Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chukar Country

Unlike most people, I don't have another hobby outside of hunting. And although I hunt a variety of animals at times, if I had only one species to hunt, it would be the chukar. Not just because chukars are the ultimate bird to hunt with a good pointing dog, but equally as much because of the country they inhabit.

Chukar country can be very challenging no matter what time of the year you decide to hike in it. It can have temperatures in the negative degrees and get over 100 in the summer months. There is very little perfect time to be on the mountain because it invites all different weather patterns which can change just by going over the mountain. It encompasses all types of terrain from rock slides to rock cliffs, steep cheat grass hills to rolling sagebrush tops, and bare hills to lush green canyons.. The one thing chukar country doesn't have is hiking trails. You might find some game trails to follow for fifty yards or so before they disappear but then you'll have to side hill on the steep slope until you find another that might take you the next fifty or so yards.

Most people don't care to be in chukar country unless they are hunting something and there are plenty of somethings to hunt besides chukar where they reside. After the general deer and elk seasons, the number of people on the mountain diminishes quickly. The only people left in the hard core chukar country are the hard core chukar hunters. Not because they are any tougher or smarter than anyone else, but because they love hunting chukars with their canine partners. There are a lot of other chukar hunters still hunting, but most of them are just trying to enjoy a hunt in between their seasons and that is what is available. Most of those people won't go to the extent of  traveling four miles before getting a shot because it's not a priority and they find enough birds in the easier places. Maybe they're smarter than us die hards.

The weather is warming up and a good many people are starting to fish the lakes and go up north for steelhead. While they are enjoying that, I'm up on the hill enjoying the solitude of chukar country. I'm covering the mountain sides I couldn't get to two months ago.
On the back side of this mountain is a beautiful draw that looked like this a few months before the big snow came.
I'm so looking forward to that time of the year when I will be returning to this area with a gun in my hand and Jake leading the way. Between now and then, Jake and I will make a couple of spring/summer trips and check out that special place that only he and I know (right) where the hill flattens out some and my shooting percentage rises a little.
We all have a special place like this with the name no tell em ridge. Jake and I have been traveling to chukar country quite a bit since the first of February when the weather finally gave us a chance to actually walk in it. Many of the places were still locking us out with long snow drifts that forbid me from crossing but we're now able to get to all of our hunting spots and I have to say the animals did much better than I thought they might. I figured the chukars and huns might do well because the majority of them usually find that high blown off ridge to get feed from and hide from the predators. Those that moved down into the valley's struggled more with the snow staying almost a month longer than the southern steep slopes.

Jake and I have been in the mountains quite a number of times since Feb. 1 and have yet to see another person on the hill. That is besides my grandson, Conner who is as mentally stable as me.
He has been coming home with a back pack full of sheds each trip we take together. Meanwhile, Jake is having the time of his life. He is finding so many birds he is tiring out by the end of our jaunt and in this case I found him on point from the sitting position.
He had gone 24 miles already that day and 16 miles the day before so I forgave him for such a classless point which produced another pair of chukars.
I'm getting better with my camera and have finally got several pictures of the birds flushing. The secret is just aim the camera towards the flushing birds and push the button. When I get home I look through the pictures and see if the birds are in the frame. It's kind of like how I shoot a shot gun, point the gun, close my eyes and pull the trigger. If Jake goes after a dead bird than I know I was successful.

