Yakutia has long been famous for its unspoilt nature and animal diversity. Vast area and flora and fauna diversity give local hunters excellent opportunities. This article looks back at a curious case that occurred with a hunter in the North of Yakutia in late 80's.
Three inseparable friends and venturesome hunters nicknamed Marksman, Captain and Doctor usually tried to “close” all their hunting licenses before December 31. Even procurement ones which used to be granted for hunting moose until January 15, and for deer almost until the end of February. For many years, Bayanai favored this fortunate and friendly trio, especially Marksman, who had an exceptional and rare gift of augury. It happened in his dreams just before the hunt. Each time he tried to remember everything he had dreamed, down to the details: the place, how much he could kill, and even the distance and the number of used bullets. The dreams realized 100%! He didn't talk much about his rare gift, but apparently, one of his friends let it slip. So, the district commissioners started asking him to take out some guests for hunting. If he liked the guest after a short conversation, he agreed, if not, he refused politely and firmly. Unfortunately, after suffering a micro-stroke, he stopped having prophetic dreams. Before that, the trio made many people envy by hunting moose, bear and deer for 15 years.
The hunting community proposed Marksman two last-minute procuring license in the last days of December. There were two days left. Out of respect for the сhairman of the hunting community, who was a good guy, Marksman agreed to “close” them and pass the meat to the kindergarten. They prepared their fighting “GAZ-66”, got away from their jobs by hook or by crook and early in the morning they were already in one of their cherished places 18 km from the district center and 2 km from the Kolyma Highway. As always, Marksman told his friends about his dream before arriving at the scene. He said that they would see three moose in marsh in a birch island on the 39th kilometer. They will kill two of them.
He took SKS from the military commissariat specially for Doctor. The guns were mostly used up, especially AK-47s, but the carbine was fairly fine. At a 300-400 meters’ distance, bullets hardly spread. In addition to a few live ammunition packs, military commissariat gave Marksman a few more clips of training cartridges without bullets. Say, to shoot at midnight on December 31 for noise effect. He also got a dozen parachute flares.
Slowly waddling from hummock to hummock, GAZ-66 moved along the marsh. Dawn was just breaking, the shadows were still vague and the temperature was -54-55ºC, but it was tolerable in the cab. Although in sub-zero temperatures, it can be quite cool even in the most insulated “shishiga”, as Captain called it. Captain was responsible for driving and transport logistics. Only the passenger Doctor was warm. Settling down in a conical fire bucket filled with cotton waste, he put his feet on the engine hood, since there were only two seats in the cab! The hummock on marsh was almost waist-high, and Marksman, seeing a distant birch island, couldn’t stand the torture of shaking and decided to move to the back. Doctor was happy to take his place immediately. After telling his friends to look out, Marksman settled down in the back of the cab.
When they came close to the island, Marksman sent Doctor on skis to see if moose had gone further up the marsh. The island was small, the size of an ordinary village stadium. 15 minutes later, Doctor returned and was happy to say that everything was fine, and moose did not go anywhere. Marksman sent him back to hide near the traces of ungulates entering the birch forest. He himself climbed back, ordered Captain to slowly enter the birch forest, counting on the fact that the noise of the car and the crackling of broken frozen bushes will make moose retrace their steps and there they will intercept Doctor. But just a dozen meters away, standing behind the cab and holding his “Los-9” at the ready, he saw a huge male elk jump off the lair. Right off the bat, without even giving the command to stop and unable to resist, he fired. “Wow, it hasn't even shed its antlers yet!” he thought.
The elk collapsed dead in the brush. Marksman tapped on the cab, which meant “Stop!” and carefully peered and listened, but nothing else was visible. The smoke and steam coming from the car in the direction of birch forest only worsened visibility. Captain jumped out of the cab and looked inquiringly at Marksman. “It's all right, let's go to Doctor,” Marksman said, and then suddenly the silence was broken by the SKS crackling. “Doctor is firing,” Captain said, dived into the cab and started pulling back slowly to turn around and go around the island. Marksman, standing in the back and holding on to the cab, counted the shots. Then, taking a flare from his valenok, he pulled the cord and "hung" it over the island. After a short break, the shooting resumed again. “Look at Doctor go, he must’ve shot 3-4 clips!”
As they went around, they finally saw that Doctor was firing somewhere along the marsh, his carbine resting on the trunk of a birch tree. When he saw them, he stopped firing and rushed to them. “Guys, one down, and the second missed!” he shouted joyfully. Then everything was as usual: they tied moose with a soft halyard and dragged them to the edge of the forest. While Marksman was skinning them, Doctor and Captain skied along the trail and checked if the third moose, a young three-year-old, had been injured – after all, they had only two license! Fortunately, Doctor usually did not hit the target further than 200 meters, and the traces showed that the animal escaped unharmed.
