Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Aged birds

I took my birds to a bird biologist friend of mine to have them aged for curiosity sake and here is what he came up with.
Out of 16 birds there were only two adults.
Out of the remaining 14, eleven of them appeared to be hatched in June and three as late as August.
15 of the birds crops were filled mainly with grasshoppers and some seeds while the remaining bird had all seeds.
There was very little sign of green grass sprouts.

These birds were shot in two different locations at least 50 miles as the crow flies apart but the results were very similar.

There was no sign of fat on the birds which he said was probably due to the low amount of fresh grass to eat.

I don't know what any of this means except for the fact that 14 of 16 birds being juvenile is a good sign that the hatch was good. Guess I just needed something to do on this day of leisure.
                                                                     

Friday, October 12, 2018

The aging chukar hunter and the mountain

He woke up early this morning as he has done for the past 50 or so years. There was no alarm clock, just something inside his head telling him to get up. It seems whether it was for work or play this internal time clock always went off before the sunrise.

Getting out of bed takes a little more work now with a stiff back making it more of a roll out of bed than just sitting up. With the movement two GSP's jump from the foot of the bed and make their long stretch before heading for the breakfast bowl. The aging man tries to imitate the stretch but the body won't bend that much any more and a groan comes out waking his wife who asks "are you okay?" He confirms feeling just fine and that he's going to take the dogs chukar hunting for the day.

The dogs bounce around the living room as he puts his hunting clothes on and grabs the shotgun and hunting vest. They know we're headed for a chukar mountain and their excitement seems to help the aged man lace up his boots which just a moment ago seemed to hard to navigate with his arthritic hands. The lady of the house helps him load their lunch and gives him a kiss on the cheek with a "be safe comment" as the two dogs leap into the back seat ready for the hour or so drive.

The radio is on the oldies channel which helps the hunter feel a little peppier and the volume is turned up maybe a little louder than the mutts like, but it helps him get in the mood for a fun day on the hill. The sky is starting to show some light and the sun will be shining by the time they arrive at their destination.

Slowing to a stop on the dirt road gets the dogs fired up and their enthusiasm helps wind up the aging man. He opens his door first and once again rolls out of the truck with a groan. He tries a quick stretch but the dogs are having none of that and want the back door opened. The door barely hits the stops and both animals leap from the truck and make a few laps around the truck before relieving themselves. The aging man tries to get collars, guns, snacks and the works together as the two bounce around with gestures that say "what's taking so long?". They don't realize the joints don't work so good anymore. Pushing buttons and snapping buckles isn't as easy as it used to be. Finally he puts on his vest and gives a big groan of pain because his shoulder does not want to move in that direction anymore and lets him know it.

As he picks up his double barrel the two dogs take off up the hill hoping to be the first to find a bird. There's no way he's going to be able to slow them down so he starts his limp up the hill knowing they won't go more than 300 yards away from him and hopes they won't find a bird yet. The thought of limping his way straight up a hill before his body gets refreshed from the long drive wouldn't be pretty. For the last couple of years he begins every hunt with a left leg limp because of the stiff back he acquired from his job. The same job that gave him a bad shoulder, arthritis in the hands and other joints, and several other injuries, but also provided him with a good income.

There was no worry about an early point on this trip. Even though it seemed to be a perfect day weather wise and he was on one of his favorite mountains, the three of them gained almost 1300 feet of elevation before they had their first find. As he approached the honoring dogs with appreciation the hun busted behind him and to his dismay, he wasn't quick enough to turn and get a shot off. As the dogs made a short chase he though about how that would have been a gimme just five years ago.

The dogs went on search and he found a game trail that angled up the slope and realized the limp was gone as well as the arthritis in his hands. He thought to himself  "if I could only keep doing this all the time I'd feel great." He was into the hunt almost two hours when the next point came and the thought of going straight up the hill to the point was no problem at all now. He gave the boys a little praise as he walked past them and flushed the birds. It was his favorite shot and he emptied both barrels and two birds dropped. To add to the excitement, both dogs retrieved a bird and brought them back to him. One of his dogs was only 7 months old and he was excited about his progress.

He took a minute to hydrate the dogs and look over the valley floor below him. He thought "I've seen this view at least twice every year for the last thirty or so and it never gets old." The stop was short because he knew if he stopped and sat down for a few minutes the stiffness would try and creep in.So off they went looking for their next bird. Every once in a while he'd see the dogs looking far off and he knew they were hearing the sounds of chukars, a sound that isn't as clear to him as it used to be. He realized how dependent he had gotten on the dogs. Most of the time he probably wouldn't see other wild life if it wasn't for picking up on their keen senses.

