Sunday, November 19, 2017

Carson's first chukar

Another one bites the dust. Conner wanted to introduce his friend, Carson to chukar hunting and I volunteered to bring Jake along to help find some birds. Being that this was Carter's first year to hunt I decided to leave my shotgun in the truck for safety purposes. I packed my camera instead.
Barb was kind enough to drop us off high on the mountain and agreed to pick us up at the given location 5 1/2 hours later. It turned out to be a good move because we didn't find a bird for the first hour and I got to watch how Conner, Carson and Jake worked together and that safety was observed. It was enjoyable to watch them walk the hills and respect the directions of the guns. I got close to 100 pictures in our 8 mile hike but won't bore you with most of them, just a dozen or so. Here goes. Conner and Carson moving in on one of Jake's first points.
The flush
The result after Conner's shot.
When I asked Carson why he didn't shoot, he remarked that the birds were too far by the time he got his gun to the shooting position. We discussed how to properly approach the point with a ready gun, not shouldered, and try to be square to where you think the birds might flush, shoot ahead of the bird and keep swinging the gun after the shot. It's that simple, right?

Before going any further I must admit to how Carson picked the shotgun he was using. Here was his choices. My Browning 12 gauge over and under, which I love shooting, a Remington auto in 12 gauge, a Benelli pump 12 gauge or a 20 gauge Remington 870. My main concern was which safety feels most comfortable for safety reasons. He chose the 870 because he had shot a gun with a similar safety. Now, I'm going to be hung out to dry on this one but when it comes to chukar hunting, I don't think the fit is as being comfortable with the gun. 50% of the time, when you are shooting at a chukar, you're not in position to properly mount the gun. One foot is higher than the other, the birds aren't where you thought, you're standing on slippery snow, or another thousand excuses as to why you can't properly mount the gun. In most other hunts, the gun fit is very important because you know where the shot is coming from, you're on level ground and have time to properly bring your gun to the shoulder. Anyhow, that was my opinion to Carson. Comfort.

On to the hunt. Conner didn't mind at all waving Carson in to where he figured the best shot would come from.
Carson got his first shot but forgot to swing the barrel with the flight of the bird.
We talked a little more about the swing through and were off to the next point. Carson followed through a lot better but still missed while Conner showed off the hun he shot off that flush.
The nice thing about being the guy taking the pictures is that I don't always walk all the way but just sit back and take pictures from a distance as they approach Jake's points.
And then it happened. Carson moved in on the birds and snapped a shot.
Jake brought the chukar back to Carson as if he knew who had shot the bird and there were three excited people and one dog on the hill.
The day just kept on going like this and we had plenty of covey points and shots fired and for a couple of young punks they made the day very exciting to be a part of. Jake even started understand that I had nothing to do with this hunt and didn't bring any more of the birds to me which I appreciated. An empty bag with no shells and just water felt real comfortable, especially with no gun in hand.
My favorite pictures of the day were those where Jake would point 
and then I would take a series of pictures of the boys as they moved to the front for a shot.
I was a little quick on this shot but Carson dropped a bird here.
When we reached the pick up spot the boys hunter a short draw for some quail and had some fun shooting while Jake and I sat back at the trail. Jake didn't like hearing all the shooting while we hung back but we don't hunt quail and I figured the guys would be better off without us. 

I think Conner and I have created another upland hunter. Even though they had a pretty good shoot
we'll have to wait and see if Carson comes on our next invite. It was a tough hunt on the body.

