A companion and I just returned from a Siberian brown bear hunt, booked with the Russian agency ProfiHunt (firstname.lastname@example.org; www.profihunt.com), an outfit that arranges and conducts guided hunts in northern Europe, the Middle East and Russia. Our hunting area was several hours by car and seven hours by boat from the airport at Novokuz- netsk, directly north of the point where Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia come together.
Our hunt was scheduled for 10 days; weather kept us trapped in a hotel in a small village for five days, waiting for the ice in the river to break up. On the fifth day the operator decided to take us to a different camp, seven hours away by boat. The ProfiHunt brochure had indicated this would be a difficult mountain hunt. That was an understatement. In camp, it was obvious to me that taking a bear would be difficult, if not impossible.
Hunting was from boats, glassing very steep mountains covered with knee- to waist-deep snow. An occasional patch of fresh green grass on the mountainside drew the bears from their dens. We hoped to spot a bear on one of the grassy slopes, close enough for a shot from the river.
The sixth day of our 10-day hunt was the first day of actual hunting. We were joined by a hunter from Belgium. He was a pleasant gentleman, and my friend and I enjoyed his company.
The camp was a barely acceptable, warm, three-story log cabin with electricity. The bottom floor was a workshop; the second floor, a dining area; and the top floor was sleeping quarters, which we shared with some of the staff. The food was plentiful and good. There was no toilet or bathing facilities in the cabin, however. The outhouse was a 40-yard trek through the snow, and it had no seat, only a hole in the floor. The bath house had a banya (Russian sauna), but bathing was out of wash basins with cold water (at 35 degrees!). On the plus side, I give the staff high marks. They were all courteous, helpful, hard working and did all that they possibly could to make our hunt a success, but the terrain, deep snow and weather were our enemies.
With three of us after one bear, I decided not to hunt. I didn’t think the odds were very good that we would see a bear, much less get a shot, and who would get the first shot if an opportunity presented itself? Also, it was raining and 34 degrees. My partner and the Belgian returned soaking wet and cold, having seen a couple of bears but nothing big enough or close enough to shoot.....