Thursday, July 20, 2017

ouch!!!

I just got back from a 150 mile dirt road trip looking for birds. I don't usually scout from the road but after my last three hikes I thought I might give looking for quail a try. On my last three outings I saw a pair of chukar which I believe didn't have any little ones by the distance they flew and another single chukar. I was getting a little desperate to prove that this winter wasn't as hard on wildlife as some might make you believe. So I took a drive to places where I knew quail are abundant. In shortly under 150 miles I saw 2 pair of quail. By the time I got home I was ready to concede to the hunters with the half empty glass theory but not before looking at my entries from July of the last ten years.


Summing it up, I've already been out more this July than any other July. My bull headedness has taken over and I so want to prove my early prediction forecast that I'm wasting lot's of time, gas and energy, not to mention getting a little disappointed. In ten years the only decent covey of chukars I have seen in July was the 17th four years ago and there was about fifteen 6 to 8 week old birds with a pair of adults. Yes, I have had a few other encounters, but the month of July should be the month to stay home and save some miles on the truck and legs.

August has been a pretty good month to find young birds if my entries prove anything but the weather conditions seem to be as responsible for finding birds in the off season as it is during the hunting season. Almost every August after a rain or on a cool morning I have been successful at finding birds with young. The surprising note is how many really young birds I find in August. There seems to be quite a separation of age in birds at that time. From week old birds to 8 weeks or better.

The amount of big game animals I saw the last two weeks should have been some type of clue that I was wasting my time being on the mountain. I didn't see one calf or fawn in areas that in June I was constantly coming in contact with one after another. It seems like the only animal out in the sun was this dumb human with a not so enthusiastic dog.

Don't go negative on me. I know deep in my heart there will be lot's of great opportunities this fall and my negative outings were just poor timing and planning. We have never seen young quail around here until the end of July but somehow I though this year might be different. I understand now that July is the month to stay up high in the timber if you want to stretch your legs and exercise the dog. All this month did was make me second guess myself.

Who knows, maybe those that say this winter was terrible on wildlife might be right. I still don't think it was although I may have to back off on my "way to early forecast" of a great year to an average year for chukars and huns. Next month will help get a better feel but the real test for us chukar hunters is when the season begins. I'm still as excited as I was in February for the season start and will be on the mountain as often as time and Jake allow.

I'm looking for some positive vibes out there from some of you to help keep us excited.

Friday, July 7, 2017

It's beginning

Jake and I took the two hour ride over to one of our Oregon hunting locations yesterday and had a pretty nice hour and a half hike before we had to get back to the truck and some shade. With the early sunrise this time of the year we had to leave home at 3:30 in order to get a little quality mountain time. Especially for Jake who goes through the water pretty quickly.

Although we didn't see lot's of birds, we had two situations with new birds on the ground. Both groups had chicks not more than two or three days old. I can't say how many chicks were in each group but can say the tall grass was moving from something making a high peeping sign while an adult was playing the crippled bird game. That kept Jake's attention long enough for me to spot a few of the chicks. In one case there was only one chukar playing hurt (I have to assume it was a female) and in case two there was a pair with only one playing hurt. The second bird flew only 20 yards or so and disappeared. Like earlier, I could hear the peeping but had a tough time locating them without taking the chance of stepping on one.

I also saw two other single chukars that flew a distance and a pair that also flew a ways. It's only speculation but I can't help to believe the singles were hopefully males who's mate was still sitting a nest and the pair were also sitting a nest somewhere. I did not see any adult covey's which is a good sign that the birds are either still nesting or trying to renest. Covey's of full grown chukars are usually a sign of unpaired birds that either were unsuccessful  with their hatch or never paired up.

I still want to stay positive about the upcoming season even though I haven't seen a lot of proof yet. I've seen many blue grouse but no chicks yet and on my return home yesterday I saw several loan bull quail along the dirt road. Their female partners had to be somewhere close by and I prefer to believe they were sitting a nest or hiding the little ones close by.

Although this winter was a very harsh one, I believe the game animals fared very well through it. I remember winters similar to last years back in the 60's and we accepted them as part of the culling process of Mother Nature. It seems like today people want to view everything with a negative tone, posting press releases like the one posted July 2 claiming harsh winter took heavy toll on western U.S. I'd rather post the press release from Idaho Fish and Game on June 22 that said the winter kill was less than expected for mule deer, and elk fared even better. Jake and I have not had a trip since the first of June where we haven't found several fawns, calf elk, or turkey babies. The upland rearing season has just begun and I want to believe there will soon be lot's of positive signs for a good season. So far I think Mother Nature has provided us with a lot of positive clues.

