Thursday, March 26, 2020

Crippled times

We're finally getting out in the field but I'm stuck to the vehicle seat. Here's what we're doing though. Grady was on point for about two minutes before Jake and I found him where Jake immediately honored. Four or five minutes went by and I finally got Jake to move by throwing a rock and saying dead bird.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A hunt from the past.

I'm getting some real cabin fever here right now. I've seen more of the couch, this chair, and the bathroom than I have in the past five years. The dogs spend most of their time laying beside the couch with big sad eyes staring at me. So I'm looking back through my hunting journal's and remembering hunts from the past. This one was from Jan.25, 2009.

My dad passed away on Jan.24, 2009 and with family all there and five sisters that wanted to take charge of the next weeks proceedings, I asked my brother, Tom, if he'd like to go on a chukar hunt the following day. It sounds kind of cold but I knew dad would have been fishing the day after if I had passed away to celebrate my life. That's what he loved to do. He hunted some but would rather have a fishing pole in his hand.

So, on Jan. 25th, Tom and I took a trip over to Oregon with my only dog at that time, Riley, and chased some birds in reverence to dad. I had a special spot that Riley seemed to relish even though it was very steep with more sage than most of my chukar hunting areas. Riley was such a tall dog I could keep an eye on him in this country even with the taller sage.

It wasn't long before we were into birds and it was great watching my brother walk in on points and shoot birds. I think it was Tom's and my last chukar hunt together. He likes chasing the elk with a stick and string more than chasing dogs. There was lots of good work and some good shooting but there was one event that will stick out in my mind forever.

As we walked the side hill looking for Riley we tried to pay homage to dad by talking about some of the fun things we had done with him in the past. As my receiver said Riley was on point, Tom and I went into hunting mode and approached his point. At the flush we hit two birds that dropped between us and crippled another  which flew around the hill and uphill out of sight. Riley retrieved the first bird right off the bat but spent some time finding number two with Tom doing some directing. We had to drop down in elevation some by the time we found the bird. We figured to stay at that elevation, knowing that going back and searching for a cripple that we had no idea of where it finally went down or  how high it got. Along with all the thick sage we figured it was a lost bird.

I'm guessing 20 to 30 minutes had passed before we resumed hunting. We kept our elevation and it wasn't long before Riley had found another covey, but he was 200 yards ahead of us. I was walking a game trail and about half way to the point a bird rolled out of the sage and landed on the trail in front of me. It was stone dead. I halted Tom and told him of the bird. It was a bird we would never find because we wouldn't be coming out that way. We both chuckled about it and told dad "thanks for finding that one for us".

We all have those special moments, and that was the last special moment for Dad, Tom and me together.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Life is full of journey's.

Don't know exactly what this post has to do with chukar hunting but I am stuck in this room for a few days and it would be a good time to write about my latest journey with my chain saw. I'm hoping to get a lot of readers just for the fact of knowing what we are capable of doing when we need to as well as to attach chukar hunting to the final outcome. Here goes.

March 2 was going to be a boring day around the Szurgot house and so I made plans to do a little yard work and then take the dogs for a hike to finish the day off. I had fallen a tree the previous day and had plans finish it up. Even though the tree was on the ground, the bottom part was still attached to the stump. It was obvious to me that when I cut the part still attached, the tree would roll off the stump away from me. The next thing I knew I was trying to get up off the ground and my mind was saying you're in trouble. I don't remember those few seconds that the log sprung back off the stump and shot into my leg. It had to have happened with great force. I couldn't get up and realized my leg was broken and so I called out several times "I need help". Grady and Jake were both licking me in the face and sensed something was wrong. The first thing I had to do was crawl across the creek and than pull myself 150 feet or so to my side by side.

That was my first sign of how bad of trouble I was in. My leg got stuck as I crossed the creek and when I looked back to see what it was stuck on I was sickened by seeing the way my foot was pointing the wrong way and my pants looked like there was a broken bone pushing on them. I tried to roll a little but the bottom part of my leg stayed in the same position so I just pulled a little harder and was soon heading up the yard. This whole time (I have no idea of how long) I would scream with each pull and then talk to the boys who were carefully walking by my side. They were super.

