SI Vault
Charles W. Thayer
October 16, 1961
An American hunter in Russia discovered that moose are so common in some areas that they are considered pests. With the help of beaters, a jeep, a stiff hooker of vodka and 'portyanki,' he managed to shoot two big bulls
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October 16, 1961

How To Shoot A Big Red Moose

An American hunter in Russia discovered that moose are so common in some areas that they are considered pests. With the help of beaters, a jeep, a stiff hooker of vodka and 'portyanki,' he managed to shoot two big bulls

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Behind our jeep came a truck full of beaters. Deep in the forest we left the vehicles and went On by foot. Malinovsky, Shapatin and myself were placed in position by young Zavodov, while his assistant, carrying a hunting horn, took the beaters to the opposite end of the section that was to be driven. Ten minutes later the notes of the hunting horn echoed through the woods, signaling the start of the drive. Far in the distance I could hear the shouting of the beaters as they slowly approached us. A cracking of branches to my left attracted my attention, and three moose cows loped across the break 100 yards away.

Their incredibly long legs carried them at a fast but seemingly effortless pace. They flung their knees high in front like trotting horses, and as they retreated into the brush their hind legs came down far apart, causing them to rock from side to side like pacers.

A few minutes later the beaters emerged almost simultaneously on the break. They had kept an even line despite the heavy going in the thick woods. One of them was carrying the castoff antler of a moose, and he brought it to me. "A present," he said, and I wondered what in heaven I was going to do with a single moose antler.

After the drive came the inevitable "soviet," which in Russian means council and which, I had learned, punctuates every Russian hunt. The beaters insisted that several bull moose were sheltering in an adjoining area in which no drive had been planned. Zavodov first insisted that there would be no deviation from our shooting schedule, but the beaters were good debaters, and eventually won him over. He turned to me and asked permission to put on an unplanned drive.

Once more he put the three guns in position. A slight argument followed with Shapatin, who suggested I stand 30 yards to the right of where Zavodov put me. But Zavodov was firm, even with his distinguished superior—and, as it turned out, with good reason.

Again the horn sounded. I checked the safety on my rifle and brought it up to the ready. For 15 minutes I heard nothing but the distant shouts of the beaters. Then a loud rustling of branches and the pounding of heavy hoofs attracted my attention. Directly in front of me two bull moose, their heads and thick beards thrust forward, were trotting through the brush.

As they emerged into the firebreak 100 yards away to my left, going diagonally away from me, I fired at the leader. He kicked sideways and darted back into the brush. I jerked the bolt and waited, with my gun to the shoulder. A moment later he came out again, this time straight across the break. I fired a second time. He seemed to flinch as he disappeared into the woods beyond.

When the beaters appeared I went over to the shot. On the way Zavodov caught up with me. "I guess I was right about where to place you," he said, smiling.

Both shots had drawn blood, which was easily visible in the snow. Our jeep driver, however, who had been ambling casually down the break during the drive, reported that the first bullet had ricocheted past him. Presumably, it had hit the moose only a glancing blow in the side. The second shot had hit home.

Followed by Zavodov, I cautiously followed the blood-stained tracks in the thick woods. But I was not cautious enough; a moment later I saw the huge animal lumbering off down wind of me. I stopped, and Zavodov said "soviet." Back in the break, hunters, warden and beaters debated how to get the wounded animal, each expressing his view in detail.

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