Saturday, September 16, 2017

How did your opener go?

I don't get out on opening day very often, but with the cooler temperatures I decided to give it a try. For some silly reason I decided to go to a place I haven't hunted or scouted for three or four years because it's a little closer to home. Just a short hour drive and I'm on the hill.

To start off with, this area must have had a real harsh winter. An ice berg must have slid down the canyon carving the walls and making them a lot steeper than I remember. Boy did they seem steep. Also, there were a lot more loose rocks than I remember. About 1 1/2 hour into the hunt I rolled one under my foot and did something to my hip as I hit the ground. My hip showed no visual damage but the new gouge in my Citori really bruised my ego.

My memory of birds being there didn't let me down though. There were plenty of chukars on the hill and they kept us going a little longer than I had planned. Jake didn't let me down either. His close ranging while grouse hunting didn't change his attitude on the chukar mountain and he covered the ground the same as years past. The only problem we encountered was even though it was cooler, it was still dry and Jake usually didn't hit scent until it was too late and we moved a lot of birds without points.

My past canine partners were a little disappointed with me. My first shot at chukars every year has been with a shell loaded with their ashes and, until this year I have never missed on that first shot. I think I might have got that bird a little later because Jake and I came back through the area the birds flew to and he jumped a chukar with a leg hanging and I dropped it. My boys in heaven know for sure. They keep a close eye on Jake and me.

I would guess that we saw somewhere around 150 to 200 chukars and no huns. There was plenty of shooting in the area that tells me others were having the same luck. I never saw another dog or hunter but the echoes of their shots let me know I wasn't the only upland hunter on the hill.

My shooting wasn't so great. It serves me right. For the first time for as long as I can remember I didn't shoot my shotguns since the last shot of the 2016 season. I did get some birds and Jake got some good points along with his retrieves. For some reason, Jake will hold a chukar in his mouth longer than any other bird. He was always in a hurry to get the grouse out of his mouth this year and has also been that way with huns in the past. Go figure.

Outside of having to crawl out of my truck on our return to home, I'm super optimistic about what this season has to offer and what Jake is capable of doing in his fifth hunting season. It looks like the birds are there and he definitely has the tools to get me plenty of opportunities on the mountain.

Picture taking was minimal because my camera quit on me again. I got a picture of Jake's first point and then the camera quit and won't let me retrieve pictures either. I'll slam it around a little and try the charger again and maybe I can get it to work again. I like this camera because it fits in my shirt pocket and is easy to get to. Barb helped me see through the view finder on the back of the camera better. She wiped the dust off. Amazing how easy things can be. She also commented on how the knobs shouldn't crunch when you turn them. I always thought a little sweat and dust was a good thing.

Chime in. Are you finding birds out there?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Heat, Pollen and dust, OH MY.

The upland season did arrive. There wasn't much hoopla about it, but some of us were eager enough to give it a try. I think everyone survived, but a post I received as well as my opening day outing suggest that I might remind upland hunters of some of the potential threats to us and our hunting canines on these very warm days.

First of all, the post I received from Steve told me how he was sidelined after his first hunt by an asthma attack and was hospitalized and put in a medically induced coma. I'm not sure whether he already had asthma conditions that might have led up to his hospitalization or whether it just came on but I know this heat, dust, smoke and pollen can knock a guy down real quick. I'm hoping that's why I was so punky on opening morning. I just couldn't get going. You'd think with finding grouse five minutes from my truck the enthusiasm would have had me pumped up but, within a half hour I felt like my pack weighed 100 pounds. Even when Jake busted or pointed another bird I felt drained and it was now only 8 A.M. I refuse to think I'm getting to old so I'm going to blame it on the weather and air conditions.

If you're like me, you'll go out there anyway. Just be prepared and pack lots of water and snacks to help you make it through the hunt. Slow yourself down along with your hunting companion and make it a short trip.

Speaking of hunting companions, keep a close eye on your pup. I remember something about a hot pheasant opener in the Dakota's and stories of many dogs dying of heat exhaustion. Watching Jake last Thursday, I could see how that could happen very easily. He drank a gallon of water in an hour. That's a lot of water, but he kept coming back to me and staring at my water bottle and I'd squirt more into his mouth. All of my dogs in the past would lay in a bog or puddle of water and cool down but Jake hasn't figured this out so he doesn't cool himself down. We were at about 5500 feet in elevation and in an area where a creek would perk out of the ground for 50 yards or so once in a while. Jake wouldn't use the creek but I'd refill his bottles when I could. His nose was so dry he didn't get that cake of dust and pollen over it like on normal early hunts. The worst part, (if you can call this bad) was there were enough birds around to keep his enthusiasm up and he refused to slow down. I finally had to convince him to cut our hunt short when I saw him stumbling a little.
I know it's hard not to get out there and chase birds, since you've been waiting since January 31st or before. Just beware of the heat, dust and pollen. First, it may affect you more than you realize and second, it will defiantly affect your dog. A heat stroke and do permanent damage to a dog. I don't know a lot about systems of dogs overheating but I do know to check there tongues. The darker they get, the closer to heat stroke they are getting. I hunted with a friend one time that when I caught up to him he was telling me his dog was very disoriented. Her tongue was almost purple. I poured what water I had left on her stomach and we then carried her to a creek and place her belly down in it. We didn't lose her but she was never the same hunting dog again.

