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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WOW!


"Hunting" means chasing, driving, flushing, attracting, pursuing, worrying, following after on the trail of, shooting at, stalking, or lying in wait for, any wildlife whether or not such wildlife is then or subsequently captured, taken, or wounded. such term does not include stalking, attracting, searching for, or lying in wait for, any wildlife by an unarmed person solely for the purpose of watching wildlife or taking pictures thereof.

This is the paragraph J of Idaho title 36, 36-202 that anonymous referenced to in his comment on my Chukar country post. I'll let everyone decide what it reads to them. I'm glad you posted to show your disappointment that I am out while the birds are paired up. I got a feeling this post might show some excitement. Plus it gives me an opportunity to release a few of my feelings also.

I am pretty sure I know who anonymous (B.M.) is and am sorry you feel the way you do but that is what it is. I never did the name calling, your buddy did.

The fish and game has always had my blog site available since one of the members is a good friend of mine. I don't try to disguise what I do and in fact have had a member of the fish and game with me on my spring outings a few times. I doubt that they will contact me because they have much more constructive things to do with their limited time. That being said, I'll let the readers decide whether I'm doing wrong or not.

Now, to a little about my feelings about your feelings. Jake and I do no more harm to these pairing birds than any other creature in the hills. First off, once we point or jump a pair we're off to another part of the hill looking for our next bit of excitement. Those birds are free to fly back at anytime they wish. We pressure them no further. Your next point might be "how do I know they return?" This time of the year I don't know, but as they start nesting they will return. I know this from many cases of having one of my dogs point and then I flush a pair or a single and they don't fly very far. I then take my dog and sit back a hundred yards and watch until they return. Many times it takes an hour or two but usually when they return I find a nest, take a few pictures, and go on my way. Usually that time of the year is late May or early June but never this time of the year. I have even flagged the nest locations and gone back for several weeks so I know the approximate hatch date. Every nest I have ever watched has had a successful hatch but one. A predator had destroyed the eggs. I suggest that maybe you, I and a Fish and Game employee go on one of my hikes and see how much harassment of these birds I create. But as was suggested, I think the employer would have better things to do with his time. I am a very pro fish and game guy and would love their opinion.

If you are the person I think, you also listed several fish and game titles that forbid harassing big game animals on another site. I am all for not harassing big game animals any time whether they are wintering or not. But to shut down the hills to horn hunters or other recreationist is not the answer. Fish and Game does a very good job in advising people where to avoid game animals and problem areas. There is no need for a blanket statement like was provided by another group on closing the chukar season because of stressed animals. There were plenty of places to hunt where big game animals weren't even present. There was also the mention of chukars that were (I can't remember the word used)  starving. Well that definitely wasn't the case across the region. Also mentioned was the amount of road hunters seen when the deep snow came. I have yet to see a person shoot a chukar from the road. Maybe I don't spend enough time on the road. I think when the weather or any other condition arises, most hunters will use common sense in doing the right thing. They don't need it written out in titles and sub sections.

My third problem is about the guzzlers and the lack of help in maintaining them. You mention how chukar hunters benefit from guzzlers but I disagree. I would be glad to help if I really thought it would help the bird numbers but I don't. That doesn't make me any less of a conservationist than the guy maintaining it. I believe there is very little we can do to enhance chukar country. Mother Nature takes care of that. The guzzler you mentioned that got no help from any other organization was pictured on that other site. Look in the background at the lake. It's hard for me to imagine hunting any animals that is too lazy to walk or fly down to the reservoir. I know they provide good benefits in some areas, but I don't know of any area that I hunt that would benefit chukars. Maybe benefit the chukar hunters some. So, quit trying to guilt people into doing what you think is good. Maybe we don't see the same need.

This could even get longer but I don't want to lose everyone. Pretty much what I'm trying to get at is let people make common sense decisions. I know you have already said that my decision is illegal, but I believe my decision to pursue the birds this time of the year is both an ethical and legal decision. I'm not calling names, but if people like you keep finding a reason to keep others out of the hills, we might just as well turn the state into a big national park where you have to get permission to get off the paved path.

We often talk about how the we're losing youth participation in the outdoors. Wonder why? Conner, Jake and I just got back from a two day hike horn hunting and watching Jake traverse the hills. We had a ball and got some great pictures. We found some sheds and Jake was in pointer heaven. You can't find a more enthusiastic 14 year old anywhere about the outdoors. Why, because he gets to get out there and enjoy all the aspects of it without harming any of the future. He also has some common sense and knows when he's pressuring the resource or not. Take this away from him and we have one more couch potato.