Chukar hills are full of game animals any time of the year we venture out in them. Here are some other creatures we're seeing. This pair of huns is one of many we are seeing now.
We weren't seeing many earlier but are now seeing quite a few pairs. Some of the chukars are still in covey's but I have only seen paired huns. Jake has also pointed a half dozen blue grouse so far this year.
This ruff didn't let Jake point but flew up into a tree and acted like he had never seen a human or dog.
It's a little early  to find any nest but we found the remains of an old chukar nest from last year and I'm crossing my finger that she will be back this year with twenty or so eggs to sit on.
As I mentioned, it seems like the big game did a lot better than I thought they would do. I have found very few winter killed animals on the mountain. The closer to the valleys, the more dead animals found. To those who wonder if we're pressuring the big game animals, no we are not. Chukar country is big and it's easy to observe the deer and elk while giving them lot's of room. 
The elk have done very well and we've seen them running around and playing already.
But in case one of the deer or elk don't make it through the hard times this guy is ready and willing to clean them up.
Add the sounds we hear when we're high on the mountain, like the snow geese and Canadians heading back north, or the sand hill cranes and even some trumpeter swans, along with the chatter of chukars, it's easy to see why I stay so positive about  our future on the mountain. Chukar country is good for my soul.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pairing birds and training

There must be a lot of stuff coming out about people in the field while birds are starting to pair up because while I was on the mountain yesterday I got four comments about the subject and two messages left on my phone. If you don't want to read my bunch of B.S. on the subject you can stop here knowing I think that not being out there training your dog or just hiking because the birds are pairing up and courting is a bunch of hog wash.

Once again I'm compelled to say that I definitely am not an authority on the subject but do spend enough time on the hill to have an honest opinion. Also my opinion is based on a heck of a lot of observing. I have eight spots that I try and go and observe the chukars each month of the year except June and July. Most eggs are hatching at that time and I prefer to save gas these months.

Although I'm not a good reader, I do read up and find as much as I can about the specifics and studies done on the survival of chukar populations. Most of the material is from Nevada, Utah, and Colorado but it applies to Idaho and Oregon just the same. Also most articles are pre 2000.

Pairing birds start showing up as early as February in most of the 8 areas I keep track of. It seems to me that the huns pair up earlier than the chukars, but I'm finding a lot of paired up chukars already this year. I can't even speculate as to why they are starting earlier than in past years but only hope it's for a good reason. When these birds are in this pairing process they are not nesting but courting and establishing their territory. By training on these birds you are not making any impact on the bird. In fact I find these pairs are great birds for training. They hold good and fly as if being shot at. Even when they fly different ways they soon find each other again. Remember, they're in love and the bull doesn't want another young man messing with his girl. Also, once they start pairing covey's of chukar start dispersing. While training you're not going to find pair after pair but usually your dog has to work to find the next pair because they scatter out so far.

In one Nevada study, out of 100 chukars located in a mile square area, only 7 pair and 1 single remained in the area and the rest dispersed outside of the one mile zone. That's maybe why chukar numbers in certain area's vary so much from year to year.

Just because birds are pairing does not mean they are nesting. This courting and pairing process may last for two months before a nest is established. The egg laying process usually starts between mid March and mid April. Even once this period comes there is no problem with being out their with your canine. The hen lays an egg and than goes off to feed and enjoy her mate until time to lay another egg. They are seldom close to the nest and by training on these birds you are doing no harm to the nesting site. Even though the birds may fly what seems a long distance, they have internal gps's that find them right back at the nesting site when need be.

Chukar nest will average between 15 and 16 eggs in a normal season. I found one nest with 28 eggs in it, I don't know what the survival rate was but wouldn't it be great to have them all survive. Usually one egg is layed per day until the hen has finished laying eggs. Then the incubation process begins.

Now, the hen sits on the nest continuously for 24 days. This incubation period usually begins in May. Although I don't spend as many days on the chukar hill in May, I still believe with a well trained dog you're not endangering the chukar population. Unless your dog is wild and uncontrollable, when he or she hits scent (if they can even hit scent this time of year) the male chukar will try and attract the canine by flying a short distance and than the female will do the same if necessary. I've found several nest by sitting off at a distance and watching for the chukar to sneak back to the nesting site.