As I got to the side by side, I pulled myself up to the seat and got my good leg on the floor board and looked at my left leg which was just dangling over the edge. I don't remember a lot of pain at that time but there must have been more than I think because I remember screaming with every move. As I looked at my leg I remember thinking "Oh my God, you're going to lose your leg". I lifted my broken leg to the floor board and tried to position the foot flat on the floor. Both dogs were wanting to get into the side by side because that is where they ride when we use it to go some place but they seemed to understand when I said stay and then followed me to the neighbors with a heal. Wow! It looked like some of that yard training actually worked.

My neighbor, Bill Anderson, is a retired fireman and paramedic and I knew that would be the best place to go for help. He was burning leaves in his front field and casually looked up at me as I pulled up 20 yards away. "Bill, I need some help. I just broke my leg." Never seeing Bill do his paramedic thing, I was impressed as to how well he jumped into action. The doctor said his fast actions contributed to me not losing my leg. From that moment on I knew I was totally dependent on him and focused on every word he said. He calmly talked me into relaxing the best I could as he cut my boot off and then continued to my pant leg. As he cut the socks off I could finally see the bones and felt it wasn't going to turn out good.

Jake and Grady were trying to keep an eye on me but Gayle, Bill's wife, kept their attention while she called for life fight. I kept talking to them about the dogs and they assured me that they would be just fine. Their dog and mine are good buddies and play a lot together anyhow so at least I was at ease as to their care. I was just as concerned as to how I was going to get them their three times a week hike in the mountains. That has been my life enjoyment for the past thirty years. I was as concerned about that as I was my health. For now though, my leg and dogs were in the good hands of my neighbors.

Soon the Horseshoe Bend ambulance arrived but they said there was very little more they could do, other than what Bill had already done and I should just lat flat until the life flight showed up, which was very soon. They transported me to the helicopter and we were soon on our way to the hospital. They must have given me something good because I remember them mentioning how well I could screw up a leg and suddenly we were in the hospital.

Everything was a real blur at the hospital and I vaguely remember my conversation with the Doc but  it had to do with how to proceed with the possibility of losing my lower leg. Five hours later I awoke with my family standing there. Barbara, Kerri, Conner and Mac. I was really in lala land but somehow was convinced everything came out great.

Okay, that's how the day played out. What is so different from how many such stories go and why post it on a chukar blog? Maybe it would be better if I called it a passion blog. I believe my passion for chukar hunting and dogs is what is going to help make the ending of this ordeal positive.

When the accident first happened I was just concerned about my leg, but because of my love for my dogs I was quickly concentrating on how I was going to get back to what I love. There is an old saying about chukar hunting "your first hunt is for fun and the next is for revenge". I disagree. I believe the first hunt is for the experience and if you continue chasing chukars it's about the challenge. I can see how easy it might be to give up after an accident like this and say just go with the flow if you don't have a passion. But having that passion my mind won't let me even think of a life without it. Plus that passion probably helped making my body strong enough to overcome the injury.

Contained passions are a great thing. Without them life can become a little dull. I truly believe that if it weren't for my passion for chukar hunting and being with my dogs and the love and care from my family I wouldn't be sitting here with such a positive attitude. It would become too easy to sit here feeling sorry for myself and popping pain pills. If you're reading this blog you are probably a chukar hunter and maybe you already know what chukar hunting does for you but I can tell you your health thanks you for hitting that mountain.

Here are a few shots of my leg.
A couple of these stapled places are where the bones were protruding.
And some of them where they had to insert the metal plates.
In the end I have more metal in my leg to accompany my knee replacement.
Thank you to Bill, life flight and the hospital doctors and nurses for a job well done. I know two dogs you made very happy.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

down time

This is one of those post you hope you never have to do but I figure with all the inquisitive calls I'm getting I just as well tell the story.