Please give me a call and bring the Fish & Game by and will go out on one of my jaunts to see where the verdict lays. I would enjoy your company and maybe when we are through you might put down your law book and start enjoying the outdoors like you used to.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chukar Country

Unlike most people, I don't have another hobby outside of hunting. And although I hunt a variety of animals at times, if I had only one species to hunt, it would be the chukar. Not just because chukars are the ultimate bird to hunt with a good pointing dog, but equally as much because of the country they inhabit.

Chukar country can be very challenging no matter what time of the year you decide to hike in it. It can have temperatures in the negative degrees and get over 100 in the summer months. There is very little perfect time to be on the mountain because it invites all different weather patterns which can change just by going over the mountain. It encompasses all types of terrain from rock slides to rock cliffs, steep cheat grass hills to rolling sagebrush tops, and bare hills to lush green canyons.. The one thing chukar country doesn't have is hiking trails. You might find some game trails to follow for fifty yards or so before they disappear but then you'll have to side hill on the steep slope until you find another that might take you the next fifty or so yards.

Most people don't care to be in chukar country unless they are hunting something and there are plenty of somethings to hunt besides chukar where they reside. After the general deer and elk seasons, the number of people on the mountain diminishes quickly. The only people left in the hard core chukar country are the hard core chukar hunters. Not because they are any tougher or smarter than anyone else, but because they love hunting chukars with their canine partners. There are a lot of other chukar hunters still hunting, but most of them are just trying to enjoy a hunt in between their seasons and that is what is available. Most of those people won't go to the extent of  traveling four miles before getting a shot because it's not a priority and they find enough birds in the easier places. Maybe they're smarter than us die hards.

The weather is warming up and a good many people are starting to fish the lakes and go up north for steelhead. While they are enjoying that, I'm up on the hill enjoying the solitude of chukar country. I'm covering the mountain sides I couldn't get to two months ago.
On the back side of this mountain is a beautiful draw that looked like this a few months before the big snow came.
I'm so looking forward to that time of the year when I will be returning to this area with a gun in my hand and Jake leading the way. Between now and then, Jake and I will make a couple of spring/summer trips and check out that special place that only he and I know (right) where the hill flattens out some and my shooting percentage rises a little.
We all have a special place like this with the name no tell em ridge. Jake and I have been traveling to chukar country quite a bit since the first of February when the weather finally gave us a chance to actually walk in it. Many of the places were still locking us out with long snow drifts that forbid me from crossing but we're now able to get to all of our hunting spots and I have to say the animals did much better than I thought they might. I figured the chukars and huns might do well because the majority of them usually find that high blown off ridge to get feed from and hide from the predators. Those that moved down into the valley's struggled more with the snow staying almost a month longer than the southern steep slopes.

Jake and I have been in the mountains quite a number of times since Feb. 1 and have yet to see another person on the hill. That is besides my grandson, Conner who is as mentally stable as me.
He has been coming home with a back pack full of sheds each trip we take together. Meanwhile, Jake is having the time of his life. He is finding so many birds he is tiring out by the end of our jaunt and in this case I found him on point from the sitting position.
He had gone 24 miles already that day and 16 miles the day before so I forgave him for such a classless point which produced another pair of chukars.
I'm getting better with my camera and have finally got several pictures of the birds flushing. The secret is just aim the camera towards the flushing birds and push the button. When I get home I look through the pictures and see if the birds are in the frame. It's kind of like how I shoot a shot gun, point the gun, close my eyes and pull the trigger. If Jake goes after a dead bird than I know I was successful.

Chukar hills are full of game animals any time of the year we venture out in them. Here are some other creatures we're seeing. This pair of huns is one of many we are seeing now.
We weren't seeing many earlier but are now seeing quite a few pairs. Some of the chukars are still in covey's but I have only seen paired huns. Jake has also pointed a half dozen blue grouse so far this year.
This ruff didn't let Jake point but flew up into a tree and acted like he had never seen a human or dog.
It's a little early  to find any nest but we found the remains of an old chukar nest from last year and I'm crossing my finger that she will be back this year with twenty or so eggs to sit on.
As I mentioned, it seems like the big game did a lot better than I thought they would do. I have found very few winter killed animals on the mountain. The closer to the valleys, the more dead animals found. To those who wonder if we're pressuring the big game animals, no we are not. Chukar country is big and it's easy to observe the deer and elk while giving them lot's of room. 
The elk have done very well and we've seen them running around and playing already.
But in case one of the deer or elk don't make it through the hard times this guy is ready and willing to clean them up.
Add the sounds we hear when we're high on the mountain, like the snow geese and Canadians heading back north, or the sand hill cranes and even some trumpeter swans, along with the chatter of chukars, it's easy to see why I stay so positive about  our future on the mountain. Chukar country is good for my soul.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pairing birds and training

There must be a lot of stuff coming out about people in the field while birds are starting to pair up because while I was on the mountain yesterday I got four comments about the subject and two messages left on my phone. If you don't want to read my bunch of B.S. on the subject you can stop here knowing I think that not being out there training your dog or just hiking because the birds are pairing up and courting is a bunch of hog wash.