Enough on the negatives. Just be careful and smart out there. There are defiinately birds out there to be had. They are tough to find because of the poor scenting conditions but if you can find birds on these hot and dry days it's only going to get better from here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It's official

This heat has finally done me in. There's no more hiking the chukar country until we get some moisture and the temperatures drop. After only 2 1/2 miles for me and probably 2 to 3 times more for Jake I was ready to throw in the towel. Jake had downed over five quarts of water and I had sweat half of that. It showed by the towel I'm ready to throw away. On the way back up the road to the truck I was at a crawl pace and I thought Jake was going to make me carry him. My mind was thinking of my genius neighbor and wondering if he could make a remote control for my truck.

With only 8 to 9 hundred feet of elevation gained, I wanted no more of the chukar hills and for the first time Jake looked like he felt the same. It was only our findings that kept us on the positive side for later on in the year. Doggone it we didn't find some birds. Last week we found great numbers in Oregon and today found the same.

There's one thing I overlooked last week on my trip and figure other hunter's will run into same trouble this season. With the rough winter a lot of those back roads had some good run off and are impassable. I don't think the county and state departments would be willing to spend those thousands of dollars to repair roads for us upland hunters so be prepared to put on some extra foot miles to get to those special places. The spot in Oregon left me about 5 miles from where I wanted to be but as luck would have it Jake and I found a place we had been driving by and found a plethora of birds. (Plethora; pretty big word for an uneducated chukar hunter. but sometimes I even surprise myself.) I can only imagine how many birds I would have found further up the road.

Over the same way but on the Idaho side of the pond I had even better luck today. It was too hard to count the number of covey's because we were seeing so many birds and once we got the first group up they were consistently running into each other and were soon on a hillside with well over a hundred chukars all split up. They were calling and flushing everywhere and it was more than Jake could handle. He was constantly running between birds and either pointing or chasing the highly visible birds. When he'd come back to me for refreshment I'd try to slow him down but there was way too much excitement to go slow.

As we headed up the hill I took a snap shot of the hill we were going up hoping that maybe some of the flying birds would show up but they didn't.
There had to be some water somewhere but we never did locate any.

When Jake would point it was usually a low head point that told me the birds were really close and he was probably making eye contact.
The birds wouldn't let me go to the front before they would flush.
It didn't matter to either of us though, because we knew there would be more birds to have fun with shortly. Jake gave me several opportunities to take pictures as he ran past birds to locate others and the chukars would jump up on rocks to watch him.
Several of the young birds seemed to be trying to warn their buddies of what was coming up the hill.
The plus side was that almost all of the birds were this year's, making it fun to look forwards too. The big boys never stood around long enough for me to snap a shot at.
I didn't see any real young birds but you can see by the pictures of these birds about what there age is.
Jake and I drove into this spot in the dark so we were pleased to see these guys as we drove out.
Shortly after that we had to let another group run off the road.

To add to the craziness of it all, this was one of the places I had been into that had several pairs of birds in  March but very few birds in July. Maybe I can carry this lesson into my future years in scouting and save some heart ache.

I also got two phone calls that reported good finds. Both in chukars and huns. Both calls were reports on different areas than I scouted and from each other, promising even wider spread of good upland hunting. Thanks Steve and Greg, mums the word for their locations. Oh, that's right, you didn't tell me where. (What's with that?)

With this, the calls, and the other positive posts, I'm calling it an end to the scouting for the year. I think it is going to be a real fun year with lot's of action and hopefully a lot of good dog work with better than average shooting from the handler. To the gentleman in Tennessee, things have turned quite a bit since I spoke with you on the phone and I believe Jake and I were just missing the birds. If you do make it to Idaho, give me a call and I'll try to make it up to you.

Now let's hope for cooler weather, some moisture, and lack of fires. We've been real fortunate with the amount of tall grass out there this year that we have avoided a rough fire season. 

Keep posting your finds. I love hearing from you.                                 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Baffled

After my scouting outing on Aug. 1st, I was excited about the upcoming season but my last three trips lowered my expectations once again. Although I'm finding birds once again, they are not in the numbers I hoped to find. I've found covey's of both chukars and huns but the chick count has been lower than my expectations. Almost every covey has been from the early hatch with almost grown chicks. The largest covey had seven young birds while a couple of groups only had two or three chicks.

I have to use the excuse of tough scouting conditions much like early hunting season. Jake very seldom finds the birds this time of the year with a high heads up point but rather hits the scent and than tracks them as he would a wounded bird. When he gets his nose close to the ground I wait and either he bumps a covey or gives me a point. Usually he just bumps them making it hard to get a picture.

