Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Good, the Bad, and the Cute.

I just got back from a four day camping trip and couldn't wait to get out and check on the nests I found earlier this month. I've been trying to keep track of them to find the date of hatch. There were five nests, two turkey, two chukar, and a hun. I also found a second hun nest (I believe) on my drive. I saw these two huns in a hay field and decided to look for a nest. After about a half hour I located a smashed nest from a tractor tire and assumed it was their's.
The other hun nest I found earlier looked to have had a clean hatch and I counted an even dozen eggs in the nest earlier this spring. You can tell if the eggs were hatched or destroyed by a predator by the way the eggs are cracked. Chicks peck a fairly even circle around the egg in order to free themselves while a predator destroyed egg will be broken randomly and often not even be there anymore.

The two turkey nest results were the same as the two hun nests. One success and one failure due to predators.
The destroyed nest.
Sadly, the chukar nests were the same. One successful and one not.

Outside of the successful turkey nest was a full egg which must have been infertile.
The five nests I discovered were hatched out or destroyed some time on the 16th, 17th or 18th of June. This is pretty consistent with past years on what I have seen. Hopefully the birds that lost their nests will renest and in about 40 days we will have what is usually called the second hatch.

Mother Nature has been kind and we're getting a grasshopper hatch at the right time. I see all kinds of tiny little hoppers everywhere. The birds should be eating well. It's hard to see just a 50% survival in nests but that's what happens in a world with predators.

Survival of the chicks hatched now depends on insects and weather. If we have just a little moisture in the next couple of months we will be looking at a perfect scenario. 

So there is the good and the bad before summer hits. The cute are these little critters we got to see as we headed back to our truck. Mom tried to distract us but we knew if we looked hard enough we could find one of her babies hidden in the grass.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Baby season has begun

I'm sure everyone expected to see baby upland birds on this post but thankfully they haven't begun to hatch quite yet. I say thankfully because the amount of rain we got the last week would have caused fatal effects on chicks.

My observations show that turkey's are the first to hatch followed shortly by the rest of the upland birds with quail trailing the hatch. Yesterday we found two turkey nest on our hike and both were still sitting on by the hens. I know there are a few that think the dogs and I should stay away from the upland birds and other babies this time of the year but to my knowledge I don't believe we have ever caused any harm.

This first nest was a perfect example. This first picture is Grady pointing into the thick brush.
                                                                             
When I moved in a hen turkey ran off but not too far. I looked into the heavy cover and found a nest with nine eggs,
The dogs and I left the area and came back a couple of hours later. I whoa'd the dogs and moved in and took this picture.
She nervously stayed on the nest and I backed out to resume our hike.
Here is nest two with a count of 8 eggs. 
One of the nests is only a 15 minute hike to, so I'm going to try and check every other day and see what the hatch day is for curiosity sake.

The big game has begun having their babies and by the amount of lone cow elk and does I'd say the next two weeks will have much new life on the hills. Here's some pics of new life on the mountain.













Saturday, May 11, 2019

Chukar Rama

Spent this morning watching some dogs run in the GSPCI fun event called the Chukar Rama. Had a good time and saw some pretty good dogs along with met some good people. I wish I could have stayed a little longer and filmed all the contestants but my boys were anxious to get on the hill so I had to go. It's almost 14 minutes long. When I left, the last guy, Luke Smith with Huck was leading with three birds in a very short time. A few pictures of some of the dog contestants and the leader of the pack Pat O'Kief.






Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Summer is coming too fast.

Readers have slowed down quite a bit so I figured I'd wait until I had some fun pictures of spring birds before posting. The spring has started out fantastic for upland bird hunters. We've been seeing a lot of everything and are now awaiting the big game babies as well as the upland babies. Here's a few of the boys out there doing there job.
Let's start with some Gobbling Jakes.
                                                                 Next a strutting blue grouse.

       A ruff grouse that charged me to keep me from his ladies.
                                                                             
And of course the big rooster pheasant watching over his harem.     
                                                                               
The quail haven't completely paired up but I'm seeing plenty of them.
Although we've seen lot's of huns this year we haven't been able to catch one for a still picture.
                                                                                 
This turkey came eye to eye with Conner and myself.
And of course there is my favorite among the upland birds.
The geese have already started hatching and pooping all over the place.
So, like I mentioned, Spring has really had a strong start with lot's of early moisture. We should have a very strong hatch but I'm not sure we'll have the big number of birds with the recent trend in our weather. It's getting warm and dry way too soon. We need moisture to keep insects coming for protein for the young birds. So keep your fingers crossed that we get some more moisture in the next couple of months.                                                                   

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Jake and Grady's birds



Some of the birds left for next year. Nothing exciting, just hoping to expand some and keep chukar hunting exciting for new comers. I'll practice on holding the camera a little steadier in the future. The music works well so you can't hear my huffing and puffing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

J&G team work



Eight minutes of team work edited down to a little over three minutes. Somehow the final flush got edited but I'll show some birds later if any interest is out there.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Passion

Passion--An intense, extreme, or overpowering emotion. Something I believe most of us need to help keep life exciting. It comes in many forms to please everybody. It could be as simple as reading books and as tedious as restoring an automobile with original parts. You know it's passion when it's the first thing you think about when you awake in the morning or your dreams are consumed with it.

