Friday, November 30, 2012

Dakota's letter

Larry, I have gotten old, so have patience with me. If I seem to be ignoring you, understand that my hearing is gone and I would never ignore you intentionally. Even if you need to raise your voice so I can hear, please don't use the angry tone. That isn't the person I remember. I use to love honoring your commands, but I don't even remember what some of them mean now. If I seem to pace more than I use to it's because I don't know what I'm supposed to do, so please bear with me. My eyes are clouded over now and I don't recognize things from a distance so forgive me for barking at things I should be familliar with. I know my aging body and breath smell at times and I appreciate you petting and hugging me all the same. And those whining noises I constantly make while laying here. Those sounds are the only noises I really hear anymore and it conforts me some. Thanks for turning the T.V. volume up so you can hear over me. The strength in my hips is gone now so your help up on the chair is appreciated even though I may not be able to show it as I use to. I still am sensative so don't look at me with disdain because I have to follow my nose to every smell in the house and often get in the way. I'm sorry that I forget at times which side of the door opens so bear with me. Please don't force me to jump out of the truck, my joints are weak now and it hurts to do the things that use to be so easy and fun to do.
If I don't make it all the way out the door believe me I am trying but I am losing control of certain bodily functions. Thank you so much for noticing my shivering. The cold bothers me more today than it did in my younger years and the keeping me in a heated room is very much appreciated. I don't know why I ask to be let outside just to turn around and scratch to come back in. Something just tells me that's what I'm supposed to do. You and Barb are so good to keep coming to the door for me. Although I can't keep up with you and Riley, I love being with you. Please include me in some of your travels. I'm sorry I got older, so please bear with me. Don't start disliking me for the things I cannot control but remember all the good times we had together. When I do something stupid ar have an accident try to remember all of our great hunting trips and rub my ears and hopefully we can get through this together. My last days are growing near and the last thing I ever wanted was to cause any inconveinince to you and Barbara. When the time comes and the pain is unbearable I will let you know. All I ask is that you rub my ears love me as I fall to sleep. My dreams will take me to heaven where I'll join Tucker who is waiting for us to all be together again. Like you, I wish that us dogs lived as long as humans so we could spend both of our lives together. Maybe God made us live shorter lives strenghten yours. I know how it hurt you to lose Tucker but it made you a stronger individual. I hope my being here has done the same. I won't apologize for what aold age has done to me. It is beyond my control just like it will become beyond yours when you get older. You won't have to apologize to your children for your forgetfullness and other things as you age. Your children will understand, just as you have understood my problems. Thank you for the wonderful life and having the patience to care for me in my later years.
I Love You, Dakota

