Thursday, December 5, 2019

Another bout with a sticky kitty

First off, I don't mean to steal my hunting partner's name for porcupines, but when he told me what he called them I had to use it  the name. Thanks Greg Allen, it fits.

Yes, it happened again today. Grady decided to get a taste of a sticky kitty. The day was getting off to a bad start as it was. We started hunting a fog that looked like it would rise but instead it got thicker. Greg took off one way and I the other in search of the chukars we saw tracks of on the way in. Chukar hunting was pretty slow and the few coveys we saw never got lead thrown their way. Either they disappeared into the fog too soon or I couldn't shoot not knowing where dog two was. About 45 minutes into the trip I finally got the signal that both dogs were on point about 150 yards away. I crunched my way through the snow and finally could see both dogs locked up. As I moved forward I could see a few bird heads sticking out of the snow and was ready to move forward for the flush. Suddenly Grady broke and I saw the sticky kitty by the sage. I immediately yelled but it was too late. Grady had a mouth full. I don't even remember hearing the birds flush and maybe they didn't. They may still be up there chuckling about the fool on the hill.

Crap happens and at times I feel like I'm stumbling over it too often. There were about 50 to 75 quills in his lips and mouth. Far less than Jake had two years ago and not that deep so I decided I'd pull them on the hill. Now you have to understand that Grady isn't the toughest dog on the hill and I found out he doesn't like pain much. The whimpering at each quill being pulled was pathetic but he started to put up a fight. I had never used a stiff hand on Grady but now the fight was on. There was a lot of tugging and pulling and yelling by me but I finally got him wedged in some snow deep enough that I could sit on his chest and finally get a good hold. He calmed some and I quieted down some also. Ten minutes or so and we had the job done except for a few deep down and broken.

Jake just sat there and watched more like a referee in case we got a little too rough. Things like this happen to almost all hunters at one time or another but it's how we handle them that is important. I had the right tools but I'm not sure I was of the right mind. I've always said how nice it is to hunt the mountain and never say a word. Silence is beautiful. Greg was on that mountain somewhere and either he didn't hear me or he was being kind and never mentioned I sounded like a raving lunatic on the mountain.

Although everything came out just fine I have to admit I could have been a little quieter. I was a wrestler in high school and I don't remember ever yelling at my opponent to hold still but as I wrestled with Grady I was pretty vocal for him to hold still. Point is, after I calmed down a little and let Grady calm down a little it was fine. Calmer heads usually get the job done easier than panicking.

Good luck in the next 55 days or so and watch for those sticky kitties.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Day off to contemplate

We're about half way through the chukar season and the boys and I are taking this Saturday off and enjoying some college football. I'm also doing some heavy thinking about this weird hunting season. I've had many hunters tell me they're having a hard time finding birds this year. I have to agree even though I am having a very good season.

October had some early moisture followed by very cold temperatures. Even with the cold temperatures, the grass popped up everywhere. Like normal, the birds scattered everywhere because the fresh sprouts were germinated. Mid October, I was finding small coveys of birds both high and low. Then the warm November temperatures and lack of moisture started drying everything up along with the green sprouts on the southern exposures where the chukars usually tend to use this time of the year. Many of the places, you could drop a match and start a fire. My yard is a perfect example. It is dry as a bone.

The birds I am getting are full of green grass and the coveys are once again congregated. Most of the green grass I find now is on the northern slopes and anyplace the sun doesn't hit directly for most of the day. Even though I see plenty of grasshoppers on the southern slopes I have not found any in the crops of the birds telling me the nutritional value to the birds is more towards the grass than the hoppers.

The birds are very healthy looking and I have been surprised that even the later hatched bird are developing a good layer of yellow fat. They are obviously eating well and prepared for the winter months.

My biggest thought on this season is the two hour rule. It takes two hours of humping the hills to find chukars and then the fun begins. You get your birds and then have a two hour trek back to the rig. This year the two hour rule has been stretched out some. Usually four hours is enough time to have some good success but this year I'm spending 5 to 6 hours on the hill to have the same success as the past. I believe I'm seeing more birds than normal, it is just taking me and the dogs longer to find them. It also could mean I'm getting a lot slower than I use to be but that's hard for me to admit.

So, don't lose faith. I believe some wet weather will soon make it easier for the dogs to find those birds and create some fun experiences.

