Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Passion

Passion--An intense, extreme, or overpowering emotion. Something I believe most of us need to help keep life exciting. It comes in many forms to please everybody. It could be as simple as reading books and as tedious as restoring an automobile with original parts. You know it's passion when it's the first thing you think about when you awake in the morning or your dreams are consumed with it.

Years ago archery was my passion and I had a bow in my hands almost as much as I had my electrical tools. My family followed me to all of the archery shoots and on camping trips to find big game for the hunting season. As soon as dinner would be over I would be out in my back yard shooting my bow and trying to become more exact. I used the excuse that my kids were studying anyway but the real truth was I couldn't wait to shoot more.

I upland hunted back in those years also, but only when there was no archery big game season going on. I had a couple of fine Brittanies that hunted well for me and kept me happy during the off seasons. When my last Britt, Rookie, started aging I decided to change breeds because of the ear problems associated with cheat grass in his ears. The vet would have to knock him out to pull the cheat each time because he became a 35 pound giant of a dog and it became to common of a thing. My archery opponent back then and I became good upland hunting partners and he never seemed to have the same problems with cheat as he ran German Shorthair Pointers. Even though Greg Allen and I wanted to beat each other at the archery shoots I paid attention to him when it came to dogs and found a local breeder of GSP's. I didn't know it at the time, but my first GSP, Tucker, would soon end my passion for archery.

Tucker was a late summer pup and Rookie was aging pretty fast so I figured that year would be a slow year for upland hunting. I was in archery mode still and that was fine with me. In the past I had used all the tools to train my Brittanies. I had launchers, stand up dog for honoring, a limitless supply of homer pigeons, collars, etc. To say it politely, those dogs were trained to do it the way I wanted and I have to be honest in saying at times I was a little strong handed at it.

There would be no time for using those devices that year on my new pup, because of big game seasons, so I just took Tucker to the fields around my house to introduce him to birds and all the smells to do with hunting when I wasn't busy with archery. I was pleased with his interest in all of the quail and how soon he began pointing them especially since he showed little interest in the wing on the string trick. By 14 weeks he was scent pointing them and holding until I helped him flush. The only real training I had done was too play fetch with him and bring me a sock (which we played tug of war with) and fired a gun over him whenever he was engaged with wild birds. At 15 weeks I decided to give it a try and see what he would do if I actually carried a gun and shot one of those quail. You can imagine my shock when a big rooster emerged from his point and I shot the bird. I believe most dogs would have bolted from the large bird making those sounds as it flushed but not Tucker. He charged after it and so I shot. The bird was too large for him to handle but he drug and carried it back to me with some encouragement. Suddenly I was looking forward to some more hunts after the archery season.

The late deer season ended in the middle of December and I was ready to give Tucker a try on some chukars. He was only five months old and I didn't expect much since we hadn't done much formal training. Tucker once again blew my mind with a limit of birds on his first hunt. Yes, every bird was pointed and all were at least semi retrieved. In fact, the remaining four hunts of the year turned out exactly the same except his retrieving became very good by the fifth hunt. Five chukar hunts and forty birds by a dog that wasn't even 6 months old yet. Doesn't seem real, but I have a hunting partner that will confirm Tucker's accomplishments.

I didn't realize it then , but Tucker was ending my dreams of killing that huge bull elk or buck deer. The following hunting season I was ready to shoot the first six point elk I called in and get to playing with Tucker. The next year after that, I packed up camp on an elk hunt because it was cool and rainy. Perfect weather for big game hunting but also great weather to be out with Tucker. Somehow the transition was made and I became a passionate chukar hunter. I went out the next few Septembers for a while but those days just couldn't compete with being out on a chukar mountain with Tucker.

Unlike most upland hunters, my passion isn't just all about the dogs. I wouldn't even dream of hunting upland birds without a dog but it isn't just about them. Although I have some good, prime, private property to hunt pheasant and quail in I have not shot another pheasant since the pheasant that Tucker pointed. In fact I've shot very few quail over the last twenty five years. The only quail I have shot were during a chukar hunt and the dogs pointed. My dog's aren't quite as specific and have enjoyed pointing and flushing quail and pheasants for youth's but my heart prefer's the alectoris chukar.

