Sunday, December 9, 2018

Cougar's and other dangers.

Travis McLing gave me permission to post a couple of pictures from his most recent chukar hunt. As you can see it turned out pretty successful.
I don't know how to copy his whole story but it was excitement plus. His dog's actually got in a short wrestling match with the cat before Travis's shotgun placed a load of 71/2 shot in the cat's face at 8 feet and another into the cat's side as it released the dog's and then ran by him. If you get a chance read the full story in the Idaho Upland Bird Hunters blog. It's a good one.
I wrote a blog about a similar encounter I had about nine years ago and his description of the dog's point and encounter was very similar to mine except for the wrestling match. I figure this to be a good time to remind chukar hunter's of the big cat's presence especially this time of the year. They are around year round but as the big game moves lower into their winter grounds which are also popular places for the chukars the mountain lions follow.

The chances of having an encounter like Travis had are pretty slim but I'll bet most chukar hunters out this time of the year and getting away from the beaten routes would be shocked at how close they probably were to a lion at one time or another. I've seen several occasions where cats won't move until either the dog's force them to or the hunter comes so close that they finally must get out of town. Most chukar hunters are pretty quiet and there isn't a lot of noise from the dogs so many times Lions don't even know the hunters and their canine partners are near until they are within a 100 yards or so and by then the lazy cat just hunkers in his obscure little hiding place until the danger passes. It's kind of what he is good at. 

Don't run to your gun safe and grab your .357 or can of mace just yet though. I'd say the odds of you or your dog getting hurt by a lion are less than 1%. Just be aware of their possible presence and maybe you'll enjoy what very few people ever get to see once your heart settles back down. Just one more of the wonders of chukar country. 
This is the guy that got a little too close to Dakota nine  or ten years ago.
Who knows. You may be walking along some snow covered mountain and fall into what you thought was a badger hole but when you pull yourself back up you're looking at this guy.
After typing about Travis's luck with a cougar I got a note from Greg Munther down in Arizona. It seems like his luck wasn't quite as good even though nothing was trying to eat his dog. He ran into a danger of a different type. His dog, Oakley broke to flush and didn't see a stick hidden in the tall brush. All I know is that he said "darn for bad luck".
Ouch! Hopefully Lucy can cover for Oakley for the next two months and healing comes quick.
Upland hunting isn't always a walk in the park as these two incidents show. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

First snow hunt

Once again I have forgotten how to do this stuff, but this was part of some video's I took of Conner and his buddy, Carson on a chukar hunt. I have learned that to get some decent footage you have to be back aways and able to zoom when needed. Obviously it would help to be on the opposite ridge where you could see everything but that's hard when the dogs are hunting for me even though I don't have a gun.

First three clips are of Jake on point with Grady honoring but you never get to see Jake. Both boys got some shots and Conner hit one that flew quite a ways. Conner takes the dogs down to find the bird and comes back showing his success.

Next is a point and honor with both boys moving into the thick cover. Both dogs relocate and Conner calls Carson over to Jake's point which he hustles over to. My impatience has me turning off the camera when I see Grady moving and just before the camera turns off you see the birds flushing but miss the boys getting a chukar each.

The next clip is a point and honor with the boys heading down to the dog's and I inadvertently hit the record switch to off and missed the action. Running the camera is no fun.

The next clip has the boys walking past a Grady point thinking he was honoring Jake (you have to look hard but you can see Grady's point) and then Carson spinning around as the bird flushes. Then the main Covey flushed with Conner dropping one and wounding the second and Carson finished him.

The last clip is the boys moving in on the dogs as they pointed a covey of chukar. Once again I missed the flush and shooting while moving to get a better angle but I kept this video to point out how the boys kept their guns (excuse me, my Browning over and unders) aimed in good directions as they slid on the hill approaching the birds.

All in all I got 35 minutes of footage and most doesn't show the action because of my lack of positioning and patience. I picked out these short clips so I could brag about my dogs and also point out what fine hunters these two 16 year olds have become.

They ended up with 9 chukars between them and decided they wanted to go jump shooting ducks today. That was fine with me. Getting soaked once is enough for me.

P.S. The boys came home from their hunt today with some pictures. Here is an example of how much fun they had and no they didn't have hip waders, just hiking boots.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Another upland hunter hooked

I met another upland hunter this summer who had just purchased a pup GSP and seemed pretty excited about her. Sage was about the same age as Grady and the two of them had a ball playing and searching out the area for new smells.

 Quinn Inwards sent me a short text the other day telling me how his season has progressed and it sounds like he must be doing the right things and Sage is on her way to becoming a great upland dog. She is holding point and had some great retrieves he says.