Monday I cut down a few trees around the property and the last one got hung up in a precarious position. I knew it there was a lot of pressure on the tree but figure as I cut the remaining part of the tree the log would shoot away from me.

Wrong. It shot back through my leg busting it pretty good. I immediately knew I was in trouble and tried to yell for help but soon realized the neighbors couldn't hear me. I had to get across the creek and to my side by side so I could get some help. As I drug my leg behind me the foot was facing in the wrong direction and I could see a bone sticking out through the muscle. I had no choice but to get to the side by side, pull myself up into it and head for a neighbor who was an x paramedic who took care of me from that point on until life flight picked me up.

So, that it the short story of how it happened. I spent three days in the hospital and the doc kept stressing how bad the fracture was and that I would not be able to put any wight on that foot for three months. I have to admit that this injury scared the crap out of me and realized how hard it might have been to splint my own leg had I have had to. 

Jake and Grady are real disappointed at the thought of not getting out much this Spring but we'll get through it somehow. Say a few prayers for my dogs in hopes that we still can find a way to enjoy the mountains during this down time and hopefully I'll be seeing you all by late summer.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

More success photos

Keep sending them in.

Mark Midtlying
Quinn Inwards new pup, Joker has already got it figured.

Final days

Well the Idaho season has come to an end. We hit the hill as hard as possible the last three days and although we were successful in many ways, the last day painted a picture of what the future for me and the mountain is likely to look like. It wasn't pretty and although the pictures I took are the greatest parts of my hunts, they don't show the old man behind the camera. I hoped I would never get old ,but this year made me realize those dreams would not continue.

The first couple of days were on hills a little more negotiable than the third, but still put quite a hurt on the body. No falls or anything like that, just sore back and other muscles. I saved the last day for the bad stuff knowing where Greg and I would finish the season. Day one we had a darn good day and packed quite a good day on my back  to the truck.
It was warm and the snow was departing the mountain quite rapidly and we were lucky to beat the bad slides home.
We heard later that the road had been closed for a couple of hours that evening. The next day we hiked high above the fog and found a fair number of birds that wanted to tease us and we got some good entertainment, but it wasn't without some struggling. Not for the dogs but for me. My lungs and back said to make it a short one but we still gained about 1500 feet in elevation.
We got some great points and once in a while I even made a good shot ,but we cut the day shorter than usual. I always love taking point and honor shots with the camera.
Three days in a row are getting too much for Jake, even though he just turned 7.And  I knew he would be staying home the next day so I was concentrating more on his points as we headed back down the hill. He didn't disappoint me at all and finished the day with some fine action. The number of birds I've shot over him in the last 7 years is amazing.
Now to the killer. Day three. As I said. I knew where we were headed and I also knew how steep it was so I saved Jake the misery by leaving him at home with Barb. It was hard leaving my buddy behind, but I knew it was best. Greg Allen and I have hunted this spot for over 25 years and this was our first trip to this steep mountain this year. I mentally was prepared, so I thought. Here's a short video of Greg and his three girls Trudy, Katie and the pup Elsa. I headed up the slope early to video the excitement of the girls ready to go. Greg and I have been doing this together for over 30 years and he and his girls are the best hunting companions a guy could ever want.

Don't let the video fool you. This mountain is as steep a mountain as you can hunt. There is never a flat spot to sink your feet into. Even the ridges and draws are too steep to go straight up. Most places you can at least find a deer trail to follow, but not this mountain. You just side hill around and up the mountain until one ankle gets sore and than do a 180 until you get to the elevation you want to hunt. Greg always heads up the road about a half a mile and then hits the slopes to put some distance between us. I always know where he is from the distant shots or the covey of chukars flying high above me around the hill. Grady had no problem traversing the side hills, but even his points 150 yards away and usually up hill or down seemed to take me forever to get to.
Once again, don't let the picture fool you. The hill I am on is as steep as the opposite hill. In fact it is a continuation of the hill we are side hilling.  It just continues and the birds love it. I'd have to say I had at least 15 solid points on the day and most of half of them I just couldn't get to. Gaining the elevation was just kicking my butt.
When I would get to the point and shoot well the bird would always fall at least 100 yards down the hill making for hard and tiring retrieves. Once again this video shows the lst half a Grady's retrieve and the video does the steepness no justice.