I seem to be in my own place when it comes to chukars. I love everything about chukar country. There is enough ruggedness to most good chukar habitat that you can't get any type of vehicle into it. In fact most of it is even too rough for a horse. So, foot soldiers adapt to this hunting the best and I guess God made my body more for traversing these mountains than for walking the lower lands.

There is such a diverse amount of wildlife to be seen. It's not unusual to see deer, coyotes, elk, bear, wild horses and many other big game animals on a hunt. Sometimes you're greeted by a large big horn ram as you top over a ridge. Scores of different types of upland birds also inhabit chukar country. Grouse, quail and the Hungarian Partridge which rivals the chukar when it comes to hunting for me. Many of the chukar hunters I know have even gotten to see the elusive mountain lion who preys on most of those big game animals we see, especially during the winter months. I have been fortunate enough to see a mountain lion on all but two of the past twenty seasons of hunting chukars. I have seen at least one Bobcat every season I can remember. Of course there are also many animals we'd rather not see such as porcupines and skunks to name just a couple.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older and don't see as good as I use to but most of the animals I see now would not be seen if it weren't for the dogs. My head is usually looking at my feet and watching where my foot will be landing next. Chukar hunting isn't just a stroll in the park which brings up my next reason for loving to hunt chukars, the mountain itself.

The mountains where chukar reside are usually steep and unfriendly. There are places that are more human friendly but for the most part most humans want nothing to do with it. It's dry 75% of the year and it seems like very little could live there except snakes and scorpions but the hike itself tells you different. Depending on conditions sometimes even your dogs don't  find wildlife, but walking the dusty trails tells you different. The mountain shapes the wind until you finally reach the ridge after a 2000 foot climb where the wind seems brutal, especially on those cold days, but the birds seem to love it up there. The climb up seems brutal and the lungs burn at times but you endure it because every once in a while the dogs make a find and point it. If you are lucky you will get to the dogs before the flush and get some shooting and if the dogs are lucky the dead bird will lodge on a clump of brush or rock rather than roll 200 yards down the steep embankment.

Once on the top, you have to decide whether to hunt the ridge or side hill around to the next ridge. I usually let the dogs decide that for me, after all they are the true predator between the two of us. Through out all of this hopefully you have had some success with the birds but even if not you stop to see where you have been and pat yourself on the back because you didn't think you had it in you. That's what the dogs do for you, they make you forget how much work there was in getting to this place. Now that you have marveled at the scenery and what you have accomplished it is just a matter of heading back down to your rig.

Going downhill is the easy part, right?  Not so in chukar country. The hunt back down hill is one of the major reasons for having two knee replacements. I remember the pain in each down hill step before the operations. Trust me it was well worth it. I have broken more guns and gotten more bruises going down hill than going up. For some reason the brush seems to grab your toe more and rocks roll easier down hill than up. But there are just as many birds below as there were coming up so you continue your hunt while your dogs check every logical chukar spot and you follow. For me that's when my shooting percentage suffers. Part of the time you can't shoot because the dogs are between you and the flushing birds that stay low and the other times the diving birds are just too quick to stay up with. Still the same, the dogs are doing there part, it's your job to try and do your part so you continue hunting until you get to the rig.

The one part I haven't mentioned much as being part of my passion is the bird itself. Of course there needs to be chukar. If I were to hunt chukars and only get one bird a trip I might find another challenge to pursue. On most hunts I'd say we get at least a dozen different opportunities and many times more. Although sometimes the shooting isn't very much but when in good chukar habitat you seldom get bored. They either are flushing wild or calling you names from a distant ridge. I have gone on trips where I got a single bird and a few with no birds in the bag. I have gone on scouting trips into prime looking chukar country and seen no birds but realized that is why we scout. Although I didn't get any work from the dogs we learned a place not to hunt while getting a work out.

