka snow sheep already so the other 5 subspecies are Kolyma Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola ssp) mostly found in the Kolyma mountain range in the Magadan region. The northern border is the Chukotka Autonomous regional border the eastern border is the river valley west of the Koryak mountains and the sea of Okhotsk. The western border is considered to be the border of Yakutia from the Omolon river to the Kolyma river then follows the Kolyma river to the Trans-Siberian Highway which starts in Magadan.
Koryak Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola koriakorum) a close relative of the Kamchatka Snow Sheep Koryak Snow Sheep is found north of 60 deg latitude and south of 64 deg in the Koryak mountains and the Ledyanaya region north of Kamchatka. Okhotsk Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola alleni) The range of the Okhotsk Snow Sheep is east of the Lena river including the Yablonovy, Stanovoi and DzugDzhur mountains and west of Magadan south of 62 deg latitude. Then south of the Trans-Siberian Highway until the border of Yakutia. Most good sheep populations are found in the Khabarovsk region of Siberia.
Yakutia Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola lydekkeri) are the highest populated snow sheep around 40,000 animals and are located from the Lena River eastward North of 62º N, including the Verhoyansk, Cherskiy, Momskiy, Kolyma and other ranges, west of the Penzhina River. The majority of this subspecies are found in the Yakutia Region of Siberia. All the sheep located in the Yakutia or Sakha Autonomous Region are considered to be Yakutia Snow Sheep. Within the Magadan Region, the eastern boundary is the Kolyma River until it intersects with the southern route of the Trans-Siberian Highway. The boundary then runs westerly until the trans-Siberian Highway intersects with the border of Yakutia.
This subspecies of snow sheep is found in the Chukotka Autonomous Region of Russia. It is north of the Koryak and Magadan Regions, and east of Yakutia. The Chukotka region is vast, and in reality, only a small portion of its habitat is suitable for the sheep. It is believed that there are several different mountainous areas of Chukotka where the sheep can be found, but not in large numbers. Also obtaining a permit for Chukotka Snow Sheep can be difficult.
Like all sheep hunts around the world this is a physically demanding hunt whatever species you hunt. Sheep mostly inhabit steep rugged terrain with access to some pasture or grassy basins for feeding. Seasons for all sheep open at the beginning of August with the first few weeks being the prime time, although with Yakutia sheep there is evidence that later in the season can produce some outstanding results if the hunter can cope with the cold weather.
Camps mostly consist of tents with separate tents for cooking and eating and sleeping tents for 1 or 2 hunters. This is mostly the case for fly in hunts using helicopters where as in Yakutia some camps are accessible by modified all-terrain vehicles and permanent camps with wooden cabins are used. With some hunts you may spike camp for 2 or 3 days at a time whilst looking for a suitable ram to harvest, on these hunts you will be carrying your food so mostly lightweight freeze-dried meals are prepared. If you are staying in base camps or permanent camps there will be a full-time cook providing western and Russian style meals.
Price can vary quite a bit from around US$14,000 for hunts not requiring helicopter transfers up to US$26,000 for more remote hunts in wilderness areas requiring helicopter flights.
Russia has several species of deer throughout the republic inhabiting many varied environments. Siberian Musk Deer (Moschus moschiferus), Caspian Red Deer (Cervus elaphus maral), Bactrian Deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus) Alti Wapiti (Cervus canadensis sibiricus) Manchurian Wapiti (Cervus canadensis xanthopygus) Manchurian/Dybowski Sika (Cervus nippon mantchuricus) Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) Siberian Roebuck (Capreolus pygargus).
Of these species hunting opportunities only exist for red stag, Altai maral/wapiti, Manchurian maral/wapiti and Siberian roebuck.
Altai Wapiti can be hunted in in the Altai Autonomous Region of south western Siberia bordering China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. These maral are generally smaller in body size as well as antlers than maral found in neighbouring Kazakhstan. Hunting technique is quite similar to hunting elk in the US and Canada where bulls are located by glassing then called into range with a bugle and a cow call. Antlers are typically 12 points with throwbacks or whale tails as they are known in the USA, it’d not unusual for maral to have additional points and some bulls look closer to a red stag in Antler formation.