What's baffling me is first of all, the number of paired birds I found this March. I was sure there would be covey's of birds everywhere this time of the year. Secondly, the great spring we had. Not too cold and enough moisture to keep the insects coming. I can't count the number of grasshoppers that have hit me in the face while scouting this year. Thirdly, the number of chicks the turkey's produced this year. There were successful hatches everywhere and most of the groups averaged more than 12 chicks per group. Although they hatch earlier than the chukars the conditions were pretty much the same.

I visited with a rancher last week and he pretty much echoed what I just said. Although he was seeing birds while riding he hasn't had any of those large covey's that take off with so much noise it spooks both him and the horse.

The grouse I am encountering also have small chick ratio's. The most chick's I've seen on Blue grouse is five and 3 on Rough grouse. The Rough grouse are hard to count because of where they usually are and there is usually more noise than what three chicks and an adult can make but I only count what I see. Quail still aren't showing up like I expect but I have neighbors that say they are seeing bumble bee sized quail now.

There are some great reports out there. Chukarhunter50 is finding some great numbers and Calton in Utah put up some great numbers for the grouse. Look back at my last couple of posts to see what they have seen.

 I'm still confident that we are going to have a good year but maybe not the stellar year I predicted clear back in March. It's very possible that Jake and I are just not covering the hills right and if we would have zigged instead of zagged we would have found more birds. Cooler, wet weather and the season after Sept. 16 will provide the answer for the huns and chukars while cooler conditions and some rains will be a good excuse to chase some grouse after the 30th of this month.

Jake and I will still be getting out because that's what we love to do. We will try and keep you informed of any progress and excited for the upcoming season and I hope that the rest of you will keep reporting what you are finding out there.

On the lighter side, if I ever get tired of hunting chukars, Conner will teach me how to fish work out style.
The hook up,
Dragging around the pond

                                                                                  Hands on the fish finally
                                                                                  Feet on solid ground
                                                                                       21 inch bass

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

chukars

Jake and I had a pretty good outing today and although it wasn't quite as good as chukarhunter50 had a few days ago, it made me pretty excited. If you really want to get jacked up about this years upcoming chukar season, look at chukarhunter50's last comment on my "ouch" post. If that doesn't get a person fired up what I found today will put you to sleep.

To start out, the area I scouted was inaccessible once the winter storms hit last year. Maybe a snow mobile could have gotten there but the grade a person had to go over was too covered with snow to get any kind of a wheeled vehicle in. I questioned that many birds would survive up there because of the deep snow last year but was pleasingly surprised shortly after I started up the grade and saw 53 chukars running up the road ahead of me. I know there was 53 because I got a great picture of them and have counted them several times. I'd show this picture except for a prominent feature in the background that would give this location away. I'll give you a hint on the location. It was in Idaho.

The covey had at least two different size chicks. Some were around three weeks old and most of them were closer to eight weeks old. I was surprised how many of the big chicks I saw. There goes my theory of most chukars are hatched later in the summer. I got plenty of pictures of those birds and several other birds further into the trip but bare with the quality because I was using a little camera with no view finder and my eyes aren't good enough to see the screen on the back of it. So the pictures are a true point and shoot situation and hope that the image is even in the screen. Kind of like my shotgun shooting.

I did see one more small covey from the road and snapped this picture as I passed.
Jake and I took two hikes but didn't get that far out because of the dry conditions. He was constantly sneezing and shaking his head but he was finding so many birds I think he would have kept going until he dropped dead. So against his wishes I would turn him and head back to the truck. This was a large covey of about 40 birds but somehow I managed to only capture three in the photo.
Being young, a lot of the chukars ran ahead and would pause for a shot but most of the time my camera only got pictures of brush.
I had a little better luck getting a focused shot against the sky.
Jake had some great wildlife viewing on many of the running birds and would stop and stare so that I could tell he saw birds. The conditions are so dry and the scent is minimal enough that Jake often times found the birds quite close.
Summing the day up, I'd have to use the word fantastic. After my last few outings, I have been getting a little worried. Today brought me back to reality and how tough these chukars are. They survived this hard winter and now it looks like they are flourishing again due to a wet spring. Outside of the large covey and the small covey on the road I know we saw at least 6 other covey's. We saw between 150 and 200 chukars and I'd guess around 90% of them were juveniles.

To top it off, we saw two covey of quail on our drive out. One covey, the chicks were about 2/3 the size of the adults and the second, the chicks were a week old at the oldest. No pictures because they totally disappear in the cheat.

I am back to being very optimistic about the season. I am looking forward to a good rain storm without the lightning soon. The cheat is terrible and tall.  I pulled several seeds from Jake's ears and luckily he doesn't seem to have any up his nose. The birds have plenty of cover to elude us next fall.

Grouse season is 29 days away and if the heat ever leaves it will be great practice for chukar season.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

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.