Once again I'm compelled to say that I definitely am not an authority on the subject but do spend enough time on the hill to have an honest opinion. Also my opinion is based on a heck of a lot of observing. I have eight spots that I try and go and observe the chukars each month of the year except June and July. Most eggs are hatching at that time and I prefer to save gas these months.

Although I'm not a good reader, I do read up and find as much as I can about the specifics and studies done on the survival of chukar populations. Most of the material is from Nevada, Utah, and Colorado but it applies to Idaho and Oregon just the same. Also most articles are pre 2000.

Pairing birds start showing up as early as February in most of the 8 areas I keep track of. It seems to me that the huns pair up earlier than the chukars, but I'm finding a lot of paired up chukars already this year. I can't even speculate as to why they are starting earlier than in past years but only hope it's for a good reason. When these birds are in this pairing process they are not nesting but courting and establishing their territory. By training on these birds you are not making any impact on the bird. In fact I find these pairs are great birds for training. They hold good and fly as if being shot at. Even when they fly different ways they soon find each other again. Remember, they're in love and the bull doesn't want another young man messing with his girl. Also, once they start pairing covey's of chukar start dispersing. While training you're not going to find pair after pair but usually your dog has to work to find the next pair because they scatter out so far.

In one Nevada study, out of 100 chukars located in a mile square area, only 7 pair and 1 single remained in the area and the rest dispersed outside of the one mile zone. That's maybe why chukar numbers in certain area's vary so much from year to year.

Just because birds are pairing does not mean they are nesting. This courting and pairing process may last for two months before a nest is established. The egg laying process usually starts between mid March and mid April. Even once this period comes there is no problem with being out their with your canine. The hen lays an egg and than goes off to feed and enjoy her mate until time to lay another egg. They are seldom close to the nest and by training on these birds you are doing no harm to the nesting site. Even though the birds may fly what seems a long distance, they have internal gps's that find them right back at the nesting site when need be.

Chukar nest will average between 15 and 16 eggs in a normal season. I found one nest with 28 eggs in it, I don't know what the survival rate was but wouldn't it be great to have them all survive. Usually one egg is layed per day until the hen has finished laying eggs. Then the incubation process begins.

Now, the hen sits on the nest continuously for 24 days. This incubation period usually begins in May. Although I don't spend as many days on the chukar hill in May, I still believe with a well trained dog you're not endangering the chukar population. Unless your dog is wild and uncontrollable, when he or she hits scent (if they can even hit scent this time of year) the male chukar will try and attract the canine by flying a short distance and than the female will do the same if necessary. I've found several nest by sitting off at a distance and watching for the chukar to sneak back to the nesting site.

Late May, June and the earlier part of July is probably the worst time of the year to be in chukar country. That is when the majority of chukars hatch. In Idaho and Oregon they say June 10 is about the average of when most eggs hatch. My observations believe it is a little later but I don't have the research tools that they have, so maybe there research should be a little more adhered to. Unless you have a very well trained dog it's best to leave the birds alone. Babies don't fly until about two weeks old. If you approach a covey that is less than two weeks old the hen will fake injury to attract attention and you know what a hunting dog is supposed to do when seeing a wounded bird. Once in a while the hen will fake too well and get caught. That's not good, even though the male is close by and will probably take over the rearing process since the pair stays together as a family unit.

While all this faking is going on the little birds freeze and blend into the landscape. The theory is that they have no scent at that time but I know that's not true. I have had my dogs point a less than five day old chick and the chick lay motionless under his nose. Luckily for me, I'm supposed to be the flusher, so with some stern whoa's I keep him still until I can walk him away. I quickly leave the area and let the family reorganize.

After about the 15th of July I figure most hatches are done and the chicks can fly. There are still going to be some late hatches, but the majority of the hatch is done by now. At this point I treat my training and hunting grounds like normal. The birds fly well and can avoid the hunter and dog almost like normal. I may be doing the birds a favor by being out at this time of the year. Mama chukar has a chance of imprinting upon her chicks that dogs and hunters are bad before we have a chance to go after them with a gun.