They followed the ridge for another hour or so, dropping down and coming back up when the dogs caught scent. After climbing 1800 feet in elevation the aging man was suddenly feeling much younger. He was ready to travel to any place the dogs said there were birds. There was a perfect breeze and some times he would walk 50 or more yards in front of the points waiting for the birds to flush. His shooting wasn't perfect but he was now feeling limber enough to at least get into a good shooting position. He felt like a young man on the mountain again.

After four birds he turned and headed back towards the truck. He always told himself that if you get four birds getting to this place there should be four more chances on your way back for you to have that great day. Going down hill was much easier for him than it used to be. Ten years ago the pain in his knees almost brought tears to his eyes, but two knee replacements solved that problem and hunting down hill was no longer seeing how much pain he could endure. By the time they got back to the truck he could tell the dogs had had enough. He had also, but as he looked at his GPS he marveled at what they had done. One dog went over 23 miles, the other over 21 and he had gone almost 8 miles and gained over 2000 feet of elevation. He covered the same country he did ten years ago, hell make that twenty years ago. He felt great as he helped the dogs into the back seat, loaded the gear, and slid his vest off without any pain. This time he jumped into the truck and started the drive home to oldies music. God, he felt great being on that hill.

Once at home, he was greeted by his wife who helped him unload the gear from the truck. She called him an old fool as he rolled out of the truck. After over an hour of driving after a hunt it was hard for him to stand straight. His wife and him fed the dogs and got everything cleaned and birds into the refrigerator and then he went to his favorite chair and fell into it. The dogs had already curled up on the couch. He bent over to take off his boots and his wife could tell he was very uncomfortable and volunteered to take them off for him. As she did, she watched him rubbing his arthritic hands and asked "are you going hunting tomorrow?"

He replied, "hell yes".

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Grady has become a hunter

What a difference weather makes in dog work. Until this week, the points have been few and even finding dead birds was tough for the dogs. Even Jake (in his sixth year now) had tough times finding downed birds.

Then the weather changed and we had some good rain followed by some cooler days. I even found some frost one of the mornings. With this change in weather, the boys found a different gear and started covering a lot more country and of course with that came more bird finds. Jake, as expected held most coveys pretty good but Grady couldn't contain himself while I covered a couple hundred yards to him and would bust the birds. He's honoring like a champ and letting me walk 50 yards past him while Jake is on point.

As the week went on and we found more birds I could see the light bulb flickering a little brighter in Grady's head and each point has been a little better and longer. Today he held a point like a stud as I covered the ground and moved in front of him and stood for thirty or so seconds before the flush and the light bulb got brighter as he retrieved the bird.

Two days ago, on a hunt with Conner, Grady made one of those retrieves we all love to talk about. Conner was sure he had dropped the hun dead and we had Jake and Grady on search for a dead bird. Pretty soon Grady was following the scent straight down hill and finally about 200 yards away we could see the bird jumping in front of Grady before he grabbed it and brought it back up the hill to us.

It looks like I'm going to have another fun year and for the first time in ten years with two dogs again. I'll let Grady get a few more trips under his belt and hopefully will be able to get some pictures of him and Jake doing what they love best. Meanwhile, here's my buddy's take behind Jake and Grady two days ago.
                                                                         
It was going to be a short hunt but eventually Conner got me to the top. Like usual we started down at the bottom of the draw behind him and gained 1650 feet before I impressed upon him that the old man was getting worn out.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hot

A short Idaho update.

Wow! was the end of September hot. My pick up said 87 degrees at 4 p.m. on the 29th over at Brownlee and my pups and I thought it was closer to 100. Needless to say with the temps like they were and the lack of any moisture, hunting conditions were pretty tough. But, with our limited brain capacity, Grady, Jake and I spent three days over on the border chasing the birds. Barb came along to comfort us but showed very little sympathy as us mighty hunters spent most of the afternoons on the bed in an air conditioned camper.
                                                                   
The good news is there seemed to be plenty of birds. The bad news was by the time we found them it was getting warm and we were running out of water. The places I saw birds a month ago seemed void of wildlife but thanks to some birds of prey we found that we had to go higher. It was hard to do since we were seeing birds right on the road as we drove into the area. Chukars and huns were pretty much separated in different area's with the huns hanging in the taller grass area's.