Have I mentioned that the mountain was always steep. This long off shot of Grady is pretty much the same elevation as I was, but due to the steepness it still took me several minutes to get to his point 190 yards away and then not get a shot because the birds were down hill and to quick for me to get a shot.

 I took one passing shot that day and I ended up rolling side hill two or three times because of the steepness. I'd probably still be rolling if I had fallen down hill instead of  the way I did. I have to say seeing the number of birds I did kept both Grady and I excited but my body just decided to quit on me. Grady had find after find and I got some good photos and made a few nice shots afterwords but the work only began for Grady at the shot. The retrieves were long. 
As I look at these pictures I think was it really that bad or was I imagining it being steep. Did I mention how steep it was. This was my favorite point of the day and after the photo I made a crippling shot on a bird that fluttered down the hill out of sight.
Grady went down for the retrieve but had no idea the bird went as far as it did, so I had to head down the slope to what seemed forever until Grady found the bird and retrieved it to me. I looked back up at the elevation we had lost and decided there was no way I could get back up there and decided to stay at the current elevation. Grady's last point was shortly after that with the same results but this time the bird made it almost down to the road. Grady had no idea I had hit it and I knew I had to go down and help him find the bird. We did find the bird but I was spent for the day. We walked the final mile on the road with chukars calling us from above. In years past there is no way that I wouldn't have taken their challenging calls unless I had already limited out but this day was different. The will to continue was gone. It was almost not fun. Back at the truck we met Greg and took some photo's of his take.
Of course Grady had to get in the picture. In the past I would have considered this a great hunt but by now I was sore enough I was thinking of my bed back home. We drove the hour and a half back to Payette where Greg dropped me off  at my truck and continued my hour drive home. I stopped 6 times just to stretch and by the time I got home Barb had to help me bring the gear in while I soaked in the tub. 
If this post sounds like the whimpering of a whipped pup, it is. I'm apologizing for the future. Hopefully I'll be still posting, but it will probably be less success stories. I'm going to find more huntable areas for me and the boys and I know that means fewer birds. But you'll never hear me say it's not like it use to be because I know they are up there waiting for someone else who loves chasing chukars as much as me to come and challenge them.
I hope someone else comes along and starts a post about chukar hunting. Someone who has the energy to chase the birds in their natural habitat and understands the ups and downs of chukar hunting. Someone who understands that there will always be good bird number years as well as bad. Someone who knows that there is little interference by humans to affect those us and downs. Limit changing and season changing will not change what has worked for the last fifty years. Keeping public lands public will be the biggest challenge to keeping great chukar hunting. There are plenty of people out there to complain about those things as well as the tools and ways that others hunt. We need an ambassador for chukar hunting and the great dogs we follow and great birds we pursue.

Now, for my feelings about the 2019-2020 chukar season. For me it was above average. It started out with seeing a lot of young birds later in the season than usual so my early season found fewer shot birds but it picked up as the season progressed. We didn't have any rough weather conditions so accessibility wasn't much of an issue. Hunting pressure was minimal. The biggest plus for me was my shooting percentage. For the first time I was in the 70% range. 73% to be more exact. I think that was because I'm much slower now and am usually only getting one shot off so I'm taking more time.

One more thing. My rants for the year. Once again there is the talk about seasons and limits. Some want to move the limit back to 6 birds. Why? How many times do you shoot eight birds and what will it accomplish? It won't affect the bird numbers at all but might make some feel better because they got a limit. Most people know golf. That is like saying let's make the hole 4 inches bigger and make 80 par instead of 72. As far as the seasons, the game management has done a great job in finding what works best. The early season works for some and the late season for others. Accept it and move on. Some don't like the heat and some don't like the muddy roads in January. I wouldn't chukar hunt without a dog but I see no fault in those that drive a road until they see a covey bust and than chase them down. What makes their way of hunting any different than mine. This year I heard the rant of hunters riding in their four wheelers while their dogs ran and than would get off and shoot birds when the dogs would point. Not my style but do you really think they get more birds than the walking hunter? As long as what they are doing is legal put it out of your mind and enjoy your hunt the way you should.