I have to admit to maybe being selfish. I always read about people that take a young man out and get more satisfaction watching the young man have a good time than if they were hunting themselves. I really do enjoy watching others doing what I love and have taken many young men on trips for there first deer, in fact I've taken 16 teenagers out on successful first deer hunts and never even thought ". But chukar hunting does something else to me. I get the shakes whenever my dog is on point. Watching someone else take a bird is really thrilling, especially off my dog, but I'd be a liar to say I didn't wish it was me doing the shooting. I don't think I'll ever be that man that can just enjoy the scenery.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Chukar camp

With winter getting closer, Barb and I decided we'd better get at least one more camping trip in before the snows come. Little did we know that we would have such great company to share some of our time with. We spent four days at Brownlee and met several other chukar hunters and great dogs. I had heard some discouraging reports about the bird numbers, but was encouraged when we reached the campground and saw a familiar camper with three brittanies sitting out front. I'd never met Orlin ( I believe that was his name) until this trip but he and his pups have been there every year I can remember and that was a positive sign. He was from Mackay and knew how to find birds.

My first day of hunting started with Jake and I high on the mountain and in the fog. It didn't hinder Jake at all and he was soon on point about 200 yards in the fog. Luckily for me, the fog lifted quickly and Jake and I were on covey after covey from that point on. Most of the covey's were huns but I thought to myself, "if this is low numbers of birds then you'd be through with a limit of birds the first hour on good years". We were having a ball.
Day two began the same as day one but in a different location. We hoped to find more chukars but sot rained out about two hours into the hunt. We found birds but got soaked doing so and quit early to get back to camp and warm up.
Back at camp was a new camper parked close by and I recognized the Alaskan license plates as a correspondence through the blog and was excited to swap some stories. We had met one other time but had never been able to swap tales. We visited through the evening and decided to go up on the hill together the next morning and split up from there. I'm always excited to watch another guy work with his dog on a chukar mountain. From a distance I watched Larry and Annie work and was treated to a distant point and retrieve by Annie. The stories of their success were great on the ride back to camp.
What a treat Larry Semmen and his Griffon, Annie. Thank you for coming by and showing your stuff. On our ride back in the side by side, Larry mentioned he saw a guy hunting up that way with two dog's and I shouldn't have been surprised when we found Greg Allen back at the camper. He had missed our departure in the morning and decided he would hunt up towards where we were. Of course he and his two girls, Katie and Trudie picked up all the covey's we had driven past and now was back at the camper with his birds and dogs.
Greg is one of the best hunters I know and our families have a long history, so there was plenty to discuss. As you can see, his girls are pretty mellow after a long days hunt. 

Shortly after Greg and Larry left there was a knock on the camper door. There stood Brian Dirks another chukar hunter from out of state that I met through the blog several years back. We met, camped and hunted together a few years back. He is also a GSP guy and besides chukar hunting together we shared a few stories of losing great dogs. He, like the rest of us, treats his dogs like family. In fact, Brian brought his new family member into the trailer to meet Barb, Jake and I. Tigger is a beautiful 13 month old young lady with tons of energy and never stood still unless it was to give kisses and sit on the back of the couch cleaning your ears. The next day was to be her first chukar hunt and Brian was excited to see what was going to happen. As Barb and I were headed home we were excited for Tigger and Brian when he sent us this picture of her first chukar retrieve.
Larry and I rode up the hill and hunted our separate ways on day four before we met up and headed back to camp. We shared our success stories, shook hands and headed home in different directions. It was one of the best camping/hunting trips Barb and I have had in a long time because of the great company these guys provided. I hope to get with all of them again in the future. I encourage anyone else that sees my truck or know I am going somewhere to please stop by. Anybody that loves dogs and chukar hunting has to be good people.

This last picture is a rebuttal for those who say there aren't many birds this year. In four days, Jake logged 81 miles and I logged 26 miles and enjoyed every step along the way.
This was our take for the trip minus a couple of birds we ate and the birds from day four.
P.S. You never know what these dogs are pointing.

Monday, November 6, 2017

A lot of weather and a lot of chukars

Days like yesterday usually keep me bayed up at home but with a 15 year old grand son that loves to hunt and still has school and other commitments I figured I'd better chuk up and head for chukar country. Unlike me, he gets only so many opportunities and we'd better take advantage of every one.

