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A North American Style Moose Hunt In Europe
(posted November - 2008)
 


Belarus is slightly smaller than the State of Kansas and is sandwiched between Russia and Poland. It attained its independence from the USSR in 1991 but has closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. The country is relatively flat, with vast forests of hardwoods and evergreens broken up by a web of rivers, lakes and great bogs. Much of the northeastern end of the country is semi-wilderness. As hunting destinations go, it is largely overlooked by international hunters, yet it offers one of the largest herds of European bison in Europe, as well as red stag, wild boar, wolf and European moose.

 Honor Roll subscriber J.Y. Jones recently returned from Belarus, where he killed a trophy-sized European moose that is bigger than both the Shiras and Eastern Canadian moose he took in North America. What’s more, he says he shot this moose on a hunt conducted much like a moose hunt back home. It measures 42¼ inches wide in spread, has big palms and 13 points. (See photo in the Trophy Gallery section of our web site.) Jones expects it to rank high in the SCI Record Book once it dries and is formally scored.

 Jones traveled to Belarus as part of a quest to collect all 52 Eurasian species from 22 countries in Europe with his Remington 700 in 7mm Ultra Mag. When looking for a place to hunt moose, he had considered Finland. The traditional method of moose hunting there and other places in Scandinavia involves driving the moose toward stationed hunters. A second method often employed in neighboring Sweden uses elk hounds to bay up the moose, allowing the hunter to creep in for a shot while the moose is kept busy by the dogs. Jones says the prospect of taking a running shot at a moose of unknown quality on a driven hunt was simply unappealing to him. And the dog hunts can turn up moose of any quality as well, including cows and calves. Although great numbers of moose are killed this way every year by Scandinavian hunters, the chances of success are not very good for a traveling hunter looking for a quality bull. After investigating a number of destinations, Jones says Belarus offered the closest thing to a North American style moose hunt.

 Much like many Eastern European countries, hunts in Belarus are conducted by game rangers with the wildlife division of the Department of Forestry and Nature. The rangers scout for trophy quality bulls before the hunter’s arrival. They know ahead of time the general area where a bull has taken up residence and will target that specific animal. Hunts are conducted during the rut in the early fall, when the guides call in rutting bulls. Jones says the hunt is psychologically challenging and requires a measure of patience because good bulls are widely scattered and can be hard to find due to the thickly covered terrain where they live. He says fighting discouragement is the hunter’s biggest challenge on this hunt; yet the big bulls are present, and the hunter who puts in the time and effort has a good chance of success. He killed his moose on the fourth day of his hunt. 

 In addition to trophy quality moose, Belarus also offers red stag and other species. The best deer hunting is during the rut from late September to mid-October when hunters can walk up on roaring bulls. Perhaps the most abundant big game species in Belarus is wild boar, with hunters regularly taking 300-pounders sporting eight-inch tusks. These animals can be hunted in early summer when the crops are standing in the field or later in mid-winter over bait. Boar move best in early morning and at dusk. Most of the hunting is from elevated stands along the edges of a crop field, but it’s sometimes possible to stalk pigs in the summer. Again these hunts are pre-scouted to ensure hunters sit over active fields and baits. A guide sits on the stand with the hunter to judge trophy quality. On these hunts, hunters can expect the opportunity to shoot a trophy class boar. Shooting can be at late dusk or even in the moonlight, so scopes that gather as much light as possible are recommended. Illuminated reticles and night shooting are legal in Belarus. Winter boar hunts run from early January to February. Summer boar hunts are conducted from mid-July to early August.

 Another interesting hunt here is for wolf. These hunts involve what’s called flagging. When the hunters know a pack of wolves is in a tract of forest, they lay out miles of rope with brightly colored cloths hanging from them. Shooters station themselves near the flags and wait as drivers push the wolves. The wolves don’t like to cross the flag lines and will follow along them if not pushed too hard. This hunt is done only when there is snow on the ground, and it is reportedly quite effective.

 Clients are housed in a comfortable hunting lodge or cabin. Jones says the accommodations were very good, as well as the food. The meals feature a lot of local meats and fish accompanied by staples from the surrounding farming area when in season.

 Jones booked his hunt to Belarus through Jerome Knap of Global Expeditions (613-256-4057; cnonorth @istar.ca).  All hunts are guided 1 x 1. Packages are for five days and six nights and cost $2,950 US, plus trophy fees for the species you wish to take. The rate for non-hunters is $1,200. The costs include hunting licenses, accommodations, meals during the hunt, guiding, transfers between Minsk and the hunting area, all transportation during the hunt and field preparation of trophies. Russian is spoken in Belarus, and Knap can arrange for a camp interpreter.

 Trophy fees on moose and red stag are based on a sliding scale according to trophy quality. Antlers are scored according to their weight and are charged in Euros. Trophy fees for moose start at €555 ($697 US at this writing) and go well over $1,000, with charges for every kilogram over a certain weight. The fees on wild boar are based on length of the tusks in millimeters. See Knap’s rate sheet for a complete breakdown of trophy fees. Wolf is a flat fee of €400 ($502). The CITES export permit is an additional €200 ($250). Other costs include a firearms import permit (€50) and veterinary certificates (€30 per trophy).

 Knap recommends North American hunters fly to the Belarusian capitol of Minsk through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, which has daily service and connections with most flights from North America. From Minsk, travel to the hunting area is about 3½ hours by car. A visa is required to travel to Belarus and can be obtained from the Belarus Consulate in Ottawa or Washington. The cost is $100. Jones says the paperwork can be difficult and recommends using a passport and visa service. The Hunting Report recommends using CIBT Global Visa and Passport Professionals. (You can apply directly through The Hunting Report web site by clicking on Passport & Visa Service in the Travel Services section of our site. Alternatively, you can call 800-577-2428 and give them our agent code 50092 to get a discounted rate.)

 After hunting, travelers can spend some time sightseeing in Minsk. Because Belarus is en route to Moscow from Europe, it has been invaded by many marching armies, including those of the Teutonic knights, Napoleon and Hitler. Those events are chronicled at the War Museum in Minsk. Jones describes Belarus as a beautiful, clean country that far surpasses Russia in numerous aspects. He highly recommends the trip. – Barbara Crown.....


  


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