Chukars are resilient and have been known to have low number years followed by high bird number years. There have been some studies on chukar and for the most part there is nothing we can do to promote their numbers. What we can do is make sure the public lands stay public so we have a place to hunt. Mother Nature takes care of the chukar populations and that is another thing I enjoy about the bird. They wouldn't be much fun to hunt if every time you walked up the mountain you come home with a limit. They are fun because of their challenge to find at times little alone hitting them.

So, on this rainy and snowy day, as the boys and I sit here by the fire waiting for our next chukar excursion I have tried to explain why I love chukar hunting. Many of you enjoy upland hunting and are probably a lot smarter than I am and this is the only explanation I can give for this madness.

One last thing. Because I hunt and live for the chukar mountain, my dogs, and the allectoris chukar, that does not mean I am an authority on the birds, chukar dog training, or the high desert mountains. There is no such thing as a professional chukar hunter to my knowledge. If they started paying to chukar hunt I would probably find another past time. If I ever become famous about something, I hope it is about how much enjoyment I get out of chukar hunting with my dogs. Any information taken home out of my blog is simply my experiences and hoping chukar hunters, especially young chukar hunters can enjoy it as much as I have.

I could be like a few of the other guys my age and just say "it isn't like it used to be". Believe me it is still as good as it use to be. Sometimes you just have to work at it and that becomes part of the fun. These last two pictures are of Rookie over thirty years ago and Grady this year. I'd say it's just as good.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cleaning up late season habits

Seven days ago, I had hernia surgery with three 4 inch cuts and three arthroscopic cuts. Six hernias in all. The Doc said walking was allowed so I decided to go on a short jaunt with the boys and let them run. It was a mistake to go to chukar country and think I could stay on the low road for long. It wasn't long before the dogs and the country started acting like a magnet, drawing me upward on any trail I could find that seemed safe. By the time I returned to the truck I had covered four miles and somewhere around 800 feet in elevation gain.

I felt pretty good throughout our hike but am paying for it today so I decided to sit here and show some of the footage I took yesterday. They show some good and not so good dog work and why I love being behind these dogs on the mountain.

This first clip shows the difference between the two dogs when it comes to paying attention to me. From the other side of the draw, notice how Jake stops and watches to see witch way I'm going so he can hunt that way while Grady goes like a bat out of hell until he finds birds. Too often this year, Grady was on point a couple hundred yards in a direction I didn't care to go but had to get there because he was on point. Yes, there are worse things that could happen.

The next video is like what most of us face towards the end of the season. Wild and running birds creates this action along with our unwillingness to not shoot when the dogs help us bust the birds.

As you can see, it doesn't create safe shooting and this shot should never be taken for that reason. But if your dog has been whoa trained it is a very easy situation to change back to how it should be. In this next video, Jake was honoring Grady's point as I moved in.

Jake remained honoring as I passed him towards Grady and when I finally got to Grady I decided not to move down the hill further. I think the birds were probably by those rocks below us but I figured I might blow a stitch or two if I slid going down there. So I healed the dogs on.

Here again is how it should be. Jake is out front and if you look hard you can see Grady honoring behind him. They relocated a couple of times behind me and I finally flushed a small covey which I didn't get on film because I turned the camera off too soon.
The last clip is Grady on point with Jake honoring. Although Grady broke in the end it was acceptable for me. There were two birds that flushed before he broke. One, when you see Grady look over at me, flushed from behind me and the second just before Grady broke, took off from below. Grady broke on flush number two and bumped the original bird he was pointing. Things can't always be perfect and I'll always be satisfied with this kind of dog work.



We all expect different things from our dogs and when it comes to hunting there is no perfect way. If your dog is making you happy as you hunt than that is the perfect way for you.

I did find out another important fact yesterday. I covered some chukar country yesterday while I was crippled up some. Even though it wasn't prime chukar country, if I could hike these trails in the shape I'm in now, I'll be able to cover these magnetic mountains in 12 years when I'm 80. So, don't be surprised in the year 2031 when you see an old grey haired and old boned fellow hiking the mountain that it is me following a brown shorthair pup.