The drive in was cloudy and showed promise to a better day than the forecast showed and even though the wind was a little stiff we started finding birds soon after we began our ascent.
We had both bagged a bird before the clouds started rolling over the hill and the rain started. It wasn't long before the rain turned to snow and the hillsides changed in color.
It was coming down hard enough that I put my camera back in a baggie to keep from ruining it but had to take at least one picture of Conner approaching Jake on point before doing so.
There were a couple of wild times when Jake chased the birds up for whatever reasons but he had a lot more great points than he did mishaps so all in all I was pretty pleased with his day. I don't know where all the birds came from but we were in birds most of the time for the five hours we were on the hill. At first the comfort wasn't that bad but as the snow got wetter so did Conner, Jake and I. Not wearing the proper garb our gloves and pants were now soaked and our hands were not feeling as well as usual, except for the feeling of cold. With Conner along, that didn't seem to matter.
Also the number of chukars we encountered help to keep things a little warmer. I'm not exaggerating to say we saw over two hundred birds in the seven miles we covered. We saw several of the covey's more than once but all in all we saw at least 200 different chukars. we never saw one covey of huns and it is an area where we have seen huns on past years. I finally convinced Conner we should count our birds and head back for the truck. We had five birds each and a lot of new country to hunt on our way back down to the truck.
The new country on the way back to the truck found chukars as plentiful as the ridge we went up and with some good dog work we both shot our remaining 3 birds before heading more in a straight line for the truck. We kept the guns loaded in case we found some huns but it never happened. Jake must know how to count also because he started hanging close and stopping when we would to sit and shiver. He was a wet and cold dog.
We stopped for a success shot before getting to the road and by then Conner was shivering also and talking about the warmth of the truck and hurrying down to it.
It ended up a truly great hunt with Conner. Putting things in better perspective we counted empties when we got home and we only fired 26 times to get our 16 birds. Not bad for an old man and a 15 year old kid.

A side note on the chukars we got. Most birds were first year birds. Although some of them were mature many of them were from late hatches and barely the size of a large hun. The sad thing about those birds is that they had little or no fat reserves yet. The larger birds were fattening up great but these young guys haven't had enough time to build fat reserves and if we have any kind of a rough winter will probably not make it through the year. It's just the way mother nature works. Somehow she will take care of us and keep chukars flourishing for years to come.

I believe it was the age of most of the birds that has been keeping some from finding many birds and now with scenting conditions at an optimum people should be finding more birds on their hunts. Good luck.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Bird dog wars

As usual, after a day's hunt and birds cleaned as well as the shotgun, Jake and I relax on the recliner and enjoy whatever might be on the boob tube. The hunting channel just happened to have a show called "Bird dog wars" and I tuned decided to see how Jake and I would compare to these other dogs.
Jake sat on my lap and moaned and groaned. I have to say he sounded a lot like me and I gave him the same sympathy that Barb gives me after a hunt. None. The show was fun and I did see some good points and shooting. The only thing I found disrupting was all the yelling for their dogs to stay, whoa, hurry with the retrieve, and so on. It's a timed event so the yelling does have a purpose. By the end of the show they had the winner. Before you trialers hang me out to dry, I understand the purpose of this trial and the many other trials and competitions beside the just having fun. That's how you get good lines from dogs to sell. I hope I said that right. 

Anyhow, by the end of the show, Jake and I decided we wouldn't compete very well with these dogs. First off, if I yelled at Jake, he'd just ignore me and do what he wanted anyhow. Next, this thing about being in a hurry to retrieve the bird to me, well speed doesn't count with Jake. How many times he puts the bird down and readjusts his grip depends on how steep the country is and how many birds he has already retrieved, not to mention that he'll find a trail to side hill back up to me rather than the straight up approach. After I take the bird, he requires help in removing feathers from his mouth before resuming the hunt, The hell with this speed stuff.