I think Quinn has been hooked by Sage. Obviously they are having a ball together because they already have 26 hunts recorded. We all know that time in the field is what makes good bird dogs and Quinn is spending a lot of quality time there.

I'm hoping to maybe get out a time or two with Quinn and watching Sage work.

Congratulations Quinn and thanks for the photo's.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fire and chukars

This summer someone asked me what the effects of brush fires had on chukar populations. My answer was that probably most of the birds succumbed because of the speed of fires and the young birds would probably hold until it was too late. This fire was in early August and the winds picked up and ripped the fire across the hills wiping out every thing.
I was sure that most birds were gone because of the speed of the fire but Conner and I walked one of the failed dozer fire breaks in the middle of the burn and were very surprised at how many chukars were there with very sparse grass just stating to show. In the black ashes we could see large coveys running all over the place We were shed horn hunting but the dogs were still with us and the birds were having nothing to do with holding for them. We found evidence of animals that weren't as fortunate as the chukars.
I decided to come back in a few months after the rain knocked some of the soot down and see how the chukar hunting might be and yesterday was that day. I was pleased to find the birds had stuck around but as I thought they were wild. If chukar hunting isn't tough enough already, try hunting them in no cover. That adds a little more flavor to it. Most of the time there were long range points like Jake shows here across a canyon.
Those birds were a joke in trying to get close to. One of the biggest problems in hunting them in this open country was the dogs being able to see them. Several times the dogs would be locked up until I got close to them and the birds would start moving from me which was more than the boys could handle and a wild flush would follow.
Every once in a while a point would come at a ridge top where the breeze came up from the other side and I could swing over in front of the dogs and be in reasonable range for  a shot.
Sometimes I was even successful with a shot. Most of the time I was lucky to get just one shot off.
The biggest problem I had was with Grady. The country was so wide open he decided to spread his wings and once was 550 yards away which I don't like. Hopefully I corralled him in after that and we got relative distance figured out. He started figuring the game out and gave me some good productive points.
I had the camera on the wrong setting so the pictures are a little dark but at the time the points looked great to me.
Although most of the time when I got a picture of both dogs on point the birds got up a little wild it was exciting to watch them work together.
This picture has the dogs with a bird in between them. I looked hard but couldn't find a bird but as I approached two chukars flushed and I crippled one and dropped the other.
Grady was off chasing the cripple while Jake was taking the easy way out.
Okay, boring, let's get back to fire and chukars. After watching two different good chukar hunting spots burn this year I have decided I don't have any idea of what I am talking about. They obviously can outrun fires and even though the heavy vegetation is gone they will stay in the area. I don't know what they eat before some moisture comes and the grass sprouts show but they were there. They don't like fried grasshoppers because we found several diners where the food hadn't been touched.
Also, these birds had more fat reserves than most of the other birds I've shot this year. I figure maybe the fresh green sprouts with whatever the fire puts back into the soil is responsible for that. I don't know how these birds are going to fare if the birds of prey find them but they seem to be fine with the lack of cover. We found this same thing in the Owyhees a few years back. The sage grouse didn't do well but the chukars and huns did well, not needing the sage cover as much evidently.

I  know many times hunters get a little upset with how game is regulated but I believe chukars and huns pretty much do their own regulating. They have definitely had their good and bad years but for as long as I can remember (back to 1970) chukars and huns bounce back without any help from humans. Although they'll use water sources provided they need very little and will find a water source in the most arid area's and survive without a provided guzzler. And now it seems that they can find food even in what looks like a totally black environment.

Remember, this is coming from me, the guy that quite often get's his brains beat in by doing stupid things, but don't completely ignore those fire areas or areas seemed overgrazed. The birds might just be there. It's just up to you to keep positive about what might look like poor dog work until the right point comes along and than keep hustling for the next good point.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Not just one of those days

Yesterday's hunt started out to be a normal hunt, but by the time I got back to my truck it became one of those hunts I won't do again. I type this not to bore anyone but more for the future of my chukar hunting. I can look back at this blog as a memory of how not to hunt this specific area. Now is the time to click off the computer if reading about another hunters simple excursion bores you.

Greg Allen and I have a hunt we call "the hunt from hell". We use to make it every year but have failed to go there the last two years. Two years ago, because of the deep snow, and last year because our plans got rearranged. On this hunt we start about 2000 feet above the reservoir and hump a steep hill down while hunting chukars. There are always plenty of birds all the way down but we made a pact that you have to go all the way down and touch the water before returning to the truck. Even if you already have a limit of birds. It's very steep but a person could get around the steepness by following the reservoir for a couple of miles where the incline is less steep but it adds quite a distance to your walk. A limit of chukars becomes very heavy going uphill when you have a couple of thousand vertical feet to pack them and in the past even moderate shooting could get you a limit.

