Enough of you asked for this so here goes.
06.45 start. Feel decidedly groggy after the excess of last night! Iím wondering if I got my five essential veggies, perhaps counting the oatmeal in the black pudding, gherkins and other assorted pickles I did. Thinking about it vodka is made from fermented sugar, itself derived from the sugar cane plant. O.K. so why do I feel so rough, Iíve already proved Iím eating healthily? Within a few minutes I forget about the groaning belly and pounding head, ( at least momentarily) we spot a lynx on the road, just looking at us from about 100 yards. Again by the time the camera is got from my bag the lynx has gone. I had no idea of the size of these animals. I would estimate it stood 25-30 inches at the shoulder, and it looked pretty well built. We drove to where it had been, and saw a fox in the field to our right. On reflection perhaps we saved that fox from becoming breakfast! The lynx pad marks in the snow were as big as the palm of my hand. I felt so privileged just to have seen it, it really was a most beautiful creature. We continue to see many roe and reds, but no shot. Gladly we return to the hotel for breakfast at around 09.30. I donít eat too much, as Iím still feeling very second hand from the sausage ( did I say vodka?). Larisan (hunting guides wife)arrives to pick me up at around 11oíclock to take me to see a beaver dam ( you read it here first Beowulf). Quite staggering! This is the animal some guy wants to re-introduce in the U.K. All I hope is that he has a lot of trees to spare. The trees that they use to make the dam are up to 2 feet in diameter. They look just like the ones in any cartoon, each end looks like a pencil sharpener has been used on it.
The stream, which was about three feet across ends up being a lake five hundred yards across. Every tree in that lake dies , as itís roots are totally submerged. I always imagined the tree would take several weeks of gnawing to be felled. Oh no, the trees I saw looked like they had been taken down using a very sharp axe! The chips on the ground were up to one eighth of an inch thick, and one inch wide by two long. This is not gentle gnawing. This animal is a stihl on webbed feet! While at the site Larisan pointed out a sapling with all of the bark stripped off, the work of a red or elk. Took a picture with me beside it for comparison.
14.45 Out again after lunch. We see reds and roe, but again no shot. Fog came down, and by 16.30 Iíve had enough. We head back to the hotel. Perhaps just a bit too much celebrating last night. Iím just starting to feel back to my old self when Christopher (my hunting companion) fairly dances in with a smile from ear to ear. He is just so excited, he can hardy get the words out. He has shot his first boar, a keiler of 74kg. Absolutely made up for him, I was starting to fear he would be going home empty handed. His guide Bogdan looks well chuffed too, and somewhat relieved. Everyone gets hugged AND kissed, and so starts another night of celebrations. Thankfully this time we are drinking NORMAL strength single malt, Iím much better at judging the effects of this poison.
Tuesday 22nd January.
Last day of hunting.
06.45 we are off on our way. It is strange how complacent I have become. We see roe which in the U.K. would have had me shaking with anticipation. Here they are ten a penny. Reds are plentiful also, but non which are small enough to fit into the cull plan.
Great excitement for me was to come around a bend and see a wolf in front of us about two hundred yards away. We drive towards it and it lopes across the road seemingly untroubled by our approach. After stopping to take pictures of the tracks we drive to a suitable place and turn the car around. ( any carl zeis fans, please forgive the baler twine on my monocular. New puppy ate the original leather strap).
Amazingly another larger wolf is waiting in the same place. Again a fantastic sight, which I will never forget.
After a hearty semi-English breakfast Larisan takes the us, the two hunters and the interpreter to a museum of the forest. It is a long drive as it is snowing heavily. The museum is O.K. but the beaver dam on display was the highlight for me. It would seem that the beavers who built it all had sharp knives and saws, as all the wood had been cut straight through. Sad really that had I not seen it for real yesterday I would have been none the wiser. So little attention to such an important detail. We buy some souvenir vodka and return for an early lunch. P.M. we go to the shed which serves as a game larder. The bag so far is laid out, and Andreov plays two hunting tunes on his horn (no smutty jokes please) it is all very nicely done. Iím surprised that the guides go to this much trouble for only two guests. The obligatory photos are taken, then weíre off out again for my last stalkÖÖÖ..
We soon find a sounder of boar, but they are agitated and I canít get a safe shot as they constantly overlap and squabble. I hear that low quiet grunt, and they are away, must have got my scent. All the way back to the car IĎm kicking myself for not getting the shot off sooner. I do apologise to Andreov, but he assures my he would have done the same thing, and seems genuinely pleased I didnĎt take a chancy shot. It has been snowing all day, but now the sky starts to clear, and we finally get a sighting of that full moon. The light is stunning. We have spent the first three days shooting in very poor light, and now on our last night things are perfect. We spot another family of boar deep in the forest under the tree canopy. IĎve got into a nice position against a tree and wait for my chance. More than a dozen times I put the rifle up, and back down again. Each time I have an animal in my sights it moves to overlap with another. My other problem is that I really donĎt want to shoot a big animal with an equally big price tag! Andreov is beside me now, and can see my dilemma. He puts me at my ease and lets me know there is no rush. The group are feeding happily and donít have our scent. After an eternity I have one in the cross hairs. A high heart shot, it runs thirty or forty yards into thick cover, but we find and retrieve it. A good pig of about twenty six kilos.
We return to the hotel for dinner and find Chris sitting with a glass of malt, mixing a huge smile with a look of fear. He has just shot a huge keiler of ninety kilos, but now has to explain this to his long suffering wife. Between us we concoct a wild tale of the interpreter being charged by this wild beast itís tusks glinting in the moonlight. I raise my rifle to shoot it and save her, but it misfires! Quick as a flash Chris sees the danger and saves the damsel, with not a thought for his own safety or bank balance. A true hero! Rather far fetched, but it might just work.
Out again after dinner to another area, and jackpot we have a large group of boar. They are feeding about seventy yards out on a snow covered field. We have a bright moon above and I can see them clearly, the time is just before ten. Iím suddenly aware this is probably my last stalk here and as I have the wind in my face I think I have time to get the camera out. I hope you can make out the animals, the camera needs a lot more light than we do so the picture is rather dark.
The pause is just great, a time to reflect on a great hunting trip. Iím half tempted to walk away, but the hunter in me, and all of you wonít on this occasion allow it. I select a small animal alone, but too soon it is back in the middle of the group. I wait for this youngster to get sent off squealing by an adult and wait for my chance when it returns. Out from my right it comes and stops just short of the feeding group. As I hear that report my heart misses a beat, The shot just didnít feel good. Andreov ask if it was good, Iím not sure. We can hear a commotion in the undergrowth to our left, and Andreov feels it might be a rather angry mummy boar waiting to repay us. He tells me to wait while he gets the car and a better torch. Iím really wishing I hadnít taken that shot, Iíd done it before, but this one just felt different. I neednít have worried, we found the boar dead about thirty yards to the left of where I shot it. The shot was not my best, about an inch and a half low, through the bottom of the heart, and breaking a front leg on the exit.
The last bite on the last stalk of my trip, then back to the hotel for a drink and goodbyes to our new friends.
All in all a fantastic trip. Both hunters returning home with what they came for. For me it was four boar, weighing in at 17, 23, 25, and 26 kilos. Lots of stalking and trigger pulling. Much knowledge gained, and much enjoyment had. For Chris two keilers of 74 and 90 kilos. A grin on his face like a Cheshire cat, and a pair of great trophies for his new study. Top marks and thanks to our local guides and to Diana hunting tours. To avoid disappointment, book early for next year!