A new book of exciting stories about hunting brown bears in Russia.
The cover photo of Denny Geurink’s reminiscence, In the Land of the Bear, is corny. Stuffed bear. Staged models. But that’s OK because many of the reminiscences in this entertaining book are corny. And that’s OK, too, because this corn is irresistibly fun.
In the early 1990s, Denny Geurink was a schoolteacher and regional editor for Field & Stream magazine. That position landed him an invitation from a local travel agency tasked with exposing U.S. hunting writers to Russian hunting opportunities. The Soviet Union was dissolving and U.S. dollars were being welcomed into the mysterious Land of the Bear.
What Geurink discovered on his inaugural trip was a vast land similar in forest habitat to the Michigan Northwoods he’d been hunting since childhood. Different, however, were the abundance and size of Russian brown bears, moose, elk, and grouse. In a rural country with vast wilderness where the proletariat were not allowed to own rifles, animals had grown old and huge. Geurink was so impressed he went back for more. Soon he was taking a variety of American and Canadian clients with him, including former astronauts and four-star generals.
Amid anecdotes of roaring stags, charging moose, and man-eating brown bears in this book, Geurink sprinkles familiar touchstones from the Cold War that are oddly comforting, probably because we’re still here to remember them. From Siberia to Crimea, from the threat of nuclear annihilation to gulping vodka with KBG agents, Geurink and his clients take us on a reaffirming ride through the last half of the 20th century and an uplifting peek into the promise of the 21st. En route we find universally familiar characters from hunting camps anywhere: The Lawyer. The Know-It-All. The Whiner. The Tough Cookie. And the welcoming, kindly country folk who open their homes and share their meals with powerful, oversized, gun-toting Americans they’d been taught to fear for most of their lives. Through all of this and the universal language of the hunt we discover the wildlife, the wilderness, the country, the bureaucrats, the bribes, and the humble country folk who are the real Russia. This is hunting “In The Land of the Bear.”
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