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hey Big Mouth

Well as happens every year, or is it every day, I have managed to screw up a good thing. Luckily, the damage was with a very smart dog, Riley, who knows how to forgive and forget quickly. The damage done was opening my mouth and trying to do the hunting for Riley. About a week ago I posted about the perfect dog day, well today was the "a chance to be a perfect idiot day". A day where the birds were plentiful and the weather was beautiful. There was more soft sand than shale rocks to traverse the hills in, making walking a lot easier. The chukars were talking making their prescence very obvious. It wasn't long before Riley's first point. He held the birds for my flush. My first shot dropped a bird and my second hit also, but it was one of those shots that didn't take affect until the bird had flown a couple hundred yards, flew straight up in the air, and dropped down the canyon out of sight. Riley was soon on a trail 50 yards away and heading towards where the birds flew to. I recalled him and told him dead bird. I walked to the area where the first bird had fallen and repeated dead bird. Riley acted like there was no bird there and headed for the other side of the hill again. After all these years of hunting with good dogs you'd think I learn to trust them. No, not me. That's why I'm a chukar hunter. No brain. I kept recalling Riley with the same result. No dead bird. After about a half hour of frustration, I decide to head down to where I thought bird number two was. Another fifteen minutes or so and not even knowing for sure where the bird went down at, I turned back up hill towards where the first bird was shot. Loosing two birds had me really frustrated, a feeling dog owners should let go of fast. We got to where I felt the first bird was and gave it another fifteen minutes of frustrating search with no bird to be found. With discust, I finally headed in the direction the large covey of chukars had flown. Knowing where the birds had gone I kept calling Riley back, trying to locate him where I wanted him to be in relationship to where I thought the birds had gone. Riley was obviously getting confused with my directing him, but for some reason I persisted on helping him find the covey. The birds were where I thought they'd be and Riley put up another great point. I moved below him where he could see me approaching and dropped the second chukar I shot at. Keeping my mouth shut I was tickled to watch Riley find the bird and bring it to me. I remember thinking, "thank God, I thought maybe Riley forgot how to find dead birds". As we headed back up the hill, Riley locked on point again. His head was high and he kept relocating back in the direction of our first encounter with the covey. He finally locked up and I moved in for the flush. No birds. Riley then broke point and picked up a dead bird from the trail we were near. He enthusiastically brought it to me and headed off hunting. We were about two hundred yards from where I had shot the first shots of the day and as you probably have guessed, I followed the trail around to find Riley's tracks in the sandy soil. This was the trail Riley was on when I was trying to get him to come back for a dead bird. My dead bird was a cripple and Riley was on his scent when I kept calling him back.. I started up the hill following Riley's lead. I heard some birds talking off to the west and could even see one jumping from rock to rock. My dog was down on the east side of the hill working the breeze. I wanted to head back to where I knew the birds were but common sense finally grabbed hold of me. Keep your mouth shut and let Riley do his job. As the day progressed I did just that. Riley didn't fail me and before the day was over he even took me to the covey of birds I had heard earlier. Too many birds and easy walking conditions can sometimes create a bad dog day just because us humans think we can become better predators than our canine companions. I was reminded of a cardinal rule of training dogs today. Luckily, I have a good companion with lot's of experience. Getting frustrated like I was has no place on the hill with a dog. Let it go or get off the hill. The best way to ruin a dog is to lose your temper and control. If you've done your job as a trainer and a hunting companion your dog is out there trying to please you because he/she loves you. They make mistakes the same as we do, but not half as many as we are inclined of making. Over and over I think back to Tucker and his training of me. Sometimes I half to be reminded the rules of companionship, and how a team really does accomplish more than an individual. I don't know if it's macho to admit this, but man I love my dogs.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Quail

Normally I don't hunt quail, because sometimes they teach pointing dogs to chase. But when my grandson, Conner, asked me if we could try a little quail hunting, there was no way I could say no. Conner turned 10 this year and after passing hunter safety, he has his upland bird hunting license. The memories of this day will be with me forever. I was concerned about the safety factors of a first year hunter, especially behind a dog, but I was soon impressed by his safety with the gun as well as his ethics around both the dog and myself. I'm looking forwards to many more hunts like this and I know Riley is too. Riley and Conner have been best buds since the day we picked him up at the airport. One day, maybe Conner and his dog will take me on my last upland hunt. I hope that day is many years from now and many hunts in between, but until that time comes here are a few of the memories I have of this young man maturing into a hunter early in life. There right in here Conner.
I got that one.
I'll take that one Riley.
and put it right here.
I've got another one right here.
A little further. Right behind that rock.
Thanks Riley.
Great job Riley. We have them pinned between us.
I'll hold them while you make the flush.
I'd say we had a pretty good day Riley.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A perfect dog day

