Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Heavy rainfall concerns this month

Wow! what a month for moisture. So far this month we have had 3 times the amount of rain as normal for the whole month. The weather forecast says today is about the end to this trend for the month. Hopefully we will be back to normal from here on.

I've been getting lots of request on my thoughts about all this rain and it's effects on the chukar hatch. I've done lot's of reading and kept lot's of notes of observations of chukar populations but sadly haven't kept notes of rainfall amounts in June for each year. If anyone could possibly tell me how to find the average rainfall amount in June for the past 30 years I could come up with a little more positive answer to how much the spring rains effect the outcome for the coming seasons.

Even with the heavy rainfalls we have had I know we are better off than drought conditions. On dry years many of the birds don't even try to nest. The vegetation and insects are not there to produce healthy conditions for reproduction, so on drought years you will see many small coveys of birds in the spring instead of pairs. Spring rains produce lot's of green up and insects which are the main ingredients for good chick survival. This June has provided plenty of that. Chicks that have survived so far or that haven't hatched yet should have an abundance of feed for the remainder of the summer months. Conditions from here out should be optimum for survival. A rain or two in July and August might help conditions even more but won't be necessary for what could be a good year.

With that being said, I'll give my thoughts of what might happen. First of all, although most articles say the mean time for chukar/hun hatching is about June 10, I believe it occurs later in the month. My only reason for thinking that is from observations of size of birds in late July and early August. I raised chukars for a couple of years and "think" I can judge age pretty well from their size and flight ability. If I am right, than the most hatches are just beginning. The hatches that have already happened and have been lost have plenty of time for the hen to renest and still have good number of eggs to hatch. These spring conditions have produced prime nutrients for hens to reproduce plenty of eggs for a second hatch. The second hatch from these hens will probably be as good as the first one where on a normal weather year the egg numbers may be smaller.

Chukars and huns are resilient nesters and will keep trying to nest as long as conditions are right. I believe it is a myth that they will nest two or three times and raise separate broods. I think they will only have a second brood if they lose all their chicks. It's not possible to raise chicks and sit a nest at the same time so they will have only one brood per year. But on normal years with moisture almost all hens are reproducing instead of just a portion of them on drought years and they will keep on trying until successful or it's too late. That is why we sometimes see birds so young clear into late October.

I haven't been able to get out and locate chukar and hun nests this Spring because of my lack of mobility but I have been able to drive the roads and observe the bigger birds(turkey) and find a few of their nest for observation. I found five nests and the earliest of them hatched May 23rd and the latest was just five days ago. Two of the nest were destroyed by predators which I believe is definitely harder on nest than rain. I can't speak of survival of the chicks because of my inability to get out and observe little ones feeding with the mom nor do I want to take a chance of disturbing them on these wet days. I do believe that the other upland birds are two to three weeks behind turkeys in the hatch so that would place hatch times from mid June on.

I have no biological facts to say I'm right but I really believe June rains don't hurt the numbers as much as I use to. These heavy rains had to have hurt some but not as much as I once feared. Keep thinking positive. I do know that we will at least have a normal year. Every down year that I can recall has been preceded by a dry spring and summer. Hopefully this will be a banner year and we will learn a little more about chukar/hun reproduction conditions.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Snake avoidance.

Although we have never had a problem with rattle snakes I have always done some snake avoidance with my dogs. Tucker and Dakota went to snake avoidance class while Jake and Grady were taught by me. Sometimes you have to wonder if it really works but once in a while the right opportunity comes along to help ease the mind. Mine was today.

While rehabbing on a logging road with my dogs I came across a bull snake on the road. At 60 degrees he wasn't moving much so I didn't know whether the dogs had even crossed his path as they jogged around looking for some kind of prey. So I called them back down the road ready to give them some stimulation when either they reacted to the snake or the snake reacted to them and surprisingly they both stopped right next to the snake and looked for me to release them to go play.

Neither dog acted as if they smelled the snake and the snake wasn't interested in getting any attention so I snapped the photo and walked the dogs down the road where they proceeded hunting for whatever they could find. I went back to the snake and pushed him around with my cane aggravating it some until it was hissing and striking at the object.

I than called the boys back and when they saw the movement of the snake they retreated quickly without any stimulus. It's a nice feeling to know that the avoidance is there.

I don't know why the dogs didn't smell the snake because I have seen them react from the smell of snakes before but it was obvious they had no idea at our first contact. None of this will ever solve that chance meeting but it will eliminate the curious dog that has to see what the snake is doing and go in for a closer look, especially puppies. 

This also shows that generally snakes won't react to dogs or other objects like canes unless provoked. Knock on wood that our fortune with snakes will stay the same for the coming years.
For some reason the movie portion isn't working right so you'll have to imagine the snake striking at my cane. I'm about to give up on this technology.

Monday, April 27, 2020


Nothing exciting to tell about upland birds do to the fact I still can't put any weight on my leg and the exercising of the boys is from my side by side. Boys were finding some paired birds earlier but it's getting mighty warm for those runs.

My grandson took up archery hunting this year and his first quarry was turkey. Conner is a very stick to it type guy and damn if he didn't put an arrow in one a few days back. First shot at a wild animal.
This morning I got mine and even though it was with a shot gun it took all the energy I could muster up. I drove my side by side along a logging road until I found a bird that gobbled. Gave it about 15 minutes and than slid down the slope until I could find a place where I might see him if he decided to come to me. After about an hour of chatting back and forth he finally committed to about 15 yards where the twelve gauge mad a fine pattern on his head. I was jacked to have done it with a broken leg but was soon brought back to earth when I loaded the bird in my pack for the return back up the slope to my ride. On my hands and knees I crawled up the slope pushing my shotgun and crutches. It took over an hour to get back to the road. It was right at 1/4 mile. I remember when I use to run the quarter mile in 60 seconds, wow! how things have changed. After the hour long quarter mile I was shaking and more tired than any I can ever remember. I lay on the road for at least 15 minutes with my arms burning like they use to after a day of weight training. This time I got the job done but I guarantee I won't be doing any more hunting until I have two legs to walk on.
The picture was taken on the tree stump of my accident in hopes that I won't forget either event.

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.