Hunts generally last around 10 days with accommodation being provided in cabins or in tents and horse are often used to access more remote places. Hunts can vary from US$10,000 up to US$14,000 depending on the area and some hunts have the possibility to add on an Altai ibex. Best time for maral hunting is the last 2 weeks of September and the beginning of October when bulls are bugling their challenges across the mountains and valleys, pretty exciting stuff when 3 or 4 bulls are really going at it!
Manchurian Wapiti are smaller again than their relative the Altai Wapiti. Living in the far east of the country in the Amur region close to the city of Khabarovsk. Hunting is similar to any other wapiti/maral species and done during the bugle season in mid to late September. The big difference with Manchurian Maral is the habitat is dissimilar and heavily forested giving a very limited view of bulls until they are at close range. Hunting season is the same as Alti Maral and can be combined with Amur brown bear and Asiatic black bear, cost for a maral hunt in this area is around US$9.000.
Siberian Roebuck (Capreolus pygargus) hunts are probably the most popular hunts in the Russian Federation excluding Kamchatka Peninsula. Being quite a bit larger than their European cousin’s Siberian Roebuck can grow up to 1 metre at the shoulder and obtain a weight of 40 to 50 kg in a mature buck. The best region for these deer is Kurgan which is located in Central Western Russia at the southern end of the Ural Mountains and close to the border with Kazakhstan.
The hunting industry is well developed here with many hunting camps and lodges scattered around the fertile farm lands of the region. Hunting is done from stands or stalking the bush edges looking for feeding bucks. Season for this hunt is August to beginning of September with the best dates of August 25th to September 15th the peak of the rut. As well as larger body size bucks have much longer and heavier antlers with 17 inches and 700 grams in weight being a good average specimen. Accommodation can range from rustic wooden cabins to 4-star hunting lodges with full time chefs. Most hunts are 5 days and you could take up to 3 bucks in this time priced at around 3,000 euro including 1 buck, second and third buck will be charged on the weight of the antlers.
Russia is not known as a top world destination for red stag hunting. However, several Russian Southern regions offer world class red deer hunting. One of the regions that received high level of recognition is Rostov, just north of the sea of Azov. This area is producing some very good trophy stags in the foot hills of the Caucasus Mountains. Also, the Krasnodar region and the North Ossetia area are known to produce some excellent free-range stags.
Western or Kuban Tur (Capra caucasica) are found in the Caucasus Mountains in the Karachaevo-Cherkessia semi-Autonomous region bordering Georgia. Kuban Tur stand around 95 to 105 cm at the shoulder and can weigh in at 90 to 110 kg, the largest of the 3 species of tur. The horns are more similar to ibex that the other 2 species of tur having prominent ridges on the front edge of the horns but are much thicker that the average ibex. Most hunting is done with the aid of horses to access more remote areas then stalking is done on foot. Most Kuban Tur are found at between 2,000 and 4,000 metres elevation above the tree line where the large males seek shelter in rocky steep country through the day and coming down into alpine basins to feed at night.
The coat of the tur is generally a tan colour with darker markings on the head and back and like most animals from the goat family have a long beard. Hunting season usually runs from July through to the end of November with the best months for skins in September and October, although snow could be encountered at this time. The hunting area is quite stunning with glaciers, lakes and alpine tarns scattered around the mountains of the Caucasus region. Accommodation is in spike camps with tents although some areas have cabins as a base camp and as with a sheep hunt your level of fitness will be a crucial factor in your success and enjoyment of the hunt. Price for this hunt is around US$8,000
Eastern or Dagestan Tur (Capra caucasica cylindricornis) At shoulder height of 80 to 100 cm and weighing in at between 50- 80kg, the Dagestan Tur is the smaller of the 3 species but has the most impressive and largest horns. The horns unusual for a type of goat being round and point straight out from the head then curving back towards the neck and in some cases almost touching. The horns are quite similar to a blue sheep or bharal as it’s known.