Also, I know as many post as I've been doing this year, it has to get a little boring for you. Iv'e figured out that this blog is the only way to keep my stuff permanent. I seem to find ways to erase most of my memories from the computer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finishing touch on the 2018 season.

Tomorrow I'm going in to get some hernia's fixed up. Nothing serious but they kept getting bigger through the hunting season and it's time to get fixed up so me and the dog's can enjoy our spring hikes and photographing.

Since I'm not feeling much like sleeping tonight I thought I'd show off my last hunt of the season which was today. The pictures of the dogs is pretty much a mirror of what I've been able to see all season.
Jake was the same stud he has been for six years now and Grady performed far better than I could have expected. He'll turn 1 in 16 days and has already had over 300 points to his credit. Some turned out great and some more like a first year puppy. But, by allowing him to be a puppy he has gained a huge drive to find birds.
He bumped a lot of birds this year, mainly because he outran his nose. He runs faster than any dog I have ever had and by the end of the season he was covering the country beautifully instead of making just long runs. He doesn't check in as often as I would like but I think it may be because he sees Jake and that's as good as seeing me.
Jake on the other hand checks in regularly and watches for any change in direction. Although he gets out there a ways still, usually he is the closer of the two dog's. Jake has no problem finding birds and waiting for my approach.
One of the things that amazes me the most is that even though the dogs run in their own directions and are hunting for themselves, they quite often find each other on points. Both honor each other although it took a little longer for Jake to finally except Grady's points. The only problem we are now having is when I walk out front of their points and I get about 30 yards ahead of them, one or the other will get a little nervous and before long they are racing to help me flush. It's a easy habit to break this spring when I don't have a gun in my hand.
I've always had very good luck with retrieving. Maybe not to hand, but getting my boys to find down birds and get them back to me. Usually retrieving chukars is so steep that I feel grateful when my dog runs all the way down the slope to get the bird and back up the slope with it in his mouth. I know he wants to get it out of his mouth as soon as possible and I allow it. For some reason, not of my doing, Grady likes me to take the bird from his mouth which has been a real thrill for me.
There is usually a race for a downed bird but once one of the dog's have the bird the other lets him have it. At first Grady tried to take the bird but soon figured he wasn't going to get it and would let Jake finish the retrieve. Jake quite often lets me take the bird from his mouth now because he doesn't want to put it down and have Grady claim it. 
Although I've had some real trying days with the two of them, they have become quite a team and I'm getting to trust Grady more and more each trip. I'm having fewer times when I wonder why Grady seems to be busting the birds, and also Jake, and realize that the conditions can't always be right for a point. As I watch them work I realize that more often than not the boys will find the birds and hold them. Sometimes excitement takes over and I don't want to take that away from them just so I can always be successful. They are usually working as a team member and that's all I can ask.
As far as the hunter goes. I also had some up and down days. I didn't keep track of my shooting this year but I guess my percentage went down some. A couple of trips I really let it get to my head and would have had better luck throwing my shotgun at the birds. Yesterday I got five birds with 17 shots and most of them were pretty easy shots. 
That was going to be my last day out this year and I was pretty disappointed in myself for ending it this poorly. Then a chukar hunting friend from Washington called me to talk dogs and just by talking with him I got excited to hit it one more day. Dave Schuler informed me he was looking for another pup since his current shorthair was nine years old and showing some wear. Now that doesn't seem odd until I mention the fact that he is 77 years old and had to miss 2 and 1/2 months due to a torn achilles tendon. 77 and ready to start  another chukar dog. What a stud. I figured I could muster one last hunt and try and make a better ending hunt for the season. Today my percentage improved to eighty percent.
Jake and Grady were even excited for me and now we are all ready to take a few weeks to appreciate what God has given us. 
69 chukar trips this year. One more than last year. Thank you to my wonderful wife, Barbara for giving me the freedom to live life to it's fullest.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Testing your limits

Everyone that has chukar hunted knows how frustrating it can be. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong on a chukar hunt. Some times just getting to your hunting spot can be a challenge. Then you have to figure out where the birds will be this time, whether you want to challenge yourself on the frozen steep hills, will the birds be wild, is your dog going to act like a chukar dog should or is he going to act like a pup on his first hunt?