I named my hunt today "the hunt in hell" all because of a miscalculation I made. I've hunted this area many times in the past twenty years with reasonably good success but always figured it would be a easier hunt by coming in a different way. I thought I could cut off some of the distance by driving to the end of the canyon and follow a trail the rest of the way to where I wanted to head up. The problem was I didn't realize I had to walk the trail a mile and a half before I could start my ascent and it was a very steep climb. I had already committed so up I started with dogs leading the way. As I hoped there would be chukar poop everywhere. As I started up the slope I was having to use my hands to help get with the incline. I hoped that would soon end. I guess soon is different for everything.

It wasn't long and Grady was on point. He was only 125 yards away and it wasn't straight up the slope but at an angle I thought I could handle. I side-hilled to find him on point across another little canyon that was thick with that thorny type brush. I unloaded my shotgun and belly crawled through the brush and found Grady still on point. I stopped to take a quick picture and realized I had lost my camera somewhere during my crawl. I moved in on Grady's point and was discouraged when the single bird flushed and disappeared before I could even shoulder my gun. Back through the brush to find my camera which was located right where I had entered the thicket.  I decided this was not the hill for camera action and loaded it into my pack. I also decided that I was not going to try and go through the brush again. I now had a single ridge to incline with thick brushy draws on both sides.

I had no where to go but up and, on the way I once in a while saw chukars flying from slope to slope. There was no doubt in my mind that Jake and Grady were having a ball a couple hundred yards above me. Every once in a while they would come back and make eye contact with me on the slope just to head back to where all the birds were. Finally I had a point and honor (don't remember which was which) and a small covey of birds held under a bitter brush until I approached it. At the flush I got one shot off before they disappeared over the ridge line and felt the shot was good but wasn't sure until Jake showed up with a dead bird. Up we headed.

As we got higher the incline got less steep and the draws became less brushy. That's what I could always see when I use to hunt it the smart way. I knew there should be lots of birds because that was where they always fled to when I was in pursuit from above. There were fresh droppings everywhere so I was anticipating some good action. I was now into the hunt two and a half hours and for the first time in years my knee replacements were aching. I figure they were not meant to go straight up a hill.

Now that the brush was no longer a problem Jake and Grady decided to put a little more distance between us and my Alpha started reading points at 250 yards but still on a steep incline which would take me a while to get to. Most of the time the excitement ended with me seeing a covey of chukars swinging around the mountain far below me and wondering why the dogs didn't hold the birds?

We finally got to some reasonable slopes and once again we had a point and honor. The dog's were below the birds and let me creep to the front of them. The birds flushed above me and flew to my right, which is my shot of choice and I downed two birds with each dog retrieving one. I sat down, gave the dogs a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and gave the knees a break. I hardly ever take a break on the hill but today's hike called for a different strategy. The strategy was not a good one though. Ten minutes and my back joined my knees with some pain so I rolled to a position that had the slope helping me get up and resumed the hunt.

Although the slopes were a lot more negotiable the stiffness had already set in and getting to points was a little slower than usual and I saw a lot of chukars swinging down below us. I don't know if it was wind direction, accidental bumps or poor dog work because most of the time I couldn't see the dogs, just fleeting birds. Seeing loads of birds helped keep my spirits up along with being on slopes that were actually huntable. We found several covey's of cooperative birds and the dog work was great making me wonder what was going on with the boys on our ascent but I'll never know and it really didn't matter.

I could now carry my camera without fear of loosing it hanging over my shoulder and got a few shots of the boys.
Maybe it was because I was so whipped from coming up the steep slow that my mind said I need to take advantage of every shot that I shot as well as I did but I was as they say"in the zone". Good dog work created good shooting as we hunted the tops.
It wasn't long before we had 6 chukars and 4 huns in the vest and were trying to figure the best route back to the truck. We could take the more gentle slopes back or take the steeper ridge that would lead us directly to the truck. We decided to save about three miles of hiking and take the direct route.
Jake showed me one more covey of huns before we started the decent and we added one of them to the vest. As we started the steep decline down the mountain I was quickly reminded of a sore back and questioned my decision to head down this slope. My knees were feeling better but my back shot a short pain each time I took a jolting step and once again I was thinking this ain't as much fun as usual. Grady went on a point 187 yards away and although the picture doesn't show it the side hilling around to him was steep with wet slippery cheat grass making each step a chore. I snapped the picture and once again figured it best to put the camera away. The birds held for the long slippery walk in which I fell at least a dozen times and God blessed me once again. The Browning over and under somehow dropped a bird with each shot while I was falling to my back side. To top it off both dogs picked a bird and retrieved them back to me. I placed the birds in my vest and took out my gun sling. 13 birds is a damn good day and it was time to use my head and sling my gun over my shoulder for the return down the hill.