He does have a quick speed. after the bird has been delivered and his mouth cleared, he goes mach ten to get three hundred yards away to find the next covey. I'd be timed out before I could even get to his point. Yes, the judge would be impressed with his solid point but if his lungs were burning as bad as mine are by the time I reach Jake's straight up hill point, he wouldn't be capable of writing down a score.
Those blind retrieves a good trainer can make his dog perform are very impractical to Jake and I. It's truly the blind leading the blind. Today I shot a double and crippled both birds. The show Jake put on would amuse any dog trainer. He would catch one cripple and the second bird would start flopping down the hill so he'd drop the bird he had and chase down the second. Then the first bird would start flopping and so he dropped number two and chased back after number one. This went on for two or three minutes and all I could do was sit on the hill and enjoy the show. He finally got the birds to me but wasted a lot of energy getting it done. There were definitely no style points in that retrieve.

Jake also broke a couple of times on running birds. He'd make the point (has to be three seconds on bird dog wars) but would chase the bird as soon as it started running. One of the times I would have gotten the ignorant trainer award for shooting the bird he chased up. Nobody said the hunter had to be smarter than the dog and I definitely am not. I'm just smart enough to wait for Jake to point
and then I'll move in for a shot.  Sometimes I get lucky and Jake rewards me with a retrieve and I'm top human on the hill for a short time. Then there is the next point and shot which moves me down the ladder a few notches. We'll just keep enjoying these bird dog shows and wish we could do some of the things they do, but consider our score as the number of points and retrieves Jake has in a day and how well I perform behind him. Sometimes, like today, we'll get a high score
and many times not score so high. Usually that's because of the human equation.
For those interested, we are finding more and more birds each time we go some place. Conditions are perfect right now so get out there with your dog and enjoy.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The learning curve.

When I speak of the learning curve, I'm not talking about dogs but the human curve. When it comes to me, it's a long curve.

This blog has always been a place for me to brag about my companions and express the excitements and downfalls of my hunts. I don't claim to be an expert on chukar hunting or any kind of hunting as far as that goes and Jake and my outing today is proof of how stupid (politically incorrect word, but true)I can be.

Remember a couple of weeks ago a couple of guys from Bakersfield showed me how to be properly prepared with my side by side, well today I got another lesson in preparedness. On a normal day my pack weighs in at about 20 lbs. with water and all accessories and I've felt I've always been prepared for almost any situation when it comes to chukar hunting. I have a list and I pack all that gear into my pack at the beginning of the season and restock anything that I have used when I return home. Some things never get replaced and just become a fixture in my pack.

Today I finally got to use one of those fixtures not often used. My multi tool kit and the needle nose pliers. Yep, Jake finally did it.
Jake wasn't too pleased when I got my kit out to find that it had been in my pack so long that I had to cut the sheath off. It was almost glued to the metal. Then, when I finally got the sheath off the pliers were rusted shut. It sure makes a lot of sense to pack something like that around. Jake had as many quills in his mouth as outside and I got as many out as my arthritic hands could before we headed for the truck and the vet. How much time does it take to go through your equipment before you venture to the hills? Maybe all of five minutes. Learn from my laziness and be more prepared even if only for your dogs sake.

Secondly, Jake has shown some signs of chasing beginning this summer. We have a couple of wild cats in the fields around our property and they quite often hang around our pond. Jake has pointed them quite often and resumed a chase when they would take off. I'd yell at him and he would finally give up the chase but one time caught one for a brief moment. He's been fine around cats before but these two introduced him to the fun of chasing cats. I told Barbara that this would be a good training opportunity and should put the shock collar on Jake for the next time the cats came along and put a stop to the chasing. Learning to chase cats my translate into chasing skunks or porcupines and this was the perfect opportunity to put a stop to that. But I second guessed myself with the reasoning that he didn't chase rabbits when we're hunting so he won't chase skunks or porcupines either. My laziness of not doing the right thing and taking care of problem cost me and Jake a day of hunting not to mention a vet bill and much discomfort for Jake. 