Somewhat smaller and darker in colour than the Kuban Tur, with a coat which is uniformly reddish-brown in summer, with underparts whitish and the tail, breast and lower legs darker. It turns a uniform dark brown in winter, with underparts slightly lighter and the tail, breast and lower legs much darker and there is a small white rump patch. And as with other tur males of the Dagestan Tur have a pronounced beard from their second year. The females have short, thin horns which grow outward, upward and back. Males and females keep separate, except during the mating season.
The Dagestan Tur is an extremely good climber, as are all goats and is a very fine and prized trophy animal. It is hunted in steep, high mountains, where good physical condition is a must and long shots may be required and even an average trophy is something to be proud of. Most hunts for Dagestan Tur are conducted in Azerbaijan where there are larger populations and somewhat easier to access. Nearly all hunts are done on foot from fly camps at elevations around 2,000 metres where you can spot tur from your tent and like most mountain hunts shots can be quite long distance between 300 and 400 metres. Hunt cost range from US$6,000 to US$8,000 roughly the same price for a tur hunt in Azerbaijan.
Mid Caucasian Tur (Capra caucasica caucasica) is a natural subspecies as cross breeding occurs between the west Caucasian and east Caucasian turs. Compared to the true west Caucasian Tur the mid-Caucasian Tur is described as slightly taller, standing 38-43 inches at the shoulder. The black horns are somewhat smoother, with smaller cross ridges, and the tips may be closer together. The beard is shorter, being only of moderate length. Summer coat is reddish grey, with forehead and chest darker and browner; front of legs darker, becoming black near the hoofs; belly and inner thighs a dirty white. A darker dorsal stripe may or may not be present.
It is found in the Kabardino- Balkaria region in the central western Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia. Most hunts for mid-Caucasian Tur are combined with Kuban Tur but single species hunt can also be undertaken. The hunting and conditions of the hunt are quite similar to the other two species of tur occurring in Southern Russia. Price is from US$8,000 to US$10,000.
Ibex (Capra sibrica) are found in the Abakan region of southern Siberia in the Altai mountain range. This region is close to the borders of China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan and this ibex are also known as Mid Asian Ibex, Altai Ibex or Sayan Ibex due to their range in the Sayan mountains. Access to the hunting areas usually involves traveling by vehicle then by boat to cross the Yenisei River, the area is extremely remote with very few human inhabitants. Quite a few hunts provide cabins in the mountains for accommodation or tents would be another option if doing a horseback hunt. Like all mountain hunts your level of fitness is paramount in your success and enjoyment of the hunt as Ibex tend to feed on the open tops and basins during the night. Once daylight hits ibex will be heading up to their day beds in the rocks and cliffs. Pricing for this hunt is around the US$6,000 to US$7,000 mark but it is my belief you could find larger ibex in neighbouring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan.
Caucasian Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra caucasica) are found quit extensively in the Caucuses Mountains in south western Russia The Caucasian Chamois is continuously distributed throughout this mountain range in Russia, Abkhazia and Azerbaijan at elevations from 800 to 2500 meters and higher. The total population is estimated at 15,000. During the summer months, chamois live on alpine meadows above 1,800 m. As winter approaches, they descend to altitudes below 1,100 meters where the chamois may enter forests while still remaining near steep cliffs.
Caucasian Chamois is a little smaller than its cousin the Alpine Chamois, having smooth reddish-brown summer coat, which becomes a chocolate brown in winter, with hair measuring 10-20 cm long, covering woolly undercoat. The under parts are pale and the legs are usually darker, and there is a small mane on the throat. The slender, black horns are found in both sexes. Rising vertically from the forehead, they are sharply curved backwards on their top third like hooks, and can reach a length of 32 cm. This very agile animal, when alarmed, will run to the most inaccessible places, making leaps as high as 2 meters and spanning as much as 6 meters, reaching speed of up to 50 km/hr over steep and uneven ground.
