The gunshop YouTuber who hunts Russians

by Deborah Hadfield

The hunting season in Ukraine runs from September until February. Ukrainians and overseas hunters stalk wild boar, deer and mouflon. Bear hunting is restricted.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, hunters in Ukraine have seen their season extended, with just one quarry in their sights: Russians.

Taras Oliynik works for Ibis Hunting & Guns in Kyiv. The 47-year-old specialises in hunting deer, boar, and foxes. Now he is turning his hunting skills to defence. He says: “From the start of this war I feel like I got a second job, because I now do my day job in our store, which is now operating in very, very unusual sort of mode. But at night I stand guard on rooftops in some positions in Kyiv. So, we have day duties and night duties. And that’s my job for now.

“Fighting is going on in the north from Kyiv, and it’s like ten to 15 kilometres. All I can hear from the place where I am right now, which is my apartment, is the sound of distant explosions and sometimes a gunfight.”

Taras tests Aimpoint sights

Millions of mainly women and children have fled Ukraine. Taras is one of the many how are staying to fight. Inside Ukraine, hunters and shooters are using their special skills to protect the country. Some have joined the army. Others have banded together to protect their homes.

Taras is not the only one. Roy Hrelja runs hunting outfitter Hunt Ukraine. He lived in the country for 12 years. He returns to take shooters on hunting trips and is in regular contact with the hunting community inside Ukraine. He says: “They’re helping out. They’re doing what they can in their areas because they know the areas like the back of their hand. As you can imagine, the local guys, they know the forest, they know all the little tracks, the routes, secret little spots. They are being used to help the army locate the enemy. Then they pass on information, and they work as sort of forward scouts. They actually are more like partisans, like guerrilla warfare. They take part in that, helping, stopping the soldiers. They might create roadblocks or diversions. They actually shoot and destroy vehicles.”

Roy with a good roebuck

Taras has another special skill. He runs the gunshops popular YouTube channel www.youtube.com/c/IbisKiev-hunting-arms which has 150,000 subscribers. Until February, he would post videos about hunting and products in the Ibis shop. Now he puts out videos about home defence.

Taras says the skills of hunters and shooters have been vital in the resistance against the Russians. He says: “Having a gun and knowing what to do with it is absolutely very different skills. Hunters or people who know how to shoot and to know how to shoot effectively are much better as soldiers and warriors than people who don’t know anything. Taras says shooters are teaching people how to use guns. He says ‘They do quite a lot of teaching because there are huge amount of people in Ukraine who are joining territorial defence forces. But they actually know nothing about guns or rifles. They have never shot anything. And there is a huge need for teachers and instructors to help make them safe with guns.

“The main target for civilian hunters in those areas are fuel trucks, supply trucks and things that would stop Russian’s ability to continue their aggression. So, our hunters are quite successful with this.”

Taras in happier days at the Ibis Hunting & Guns shop in Kyiv
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