I've also got some thoughts on Jakes strange behaviors this year. Although he will only be 7 in January he covers only 3/4 of the distance of Grady who is almost two. In fact every once in a while he'll walk behind me on the trail while Grady is out 200 to 300 yards looking for birds. It worried me at first but I've decided as long as he is having a good time and Grady is too I'll stay out of the way and let it be. Jake still gets plenty of points and retrieves and he seems perfectly happy to see Grady at a distance and honor. Last year he didn't seem to ever be looking for Grady but this year maybe he's got smart and decided to let the young guy do the work and he still gets to be in the action.

Sometimes Jake won't see Grady on point but knows he is by the way I am carrying my gun and moving towards a point. He'll honor me but slowly circle behind me until he see's Grady. He'll then either honor Grady or swing around behind me and try to come in and trap the birds between them. At first I whoa'd Jake but am now letting it be what it is. Grady stays locked up and doesn't appear to feel like there is any competition in this behavior.

As far as Grady's honor, it is very solid and he won't move until the flush. Grady's problem is also human  caused. Since he chases flushed birds a little further than I like I've worked on him a little on stop at flush. I've had multiple 200 yard points out of sight that by the time I got there Grady would see me and then just go on hunting. There were no birds. On our last trip I saw him bump some birds and stop. My Alpha told me he was on point and he once again stood there until I got to him. Hopefully he'll eventually quit this and save me those 200 yard hikes up and down the mountain to a pointing dog that has already flushed the birds.

So, I came up with two thoughts to help get more birds this year. Both aren't good for us but will help with success. First, until this weather changes, it's going to take a few more miles than usual and second, get out of the way of the dogs and let them do what they do best. They are a heck of a lot better predators than us so start listening to them and quit worrying about how they get the job done. Some day maybe I'll finally get that figured out.

Good Luck

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Sometimes the stars align just right.

A few weeks ago, Conner took me duck hunting, something I haven't done for more than 40 years. I was impressed with how he could turn the ducks into the decoys and as you can see we had some great success.
Last Friday night, Conner invited me to a Duck's unlimited banquet along with his mother, brother and Barbara. We had a great dinner, met lot's of good people and had a great time once again. To top it off Conner was drawn for a rifle and two shotguns in the raffles. Unbelievable. Since he is only 17, I had to do the paper work and pick the guns up at Sportsman's yesterday.
Since Conner had school, I decided to take Jake and Grady to the big pond and chase some chukars and then come back through Boise on the way home. I know tailgate pictures aren't always cool but I snapped a picture of the dogs success also.
I am a lucky guy.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Oregon chukar hunt

Barb, the dogs and I spent 4 days over in Oregon last week and had a great hunt. Greg Allen and his girls came over on Saturday and hunted with us at one of our favorite hunting spots.

The hunt was very successful even with the super dry weather. Waking up to 20 degree temperature and having no frost on the wind shield is proof to the dryness. Also the crust of dust on the dogs noses at the end of the day made it obvious why more birds were bumped than usual. The plus side of the dryness was that it was easy to find bird tracks on the game trails thus keeping me excited even when the dogs weren't acting birdie.

Covey finds were far to often to keep count and day one for me was one of those great days. The dog work was great and I shot as well as the dogs held the birds. 8 for 8. That doesn't happen too often.
The following two days brought my average back to normal but it was still great for the dogs. Jake stayed at the camper on day two and Grady stayed there on day three. I figured out why Jake was ranging less and staying closer to me. I had the water and treats. Instead of giving him water every time he walked behind me I told him to hunt em up and he soon figured out I had figured his gig up. He started covering country like normal.

Every morning we would drive through Huntington, Oregon and their marijuana patches and Greg was wondering if maybe I was sniffing the air as we passed. I had two unusual sightings on the hill that day with no pictures to back them up. First off, I saw a nice bighorn ram. We have hunted that range for over thirty years and never seen even a sheep turd so I knew I had to chase the sheep down and get a picture for proof but you know how that ended up. Never saw him again. The second sighting was off of one of Jake's points. As I approached  his point a single chukar took off using a Juniper tree to block any chance of getting a shot. As I swung around the tree waiting for more chukars to explode suddenly about a dozen chukars flew out of the tree also using it for cover so I couldn't get a shot. I have seen a single chukar in Juniper tree's before but never a covey.

