After attending many European SCI meetings in Italy and Slovakia, I was impressed with the value that European hunters put on the capercaillie hunt.
I turned to my friend and outfitter Srdga Dimitrijevic, who mentioned he had a hunt north of Moscow in Tver for capercaillie , black cock (grouse) and European woodcock.
After flying to Moscow in late April, we took the train to Tver where we were picked up in a van and driven along the Volga to a very dense forest. My hunting partner Jacob Diaz De Bustamante from Spain and I were deposited at a beautiful lodge, handmade from the local timber.
All three birds are in their prime plumage and only male birds can be hunted in the spring. Capercaillie is usually hunted after midnight by stalking in the spring season, usually in late April and early May.
The capercaille, with otherwise acute hearing, in the spring become deaf for very short periods of time while making early morning mating calls. This allows the hunter to approach within 20 to 35 yards to get a reliable shot.
The hunt must be completed by daylight so the wary birds can see the hunters.
The next two mornings we entered the blind about 3 a.m. around their “booming” grounds. Dozens of cocks come to the grounds where they gather for fighting.
Their courting dance allows the hunter to get a 40 to 50-yard shot from the blind.
We would go back to the lodge and sleep during the day. At dusk we would go to an open area and the male woodcocks would fly along the open spaces in the forest. They also fly along roads, meadows and riverbeds, looking for females. We would go back to the lodge and sleep until about midnight.
Each night we would get up at midnight and have a large meal prior to heading to the forest. We walked along dark pathways, listening for the early mating calls.
After two days we loaded-up in a front end loader and went deep in the forest and unloaded. Jacob and I went in different directions deep into the forest till finally we heard a mating call.
Sneaking along, we finally sky-lighted the bird. One shot put it on the ground. After walking back to the road, I met Jacob, who heard my shot and killed his bird about 10 minutes later.
We got back in the front end loader and headed for camp. Srdja also shot his bird that morning and we took a lot of pictures.
We were late for our trip to Moscow, but rented a car and headed south. After flying home, I noticed that I didn’t have any jet lag because we were up all night and slept during the day.
I enjoyed the hunting trip as much as any big game hunt I’ve taken and now know why the Europeans really like this hunt.--R. Douglas Yajko M.D.