Late May, June and the earlier part of July is probably the worst time of the year to be in chukar country. That is when the majority of chukars hatch. In Idaho and Oregon they say June 10 is about the average of when most eggs hatch. My observations believe it is a little later but I don't have the research tools that they have, so maybe there research should be a little more adhered to. Unless you have a very well trained dog it's best to leave the birds alone. Babies don't fly until about two weeks old. If you approach a covey that is less than two weeks old the hen will fake injury to attract attention and you know what a hunting dog is supposed to do when seeing a wounded bird. Once in a while the hen will fake too well and get caught. That's not good, even though the male is close by and will probably take over the rearing process since the pair stays together as a family unit.

While all this faking is going on the little birds freeze and blend into the landscape. The theory is that they have no scent at that time but I know that's not true. I have had my dogs point a less than five day old chick and the chick lay motionless under his nose. Luckily for me, I'm supposed to be the flusher, so with some stern whoa's I keep him still until I can walk him away. I quickly leave the area and let the family reorganize.

After about the 15th of July I figure most hatches are done and the chicks can fly. There are still going to be some late hatches, but the majority of the hatch is done by now. At this point I treat my training and hunting grounds like normal. The birds fly well and can avoid the hunter and dog almost like normal. I may be doing the birds a favor by being out at this time of the year. Mama chukar has a chance of imprinting upon her chicks that dogs and hunters are bad before we have a chance to go after them with a gun.

Hopefully, I've touched upon some of the biological aspects of what is happening with chukar/hun breeding seasons without sounding like an authority. From this information and your knowledge of your dog you have to make the decision of whether you should be out in the field. My honest opinion is that if you don't go to the same place and train in several different places you aren't going to hurt the bird populations. I, unlike the journals or blogs that are saying don't be out there when the birds are paired, believe in our outdoor enthusiasts to do the right thing. Most chukar hunters have a lot more common sense than some give us (even though we are thought to not be to smart to even take on chukar hunting). When I run into a situation that might be harmful to chukars or any other animal for that matter I'll back out and try and minimize my impact. So would almost all other hunters and outdoor enthusiast that I know.

 So, my opinion is get out there training and enjoying the outdoors. Listen to your heart and use common sense. Those guys out there saying you shouldn't be out there are usually making those comments because they don't want to be out there and would rather be doing something else. Let them do what they want and you do whatever it is you want.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pics to go with Bold Predictions

A few pictures showing a positive outlook for 2017.
It's going to be a long 7 1/2 months if you don't think positive. The animals are out there.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bold prediction and rebuttal

Before getting into my early chukar prediction I'd like to address an issue that I'm hearing more about every day. That's the issue on the land transfer. If there is anything we can really do to keep our chukar hunting good it is to make sure we have public land to hunt. We lose that and we won't have to worry about the chukar counts anymore. I'm not real savvy on that type stuff but I'm sure most of you are aware of what you need to do to keep our hunting grounds public.

Next, although it was a tough winter, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Every once in a while Ma Nature decides to do some culling and I believe this was one of those once in a while's. A great example happened at my front door this year. For the past ten years the white tail have chased the mulies from there wintering grounds around here and we have about thirty white tail and forty elk that feed on our place. Two of these white tail were runts. Although Barb and I tried and get them food the other deer always chased them off. The other deer would go out of their way to chase them away even when they weren't eating in proximity to them. Well as you might guess, the two runts died. That was even before the big snow came. After January, the animals all left because the snow was too deep here. This was the first January in 21 years we haven't had deer and elk feeding in our front yard. Now that the snow is receding they are gradually coming back.

So what's that mean to the chukar population? Not a darn thing, but I felt compelled to tell this story since I had so much junk shoved in my face about harassing big game animals while chukar hunting. If we use are heads things usually turn out the way they are supposed to. I don't know one chukar hunter that hasn't the brains to avoid wintering game animals when hunting and if there are some I don't care to know them. In fact I trust that almost all outdoor enthusiasts (horn hunters, snow mobilers, hikers, etc.) are aware of their responsibility when it comes to avoiding game animals.
Closing the chukar season or any other activity would have not have had any affect on winter wildlife survival except in those area's that the Fish and Game are already aware of and they do put closures on them. If someone wants to help save a deer, go patrol the road between Horseshoe Bend and Emmett. I've seen more dead deer and deer standing on that road than ever before.

