Kamchatka Land of 10,000 Bears, Part 20, Dragunov SVD

by david on March 9, 2020

We made a few more treks after lunch and I began to tire. When Igor noticed and asked about me, I confirmed I was tired. He offered me a choice of hunting the long way home or short way home. I opted for the short way home. My back was tired but not to the point it was on Monday and I wanted to keep it that way. We rode for about an hour and saw only a sow and one other smallish bear. We arrived back in camp from the direction we came in yesterday, not the direction we left this morning. We had circumnavigated several mountains on the way home. Julia had been sidetracked reading one of the books I suggested to her on Tuesday and was just getting around to lunch. I joined her at the table and we chatted while she ate. Afterwards, I was up for a nap and slept from 4:00 to 5:00. Some splashes of cold water on my face had me in shape to catch up on my journal. I also found out I could helicopter out of camp the day after tomorrow. It would be few days early and would mean some time in a hotel. It also meant no long ass snowmobile ride out of camp. I had my bear and the odds of finding another 10 footer in the short time left were remote. The decision seemed easy to me — helicopter, here I come. Now it is time to light the drinking lamp.

Before I can find a match, Olya informs me the guys have a surprise for me. They would like me to come outside for a little target practice. I jump at the chance as the rifle would be their back-up bear rifle, which just happens to be an Izhmash Dragunov SVD. Most of you know I am somewhat of a gun nut and I had been eying the rifle as it accompanied us on the hunting trips all week. I was not going to pass up the opportunity to squeeze the trigger on one. For those of you that don’t know, the rifle was introduced in 1963 to replace the aging Mosin-Nagant. The Dragunov was a semi-automatic instead of a bolt action, allowing for much quicker follow-up shots. It is also extremely accurate. I have been looking for one to add to my collection for some time but have yet to find one that matched my pocketbook. Now I was actually going to get to shoot one. This rifle had iron sights instead of a rifle scope; nonetheless, it was still going to be fun. When I got outside, the target had been set at 100 meters (108 yards) and the lack of a scope was going to be a handicap when aiming for a three-inch bullseye on an eight-inch target. Igor has set up a makeshift bench by using a small table with a cooler on top for a rifle rest. There was a second cooler for a seat. The setup was wobbly, but it was better than nothing.

I sat down and tried to get comfortable behind the rifle. There are two ways to use iron sights and if the rifle is sighted in using one, using the other will result in a miss every time. The first one requires the shooter to put the front sight at the 6:00 position just under the bullseye. The second requires the shooter to cover the bullseye with the front sight so that the bullseye is just barely visible around the periphery of the sight or not visible at all. I elected to try the first method as it allowed me to see the target more clearly. I began to squeeze the trigger and the shot came much quicker than I thought. Wow, the trigger is very light, meaning it takes very little pressure to squeeze it. I had no idea where the round landed. Armed with this newly acquired knowledge, the next two shots felt much better and I knew they should be close. A quick trip on a snowmobile and I knew for sure. The first shot was not on the paper, but the next two were just under the bullseye. Ok, method one, not so good.  Time to try method two and cover the bullseye. I fired three more shots and one hit just about dead center, and the other two were within 2 ½ inches or so. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Everyone took turns and some respectable groups were turned in.  Nonetheless, I still had the best one. Five shot groups were next. No bullseyes for me this time, although all five were inside the eight-inch target. Three shot, off hand (no rifle rest) were the last of the evening. No one was able to hit inside the eight inches, but I landed one round less than one inch from the target. This rifle lived up to its reputation and I will definitely look at a few more used gun racks to see if I can find one when I get home. The guys liked my shooting and through Julia I tried to explain I shoot a lot during the year. If you count shotgun shells, I probably average four to five thousand rounds a year. Heck, I sent over five hundred rounds down range just to prepare for this trip. I think that sort of boggled their minds. Ammunition is much harder to come by in Russia and they probably thought I was pulling their leg.

It was past the cocktail hour and with the rifle safely put away, I insisted everyone come inside for a drink and to have supper around the same table. We had a wonderful evening drinking and eating together. Julia did a phenomenal job in translating and the conversation flowed as if we had known each other for much longer than the few days we had shared. We toasted Victory Day and observed a moment of silence.  I was deeply moved by their level of patriotism. The evening meal was a smorgasbord: fresh veggies, smoked salmon, venison sausage, salad, bread, and sweets in the form of homemade cookies and pastries. We ate well. After dinner we toasted, hunting, fishing, and all sorts of other things. We talked about mainly about hunting. I talked about what I knew best, Africa and bird hunting, and the guys talked bears and sheep. Even the girls chimed in with their own stories. It was the most enjoyable evening in camp so far. This was a really, really good and pleasant evening. It got late before I knew it so I had to excuse myself for a shower and then bed. I will remember tonight fondly for a long, long time.

On a side note here, Igor showed what he and Vasili wore under their coats to support their backs while riding snowmobiles. From what I can find here in the US, it is called a Ballistic Snocross Jersey. It supports your back from bottom to top. I think it would have kept me from being so sore from long hours on a snowmobile. You can bet your bottom dollar I WILL have one the next time I am anywhere close to a snowmobile.

A cornucopia of tasty treats. Add in a few adult beverages “et voila” a meal fit for a king. A cornucopia of tasty treats. Add in a few adult beverages “et voila”, a meal fit for a king.

 

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