We've also seen a few ruffs out there in the timber country.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Early June and still on the positive side.

Being retired, I get to spend a lot of time in the mountains with Jake and now Conner with school being over. I can't see a better way of spending days than what I do. But, that's enough about how lucky I am. I'm sure you're more concerned about how the chukars are doing.

First let me say I haven't found any babies or nest yet this spring but am still seeing very favorable conditions. Baby grasshoppers are showing up everywhere. I haven't seen one covey of chukars or huns in the last month which says they are paired and nesting as nature planned. The chukars I am seeing are singles and usually standing on a distant rock declaring their dominance.
Outside of a good thunderstorm last night the weather has been optimal for a great hatch and I'm sure the chukars are doing as well as the rest of the animals I am seeing are doing.
Even in the rainy weather the cocks are out on the rocks protecting their turf. 
We are finding a lot of other signs of a favorable spring though. The big game animals seemed to adjust fine to the rough winter we had and we're finding loads of cow elk out with obvious calves somewhere. When the cow ignores you and is pretty intense on running your dog off it's pretty much a guarantee that their is a little one somewhere close by.
In this case I decided to get Jake out of the area. She was very unhappy with him. But on that same rainy day that the chukar was protecting his turf, this cow elk watched too curiously as Jake and I traveled her draw and she made no attempt to run away.
Sure enough I located her calf laying still in the open. Jake had no idea the calf was there and stood wondering why I whoa'd him. He would have run right over it before he smelled it.
The calf did just what the instincts told it to do. Freeze, and don't move.
Jake finally walked up to me as I was taking some pictures and gave it a concerned look but left with me as soon as I said let's go.
We've had a few other encounters with elk and calves and also with some deer. Conner, Jake and I have found several does with fawns but this gal was very obliging with her baby.
She didn't want to come out and get photographed but she didn't mind us posing with her baby.
Of course Jake didn't want Conner to get all the excitement so we had to snap a shot of him observing the fawn.
A little closer to our concerns about the chukar is the big bird (turkey). Their breeding habits and nesting times are very similar to chukars, except for the locations of where they do their nesting. I know that some will get very discouraged to hear this but Jake is a sure fire way to find any kind of bird. I know that it is illegal to hunt turkey's with a dog but it is not illegal to observe animals with a dog. Jake helped find these turkeys to observe.
When momma stays close by and clucks constantly as you move in you know there are chicks close by.
The trick is to find those little peepers. Trust me it isn't as easy as it might seem. There is one in this picture but we would never had found it had the grass not moved a little.
There were somewhere around a dozen chicks scrambling through the deep grass and Conner picked this one out hoping to imprint upon it to come to his call next year.
If all the other wildlife has done as well I think the chukar will have the same results. I think if we have no big cold and wet storms come through we're home free. Meanwhile Conner, Jake and I will take the arduous task of hiking the hills and trying to keep you informed of what we are seeing.

Be safe and have a good summer.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

update

There's not a lot to post about the chukar conditions right now except that Jake and I spent a couple of hours running around on the mountain today and didn't see a bird. Even though we were at an area that had many of pairs a month ago we figure no worries. The pairs are probably on nests now and with the spring conditions scent is probably at a minimal. Had we seen covey's I would panic some and say the pairs didn't take, but that wasn't the case. I was surprised at the lack of insects (Grass hoppers) that I saw. Hopefully that will change soon.

We had a few unproductive points and a few that were a little light on staunchness telling me maybe it wasn't a bird point.
In this case it was the enemy and it gave me a chance to do some avoidance training. I gave him the okay and when he got about 10 yards away from the skunk it shocked him and Jake quickly retreated to my side.
Outside of the normal deer and elk sightings we had our first baby encounter of the year. Another lazy point was really a stare down between this coyote and Jake.
The coyote stood there and let me take some pictures of it so I assumed it was a bitch coyote with some pups in the proximity.
I was right and it wasn't long before Jake was showing me the den with his curiosity point.
I'm guessing the pups were between a week or two because there eyesight was poor. I snapped some pictures before they backed into the den. 6 puppies are mighty cute even though they turn into 6 coyotes.
I waited a while knowing curiosity would make the pups come back out to figure out what this creature was sitting outside the den. They did and I picked one up so I could get a close up.
They are every bit as cute as our canine buddies and it would be cool to raise one but it's best not to fool with Mother Nature so I let Jake take a whif and put the pup back with his brothers and sisters and headed off ready for our next encounter with nature.


