Hunting Massive Squirrels
It was another beautiful day in Colorado today, about 70 degrees and lots of sunshine. I went out for my first bike ride of the spring, and it was just gorgeous! I rode to the south end of Chatfield Lake, then back to the north end, and down to the South Platte River, and then back home, it was a nice ride. But I was very excited to write tonight about a trip that I took a while back with my friend Rich to Ukraine. Rich had taken all the pictures, and I was waiting to get my copies so I could write about that trip.
This was an unusual hunting trip as we were hunting in the area that was affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986. I had heard some wild stories about how the nuclear waste affected the animals, even though it left the area uninhabitable to humans. Not many people have dared to venture into this area to hunt, but I was up for the challenge. But this was not wilderness hunting, it was hunting in what used to be a city, which had been abandoned by humans for the past 27 years. A guide I met at the International Sportsman’s Expo told me about this hunt, and the price was very affordable, especially for the game we would have the opportunity to pursue, giant squirrels.
While I was a little skeptical at first, Milan (the guide from Ukraine) showed me pictures and videos that were amazing! Squirrels the size of grizzly bears! I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I took Milan’s contact information and called my best friend Rich immediately when I got home. I told him about the trip and the incredibly low cost, and he was in. The next day I contacted Milan and booked our trip.
We arrived at the Ukraine International Airport late in the night after layovers in cities that I can’t even pronounce much less spell. After picking up our gear and passing through customs, we saw a short, husky man holding a sign that said “Miller” and we greeted him, speaking loudly like that would help. But he spoke broken English, his name was Havryil, and he was a friendly man who quickly helped us with our things into an old truck that looked like it was left over from World War II. He drove us into the dark night, and we were quickly away from any lights of civilization. It was too dark to tell what the surrounding scenery looked like, but after two hours of driving in that loud, breezy truck I could see a light in the distance. Havryil said “There! There is where we go!” pointing to the light.
We arrived at a group of small buildings made of brick and thatch roofs, crowded closely together, with a large fire pit in the center of them. We were shown to our bunk house, which was dimly lit with a single oil lantern, revealing an old wooden table and chairs in the center of the room, with rustic bunks made of rough-hewn logs lining the walls. We were so tired; all I wanted to do was throw out my sleeping bag and get to sleep. Harvyil said “Eat at 5:00! Good night!” He seemed to speak louder than normal too, maybe thinking we didn’t understand him.
The next day, after a hearty breakfast, we were greeted by Milan, and we headed into the hunting grounds. What was once a city was left to ruin by the disaster 27 years ago. Although the buildings still stood, it was clear that humans hadn’t been in this place for a long time. We came to an area that appeared to be the old city park, and Milan instructed us to get out and pointed to our left. “Squirrel” he said, “Just over there.” Suddenly I felt the ground below me start shaking, as if an earthquake was coming. “Squirrel! Squirrel!” Milan shouted, pointing to our left.
I turned just in time to get my rifle shouldered and pointed at the charging squirrel, which was at least ten feet tall, with a tail that trailed eight feet behind him, bounding in our direction. Rich fired first, and then I followed with four shots of my own. Between the two of us, we put nine bullets in that squirrel before he crumpled in a heap twenty yards away from us, throwing up a cloud of dust as he rolled to a stop. It was unbelievable! This massive animal, bigger than anything I have ever hunted, or even seen in my life, now lay dead on the concrete of the old city street. What an incredible rush of adrenaline that was!
We bagged three more squirrels that day, enough meat to feed an army for a year, and hides to make an entire wardrobe of rustic clothing. There was no way I could afford to have all that meat shipped home, so I donated all but 200 pounds of the meat to Milan and his village, that will be enough to feed them for an entire year. We also left three of the hides with Milan, the third one is going to be a coat for me, which will be a nice winter time project. I will include pictures of that coat in a future posting.
I have to say that this was some of the most exciting hunting I have ever done, and I highly recommend a trip like this if you are seeking adventure. Let me know if you would like Milan’s contact information, it’s a trip you will never forget!