More on Hunting the Russian Far East, Plus a Firsthand Report
This month we have an update on hunting in Russia’s Primorksy Krai region, as well as a new report from subscriber Craig Willis on a hunt there for Manchurain wapiti organized by Russian agency Profihunt.
Back in January 2016 we heard from Bob Kern of The Hunting Consortium (www.huntingconsortium.com; 540-955-0090) about his renewed bookings in Primorsky Krai, a large region in Russia’s far east between China and Japan. Primorsky Krai offers free range hunting for a number of unique game species, including Asian black bear, Amur brown bear, Siberian roe deer, Dybowski sika deer, wapiti, Amur moose and musk deer. Although a few agencies, notably Tony Tonchev’s Hunt Europe and Profihunt, have continued to book hunters in the region, but the area has not been frequented by American hunters. While a handful of Americans hunted Asian black bear in past years, these hunters do not seem to have made an effort to bring their trophies home. A few hunters have recently received CITES permits for these bears (which are listed under CITES Appendix I).
The Hunting Consortium sent four American hunters there in 2016, and more in 2017. Bob Kern said that hunts in 2016 and 2017 went very well, and that he is working with new partners in the area. The Hunting Consortium first sent hunters to Primorsky Krai in the 90’s, but found that infrastructure was lacking and that local outfitters were not receptive to training to meet international standards of operations. Fortunately, the scene has improved, says Kern.
“This is not a place where there are ever going to be a lot of hunters, but it has a lot to offer for serious collectors,” he says. “There are three local operators that work in the region. We have our own partners and staff in the region, and have brought operations up to our standard. All of the operators have multiple camps and hunters will go to different camps depending on what species they are targeting. The Amur brown bear is more concentrated near Khabarovsk and north of the Amur river, and the best areas for deer/wapiti are to the south closer to Vladivostok.”
In 2017 Subscriber Craig Willis went on a successful hunt for Asian black bear with Link’s Wild Safaris. He tells us that he among the first hunters to get CITES export and import permits for Asian black bear, and that he expects his skull and hides to arrive within the next 90 days. This year, Willis returned to Primorsky Krai to hunt wapiti and deer, booking with Profihunt (www.profihunt.com; 347-587-8109).
Willis took a trophy wapiti and a Siberian roe deer, coming up short on Dybowski sika. In his report, Willis writes, “I always hope for good weather before I wish for a successful hunt. The week before I arrived in Russia a severe typhoon made it’s way across that region of Russia, and friends I had hunting there at that time said that it was a washout. However, it rained only the day of my arrival and stayed just beautiful from there, although water made for some issues getting into and out of some hunting areas.
“Another item was the bountiful acorn crop. The typhoon had blown most of the crops out of the trees and dinner was on the table, keeping animals tight to one place. The Manchurian wapiti was my main focus, and for this species I hit it just right by hunting during the rut. With all the feed on the ground and the bulls holding tight it was easy to locate them with calls.
“For six days I either heard or saw wapiti and could have harvested multiple times. The area in the hills is thick, making it tough to age the animals. You make the best of it and judge quickly. Most harvested of the Manchurian wapiti harvested average around 180 SCI, and there are fewer than 20 listed. The body is large, like our Roosevelt elk, but they have the smallest antlers among elk species.”
“The hunt area is in thickly wooded hills. Where I hunted bear to the north had more lush (and even thicker) vegetation, but that area was lower. Here there were more spruce and birch trees, and it will remind hunters of some areas of Colorado, although not as rocky. At lower elevations there were fields with barley and soybeans.
“I took a roebuck over a salt lick, hunting from what was more or less a bow blind. With the rut over this was likely the only good way to hunt them. Again, the dense forest cut visibility to 50 yards or so, and shots came quick. For the wapiti I would recommend a semi-automatic in case a quick followup shot is needed in thick forest.
“I hunted sika deer in another area about five hours distant. I think the conditions kept the deer from moving, and I just didn’t have luck on my side. That said, I was very happy with how the hunt went, and I recommend it completely.
“I bought this hunt at the Weatherby Award dinner. It was donated by last year’s Conklin winner, Alexander Egorov, who trusted Profihunt to put together a great trip. Profihunt’s Artem Veselov represented the area as having many species to hunt, with Americans just beginning to access it in the past few years.”
We heard from Artem Veselov, who tells us, “The Russian Far East is one of the best hunting regions in Russia because it offers a lot of hunting opportunities and options, and allows to a hunter to get several unique species in one trip. Hunters may fly to Vladivostok through Moscow or Seoul, and it’s quite easy for Americans to reach. We have been offering these hunts for more than 15 years already with a very high success rate.”
“The hunters hunt out of the base camps, hunting houses and cabins—no tented camps.
We can take up to 2-3 hunters in the same area at the same time, the hunting area is mostly forest and field. We do use baits to hunt bears, which is very efficient. The success rate on sika deer and roe deer is quite good as well. Sika is hunted in another area, and there is yet another area for Amur moose.”
We also spoke with Jay Link of Link’s Wild Safaris (www.linkswildsafaris.com; 715-520-0907), who sent Willis to Primorsky Krai for his bear hunt last year. Says Link, “We had a few big name hunters and Weatherby guys going in this year, and it’s a little bit of a hot destination at the moment, especially for the bears.
“We have been close to 100% on bear hunts, with August being prime time. There is a good conservation component to these hunts as well. The areas we hunt are right along a national park along the Amur River, and our partners work with game guards as well as helping with game surveys and camera traps. This is Amur tiger habitat, and hunters have gotten a look at them. It’s also a great fishing destination for Amur pike.”
Link said that the few unsuccessful hunts came as a result of the same typhoon mentioned by Willis. He headed to the area in late August and did some hunting, but ran smack into the worst of the weather.
We will be looking forward to seeing more reports from Russia’s Far East, and getting a better sense of this unique destination.