Greg was very kind in keeping back the laughs as we drove back to camp and I told him my stories.

The birds were in great shape with lot's of fat reserves ready for winter. Barb and I hung around the camp sight on day four giving the dogs a break since we had such a successful first three days. We only needed two more birds for a three day possession limit.

On my way home I stopped by in New Plymouth and finally got to meet Alan Howell and his girl Gracie. Alan and his wife Kate moved to Idaho from Alaska for the bird hunting opportunities and their setter Gracie has been providing them plenty of of great points.

On returning home I had some great messages from other hunters having great success also. There was a note from the small Munsterlander, Oakley who had finally got her master (Mark Midtlyng) trained and Having some great success.
By the success picture, I'd say Oakley and the other dogs are proving their worth.
I also got a note from Quinn Inwards telling me of the passing of his young shorthair Sage and the sadness of losing his first hunting companion. Like a true bird dog lover he is keeping her close to his heart but moving on with a new pup. Quinn is now training Joker, a GWP which besides being a good looking dog
is already showing some great style.
Last week seemed to be a good week for bird hunters and I think it will even get better once we get a little moisture on the ground helping the dogs use their nose. There is a little over two and a half months of bird hunting left so get those canines out their and let them show their stuff.

Good Luck.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Making another trip to remember

Not such a good day. I should have figured that going hunting today with the temperature hitting 12 degrees this morning and it being Halloween was not a great idea but who ever heard of record lows and ghost could make a bad day of chukar hunting. There is not such a thing as a bad day of chukar hunting. Well, today came pretty close.

It started out with uncertainty. I was going into a place I have hunted several times in the past years but have always walked in from the main road. A few times I saw ATVs back in there so I decided today I would take my side by side in and make a shorter walk. It didn't take long to figure out why I walk in. The rock loaded trail was beating me and the dogs to death. Grady finally decided the only safe place was to sit behind me and lodge me against the steering wheel thus keeping him immobile while Jake kept falling off the seat onto the floor and compressing the gas pedal to help keep things exciting. About four miles down the trail I noticed the right front tire was a little low. So, thanks to the lessons from the California crew, I got my trusted can of fix a flat out and figured I fill the tire. I shook the can as instructed and screwed the cap on and air started coming out of the tire so I quickly depressed the button and nothing happened. I unscrewed the cap and found the can of air and goo was frozen solid. Now the tire was low enough that I didn't want to drive any further.

I looked up the hill and decided it looked like a great place to hunt. I parked the side by side and contemplated on setting the can on the hot engine than came to my senses not knowing what kind of explosion I might create. Instead I placed the can next to a tire facing the sun with hopes of it thawing out. The boys were ready to start having some fun so off we went. About two hours into the trip I realized why I had never hunted that place before. We crossed over the canyon to see if the other ridge had any more to offer. To my excitement the dogs found a good covey of chukars but they dove off the ridge with the wind to their back with no shots fired. I might have got a shot had I heard them taking off but my ears were covered with muffs to keep them warm. Who wears muffs on Oct. 31.

Things started picking up with a point on a small group of huns and a second group of chukars but luck always had me in the wrong position to fire. Finally my Alpha says dog on point. I was just about to cross one of those short rock slides and I peaked at the Alpha to see where the dogs were. For some reason my small chukar brain didn't activate my legs to halt and I tripped over one rock hitting the remainder of the slide with my face, gun and Alpha. My first concern was the terrible sound my gun made as it hit the rocks. As I looked over the damage I realized a steady flow of blood onto the stock might be a reason to assess the damage to me. Wow! My nose sure felt big and there was quite a bit of that red stuff coming out. I don't even remember if the birds flushed or what happened but both dogs were right there seeing which one could lick the most blood off. I inserted some toilet paper and used one of the dogs cold water bottles to help stop the bleeding. After about ten minutes we started back off the hill. I finally figured out that my nose wan't as swollen as I thought but just shifted some to the left side of my face. I remembered the drill from my baseball days and running into the left field fence and having to realign my nose and with a quick pop and more blood we were back to walking.
It looks a lot better now that I've showered but trust me I'll have some good black eyes in a couple of days.