It don't matter how many years you spend on the mountain, some of us have to go back to the basics at times to become better. Don't put off those little things because sooner or later they may become a big thing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

You gotta believe.

Tom Thorpe, a good friend of mine who passed away from cancer 18 years ago, used to tell me "you gotta believe" whenever we would go hunting and things were a little slow. Things haven't changed since then. This is one of those years when you have to trust in that belief on every chukar hunt you adventure on. The birds aren't as numerous as I thought they would be and there isn't a covey on every ridge, but there are more birds out there than a lot of the hunters are reporting. Maybe it's because they are giving up too soon or maybe they just don't want any competition from other bird hunters.

Last week I hunted the Oregon opener and was very disappointed in my first two hunts. I saw fewer birds than I'd ever seen.  In fact, the second day Conner and I never saw a bird. I had seen fair to good number of birds in Idaho so I was beginning to believe the reports I had heard about the Oregon numbers. Then there was yesterday.

Greg Allen and I decided to try another spot in Oregon. It was cold start when Greg dropped me off and I was bundled up as Jake and I hunted towards where Greg was eventually going to park.
The breeze even made it feel a little cooler, but it was a perfect wind for hunting. Jake and I began traversing the hillsides and I was once again impressed by his ability to cover so much ground using the wind to his advantage. Not often do I get to watch him work because of the terrain, but the area we were hunting had long sweeping bowls so with Jake's range he was in sight most of the time. His range is usually about 300 yards and he was using every bit of it. Watching a dog cover the hill with a high nose to pick up the slightest scent is  truly an amazing sight and I wish I would have filmed Jake doing what he loves to do best. A couple of times he would slow down and start following the scent straight up the draw. I would start heading in that direction knowing he was probably on the scent of some running birds and at any moment might lock up and hold the birds until I got there and he would suddenly resume his hunt in another direction. I could only hope that at one time, not too long ago there was a covey of birds there and now we had to just search and find where they had gone to. I had to believe. This went on for over two hours. Although it was wonderful to watch Jake work, I was starting to doubt the amount of birds in this area. I hadn't seen many droppings and the only proof of birds in the area was some tracks on a dusty trail. We had traveled over three miles and not seen an animal.

I finally heard what I thought was chukar off in a distance and decided to swing that way and see if my ears were playing tricks on me. I was amazed at how there was no green up, even though the rocks had pools of water covered with ice in the low spots proving there had been rain or snow to help germinate the cheat seedlings. There was plenty of tall cheat and bunch grass for cover but no green up. So far this year most of the birds I have found were in areas that the green up had already come. I was getting skeptical of what my ears had told me when Jake suddenly locked up 170 yards away. I could tell by his point that he was right on top of the birds. At my flush I was disappointed to only see five birds rise and dropped one. As Jake retrieved the bird I was doubting the amount of birds in this area because of this small group.

I had no choice but to keep going because I had to meet Greg at our rendezvous sight. About 15 minutes later Jake was on his next point and then another and shortly after another. By the time we traveled the next mile or so we had so many encounters with chukars I lost count of points. I'm not talking about 5 bird flushes anymore, now we're seeing 20 to 30 birds in every covey. The country was not a bit different nor did I see any more sign of birds, they were just there. I know by the way I saw Jake working the country earlier that the birds weren't there and I saw no reason for the birds to be in one area over the next. They were just there. I saw well over a hundred birds before I had to head for Greg's side by side. I saw several more covey's after that and realized I probably would have turned earlier in the hunt and wouldn't have hunted this way if I wasn't forced to because of our rendezvous plans. You just gotta believe. Greg didn't fair too bad either. This was his, Katy and Trudy's take for the day.
The birds are out there you just gotta believe.