Three other bird hunters were leaving the day I got to the camp ground and told me they found plenty of birds where they hunted. As I watched them clean their birds I could tell they had a successful hunt. They said there didn't seem to be any of those really young birds and from what I saw on the mountain I have to agree.
Troy, congratulations on your new pup, Ben from Jeff Funke's kennel. I'm looking forward to hearing some stories and seeing some pictures of how Rowdy does introducing him to the chukar hills.

As far as Grady, we didn't have any outstanding things happen. He did have a couple of so so points that produced birds, but I could tell he wasn't even sure there were birds there. But with conditions as they were, Jake didn't fare much better. Grady did have one exceptionally good point. It was hard not to take my camera out and snap a shot but I wanted this point to be a good training opp. Grady let me move about twenty yards in front of him and I could tell by his eyes that the birds were between us. As I moved towards him he stayed staunch until a sparrow took off from the grass a yard in front of him. At least he got me excited.

Each day over there I saw about 100 birds. I do believe there were a lot of birds we never saw because the dogs walked right through so many covey's not getting any scent until it was too late. The weather looks to be cooling down and some moisture is on the way so I believe my dog work is going to improve quite a bit. By the amount of success pictures I see on other sites, those who are tough enough to endure these bad conditions are finding birds. The rest of the season is going to get even better as conditions improve.

Good luck out there hunting and pack plenty of water for your canine partner.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

It's here.

The 2018/2019 chukar season is on and by what I found and by the post on some of the other chukar sites it's going to be a productive and fun season. The opener had enough clouds early to keep us on the hill a little longer but when they left the boys were ready to call it a day.

In the last post, Troy mentioned about how many people (including himself) had new pups this year and was interested on how they are all doing. I also would like to hear about your outings and maybe your stories might enlighten the rest of us on how to handle different situations. I know this site doesn't let anyone post their pictures but if you send them to my email at tuckotatime@gmail.com I might be able to figure out how to get them on this blog. I would really enjoy that.

I'll start with Grady's first chukar hunt. He was built for the chukar hills. He found his legs in the open country and covered some ground. He was independent of Jake and covered different country but kept an eye out for him. Like all of my past dogs he was a natural honorer. I think that's due to the pup's spending so much time on the mountain with the older dog's before the season. Grady had three honor's in the first couple of hours and stole one of the retrieves from Jake. Jake didn't seem to mind and Grady brought the bird down the slope right to me.


This was the same scenario I had while grouse hunting and I was hoping for Grady to get his own point. When he finally did it was a beautiful and staunch point. One that left no doubt that the birds were there. Although I wanted to take the camera from my pocket I refrained and softly told Grady good boy as I walked out front. He stayed tight until the flush when all hell broke loose. It was no wonder he hit scent, there were at least forty birds of different size in the group. I picked a mature bird and dropped it with Grady quickly picking it up and proudly bringing it back up the hill to me. He put the sequence of bird hunting together that I hope we'll repeat numerous times this year.

The biggest problem we might encounter is actually Jake honoring Grady. His trainer, Riley died at too young of an age to hunt with him so this is the first dog Jake has ever hunted with. He seems to pay little attention that Grady is even on the same hill. With over four more months of season it's going to be fun working on it though.

How did your pups do?
                                                                         

Chukarhunter50 (Mark Midtlyng) confirmed a pretty good season to come with these pictures of Emmie, his small Munsterlunder. He also mentioned a fire burning Saturday on Brwnlee reservoir.

                                                                 

I'd say they had a darn good opener.



Another chukar hunter, Brian B. Kondeff sent me some pictures of his two DD dog's from this weekend. Brian mentioned that when he got Sophie (lighter colored dog) as a pup his trainer suggested to hunt her alone but he couldn't do that due to the lack of time in the field each dog would get if hunted separately. In the end all problems worked themselves out and three years later you can see the results as 6 year old Gus is honoring 3 year old Sophie.

Brian says his opener was a great success with an estimated bird flush of over 200 birds before the heat and mountain sent him and his two companions home to recover.

  


Quinn Inwards GSP, Sage got her first hun off a fine point at just over six months old. The bug is getting to Quinn and it won't be long before Sage has him infected for life.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Seasons

I try not  let politics get in my way of hunting or this blog but as I'm sitting here watching it spit rain I figure it a good time to explain how I feel about the current bird seasons. Just recently, the F&G sent out a survey to upland hunters with several questions about the current seasons and possibly removing the September opener and adding 15 days in February. Most of you who trade emails with me are from out of state so might not have seen this survey.

