Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's hot

Man it's hot out there. The way the month started I thought we were going to be off to a great start. Rain and cool at the first of the month had me out hunting for grouse for the first time in my life. It was fun, but the problem was it got me and the boys fired up for chukar season. We usually don't hunt but a couple of times in September due to the hot weather but got a little over excited this year. Now we're paying the price.
We tried a short hunt this morning. It ended up 6 and 1/2 miles for me and 14 miles for Riley. Dakota was somewhere in between. There was no breeze and the temp was 55 when we started and 75 when we got back to the truck. Not a cloud in the sky. We drank every ounce of water we carried and the boys found a couple of water seeps to roll around in and drink out of hoof prints. The birds were probably around but we didn't find very many. Back at the truck the dogs noses were caked with a greenish brown substance. Dust and pollen which had been sucked into their nostrils for four hours. Now they both lay besides me thankful for the shade of the house. The 28th of September and I'm contemplating turning on the air conditioner.
The good news for all the chukar hunters is that there are plenty of chukars out there. They just have to grow up a little and conditions for hunting have to improve a lot. Even short morning hunts are rough on the dogs. Especially the older ones as my 11 year old will attest to.
The next weeks weather is calling for upper 80s to 90 so I've decided to give it up until the weather cools a little and hopefully a little moisture will knock the dust down. But when it does I see a great year of chukar hunting ahead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

special opener

The chukar opener in Idaho was today. It has been a day I that have been anticipating for several months.   We were there to chase the birds that heve beckoned us for the last seven months, but we had another agenda for the day. Dakota nd Riley didn't realize that we had alternate reasons for being on the mountain but they soon sensed that something was different.
The weatherman  was predicting a warm day so we got an early start. It was barely shooting light as we started hoofing up the mountain. In fact about ten minutes in to the hunt the dogs pointed a covey of quail and as they flushed there was not enough light to tell the different between the mature and immature birds. The dogs seemed to understand me not firing at the covey. I rarely shoot quail when we're on a chukar hunt.
We headed further up the ridge in anticipation when Dakota locked up. Riley crossed the ridge above him and after a quick glance locked up on honor. A sight I never get tired of. I moved in front of Dakota and flushed a covey of chukar. As they flushed in a magnitude of directions I was amazed by how young most of the birds were. I swung on a bird but didn't fire. After the last bird flew out of sight Dakota gave a couple of quick barks of discust. I'm sure his thoughts were "man it don't get much better than that, why didn't you shoot?" Even if there were more mature birds in the group I wasn't ready to shoot.
A half hour later I got another point and honor. There wasn''t quite as many birds in this covey but we went through the same moves as the covey before. This time Dakota ran twenty or thirty yards in the direction of the birds I had failed to shoot at and barked with discust.  I believe at that point he thought I had lost my eye sight.
About an hour into the hunt the boys locked in again. I'm not sure if they trusted my sanity, but they held point all the same. I knew that this was the point I came for. I walked in front of the boys for the flush and once again a rather large covey erupted. Both young and mature birds. As I threw the shotgun to my shoulder I picked a more mature bird to shoot. At the report of the gun I saw the bird crumple but then my eyes went to half way between the bird and myself. There was a white dust settling towards the earth. I stood there and watched as the dust slowly dissappeared into the cheat grass.
Suddenly I was brought back to earth by Dakota. He had retrieved the bird and was bringing it back to me.
We found a rock and went over and sat on it. That was another thing we rarely do when we chukar hunt. Although it was different Dakota and Riley obliged and sat by me and accepted a drink of water. We examined the bird and I visited with the boys. I explained to them that this was the hill where Tucker pointed and retieved his first bird. It's the same hill that Tucker, Dakota's dad, had taken me for every opener for the last fourteen years. I didn't really care which dog retrieved the bird but I was glad it was Tucker's son Dakota. I told them we would have to sit there for a few more minutes to get the water out of my eyes. Some of that white dust, the ashes of Tucker that I had reloaded into a shotgun shell, must have gotten in my eyes.
We got several more birds today, but not a one that was as special as that one. The boys and I got to say hello to Tucker one more time. The sun was consuming the shadows very rapidly now and the weatherman's predictions were coming true so it was time to come off the hill. What a great start to another bird season.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Grouse

Well, the 2010 hunting season finally begun in Idaho. Because the weather was particularly cooperating I decided to try grouse hunting. I've shot a few grouse in the past, but they've been just incidentals while chukar hunting. Both days I went out were cool with a slight drizzle. The kind of days that just begs you to be outside.
The first day I went to one of my chukar spots where I had seen several blues in the past. Dakota and Riley didn't disappoint me, producing several points. Mainly chukars. There's twenty days left until the season on them opens. we saw a total of 18 blues and I believe some of them were off point but I can't say for sure because of the thick cover. All I know is that the dogs weren't moving and grouse came out of the brush presenting some good shooting. Riley loved retrieving them but Dakota wasn't quite sure he liked a bird of that size in his mouth.
On day two we decided to hit the timbered area for some ruffs. We found six throughout the day but never got a shot at one. Riley had no problem with pointing the ruffs but they were in such thick stuff that I never could get a clear shot. I had to get down on my knees to see the bird. Riley won't break point until I flush the bird so I had to throw something in and try and flush the bird. Along the way we found some blues that were more cooperative. They seem to be more obliging getting a little more room between them and the brush creating a safer shot.
All in all they were great outings. I can see where grouse hunting could get into your blood. But for me and my dogs, we'll still take chukar hunting over the grouse. This is just my personal observation, but I think grouse hunting is more of a flushing dog sport than a pointing dog.
The chukar season starts in two weeks and I hope the weather cooperates again. It's been 7 and 1/2 months since I fired a shot at a chukar and I am eagerly waiting. The time for worrying about the hatch and getting all of my equipment ready is over. The dogs are ready and I think we've done a good job of getting rid of bad habits. Grouse hunting was my pre season hunt and now I have two weeks to the chukar opener. Time to get my game face on.