A side note. Winter conditions aren't too far off. Barb dropped Jake and I off on top of a mountain the day before our Oregon hunt and this is what we found at 5500 feet.
Although my dress wasn't appropriate, it was worth being soaked to pick up a couple of ruff grouse to go along with the chukars. The hills were bare where Barb picked us up five hours later but it was great hunting the hillside after a morning rain. Jake's nose doesn't lie on a morning like this.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Good Ol Days

I spent the last five days camping and hunting in chukar country and it was the best trip I've had for years. It wasn't as much the birds or even Jake that made the trip so special but people. I remember 40 years ago when everyone you saw on the road or trail always had a friendly smile and wave. Everyone would stop and chat a while and exchange information. For the most part those days have changed. We have turned into a "it's all about me" society.

But last week was the way it used to be. Shortly after I got camp set up I took a scouting run to decide where I would hunt the following morning and ran into a gentleman coming off the hill. We visited for a while and admired each others dogs. When he saw Jake's name on his collar he exclaimed "hey, you're the guy with the blog". He had already been hunting for several days and readily passed along information of what he was finding. Jeff was from Hawaii and was going to be traveling through several states upland hunting until sometime in February. Although my life ain't too bad I still envy him. He'd been coming over to these parts for many years and was a book of information of the area.

The next morning I unloaded my side by side to take up the road and the left front tire was going flat. I loaded it back up and started the long walk I was hoping to avoid. After about a half hour or so, two guys were headed up the road and saw me hunting. They stopped when they saw me hunting the ridge and asked if I was having problems. They were wondering why the side by side was in the truck and I explained about the tire. Mike pulled out a can of fix a flat and said "try this". We introduced ourselves and as soon as they saw the name on Jake's collar Troy said "hey, you're the guy with the blog". Seems like everyone knows Jake and finally puts me together with him as a side kick. Mike and Troy had traveled over from Bakersfield, California and have been making the trip for something like 15 or 20 years. They, too, were a wealth of information. I even got to watch their dog's work a little from a distance. Troy had a wirehair and Mike had a pair of pointing labs and they were great to watch work.
They went on their way and I continued my hunt. When I got back to my camp I filled the tire with the fix a flat and noticed it still leaked a little air. It wasn't long before Troy and Mike pulled up to my camp on their way back to town. When Mike saw my tire was still leaking some he pulled out a tire patch kit and suggested we try it. Before I could even think about doing the work Mike had it done for me. We swapped some more tales and Mike said he'd bring me back a can of fix a flat and a repair kit the following morning if I wanted. I gave him some money to replace what I had used of his and some for what he was going to buy me. The following morning I found this on my sxs.
He had also left half of the money I gave him. I guess he felt like the material I used of his wasn't worth anything. Not often do you find that. On their way out that evening they stopped to  say good bye as they would be returning to California the next day. What a couple of great guys.

Shortly after they left, three guys stopped by my camp and reflected upon me giving them a ride last year in the same area. Their names slip past me but I remember they had some fine brittanies last year and added a poodle pointer to their team this year. We swapped information about our hunts and bid farewell.

They had no more left when another truck pulled up to visit. Another guy with a wealth of information. I had heard of Jeff Funke before but never met him. He is a local Wirehair breeder and as fate would have it, Troy from California had one of his dog's and Jeff from Hawaii also had one. What are the odds.

I've camped in that location at least a half dozen times and until this year the only person that ever stopped and visited was the rancher that runs his cattle there. Yes, it was like the good ol days.

As for the hunting, it was pretty good also. I saw more huns than I have ever seen there but maybe a few less chukars than usual.
The wind was a little stiff at times but it produced several of these over the ridge points which made for some good shooting opportunities.
This was our best day in Idaho.
Jake and I also had this visitor on one of the hunts. He seemed to feel that we weren't much of a threat and stayed within 100 yards for close to five minutes before ambling off.
Not all was good though. Our trip to Oregon was a little discouraging. One of the spots I scouted this spring and saw plenty of birds produced a big goose egg for finds. It's one of my favorite hunts and I hope it isn't indicative of the rest of the area's.