Wolf Hunting in Russia

Sergei Shushunov
Sergei Shushunov wolf hunting, St. Petersburg

By Sergei Shushunov:

Being an out-of the closet-hunter  I often receives letters from well meaning, usually European ladies in which they describe their dreams of staying in a log cabin somewhere in a wilderness (a grocery store is within long 15 minute drive), sitting by a fireplace, sipping scotch flavored coffee  and listening to howling wolves. Some of these ladies appear to be angry presumably due to the fear than wolf hunting would deprive them of this opportunity. The romantic image of wolves as gentle predators, “removing” (God forbid to say “Killing”) sick and weak animals is based on a frequently quoted study of Adolph Murie published in 1940′s.
 Several things must be made clear. First, those  coffee drinkers have never seen life wolves outside of zoo and have never been followed by them for hours in the middle of winter, when only a buckshot loaded shotgun separated them from having a dinner after reaching a cabin or becoming a dinner. Second, Adolph Murie study has never been replicated. Replicability of a study is one of the most important scientific principal, making me to wonder if that study was accurate. Surprisingly, it is continued being quoted by wolf lovers as if it was handed down to mortals by the divine being. Third, searching through Russian publications often yields different results. Wolves found in Russia can be much more aggressive towards humans than those in North America. There have been verifiable reports of wolves attacking humans in Russia. May be Russians as ethnic group are tastier than the rest and this is the reason lethal attacks of wolves on humans are well known in Russia. Wolves’ attacks on livestock don’t surprise anyone – this is a natural part of living in rural Russia.  In some areas of Russia and several former Soviet republics wolves attacks on humans are common enough not to make news.

Sergei Shushunov wolf hunting in Russia
Sergei Shushunov wolf hunting in Russia

The largest specimens, found in the North Eastern tundra, may reach 2 meters (just under 7 ft.) from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail and weigh up to 100 kg. (220 lb.). One specimen at the Zoology museum in Moscow stands 85 cm (33.5 in) tall at the shoulders.

Flagged wolf hunt

The habitat of the wolf covers huge territories from the western borders of Russia to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and from the Arctic Tundra to the steppes of Kazakhstan and Mongolia. This is the most wide spread big animal in Russia. The population of wolf has been increasing steadily throughout Russia.  In 2013 a super pack of wolves of about 400 heads terrorised a small Siberian town, prompting Russian wildlife authorities to encourage wolf culling. Wolf is one of the most intelligent, best socially organised, wary and highly adaptable animal. This makes wolf hunting very difficult. Many trophies are taken by chance encounters. Organized wolf hunts frequently rely on baiting. In hard to reach areas, where wolves numbers become unmanageable, helicopters or snowmobiles can be used to cull them. However, the most exciting wolf hunting is done in the European part of Russia in an old tradition, which is mostly unknown in other countries. When a pack is located, it is encircled with a 3-5 km. (2-3 mi.) long tether, having small swatches of fabric (the flags) stitched to it every few feet. The fabric is usually of red color to be easier spotted over the background of snow by the guides.  This tether retains human scent for several days, prohibiting wolves to stay away from it,  within the encircled area. When wolf hunters arrive, the pack of wolves is already flagged. Therefore, the hunt must begin immediately. Preparation takes a great deal of footwork, but the success rate is very high. Four to five hunting days are usually sufficient.

The wolf season is opened year around, but the best time is January-February. January wolf hunts can be combined with lynx and wolverine.