The Alpha didn't sustain any damage but my shotgun didn't fare so well. I got some good scratches on the stock,
a small chunk out of the forearm as well as a dent in the rib vent and some barrel scratches.
But things got better from that point on. We found a few more coveys on the way back to the side by side and actually ended up with two chukars and two huns by the time we reached the side by side. I was surprised to shoot so well with my eyes watering like they were. The can of fix a flat had thawed and we got the tire back up to normal before heading back to the truck. Grady was not moving from the drivers seat and our ride back to the truck was cramped for me but comfy for him. I checked the temperature on my truck when we got there and it had risen all the way up to 36. The good news is that it's supposed to get warmer.

Be safe out there, get some birds and treat those dogs to some good times.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

strange month

More than a strange month, this has been a different year for me. After an exciting scouting season I was a little surprised as the season progressed at the fewer finds than usual. I caught Grady a few times chasing the birds and figured that might be the reason for fewer bird encounters. Add to that I wasn't seeing much bird sign. Weather wise, it's been one of the best opening month and a half I can remember. You name the conditions and we've had them. I don't always have great years but I can usually figure out why. Lack of birds, poor dog work or me being lazy are a few reasons I can speak of but this year too many variables had me scratching my head. But I think I have put a finger on a few of the variables affecting my success.

 First of all is Grady and the chasing birds. I don't know what I did to create his chase, but fixing this particular problem with a stern whoa has worked wonders. He's now back to a 20 yard chase before he starts back to hunting. I'm sure on some of his earlier chases he was busting other coveys and that's why I wasn't seeing many birds.

Next is the hatch. There were a lot of real late hatches this year. Just a couple of days ago I got a bird that had to have hatched in late August. In September I'm sure the dogs were having a hard time getting any scent form these young birds creating that lack of bird finds which we are not having that problem now.

Jake has the opposite problem of Grady. Suddenly he has slowed and spends more time close to me rather than hunting the whole time. He had a physical yesterday to check his thyroid etc. and has no problems so I've decided he is just smart and letting the young punk do the hard work. Two days ago Grady got 24 miles in while Jake got 15 and I made 7. Last year Jake would get as many miles as Grady. I'd like to see Jake range a little more like he used to but am perfectly happy if he stays like he's doing now.

Competition. Since last year I have done something wrong and created some competition with the dogs. At first I thought they were pushing each other on point but finally figured that I am the problem. They honor each other and don't budge until I get into the picture. If Jake is the pointing dog, Grady honors just fine until I flush the birds but if Grady is the pointing dog, Jake will break honor when I move ahead and try to circle and trap the birds. This makes Grady nervous and he starts creeping. Once again, I can halt any movement with a whoa but it's sure a lot more fun when nothing has to be said.
On this point I dropped to the right of Jake and he broke honor and swung behind me and reestablished a point below the rocks. Luckily Grady held point and we were successful.
Things are getting a little more back to normal for the three of us and we're having some great outings. I'm counting on November being a really good month with all these young birds being more mature and provide some good scent. The mornings are frosty and scenting conditions are becoming optimum. Those who saved their vacation time until November are going to be pleased.
Get out there and have some fun with your dogs and please stop by and say hello if you see my camper or truck along the road. You'll know me by my TUCKOTA plates. Good luck hunting.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Not always chukar.

My grandson, Conner, drew a cow tag so we switched guns for the weekend and after 12 miles of covering the country he made a great shot on his first elk.
It wasn't an easy shot and as you can see it was right in the boiler maker.

But more than just the shot I have to give a little brag about the pack out. It was evening by the time we got the elk quartered and all the rest of the meat in bags so we made one trip down to the truck 1 1/2 mile away. Conner figured he could pack a hind quarter and a front quarter in the new pack bag we had bought. I was skeptical but after we got the pack on his back he was off and it was all I could do to keep up with him and I was only carrying both our packs and a rifle. I had a hard time keeping up with him and never got pictures.

We slept well that night and headed up the next morning for the final load. I'm glad we got to pack the elk down hill because it was a chore just heading up that hill without any weight on our backs. We did our usual poking fun at each other and by the time we got to the elk somehow I was challenged to pack out the same weight he did the night before and he'd pack out the back strap, tenderloin and scrap meat. Here I am half way down the hill.
I have to admit to taking more breaks than he did,
but in the end I made it to the bottom without any mishaps.
Yes, I was glad to get the pack off my back but it was also great to have that feeling of accomplishment again. Thanks to a great grandson for keeping me challenged.