Hopefully in about three weeks there will be a bunch of little chicks of the upland variety and they will be filling there crops with grasshoppers and other insects. I'm still looking at the positive side and excited for the opener.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Still having fun and loving life

Rather than bore you with more pictures of Jake and stories about the chukars and huns I'll just post a few pictures of our last hikes. I still believe our harsh winter was more of a culling year than a devastating year for our wildlife. Get out there and look for yourselves. I think you'll be surprisingly pleased with the game populations and the Fish and Games policies on wintering wildlife.

An educated coyote that didn't want his picture taken.
White tails always run like they have no care in the world.
Many of the elk I see still have their antlers. None are very large and possibly the larger bulls have dropped their antlers.
Of course the turkeys are right in the middle of the strut. Just a little more proof that we humans can't mess up birds ability to nest and have little ones, even by hunting them during the mating season.
The mule deer are looking a little shaggy but the antlers are already showing some growth.
This bear is enjoying his sun bath and looked at Jake and I with discuss for waking him from his snooze. 
He was happy to see Jake and I leave and went back to sleeping.
Enjoy the outdoors. You're only on this earth once.

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 spring has sprung

Although the snow is coming down today, have no fear. This year is progressing along the way it used to be. Remember the saying "April showers bring May flowers", well we're at April 14th and we've been getting plenty of showers.
 Everything is going as nature planned. The goose eggs are starting to hatch which are always the first birds to have babies in the spring.
The turkeys are doing there thing and the hens are either just starting to lay eggs or preparing their nests.
Jake even likes pointing treed turkeys.
He gives a treed turkey bark that I'm glad he doesn't do on other upland birds
but the gal knows he's no threat to her.
The rock chucks are coming out in force now and their babies are already the size of squirrels. I have to persuade Jake not to chase after these guys because where they go down in the rocks is also a good place for a rattler to be warming up.
Although I haven't seen a rattler yet, I'm sure it won't be long. Along with the paired chukars I'm seeing on our outings I'm seeing a lot more huns than in the past.
Keep the positive vibes going because I still think it's going to be a fantastic year. At best the chukars and huns are just starting to lay eggs and most won't start for another week or two. After they finish laying their eggs (hopefully up to 20 or so) they have a 24 day incubation period where the hen spends almost all of her time sitting on the eggs. By this time the weather should be warm enough for chick survival and this moist weather we are getting now will be providing plenty of green up for the insects. Unless we have cold wet weather then, we should have a boat load of birds covering the hills in September. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The way it's supposed to be

This was the spring break week for students so I was lucky enough to have Conner spend a few days with me. As usual he wanted to spend our time together on the mountain. So we loaded up the truck, had Jake jump up into the back seat and headed out for a couple of days. We headed west to an area I had chukar hunted in the past but decided to scout some new country. It ended up being a great decision.

In two days of hiking, Conner and I put on 16 miles with almost 5000 feet of vertical gain while Jake was short of fifty miles by two miles and who knows how many vertical feet he got in. Although we had every kind of weather, most of the time it was perfect for hiking. Conner never seems to get tired of hiking and exploring and Jake loves the extra companionship he provides.
Conner has a thing about finding sheds and although we never found the honey hole of antlers, he found enough to keep him looking while loading both his pack and mine with junk found on the hill. Those treasures include the many things we all find while out, water bottles, sardine cans, birthday balloons, shotgun shells, and believe it or not a coat hanger. Conner and I tried to figure it's worth on the mountain but couldn't come up with a logical explanation.
Meanwhile I'm trying to locate Jake to see what he is pointing. This new draw up by no tell em lookout is turning out to be a great find. With Jake on point I have Conner flush the birds while I snap pictures. The three of us had several opportunities, but most of the time I failed in doing my job.
Most of pictures of the flush were just blurs but I managed to capture several shots of chukar. To those interested, we never saw a covey of chukar but all pairs and a couple of singles. To my knowledge that is good news. If they stay in coveys or covey back up later, the hatch will probably be poorer.
What makes this new area such a great find was the amount of blues we saw. We saw at least a dozen blue grouse each day and probably more like 15 to 20. A few of the birds might have been seen more than once. Each day was at completely different locations thus making this a bonus area for the 2017 upland season. 
It's an easy place to find once you get to no tell em lookout. Now put these two days together and imagine you are a 14 year old boy on spring break with four more days before you have to be back in school and your other grand parents are heading for Riggins. Yes, the steelhead are running and three hours after they picked up Conner, he texts me this picture.
I haven't heard back from him since that picture but I'm sure he is beating the water and having the kind of time all 14 year old boys and girls deserve. Now that's the way it is supposed to be. Thank you Idaho.