Explorer Mikael Strandberg

20 years since the Siberian Expedition: A hunting story from our trapper camp

Sunday the 26th of September, we’re still at N 64°44;06.5 and E 153°01;41.9, the first snow arrived last night, tarns are covered by thin ice and the temperature is below zero. -3 to -6°C.
I just have to tell you about Friday, two days ago, a dream for hungry amateur trappers coming true!
Already during the night, we realized that the cold and the frost stood by the door. Maybe even the snow was on its way? The air was crisp and clear, the trees were making cracking sounds and the fire was restless. One could hear the majestic monotonous voice of the mountain owl from far away. My muscles were aching and tired from the hard paddling the day before and none of us said a word, when Johan placed the breakfast Trout soup on the stove. A sign of tiredness and growing irritation. Best would have been if we’d spent the day inside the cot feeding the stove with firewood all the time, but we had set the nets in a small inlet the night before. Since we get exited every time it is time to check the nets, we wanted to do just that.
Once outside the cot, we just stood in silence, impressed by the beauty in front of us. A row of snow-covered mountains surrounded by the enormous rust colored forest. It was windy and Kolyma was tense. Still, at that stage we both felt:
“This feels like we might get some proper meat today!”
We had caught 5 sigs and 2 small trout’s in the nets. On the way out of the inlet, a caught a small pike on a wobbler. A small grilled aperitif before dinner to kill the worst hunger. We had already decided to dry all sigs, and for that reason the ceiling of the cot is full of drying sigs at the present.
We’re always on the lookout for better fishing waters and we combine those excursions with a short stint in the thick Siberian forest. In the hope of discovering fresh prints left by moose or hare. So far, fishing’s been real good, a success, but hunting not the best, to put it mildly. For this reason, this morning, we tied the boat to a tree, covered the fish since we’re constantly having the company of a group of seagulls and entered the forest. It was incredibly beautiful this morning! The ground was covered by a yellow carpet of pine, old dry trees and thick areas of bush. And it was totally free from wounds made by the destructive hand of man. Total disorder ruled!
“Stop!”, shouted Johan after we’d walked for awhile and asked me excitedly, “should I shoot?”
I looked around, figuring he might have spotted one of the evasive moose, not only the constantly fresh tracks, but I saw nothing.
“No, over there!”, he whispered and pointed only 10 meters ahead of me.
One of Kolymas giant hares sat under a log. It probably thought it was almost invisible as usual, but forgot that his white winter fur was far too early.
“Fire, it is food!”, I whispered excitedly!
Johan fired, but amazingly missed!
“But”, I said in my normal pedagogic way, “you missed again!”
I grabbed the gun from a shocked Johan, raised it, aimed and killed the hare, who had run off a few meters, still in the hope that he was invisible.
I cannot describe the feeling experienced, in an accurate way, when like we, are totally dependent survival wise, of what we can get out of natures food stores. All I can say is that the feeling is genuinely primitive and has a sense of unhindered freedom. And it gives a short euphoric experience food wise, which one never experiences in the protected life at home in Sweden.
That isn’t the only profound feeling I experienced. It is such a major difference to hunt when it is really serious, when your health depends on what you can get, compared to the spare time hunting back home, when you know that your fridge is still full of food whether you succeed or not. Even the moral of killing is different. I experience the same deep feeling of sadness when I’ve killed an animal, the harmony of animals in nature is so beautiful! And the question from the soul is there:
“Was this the right thing to do?”
Back home the answer isn’t always a convincing yes. But, here, it feels genuinely right immediately. It is then one truly knows that it is written, far in there, in your genes, that man is a hunter. It feels natural. But, one also experiences a profound feeling that one wants to honor ones prey, by thanking something indescribable, maybe the great spirits of nature? And one realizes the importance by taking care of everything on the animal, it’s fur and meat and take care of it in a manner that one doesn’t waste or spoil anything.
After we spent the rest of the day taking care of the fish and hare, we set off on an evening hunt. With Johan acting as a hunting dog, with one aim only, to force possible prey out of thick bush. Which he did very well. I shoot a giant of a hare and Johan an additional one later on. We’ve hanged both to mature for a few days in a tree not far from camp. We’ve got food for many days to come!
Just now, whilst writing this, I hear Johan firing three shots in the distance. I wonder if he got something?
He just returned whilst I am translating this piece, 25 minutes later, utterly disappointed. He missed the biggest hare he’s seen in his life (of course…) and says as only a disappointed 20 year old can say:
“I will never fire a shoot in my life again!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.