Good luck to all in the future and I hope I'll hear from you soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Conner's back.

My little buddy has become a duck and goose hunting fanatic. So when he called a couple of days ago and said he wanted to do some chukar chasing I was more than thrilled to hit the snowy slopes again. The bird numbers were great and I'd have to say we saw a couple hundred birds. Most of them were running straight up the ridge or flying from the predators high above but they kept us encouraged that sooner or later we would get some points.

Conner and the boys had a little more hustle than I did and were soon hunting way ahead of me. I was amazed at how the dogs abandoned me for Conner. I guess they knew who the shooter was and I was happy just to hang back and watch. The day started out with this point (Grady is in the brush and Jake was honoring) and shot.

I really felt bad when the bird fell on the other side of the draw and the three of them had to go find it while I caught my breath.

Not much later, the boys pointed another covey and Conner got a double with one dropping dead and number two crippled it's way down to the deep brush. Conner had to help the boys located the bird and Grady finally stuck his head in and brought it out.

We had gained as much elevation as we thought we needed and started to cut across the slopes. Of course the northern exposures had a foot or two of damp snow to trudge through but the southern faces were bearable and the boys had yet another find for Conner. I cut the video short trying to get into a better position to watch Conner but before I got there he had one more bird in his bag.

The final point on camera was too much for me to handle. I'm saving the flush of these birds for another time. I was thrilled to watch Jake honor Grady as soon as he saw him but suddenly his attention turned to scent. Somehow the three of them had walked into the middle of a large covey of chukar that were lucky Conner was carrying my alternate over and under. He fired his two shots and dropped a bird. He didn't even try and reload but yelled up at me "wow, I've never seen that many chukar at one time.

Conner now had five chukars in his vest and I hadn't fired a shot. It's no wonder the dogs wanted to stay with him. We had gone almost three miles and a lot of the birds flew back behind us. Conner tried to convince me that most birds flew ahead of us but I was sure they had gone back toward the truck. As we headed back towards the truck the dogs picked up lot's of stragglers and Conner had to walk with an open shotgun. He had his eight birds.

With the camera down I finally got to participate and added another five to the pot.

The duck season closes Friday so I think Conner will be hunting with me next week end which will be the final weekend of the season. With 12 days left in the season I'll be chasing as much as possible but Jake and Grady get pretty spent after a days hunt in the snow. Of course I could go every day because I float like a butterfly through the snow. NOT!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Snowy hunt.

I had a good hunt over at the big pond today. Good because we got some birds, had some fine points, shot fair and didn't break anything or hurt anything.

We hunted in up to a foot of snow and a fierce wind. Luckily the temperature was somewhere in the mid 30's so it wasn't unbearable. There was no crust on the snow but the chukars ran on top of it as if it were a concrete highway. It's amazing to see the length of their stride.

Dog work wasn't the best because the birds running were so visible. Jake started a new habit this year of yipping at running birds and he did a lot of yipping today. We also saw birds flying high above us from all the birds of prey. The birds were also talking more than I have heard this year. I didn't see another rig on the way in and I'm pretty sure the only hunters on those slopes were the Eagles, Hawks and us.
Although we never saw the sun the temperature was warm enough to melt some of the snow. A few more days like this and it might get easier for me to get to the points. The steep ridges combined with the snow were sometimes taking me 10 minutes or so just on 200 yard points. Especially when they were on opposite of the draws. Only once today did Grady get outside of 250 yards and that was because he was on chase of about 30 birds that crow hopped around the hill
As usual the birds used the rocky area for shelter  and every time we approached one of those areas there was at least one chukar to be pointed.
I'll make it short by saying there is still some great hunting to be had over there and I assure you I will be over that way in the next two weeks as often as I can. Go get em and good luck.