Hunting is offered from August through November in Karachaevo-Cherkessia Kabardino-Balkaria and Northern Ossetia regions of Russia. Hunters usually reach base camps on horseback or in vehicles and hunt from spike camps on foot. Hunting in Russia is usually more difficult than in Azerbaijan due to more precipitous mountains, not infrequent rains and usually higher elevations. Mostly chamois are taken as an additional animal whilst hunting tur
Lynx (Lynx lynx) is one of the hardest animals to hunt as they are almost entirely nocturnal. Eurasian Lynx is approximately 20% larger than North American Lynx. Head and body length 79-130 cm shoulder height 61-76 cm weighing in at 18-25 kg. Lynx are a very beautiful animal, a medium-sized cat with tufted ears, pronounced cheek ruffs, long legs, very large feet, and a very short tail with a black tip. Its coat is usually yellowish-brown often with a pattern of dark spots. The winter coat is long, soft and thick. Paws are thickly furred for walking in snow. Females are similar to males but smaller.
Behaviour and biology are identical to Lynx of the USA and Canada, they are very territorial and require large area to survive. Population density depends on the food source, in Western parts of Russia lynx feed primarily on plentiful hares and birds and even deer have been known to be a prey animal of the lynx. Hunting the elusive lynx can be difficult and they are sometimes taken during driven hunts for boar and moose, however the most reliable method of hunting is with dogs. This hunt is conducted the same as mountain lion and lynx hunts in US and Canada with the help of snowmobiles. Once the cat is treed and the outfitter has identified it as a tom the hunter moves in to take the shot.
Hunters should expect some walking if the treed lynx is in a difficult area to access with a snowmobile. Most lynx hunting takes place in the Kirov region and of course snow on the ground is a prerequisite to a successful hunt. Season is November to February and hunts will generally cost around US$4,000including 1 lynx. Accommodation on this hunt is usually in hunting lodges with a full-time cook offering Russian cuisine, private rooms with bathrooms and sauna.
Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupis lupis) is the largest of the canine family, with a body length of 1 to 1.5 meters and a shoulder height of 66 to 81 cm and weighing in at between 40 to 80 kg and sometimes considerably more. The skull is especially large, with powerful jaws and large, well developed, meat-eating teeth. The fur is moderately long and thick. The overall colour varies from greyish brown to yellowish brown, and there may be a reddish tinge on the head, ears, shoulders and legs. Hunting the intelligent, wary wolf is difficult and European wolves have a reputation for being more aggressive toward humans than North American wolves. The Eurasian wolf’s diet mostly consists of moose, red deer, roebuck, wild boar, caribou, argali, snow sheep, ibex, tur, and chamois. Wolf is the apex predator of the Russian federation along with brown bear.
Hunting is mostly done in the winter months with the use of flags which are placed around an area as large as 5 to 10 kilometres. Once the flags which form a visual barrier to the wolf are in place beaters then drive the wolves towards the hunters who have been stationed strategically to intercept the escaping wolves. This is a highly traditional form of hunting and is mostly practiced in the lower plains and woodlands of central south Russia. Wolves are distributed across the entire Russian Federation including Kamchatka Peninsula. Hunts can be organised from traditional hunts as mentioned above or whilst hunting other species as an add on if the opportunity is presented. Hunt cost is usually around US$3,000.
There are 6 species of bear endemic to the Russian Federation. Eurasian Brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) Kamchatka Brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus) East Siberian Brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) Ussuri Brown bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus) Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and Ussuri Black bear (Ursus thibetanus ussuricus). As we have already covered the Kamchatka Brown bear, I will concentrate on the 4 other species of bear that are able to be hunted in Russia.
Eurasian Brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) is the most widely distributed bear in Russia and have a range across northern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and some eastern European countries. The Eurasian Brown bear has brown fur, which ranges from yellow-brownish to dark brown, red-brown, and almost black in some cases. The fur is dense to varying degrees and the hair can grow up to 10 cm in length. The head normally is quite round in shape and has relatively small rounded ears, a wide skull and a mouth equipped with 42 teeth, including predatory teeth. It has a powerful bone structure and large paws equipped with claws that can grow up to 10 cm in length. The weight varies depending on habitat and the time of the year. A fully grown male weighs in at an average between 250 and 300 kg and reaches a maximum weight of 480 kg and length of nearly 2.5 m. Females typically range between 150 and 250 kg and they have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years in the wild.