Even when everything seems to be going right, you move in on a solid point, ready for the shot and as the birds flush a rock slips out from under your feet and sends you to your back side as you watch the birds race to the next ridge. Or maybe the birds flush at 50 yards and you empty your gun without seeing a feather fall and then the rest of the covey flushes at ten yards away. And the times the mountain is so steep the swinging shot sends you and your gun rolling down the hill. I could go on and on but if you have chukar hunted much you know how many things can mess with you. Sometimes you might even feel like the golfer who just shanked a shot and proceeded to snap his club in half.

Conner and I were on a hunt today and he found this shotgun on the hill.
We've found a lot of things in the past but this was a first. By the way the barrel was bent and the stock was broke off it was easy for us to figure the gun was broke intentionally. Maybe not, but we surmised that the person had just emptied his gun on a covey of chukar and once again no birds fell from the sky. Being tired from the long hike in he finally broke and slammed his gun over a rock and then grabbed the barrel and broke the stock.
That may not be at all what happened, but we all know how chukar hunting can work on your mind. I know I've been close to the breaking point a few times. Let your imagination go and maybe you can come up with a better story.

And how about these glasses. I found them in a place where I can't imagine anyone but a chukar or bighorn hunter would be.
One person told me that he had heard that Elton John was a chukar hunter and maybe he lost them. You think about it and maybe you can find some reasons for the strange things we find back in those places where we think no one else has ever been. I'm up for any possible answers.

Two more days for me.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

January hunting with pictures

The weather outside today is a rain and snow mix and tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same, so we decided to pass on the hunting and hang out at home. That's our excuse but the real reason is we are whipped from yesterday's excursion. Thank God for Barbara's patience with us laying around moaning and groaning.

I finally pulled myself off the couch and decided to post some pictures of our last two hunts along with some descriptions of how Jake and Grady's year progressed. With me having only 9 more possible hunting days so I probably won't be taking the camera out of the vest much, but doing more late season training. Unless something unusual happens this will be my last hunting post for this season. Did I hear someone say "hooray"?  I'm going to punish you more by showing off lots of pictures of the boys on my last two hunts.

You already saw the video of the elk, we had the same kind of encounters with deer but I only took still pictures of them.