Hopefully, I've touched upon some of the biological aspects of what is happening with chukar/hun breeding seasons without sounding like an authority. From this information and your knowledge of your dog you have to make the decision of whether you should be out in the field. My honest opinion is that if you don't go to the same place and train in several different places you aren't going to hurt the bird populations. I, unlike the journals or blogs that are saying don't be out there when the birds are paired, believe in our outdoor enthusiasts to do the right thing. Most chukar hunters have a lot more common sense than some give us (even though we are thought to not be to smart to even take on chukar hunting). When I run into a situation that might be harmful to chukars or any other animal for that matter I'll back out and try and minimize my impact. So would almost all other hunters and outdoor enthusiast that I know.

 So, my opinion is get out there training and enjoying the outdoors. Listen to your heart and use common sense. Those guys out there saying you shouldn't be out there are usually making those comments because they don't want to be out there and would rather be doing something else. Let them do what they want and you do whatever it is you want.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pics to go with Bold Predictions


A few pictures showing a positive outlook for 2017.
It's going to be a long 7 1/2 months if you don't think positive. The animals are out there.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bold prediction and rebuttal

Before getting into my early chukar prediction I'd like to address an issue that I'm hearing more about every day. That's the issue on the land transfer. If there is anything we can really do to keep our chukar hunting good it is to make sure we have public land to hunt. We lose that and we won't have to worry about the chukar counts anymore. I'm not real savvy on that type stuff but I'm sure most of you are aware of what you need to do to keep our hunting grounds public.

Next, although it was a tough winter, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Every once in a while Ma Nature decides to do some culling and I believe this was one of those once in a while's. A great example happened at my front door this year. For the past ten years the white tail have chased the mulies from there wintering grounds around here and we have about thirty white tail and forty elk that feed on our place. Two of these white tail were runts. Although Barb and I tried and get them food the other deer always chased them off. The other deer would go out of their way to chase them away even when they weren't eating in proximity to them. Well as you might guess, the two runts died. That was even before the big snow came. After January, the animals all left because the snow was too deep here. This was the first January in 21 years we haven't had deer and elk feeding in our front yard. Now that the snow is receding they are gradually coming back.

So what's that mean to the chukar population? Not a darn thing, but I felt compelled to tell this story since I had so much junk shoved in my face about harassing big game animals while chukar hunting. If we use are heads things usually turn out the way they are supposed to. I don't know one chukar hunter that hasn't the brains to avoid wintering game animals when hunting and if there are some I don't care to know them. In fact I trust that almost all outdoor enthusiasts (horn hunters, snow mobilers, hikers, etc.) are aware of their responsibility when it comes to avoiding game animals.
Closing the chukar season or any other activity would have not have had any affect on winter wildlife survival except in those area's that the Fish and Game are already aware of and they do put closures on them. If someone wants to help save a deer, go patrol the road between Horseshoe Bend and Emmett. I've seen more dead deer and deer standing on that road than ever before.

Be careful before you trust my opinion of it being okay for you to go up on the mountain because you might end up being classified as a unethical hunter. I only bring this up because my post back on Jan. 1 was the most read, the most commented on, and the most phone calls of any post I ever made. I don't want to go that route to hear from other chukar hunters but it was great hearing all the different opinions.

Now to my very early chukar predictions for 2017. I've never made a prediction this early in the year but I've never seen as many birds this time of the year. Remember, I don't know any more than any of you, so it's still finger crossing time. Some will say it's because there was very little hunting in January but I think it was the lack of predation. The avian predators were taking many chukar/hun early in January but later in the month I was seeing very few predators chasing birds but filling up on the dead carcasses of big game animals on the frozen ice or side of the roads. I even saw two golden eagles, one red tail hawk, and a three other type of hawks hit on the road next to carcasses.

Although I did see some chukar in January that looked pretty weak and didn't want to get off the road, they were few in number compared to the healthy birds I saw.

Jake and I have been in the hills 8 times this month and we're finding birds that fly and run as good as birds we were hunting in November. Surprisingly we are already seeing lot's of pairs. We are seeing very few huns but that is normal for the spots we go. We are able to cover a lot of ground now and the training opportunities are endless.
We even get some practice shooting with the camera.
So the winter wasn't as bad on the birds as many thought it might be. I'm looking at it as an optimist for now and am hoping for an "I told you so" come September. A normal spring should give us the best year this century. You can either believe that or believe those that think this winter set us back five years. Either way there's nothing we can do about it. When it comes to chukar, Ma Nature controls the variables. About 212 more days and counting.