It was a good thing I did, Many of the places I needed both hands to hold onto brush or rocks to keep from going further down hill with one step than I intended. A couple of times the brush gave and luckily I have good padding on my back side to ease the slide down the hill. The dogs had several more points on the way down along with busting some birds and I tried to honor them by moving in on their points without a shotgun in hand but I was aching enough to wish they would just quit hunting. Even with good boots my ankles were now getting sore also. One of Jake's points was huns which could have gotten me closer to a limit of huns but at that point I could have cared less.

When I finally got sight of the truck the Alpha said it was 429 yards away. That was the hardest quarter of a mile hike I can ever remember. Each step seemed to produce a pain somewhere. I hadn't realized how much of a puss I was until then. Each step was small to avoid slipping and some sort of pain but got me closer to the truck where the pups were now comfortably waiting. I finally hit the trail and had a flat 50 yards to go.

That's when I realized how heavy my vest felt. Suddenly even my shoulders were sore. The Q5 centerfire is a hell of a vest but maybe it can carry too much. It was heavy enough I had to lower the tail gait instead of throwing it over the side boards. I was too tired to even take success pictures. Somehow, I was seeing the success of the hunt as just accomplishing what I did as I drove towards home. It wasn't the longest hunt I have ever taken or the most birds, but it was by far the steepest hunt I had ever been on and that was my accomplishment for the day.

What a learning experience for me. It doesn't matter if you have the best boots, packs, dogs, or all of the other things required to chase chukars, some mountains are meant to be left alone. Unless you like punishing yourself, they are meant to be a safe haven for the animals. For those hunters who think they would ever be able to have much of an impact on the numbers of birds they haven't been on these type mountains much. These mountain's humble everyone.

Today I am still feeling the effects of the hunt. No, I'm not hurting anymore but I have to admit to feeling pretty humble. My count for yesterday was 8.2 miles, 2117 feet of vertical climb, 6 1/2 hours on the hill, 28 1/2 miles for each dog, 8 chukars, 5 huns and amazingly only 15 shots. Sounds pretty impressive but for me the mountain one this one and I won't be back to this one for a rematch.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Barb, Jake, Grady and I would like to wish the chukar hunting community Happy Thanksgiving and an exciting finish to the chukar season this year. So far the weather has been cooperating and almost all the hunting areas around here are still accessible. There are lot's of birds out there but they are getting smarter, but a few miles and some good dog work a guy/gal can still fill the vest.

So far we're having another good year with the birds but even more important we've made some new friends. I hope to see them all again in the future and would love to share hunting camp with them. In all my dealings with chukar hunters and chukar dog lovers I have only met one guy I don't care for and that's a pretty good percentage of good guys considering that's over 40 years of chasing the bird.

Scott and his friends came over from the Badger country of Wisconsin to chase several species of Idaho upland birds and by the looks of things they did quite well. Proud to have met these guys and their dogs.

Another upland hunter from out of state brought his family over to do a little scouting this summer and then came back for some great success. I got to spend some time with Kirk Moore and his family and what a class family man he is. I understand he's a pretty good coach also. These pictures pretty much say it all.

I'd guess his son is hooked after getting a trophy like this.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and I hope to meet more of you in the years to come. Maybe we can figure out how to keep this great past time of chukar hunting available for generations to come.

Good luck and send me stories and pictures of your accomplishments this season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A need to vent by Big Jake

I know this is supposed to be a positive chukar hunting site, but the events of the last few months have put me in a spot where I need to vent a little. I know there are many other dogs out there with the same problem so maybe you feel the same way. Just a few of them include Mays, Rowdy, Lucy and more. We all kind of ruled the roost for several years and suddenly along comes a new pup to supposedly help take the burden of the hunt off us.

Yesterday, was the last straw. I woke up and couldn't find the big guy or Grady anywhere. I snooped around and finally Barbara (I'd call her the big gal, but I'd be sleeping outside if I did) slipped and let me know they were hunting. They sneaked out on me knowing I would be very unhappy with the idea.