Years ago archery was my passion and I had a bow in my hands almost as much as I had my electrical tools. My family followed me to all of the archery shoots and on camping trips to find big game for the hunting season. As soon as dinner would be over I would be out in my back yard shooting my bow and trying to become more exact. I used the excuse that my kids were studying anyway but the real truth was I couldn't wait to shoot more.

I upland hunted back in those years also, but only when there was no archery big game season going on. I had a couple of fine Brittanies that hunted well for me and kept me happy during the off seasons. When my last Britt, Rookie, started aging I decided to change breeds because of the ear problems associated with cheat grass in his ears. The vet would have to knock him out to pull the cheat each time because he became a 35 pound giant of a dog and it became to common of a thing. My archery opponent back then and I became good upland hunting partners and he never seemed to have the same problems with cheat as he ran German Shorthair Pointers. Even though Greg Allen and I wanted to beat each other at the archery shoots I paid attention to him when it came to dogs and found a local breeder of GSP's. I didn't know it at the time, but my first GSP, Tucker, would soon end my passion for archery.

Tucker was a late summer pup and Rookie was aging pretty fast so I figured that year would be a slow year for upland hunting. I was in archery mode still and that was fine with me. In the past I had used all the tools to train my Brittanies. I had launchers, stand up dog for honoring, a limitless supply of homer pigeons, collars, etc. To say it politely, those dogs were trained to do it the way I wanted and I have to be honest in saying at times I was a little strong handed at it.

There would be no time for using those devices that year on my new pup, because of big game seasons, so I just took Tucker to the fields around my house to introduce him to birds and all the smells to do with hunting when I wasn't busy with archery. I was pleased with his interest in all of the quail and how soon he began pointing them especially since he showed little interest in the wing on the string trick. By 14 weeks he was scent pointing them and holding until I helped him flush. The only real training I had done was too play fetch with him and bring me a sock (which we played tug of war with) and fired a gun over him whenever he was engaged with wild birds. At 15 weeks I decided to give it a try and see what he would do if I actually carried a gun and shot one of those quail. You can imagine my shock when a big rooster emerged from his point and I shot the bird. I believe most dogs would have bolted from the large bird making those sounds as it flushed but not Tucker. He charged after it and so I shot. The bird was too large for him to handle but he drug and carried it back to me with some encouragement. Suddenly I was looking forward to some more hunts after the archery season.

The late deer season ended in the middle of December and I was ready to give Tucker a try on some chukars. He was only five months old and I didn't expect much since we hadn't done much formal training. Tucker once again blew my mind with a limit of birds on his first hunt. Yes, every bird was pointed and all were at least semi retrieved. In fact, the remaining four hunts of the year turned out exactly the same except his retrieving became very good by the fifth hunt. Five chukar hunts and forty birds by a dog that wasn't even 6 months old yet. Doesn't seem real, but I have a hunting partner that will confirm Tucker's accomplishments.

I didn't realize it then , but Tucker was ending my dreams of killing that huge bull elk or buck deer. The following hunting season I was ready to shoot the first six point elk I called in and get to playing with Tucker. The next year after that, I packed up camp on an elk hunt because it was cool and rainy. Perfect weather for big game hunting but also great weather to be out with Tucker. Somehow the transition was made and I became a passionate chukar hunter. I went out the next few Septembers for a while but those days just couldn't compete with being out on a chukar mountain with Tucker.

Unlike most upland hunters, my passion isn't just all about the dogs. I wouldn't even dream of hunting upland birds without a dog but it isn't just about them. Although I have some good, prime, private property to hunt pheasant and quail in I have not shot another pheasant since the pheasant that Tucker pointed. In fact I've shot very few quail over the last twenty five years. The only quail I have shot were during a chukar hunt and the dogs pointed. My dog's aren't quite as specific and have enjoyed pointing and flushing quail and pheasants for youth's but my heart prefer's the alectoris chukar.

I seem to be in my own place when it comes to chukars. I love everything about chukar country. There is enough ruggedness to most good chukar habitat that you can't get any type of vehicle into it. In fact most of it is even too rough for a horse. So, foot soldiers adapt to this hunting the best and I guess God made my body more for traversing these mountains than for walking the lower lands.