Jake turned 6 on the 15th and has become quite a machine.
At first he was a little reluctant to honor Grady's points but now has no problem with it at all, knowing that he is still going to get into the action.
Outside of running a stick through the webbing in his foot he has had a healthy season and performed like the champ that he is.
Hunting the two dogs together was a great experience. It was a little harder than I had remembered because Grady had no fear of covering country and didn't check back as often as I like. That could possibly be because as long as he could see Jake he felt in contact with me. That is one of the training areas we are going to be working on.
Grady has come a long way from his uncertain points early on and very seldom fools me with a false point.
His biggest fault is his speed. He goes so fast he often outruns his nose and bumps birds. I'm hoping the more trips into the field the sooner he'll figure that out. Or else maybe I could kill myself and take longer hunts with them as I did yesterday. After about 30 miles, Grady's pace slowed quite a bit.
Once on point, Grady stays steady, allowing me to walk around him until the flush. On this point in the snow I spent a couple of minutes out in front of him trying to get the bird to flush without a bit of movement from him. Just about the time I figured Grady was wrong the single chukar flew from the brush right beside him and I proceeded to miss with both barrels.
At the beginning of this same hunt, Grady locked in on a large bitter brush. Learning from last years experience with Jake and the porcupine I kept my mouth shut and was glad I did.
Sure enough, there was a porcupine hidden deep in the brush just as there was last year not 200 yards from here. I wonder if it was the same guy. At the end of that hunt we counted up our birds and were pretty happy with the outcome.
Jake added a new wrinkle to our hunts this year. If the birds are running up hill from him or randomly taking off around him he does this whining kind of bark. I don't think I'll try and do anything about it because it usually seems to be birds he can't get pointed. In fact sometimes I get a passing shot from birds he's chased a couple hundred yards up the ridge.
Once in a while I also get a passing shot because of Grady. I usually have no idea whether he is following running birds or just out ran his nose but I am willing to just accept it from a 11 month old pup who is just super excited to find chukars.
I probably will have to work Grady on stop to flush. He has a tendency to follow hard after a flushed bird hoping to see where they go and before long he is too far away from me looking for them. I allow a short twenty yard chase looking for a bird to go down but not a 200 yard chase.
I can't say enough times that wild birds are the best training for bird dogs . Luckily for me I live in a state where there are lots of birds and I have plenty of time to hit the mountain. It's like producing a good gun dog while you are having fun.
By the end of January I hope to be close to having 70 trips with the dog's this year. I've hunted 34 different locations, which is fewer than my normal year, and have only had poor results in two different hunts due to lack of birds. The other poor results were due to very poor shooting. My excuse for those days is a very stiff back that prevented me from swinging through.  Works for me. How many times did I get to walk around a hill to find both boys locked and wondered who is honoring who? A lot more than I probably deserve but it sure is rewarding.
For the last month one thing I found was pretty consistent. Even though the dog's were solid, most likely the birds were out a ways. This point here found the birds flushing about 100 yards down the draw as I moved to the front of the dog's.
I never got a shot which happens as often this time of the year as not. But we stayed with it and put in that long day with lot's of positive things happening and plenty of not so positive things and came home with a pretty generous bunch of birds.
So this is pretty much a wrap up of my late season hunting with a couple of great dogs. We're going to try and get out a few more times with Greg and by ourselves and enjoy some time trying to improve our techniques for next year. Jake and Grady can use some tune ups but more than anything else I need to have someone walk behind me with a two by four and hit me in the head when I pull some of the dumb stunts I have pulled this year. The best way to clarify that statement is to say that February is dedicated to getting my body and my truck worked on.

I sure hope everyone had as successful of a season as I did and are rewarding your dogs for their good performance. Appreciate chukar hunting for what it provides for us. Great scenery, viewing a variety of animals, great dog work, good friends, good eating and great conditioning are just a few of the assets of our sport. Let's keep it here as long as we can. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

The boys and the elk

We had a great hunt today. Walked a long way, saw tons of birds and other animals and came home very tired. Grady once again turned in 34 + miles while Jake did just over 31 and I was just shy of 10. I took time to film this video and got lot's of pictures of points. Enjoy this video and I'll tell you the rest of the story at another time. 12 days left.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

First aid kit

I've packed a first aid kit for both me and the dog's for a long time but never needed it until yesterday. Although it wasn't an emergency like Greg Munther's dog, I was glad I had the kit along.

I noticed some blood in the snow and saw Jake licking his foot off and on but at first I thought it was just one of those little cuts I often see in crusty snow in paw prints. When Jake quit hunting and just walked about ten feet in front of me I decided to check it out. I was shocked to see a small stick sticking through his paw.
It wasn't a big deal but needed attention all the same. The stick had gone through the web in his left hind leg with about a half inch sticking out the bottom and 3 inches out the top of his foot. When I pulled it out Jake didn't even flinch. There must not be many nerves in the webbing. The blood tracks suddenly were a lot more obvious and I thought we might head off the hill but after applying some EMT gel the bleeding stopped and Jake was off to the races. I kept an eye on his tracks and there was no further blood in the snow so we finished the day off chasing chukars with Grady.

Not an exciting story but it shows the importance of always having that first aid kit with you.

Two weeks left in Idaho and Oregon so get out there and have some fun. The birds are very wild but still fun to pursue.

P.S. Although this was the first time using my kit on a dog, my kit has been used several times to fix a broken gun on the hill.