I know Jeff Knetter, the bird biologist with the Idaho F&G, and figure he must be getting some pressure from a few upland bird groups to possibly make this change to the season. He's an upland hunter also and knows the current seasons have worked well for us for over 50 years so there must be an outside source asking him for this survey.

The reason I'm writing about this today, more than a month since the survey came out, is because of the weather. It has been very hot and dry for the last two months and now the temperatures have changed and are below normal for this time of the year. In fact, as I mentioned, we're having a little moisture. Because of the forecast I decided to take a quick grouse hunt with the boys this morning. In stead of having a bird bumping day due to the lack of good scent, Grady got his first scent point on a blue grouse and also his first retrieve of an unfrozen bird.

Chukar season opens in 3 days and there is a possibility of some more moisture before then and the temperatures are going to be below normal. There have been many openers I have missed because of the heat but I don't think I will be missing this one. Heat is one of the reasons some mentioned for moving the season back to October. There always seem to be two or three cooler days in September so why not be able to take advantage of them. Another reason suggested was because of the young birds. Normally there are a lot of young covey's this time of the year but you don't have to shoot. There are a lot of bird hunts where you can only shoot the male and you have to choose your shot, we can do the same on these young birds. Rattlesnakes are another reason mentioned. I see more rattlesnakes in October than any other month in the summer. They are moving back to their dens and usually when you find one you can find more. I hunt the early morning hours and try to stay on the shaded north side of the hills where dens and encounters are less likely.

There are many other reasons mentioned for removing the September part of the season. The claim that some hunters sit by a water source and slaughter the birds is questionable to me. I don't think many chukar hunters are out there for the slaughter and it wouldn't matter whether the season opened Sept. 15 or Oct. 1 the opportunity would still present itself  until the birds have been educated. Opening morning is opening morning.

Most of the reasons were selfish reasons just as my reasons are but one thing I do know is that once we give up part of the hunting season it will be hard to ever get it back. Adding 15 days in February is fine with me but don't give up the 15 days or so in September. The extra days would have little impact on the bird population. Personally, I doubt I'd take much advantage of the February hunt due to trying to heal up from all of my January falls on the hill.

Now I'll step down off my high horse and get ready for Saturday. The jury is still out on Grady.  I'm sure he'll be seeing lot's of birds. How he handles them and works with Jake while I'm carrying a gun has me as excited as kid at Christmas. Hopefully he'll do as well on the chukars and huns as he did on this grouse.

                                                                       

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Final tally.



Well it's almost time. Grouse season opens in 8 days and chukar season in 23. Yesterday Grady was at the vets getting his clacker's removed so we're through running the mountains for a week or so to give him time to heal. Jake and I decided the best way to keep Grady calm today was to take him on a road trip and what a successful trip it was. We headed for a spot pretty familiar to all of us and as you can see there was a lot to see and Grady wanted to get out and do his thing. Jake just sat there and enjoyed the scenery knowing that we have never hunted from the truck before so why get excited.

This was our last scouting trip of the year and the video and some pictures is just a fraction of what we saw so now it's up to you as to what you think the season will be like.

Grady still hasn't had a scent point but has had several sight points on grouse and we're not going to let him run hard again until grouse season begins so we're hoping for the best. Jake, of course has been finding plenty of birds and sometimes seems to be able to find bird scent in a field covered with perfume. I'm hoping in about a month I'll be able to report that Grady's nose is like a magnet to bird scent and his point is rock solid but if not we're lucky to have such a long season to work on it.

I'm hoping you guys let me know when you're heading this way and we can swap some stories. I've got the same camper and truck and hope to be all over southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon. It's pretty obvious the chukars have done well (my preference of bird to hunt) but it seems like almost all of the upland birds did well this spring. I'm even seeing more pheasants down closer to the farm lands.
                                                                           
It looks like the huns have done as well as the chukars
and a person might be able to come up with a double limit (8 huns and 8 chukar) this year. one of the great opportunities Idaho offers.
And if you're lucky you can add a few quail to your game bag because it also looks like a super year for them.
These video's and pictures were taken on a 2 hour drive once I got into hunting country so you can imagine what I might have seen if Grady had been up to taking a hike. I can't tell you how excited I am for some cool and wet weather.

Weather permitting, I'll be out on the 30th chasing grouse and will try and get four or five trips in on them before the chukar season begins and than once again weather permitting I will be out chasing them as often as possible. Being retired and within a couple of hours of almost all of the area's I hunt makes it a lot easier to stay home on those bad days. Good luck and be safe this season.