There is such a diverse amount of wildlife to be seen. It's not unusual to see deer, coyotes, elk, bear, wild horses and many other big game animals on a hunt. Sometimes you're greeted by a large big horn ram as you top over a ridge. Scores of different types of upland birds also inhabit chukar country. Grouse, quail and the Hungarian Partridge which rivals the chukar when it comes to hunting for me. Many of the chukar hunters I know have even gotten to see the elusive mountain lion who preys on most of those big game animals we see, especially during the winter months. I have been fortunate enough to see a mountain lion on all but two of the past twenty seasons of hunting chukars. I have seen at least one Bobcat every season I can remember. Of course there are also many animals we'd rather not see such as porcupines and skunks to name just a couple.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older and don't see as good as I use to but most of the animals I see now would not be seen if it weren't for the dogs. My head is usually looking at my feet and watching where my foot will be landing next. Chukar hunting isn't just a stroll in the park which brings up my next reason for loving to hunt chukars, the mountain itself.

The mountains where chukar reside are usually steep and unfriendly. There are places that are more human friendly but for the most part most humans want nothing to do with it. It's dry 75% of the year and it seems like very little could live there except snakes and scorpions but the hike itself tells you different. Depending on conditions sometimes even your dogs don't  find wildlife, but walking the dusty trails tells you different. The mountain shapes the wind until you finally reach the ridge after a 2000 foot climb where the wind seems brutal, especially on those cold days, but the birds seem to love it up there. The climb up seems brutal and the lungs burn at times but you endure it because every once in a while the dogs make a find and point it. If you are lucky you will get to the dogs before the flush and get some shooting and if the dogs are lucky the dead bird will lodge on a clump of brush or rock rather than roll 200 yards down the steep embankment.

Once on the top, you have to decide whether to hunt the ridge or side hill around to the next ridge. I usually let the dogs decide that for me, after all they are the true predator between the two of us. Through out all of this hopefully you have had some success with the birds but even if not you stop to see where you have been and pat yourself on the back because you didn't think you had it in you. That's what the dogs do for you, they make you forget how much work there was in getting to this place. Now that you have marveled at the scenery and what you have accomplished it is just a matter of heading back down to your rig.

Going downhill is the easy part, right?  Not so in chukar country. The hunt back down hill is one of the major reasons for having two knee replacements. I remember the pain in each down hill step before the operations. Trust me it was well worth it. I have broken more guns and gotten more bruises going down hill than going up. For some reason the brush seems to grab your toe more and rocks roll easier down hill than up. But there are just as many birds below as there were coming up so you continue your hunt while your dogs check every logical chukar spot and you follow. For me that's when my shooting percentage suffers. Part of the time you can't shoot because the dogs are between you and the flushing birds that stay low and the other times the diving birds are just too quick to stay up with. Still the same, the dogs are doing there part, it's your job to try and do your part so you continue hunting until you get to the rig.

The one part I haven't mentioned much as being part of my passion is the bird itself. Of course there needs to be chukar. If I were to hunt chukars and only get one bird a trip I might find another challenge to pursue. On most hunts I'd say we get at least a dozen different opportunities and many times more. Although sometimes the shooting isn't very much but when in good chukar habitat you seldom get bored. They either are flushing wild or calling you names from a distant ridge. I have gone on trips where I got a single bird and a few with no birds in the bag. I have gone on scouting trips into prime looking chukar country and seen no birds but realized that is why we scout. Although I didn't get any work from the dogs we learned a place not to hunt while getting a work out.

Chukars are resilient and have been known to have low number years followed by high bird number years. There have been some studies on chukar and for the most part there is nothing we can do to promote their numbers. What we can do is make sure the public lands stay public so we have a place to hunt. Mother Nature takes care of the chukar populations and that is another thing I enjoy about the bird. They wouldn't be much fun to hunt if every time you walked up the mountain you come home with a limit. They are fun because of their challenge to find at times little alone hitting them.

So, on this rainy and snowy day, as the boys and I sit here by the fire waiting for our next chukar excursion I have tried to explain why I love chukar hunting. Many of you enjoy upland hunting and are probably a lot smarter than I am and this is the only explanation I can give for this madness.

One last thing. Because I hunt and live for the chukar mountain, my dogs, and the allectoris chukar, that does not mean I am an authority on the birds, chukar dog training, or the high desert mountains. There is no such thing as a professional chukar hunter to my knowledge. If they started paying to chukar hunt I would probably find another past time. If I ever become famous about something, I hope it is about how much enjoyment I get out of chukar hunting with my dogs. Any information taken home out of my blog is simply my experiences and hoping chukar hunters, especially young chukar hunters can enjoy it as much as I have.

I could be like a few of the other guys my age and just say "it isn't like it used to be". Believe me it is still as good as it use to be. Sometimes you just have to work at it and that becomes part of the fun. These last two pictures are of Rookie over thirty years ago and Grady this year. I'd say it's just as good.