Be careful before you trust my opinion of it being okay for you to go up on the mountain because you might end up being classified as a unethical hunter. I only bring this up because my post back on Jan. 1 was the most read, the most commented on, and the most phone calls of any post I ever made. I don't want to go that route to hear from other chukar hunters but it was great hearing all the different opinions.

Now to my very early chukar predictions for 2017. I've never made a prediction this early in the year but I've never seen as many birds this time of the year. Remember, I don't know any more than any of you, so it's still finger crossing time. Some will say it's because there was very little hunting in January but I think it was the lack of predation. The avian predators were taking many chukar/hun early in January but later in the month I was seeing very few predators chasing birds but filling up on the dead carcasses of big game animals on the frozen ice or side of the roads. I even saw two golden eagles, one red tail hawk, and a three other type of hawks hit on the road next to carcasses.

Although I did see some chukar in January that looked pretty weak and didn't want to get off the road, they were few in number compared to the healthy birds I saw.

Jake and I have been in the hills 8 times this month and we're finding birds that fly and run as good as birds we were hunting in November. Surprisingly we are already seeing lot's of pairs. We are seeing very few huns but that is normal for the spots we go. We are able to cover a lot of ground now and the training opportunities are endless.
We even get some practice shooting with the camera.
So the winter wasn't as bad on the birds as many thought it might be. I'm looking at it as an optimist for now and am hoping for an "I told you so" come September. A normal spring should give us the best year this century. You can either believe that or believe those that think this winter set us back five years. Either way there's nothing we can do about it. When it comes to chukar, Ma Nature controls the variables. About 212 more days and counting.

Friday, February 3, 2017

COS and BDBU by Jake

Are you bones starting to stiffen up from laying around too much? Are you tired of smelling the same old perfume smells, cooking smells and all the other odors of the interior of a house? Do you get bored bringing that smelly old hunting sock back to your owner just to have him give you a short two minute session of tug of war? Do you find yourself running from door to door hoping someone will open it up and let you up? Does your owner ignore your constant nudge with the nose as he sits and watches the television?

Are you tired of hearing complaints about all the snow? Does your owner promise to take you for a walk and five minutes from the door he turns back because of the cold even though he's got four layers of clothes on? Sure the cinnamon rolls were great for a while, but have you noticed the few extra pounds? Are you tired of barking at the door and other tricks to get your owner off the easy chair and outside?

Well, you're not alone. There are millions of dogs that suffer the same affliction. Especially in eastern Oregon and the state of Idaho this year it has become an epidemic. Dogs across the western U.S. have become very familiar with the disease. But don't fear there is an answer. It isn't a pill or one of those special diet and energy clubs and it doesn't happen over night, but it is a proven procedure that has been performed on thousands of humans with a 98 % success rating. Dog's all over the world have given the training program a five star rating.

The program has a money back guarantee. If you don't lose four pounds and your owner doesn't get out at least 8 times in the first month your money will be returned. You have nothing to lose, your owner is just sitting there right now isn't he? The trainers have been trained by accredited colleges everywhere and have a degree in COS (canine owner stimulation). The course is much more intensive than the course they took to use their stimulation on you (thirty second version).

We here at GHOTA (get humans off their ass) use only accredited trainers and have only hired from the top 10 % of the members with a COS. So you are sure to get the best benefits for your money. It's a simple program that you will be involved in on every step. There will be no pain to you but plenty of running time. If you pursue this program for multiple months, the benefits will be unbelievable. You can expect up to twenty four days of activity in a single month if you take the 6 month version of this course. One GSP, Cavin actually had to start faking injuries because Jeff, the owner was taking him out every day of the week until Cavin finally got bored with it.