Hunting opportunities exist right across Russia for the Eurasian Brown bear from baited hunts to spring hunt and spot and stalk hunts. Many brown bear trophies are taken on other hunts as an add on species like sheep, moose and maral hunts. Accommodation can vary greatly from hunting lodges to tented camps if you happen to be hunting another species depending on the area hunts range from US$6,000 to US$10,000.
Eastern Siberian Brown bears are virtually the same bear as the Eurasian Brown bear but depending in which area they are located and the supply of food this will determine the size of the bears. There are hunts available in the Russian far east around the Khabarovsk and Okhotsk regions. These bears live close to the coast on the Okhotsk Sea and are therefore able to feed on the salmon runs which occur from June until October each year. With the prime food supply from salmon and berries and nuts this enables these bears to obtain their larger size, similar to the situation between coastal brown bears and Grizzly bears of Canada and Alaska. Some of these bears will square out at 9 feet but average is 8 to 8.5 feet.
Hunts for Eastern Siberian bears often takes place right on the beach with the hunting camps accessible by boat only, this type of hunt will cost around US$10,000 with additional bears available for US$3,000 each. Hunts take place from mid-May until mid-June.
Ussuri Brown bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus) or Amur brown bear is again a subspecies of the Eurasian brown bear found in the Amur and Ussuri area of the far east of Russia. Similar to the Kamchatka brown bear but generally darker in colour with a more elongated skull and less elevated forehead. Males can be up to twice the size of females ranging in weight from around 200 to 600 kg.
The range of the Ussuri Brown bear is Heilongjiang Province and the Amur region, Northeast China; five isolated regional populations on Hokkaido, Japan; Ussuri and Amur river region south of the Stanovoy Mountains, Russia (borders with China); Sakhalin Island and Kunashiri, Etorofu and Iturup Islands in the Kuril Islands chain, Russia (immediately north of Hokkaido) and the Shantar Islands, Russia.
Hunting season for Ussuri bears is spring late April to late May and fall hunts are mid to late September when a Manchurian Wapiti can be added. Costs for this hunt is US$7,000. Camps mostly consist of cabins with a full time cook with mostly Russian cuisine and plenty of fresh fish.
Ussuri Black bear (Ursus thibetanus ussuricus). Commonly known as the Asiatic Black bear this is the largest of the sub species. Also known as the Tibetan black bear or the Himalayan black bear, is a medium sized, sharp-clawed, black-coloured bear with a distinctive white or cream “V” – shaped mark on its chest. It is a close relative of the American black bear with which it is thought to share a European common ancestor. It grows up to approximately 1.9 meters in length and males weigh between 110 and 220 kg. The Asiatic Black Bear has a wide distribution range spanning from the east to the west of the Asian continent. This bear can be found in the forests of hilly and mountainous areas in East Asia and South Asia, including southern Siberia and Far East in Russia.
In Russia the Asiatic Black bear shares its habitat with the larger and stronger Eurasian Brown bear. However, the smaller black bear has a good advantage over its competitors as it can climb trees. Ussuri Black bear spends most of their time in their den, which can either be in the ground or a hollow tree. During the night, it will seek out food like berries, nuts, fruits, insects, beetles and have even been known to steal tiger kills. The Asiatic Black bear is preyed upon by Siberian tigers and wolves but are quite aggressive (more so than black bears of north America) and have been known to fight of tiger attacks.
Hunting for this unique species is only available in the Russian far east near Khabarovsk, hunting season is from August to October and can be combined with Manchurian Wapiti. Cost for these hunts are US$8,700.
In general, I have hunted Russia on several occasions and have found most hunts are well organised and well equipped. The service has been very good but there are some language problems, whilst you can communicate with anyone from any background it’s always good to make sure there is an English-speaking person in the camp which is nearly always the case. If your guides don’t have a lot of English skills you should have the interpreter in camp explain exactly what you are looking for in a trophy animal or the way you would like the hunt to run. I have found most guides have a vast knowledge of the local environment and its animals and usually have a great sense of humour.
Having had a childhood dream to one day visit Russia and now that I have sampled what it has to offer hunting wise, I can honestly say I am a huge fan and always will be.