I seldom write book reviews and here’s why. This is my 40th year as an outdoors communicator. This long love affair with producing outdoors prose has netted me many friendships with other writers, hundreds in fact.
Every newspaper or magazine journalist will eventually write a book. Eventually these friends will contact authors like me to write a review of their book. This has created several problems: many of the books were boring and my byline would be on the review. Readers might hate the book that I wrote favorably about and my credibility is damaged. Readers are a writer’s treasure!
I have known Denny Geurink several decades. We reacquainted our longtime friendship at a recent outdoor writers conference in Minnesota. We spoke of old times and then Denny mentioned he had written a unique book about hunting in Russia. I admitted that it sounded interesting, but held back on promising a written review.
Then I started reading Geurink’s book and was pulled in from the first paragraphs. I went back and read some sections over again, not wanting this book to end. I have written seven books, five published, thankfully with reasonable success, and two soon to be released. I felt envy for this book’s content and Denny’s fine writing style.
I was totally overjoyed with my new prize, a book I will surely read again someday during a heavy snow. I have several in that category.
“In the Land of The Bear” provides an inside look at the excitement, mystery, danger and the adventure of hunting and traveling in Russia from 1991 through 2014. Geurink was the first American big game outfitter to take hunting clients to Siberia, operating in a strange land among a foreign culture that, he believes, closely resembled the America’s Wild West 150 to 175 years ago.
Geurink wears three hats in his Russian adventures: hunter, outfitter for other hunters and occasionally a guide working with the Russian guides. His 20-plus years of running these trips created fascinating stories, many about survival.
“In the Land of the Bear” is now one of my favorite outdoors books. Here are several reasons why:
• RUSSIA: Geurink went a step beyond hunting and gave us a glimpse of the Russian people. This is not the first time I have heard of Russian kindness, despite the old Cold War news flashes or James Bond chasing Russian villains. After all, people are people!
People in Russia are envious of what Americans own in homes and food. They would love to give their families this quality of life. So American tourists are welcome, although some behave like entitled Americans – a sad mindset of arrogant people.
Russian individuals throughout the book showed kindness or generosity in different ways. Even representatives of the Russian government went out of their way to help Geurink lead hunting trips into their land of the bear. Were there issues? Of course. But diplomacy and a dollar or two under the table solved all problems.
• TROPHY HUNTS: Few individuals in Russia own hunting rifles, creating light hunting pressure. Geurink’s hunts that started in 1991 found many world-class trophies.
Most notably, the trophy brown or grizzly bear hides squared to 10 feet – a 9-foot square is considered a trophy. Moose sported up to 68-inch paddles – world-class-sized animals. And stags were shot with monstrous antlers while wild hogs tended to be larger than species generally found throughout America, often dangerous.
• WILD ADVENTURES: The Russian wilderness is not for the weak-hearted. Throughout the book several close calls are mentioned, including: two men on a snowmobile chased by a giant bear, moose attacks, bears in camp, a puppy sadly carried off by a giant sea eagle, being surrounded by bears, being stalked by bears, a bear dragging a hunting guide into the wilderness in his sleeping bag, wolves in the perimeter, a huge moose in camp, wild weather and meeting the KGB.
A combination of qualified Russian guides, prepared American hunters and a bit of luck helped everyone survive these potentially fatal ordeals.
There, too, is a section on Russian citizens who did not survive bear attacks or the two women who walked up on a bear eating a corpse at the local cemetery. Some news groups outside of Russia claimed the bear had found a frozen refrigerator full of meat.
• TRAVELS: Some travel arrangements went smoothly while others not as planned. Geurink learned how to deal with issues that arose. Airplanes and ground travel vehicles were less than acceptable in their early trips, adding to the adventure. But no one died.
Reading Geurink’s book was a wonderful discovery and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in travel, big game hunting or a better understanding of the Russian people. I am ordering several copies as Christmas presents.
The book is 286 pages and sells for $21.95 plus shipping and $4 handling for the first copy. Additional copies are 99 cents shipping. Published by Target Communications Outdoor Books: 262-402-7668, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.targetcommbooks.com, or available on Amazon.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.