Longtime Hunting Report subscribers will be familiar with the background here. The late Lloyod Zeman of Safari Outfitters was among the first operators to bring international clients there in 1990. Kamchatka became a very hot destination, with dirt cheap hunts (under $4,000US in 2003) accessed by quick, relatively reliable air service once a week from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk with Magadan Airlines. In 2005, the Russian government centralized Kamchatka's wildlife management, with the result that the spring bear season did not open. The government reduced bear quotas, and worries about closures continued into 2006. That same year, Magadan Airlines ceased flights from Anchorage and ultimately went out of business. Hunters who had enjoyed a short flight from American soil now had to cross up to 21 time zones in the opposite direction. A number of agents told us that this and other travel problems hurt hunter interest in this destination.
Skyrocketing fuel and flight costs also caused a number of problems. Some operators tried to use shorter helicopter flights or to cut out flights altogether to save costs, which meant hunting in areas with higher hunting pressure and more poaching. Trophy quality suffered as a result. As a somewhat bitter exclamation point, there were also issues with hunts paid for and not delivered, both from Eurasian Expeditions' George Sevich as well as former Alaska guide Larry Bryant (see Article 3257).
Fortunately, it appears that the ?wild west" days in Kamchatka are over. We recently spoke with longtime Russia hand Russ Smith of Russ Smith Hunting Worldwide, Inc. (www.rs-huntingworldwide.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 406-404-3909), who gave us an update on what is happening there. Smith has been leading groups of hunters to Kamchatka since 1994.
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