After cutting the meat and sprinkling it with snow so that the crows did not find it, the friends decided to have dinner in the cabin, since their wives always packed them thoroughly. During a leisurely meal, various conversations and hunt analysis, they suddenly realized that the New Year is just around the corner and they don’t have Christmas trees. Already in a cab, having examined the SKS and removed unused cartridges, Marksman loaded it with blanks without a second thought. During lunch, they agreed to go for Christmas trees on Dzhebarikovsky winter road on the Vostochnaya Khandyga river, where beautiful spruce grew along the shore. The journey took less than an hour, and as they drove along the shore they found some good young fir trees. But then they realized they had nothing to cut them with. They left an axe on the marsh near the meat. Grumbling perfunctorily at his comrades, Marksman pulled his “Los” rifle out of the cab and shot off a tree.
Captain, seeing this original solution, held out his hand and said: “Let me cut one down, too.” To which Marksman replied: “No, I’m short of Los ammunition, use SKS!” Doctor added, "Shoot me one, too.”
After loading the first fir tree into the back of the car, they watched with a smile as Captain took SKS and prepared to shoot from 5 meters distance. Finally, a shot rang out. The tree was still there. “Duffer!” Doctor shouted, standing a little apart, looking back at his friends. The captain dropped to one knee and fired several more shots. The tree didn’t move, not even the snow had fallen from it. “Ivan, so-and-so, where are you shooting?!” shouted Marksman and immediately broke off. “I loaded it with blanks!” it struck him. Immediately, he had an idea to play a joke on his friend. Approaching Captain, hardly restraining himself from smiling and trying to look smart, he said: "Vanya, don't worry, come a little closer and shoot from the kneeling position. We know you're not a good shooter, but you'll hit it at point-blank range. The main thing is being calm!”
Captain did so. The distance between his barrel and the tree was no more than half a meter. It took him a long time to aim. Unable to stand it, Doctor shouted: “Shoot faster, it's getting dark!” Captain fired several more times. The tree was still there. Rising from his knee and looking at his friends with a kind of crazy and wild look, he threw the carbine on the snow and shouted hysterically: “Yes, yes, I'm a duffer! Well, it's not my thing, I can't shoot!!! My thing is the car!” and searched his pockets for cigarettes with trembling hands. He was the only one who smoked among them.
Doctor, not understanding what was going on, said: “Vanya, what happened to you? How can you miss at point-blank range?” Meanwhile, Marksman pulled out SKS, dusted it off, took out a clip of live ammunition from his pocket, made a reload and put the carbine, leaning it against the front wheel. Then, going up to Doctor, he explained him quietly what was the matter. Doctor laughed for a long time, and in order to mitigate the situation, went to calm Captain, who was leaning back and smoking. At this moment, "shishiga’s" engine stalled and Marksman jumped into the cabin and began to start it. Through the right-hand side window, he saw Doctor come up, take SKS and step aside. “That's right,” he thought, “we need to shoot two more Christmas trees.”
A series of further shots was not long in coming. After starting the car and making sure that it was working steadily, he jumped out of the cab and shouted to dejectedly standing Doctor and Captain: “Load your Christmas trees quickly and let's go, it's dark already!” Doctor looked at him guiltily and said in a detached voice: “Let's go… but how?” and pointed to the wheel... Marksman turned to the car and was stunned: the front and rear tires were rapidly deflating. “What the hell is this?!! What's the matter, when did it happen?” he shouted, grabbing Doctor's sleeve.
Lowering his head, Doctor said: “I shot it out of foolishness. I thought that you had blanks there, too... I wanted to encourage Captain, told him that I also miss sometimes and took aim at one wheel, then the other, and fired...” After hearing this, Captain doubled up and began to laugh homerically: “You fools, I don't have a spare tire!” We exchanged glances with Doctor and did not laugh with him, realizing that it is half past three, and stomping into the village as much as 18 km on an uneven winter road is not pleasant. Captain finished laughing, got in the cab and said: "That’s it, friends, I will guard the car and keep the engine working. You, jokers-snipers, go get help and bring a couple of spare tires!”
We left him “Los”, took only the ill-fated SKS and trudged light towards the village. Yes, the joke was bad and sad. We've never done anything like this on a hunting trip after this. After all the adventures, tired and angry, we got home only in the morning. Only the fact that the trees were very beautiful and our children, wives and guests appreciated them on the New Year’s eve, was reassuring.
By Yuri Vie-Tan-Gi