It cost a little more but if you need to speed the process up some, you can apply for our BDBU (break down and build up) certified trainers. They have a master's and can do unbelievable therapies on our owners to expedite  compliance.

Without giving away all the secrets, the program simply encourages the owner to get out with you. The first steps are showing him how he can walk trails, snow mobile tracks, logging roads, etc. while letting you run and cover what country you desire. That way he learns to walk without hurting himself. Later we get into the off road stuff. Usually there is some stimulation involved. We set it up so that the stimulation fits the human. We put probes on the human butt and waist with the stimulator on the throat. We used to put the stimulator on the back of the neck but found humans began hitting the back of their head at times after training, with the throat they just kind of stiffen up. Our accredited consultants will make sure we have the right stimulation on your human. We wouldn't want to see his feet come off the ground three feet. Unless we have a completely uncooperative human, the high level is never used. After the first month or so you will have complete control. You will simply turn the stimulator on or off by a switch that we will mount on your collar. The switch has a protective cover so that you can't activate or deactivate it by accident. Just a simple push of the front paw toe and your in control.

Say you're at home and your human hasn't been out for a while. Turn on the switch. Every time he sits he's get a stimulation. Depending on how long you have the stop function set for, whenever he stops moving the waist sensor will set the stimulation off. Soon you'll be out walking.

So, what are you waiting for? Haven't you wasted enough time already? We have several dogs just waiting at the phone to help you out. If you have any problems at all, Jake, the president will be there to help you through it. Just call 1-800-dog help or contact us at gethumansofftheirass.com and we'll get you started.

For those who call or connect on line within the next hour we will also send you a dog brush or bird wing of your choice. Call now.

Call now to discuss price.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

One more hat retired

For the past 18 years I have started the season with a new hat. Team Tuckota began on Dakota's first hunting season. He was Tucker's son who had just turned 4. The two of them became the best hunting team I ever hunted behind and thus the name Tuckota. Jake proudly carries on their tradition but does it solely. He is the only shorthair of mine that has not had a canine partner to share the duties with.
Since yesterday was our last hunt of the 2016-2017 season this hat will go on the rack with the rest of them.
There is a lot of tradition and enjoyment in those hats and the journals I have kept over the years.
Although Jake and my hunt yesterday was successful it was hard enough that it discouraged me from making another hunt today. I don't know if it was because this was our only hunt for the month of January or because of the deep snow but my legs and back were as sore as I can ever remember.

A mountain lion hunter I met this year told me of some slopes I might be able to get to by walking on top of his snow mobile tracks into the area. Although tougher than walking on dirt slopes it was easier than walking on unpacked snow. You can barely see the road (trail) the cat hunter made on the far hill in this picture.
You can also tell why he finds lion tracks in the area quite often. This was the bare slope the trail led me to.
After getting there I found the slope not quite as bare as I had hoped. The chukar tracks kept me excited though. They were everywhere but it was impossible to tell if they were fresh or not because the snow had been on the ground so long. Jake had no problem covering the country because most of the time he was on top of the crusted snow. I wasn't so lucky. Some of the time I could stay on the top for three or four steps but most of the time I was breaking through half way up to my knee or further. The birds were running up the snow covered mountain everywhere I looked and Jake was often on the chase. It wasn't the right thing to do but I shot a couple of the flushing birds out of frustration. I ended up getting several birds off point and Jake had a great day. It almost seemed like he knew which birds were runners and which would hold. This was his last point of the day and it produced a double for me.
It was one of those classic points that looked like it was scripted and we were getting close enough to the trail that I bagged the retrieved birds and headed down.  although Jake had only covered 12 and 1/2 miles to my 3 and 1/2 I could tell he was tired also because he never got off the snow mobile track on the way down. I looked for a good place to take a picture of Jake's success and found it fitting to take a picture in the snow. After all, that's where we spent 90 % of our time getting the birds.
Although this was our only hunt in January this year, the season was a great success. We saw lot's of birds most everyday we hunted. I got out on 44 chukar hunts and hunted 36 different areas. I hunted one place three times but stayed pretty scattered out thanks to the number of birds. Yesterday I saw probably close to 150 birds and although most of them will be dead by nesting season the ones that survive should go into the season healthy by the looks of the fat on the birds and amount of feed in their crops.
Let's hope for another good spring and summer for the birds.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