Think about it. You were probably told the same story. The pup is just for your company and you can teach him how this world works. Things are working out different than I figured it would. Yesterday is just one example. Grady and the big guy got home and the big guy almost fell over himself talking about Grady's points and retrieves. I wanted to go outside and throw up but I was afraid they'd leave me out.

Who taught Grady how to point? Of course, it was me. Have you ever seen how fast the big guy covers country?  If he was in charge he would probably still be looking for the first bird find. I took the pup out 7 months ago and showed him how to use his nose and which smells were important and which weren't. It was hard to slow down but I did for the sake of the team. I thought he came along quite well and was happy the big guy was pleased but the amount of praise they gave him was down right silly. I did the work and he followed my lead, how hard is that?

Then he became big enough to carry a bird. How many times did I drag him along while he held onto the bird so he could learn to bring the bird to the big guy. You guys probably remember the same thing. You did the work but the pup got the praise. It was still alright because you were doing it for the team.

How many times have I heard of how well Grady honors. I let him know he better or else, but do I get complimented for that? He freezes like a statue and watches as the big guy moves ahead of me for the shot with never a word from the big guy. But when I slowly creep up on Grady's point he gives me a stern whoa like I'm doing something wrong. All I'm doing is getting up close enough to make sure he doesn't screw up. Sure sometimes I move to the front, but it's my job to make sure he's pointing the right things and all I get is a stern whoa instead of an attaboy.

And the retrieves, It's almost sickening to hear the praise he gets for bringing the bird to the big guy. I make a 200 yard retrieve straight up the face of a cliff like mountain without a word and Grady brings a bird from 20 yards on flat land and the big guy acts like he made the best retrieve ever.

I can't tell you how many times I heard the big guy talking about how well Grady used the wind to his advantage. Well of course he did, I taught him that but was I once mentioned? Heck no. That's such an easy thing to do but you'd think the pup just climbed mount Everest. Don't get me wrong, I like Grady but if it weren't for me he wouldn't know a darn thing. Look at last month. I leave him for just a minute and he finds a skunk and gets sprayed. I had to put up with the smell too but Grady got off with the poor puppy treatment. What an acting job he did.

Around the house is another thing. I'm sure all you more refined dogs know what I mean. Grady sneaks off to the neighbors  house and won't come back when called and always gets away with "he's just a puppy". I can be outside for hours without leaving but I never get "he's such a good dog". I'm getting kind of sick of hearing how cute he is. I'm a magnificent specimen of a hunting dog and still should be front and center.

Last week we went hunting in Greg Allen's side by side. I rode in the front seat with Greg and the big guy while Grady rode in the crate as it should be. Grady started bawling and carrying on until he became so obnoxious the guys stuck me in the crate with him to quiet him down. That was really a bunch of bull. Once again, I get punished for poor puppy behavior.

This morning took the cake. After our hunt, the big guy put his vest and gun in the back seat with Grady and myself. That's how it's always done. About half way home I noticed the big guy sniffing the air. He was smelling the innards of a half eaten chukar. I watched Grady steal the bird and start eating it and decided to hide my head like I didn't know what was going on. The truck pulled over  and the big guy calmly took the half eaten bird and vest and put them in the back of the truck. He looked at me and said you can't let him do that and started home again. 6 years of hunting and I have never eaten a bird and when Grady eats one I'm told I'm not doing my job. That's a crock.

It probably sounds like I'm not enjoying myself but that's not all true. Hunting with the big guy and Grady is a blast but I want to start getting the credit I deserve for getting Grady where he is so fast. I very modestly say that those two would be birdless if not for me.

Let me give some advice to you older dogs out there with a new hunting companion to put up with. Don't let it get out of hand. If your hunter starts paying more attention to the pup than you don't hesitate to get his attention by peeing on his foot. If he doesn't get it at first, do it again and he'll soon notice you are there too. Don't be so kind to the little guy and give up the bird. Start making him/her earn their way. Don't jump up into the back seat anymore, make the big guy lift you. He'll soon realize you are there and appreciate you more when you start jumping in again. Give some false points when you're out of sight so the pup will honor and then sneak off before the hunter get's there. It will make the pup look like he's not getting the idea and the hunter will appreciate your solid points all the more. Also, get the pup to point a Meadow Lark, that almost always works in your favor.

There are lots of little tricks to do out there to regain your place in your master's heart but don't wait until it's too late. With only two months left of hunting it's time to start. Regain your position on the couch as the number one canine in the house. I'm starting today and won't settle for nothing but TOP DOG on the hill.