snow day

The schools have been getting a lot of snow days this year and rightfully so. The snow has stayed on the ground for a long time this year with the cold temperatures. This is the first January in over 30 years I have not hunted. Even three years ago when I had my left knee replacement on Dec. 8th I got out four days in January. It's been really tough for Jake. The snow is so deep that we haven't really even got to do much hiking. We have been getting into the chukar country when the roads permit and Jake at least gets to see some birds.

Up until yesterday Jake couldn't get much more than 20 or 30 yards off the road before he'd return through the crusted deep snow to clean himself out on the edge of the road where at least his back side was out of the snow. Yesterday Barb, Jake and I took a snow day and went west. I got a new camera to replace the one I left in Stanley this summer and wanted to test it out. We got some short hikes in and found a lot of fun things and even though we weren't carrying a gun Jake got some action. Maybe too much action. By the end of the day he was yipping at chukars running up the hills.

Almost everywhere we went we found chukar tracks.
They were utilizing every type of food imaginable.
They were teaming up with other wildlife to get their daily meals and for the most part looked very healthy.
By the end of the day they were gathering into covey's for the night. For those of us who are still hunting until the end of the season, try and get off the hill a couple of hours before sun down. The birds need time to covey up and stay warm during the night.
As I mentioned, the birds for the most part looked pretty good, but there were a few places where the snow had not receded at all and birds were on the road and not looking quite as healthy.
Several places Barb and I came upon evidence of predators from the sky, such as remains of a chukar
and piles of feathers with big bird tracks all around them.
Barb and I watched several hawks and eagles diving on chukars and at times it seemed like they were working together with one bird diving to make them fly while the other birds hovered above waiting to dive on the fleeting bird. I tried to capture some pictures but wasn't fast enough to get any decent pictures. This red tail looked at us like we were intruding on his territory.
This golden was enjoying his meal from a distance.
Most of the animals were in that lethargic mode and were pretty calm as long as we kept our distance.
The deer, elk and sheep we saw all looked healthy and should come through the winter pretty good unless we get another long stretch like we just had. A little sun on the hillside would sure help some. Even though the animals look good we still found some evidence of nature and how it culls out the weaker animals. We couldn't tell how this animal died but could see all the animals that benefitted by it's death by all the different tracks around it.
It was a great snow day for us. We got to see lot's of fun animals, I took a lot of pictures, we got some exercise and we found some country that might be huntable before the season closes.
Getting the birds to hold or staying upright might be difficult but it might still provide us with the opportunity for a few more outings. Jake also had some fun on the hill. He got to point some chukar when they weren't running on top of the snow and straight up hill.
He also got to watch them fly straight over the top of me and was glad I didn't have a gun. The snow was so deep in places he'd have to dig a dead bird out.
God, I love being out on the mountain with Jake. Having Barb along was a plus. I can't wait until this snow recedes enough for some great jaunts. If it's during the chukar season, great. If not, that's all right too. I wasn't made to sit by the fire and talk about the outdoors. I was made to experience it. My dogs have been the force that drives me further up the hill. Their exuberance is like a drug that get's me high. There is only one cure for me to get over this cabin fever and that is Jake on the mountain with me. Just like my dog's of the past have done, he'll make me feel like I found the fountain of youth. Even if at times he runs across the hill yipping at flushing and running chukars, he's still my drug.