I headed out early this morning not knowing what to expect from the weather. It called for rain but the radar looked like there might be a break in the direction I was heading. When I arrived at my hunting destination the rain was still coming down but I could see a break further off to the west, the direction the storm had come from. I'm not much for hunting in the rain and I've never had a shorthair that was very excited about it either, so Riley and I waited for the clearing. It wasn't long and Riley and I were out heading up the hill in the stiff breeze that followed the clouds. My guess was about 15 mile an hour winds. That's what made it the perfect dog day. The rain had washed out all old scent and any scent that was fresh would surely be picked up and carried to Riley's nostrils. The temperature was 54 degrees. Very comfortable. About 15 minutes into the hunt Riley had his first point. He was about 200 yards away, but his staunch point told me I had plenty of time to side hill up to him. He had the birds pinned. I picked a bird out of the covey and Riley retrieved the bird in short order. Riley was off to find another covey. There wasn't a false point all day. Riley covered the mountain with his long strides and high nose and as soon as his pace slowed and his head lowered some I knew it was time to start heading his way. He was never over 300 yards away but with the steepness of the hills it still took some time to get to him. By the time I got to where I last saw him he would be locked in again. This was the kind of day when the point left no doubt about whether or not birds were there. It's perfect weather conditions like today that can really make the relationship between hunter and his dog the way it should be. I'm not saying that Riley didn't bust a couple of coveys today. He did. But through no fault of his. While chukar hunting you can't always be hunting into the wind. Sometimes while making those big casts you have to turn with the wind to your back. But more often than not, on a day like today you are going to get some good dog work. Now is the time to try and put it together. The dog is locked in on a fresh scent. It's time for you to move in on the birds in a way that your dog is accustomed to you doing. Moving in a calm manner helps the dog stay a little more focused and calm. If you have to whoa your dog from creeping you do it in a calm voice letting him know you are there as a team. Now is a very important part of the team aspect with your dog. The flush and shot. Very seldom do you hear anyone mention the shooting aspect of hunting with a dog. The dog needs to know that when you flush and shoot at the birds there will usually be one there to get in his mouth. That's part of the big equation. Dog points, hunter walks in on point, flushes bird, shoots and the dog gets to retrieve. Believe it or not, missing enough can cause a dog to start chasing. Today was perfect. Not because of the number of birds we got, but the way we got them. The whole picture was there. We worked as a team. I knew when Riley pointed there was no question as to where the birds were. The wind was strong enough to remove any doubt and the scent had to be fresh. I could approach the birds from a position where Riley could see me. If Riley crept a little I knew the birds were further up the hill but If he stayed staunch I knew they were right there. My shots usually hit the mark today. Mainly because the birds were where Riley told me they would be. It's not always posssible, but when you have a day like today, when the conditions are perfect, take advantage of it. Put it together with your canine partner. Make things happen so your dog knows how it is supposed to work as a team.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hearing and it's relationship to shooting

Okay, getting older has a lot more advantages than disadvantages, but after my last three trips out chukar hunting and my dismal shooting I have found one more excuse for misses. Hearing. In my case directional hearing. After thousands of shots at chukars with no hearing protection I still have decent hearing but have had some changes in my directional hearing. Last night while watching a football game, I mentioned to Barb how the surround sound seemed a little messed up. With her look of "what a dummy" she informed me it wasn't even on. Well, the sounds I was hearing wasn't coming from the direction of the TV. From there my mind (what's left of it) went back to the chukar hills and the events of the past few days. Misses were a big part of it. I'm a little of a fanatic about keeping records of events on the hill while chukar hunting. The shots I was successful on were the ones Riley had the birds pinned down and they busted where I expected them to be. The ones I missed were the ones Riley pointed but didn't flush where I expected. I remember one time even turning the wrong direction as I heard the flush. Even though the birds flushed well within shooting range, by the time I got situated for the shot, they were well out of range. Over the years I have slowed my shooting down. Even though 80% of the birds I get shots at flush at twenty five yards or less, I usually only get one shot. Except when there is a straggler. My reaction time obviously has slowed over the years, so I concentrate on making that one good shot. With this new directional hearing problem I have developed along with a slower reaction time, by the time I am getting to the bird I'm having a hard time catching up to it. I'm shooting behind the bird. That split second of time is making the difference between getting a smooth swing through the bird and not. On the range I always where ear protection and usually know where the pigeon will come from but in the field that isn't always true. I've done some research into hearing protection while chukar hunting, but haven't come up with anything positive. Anything I put in or over my ears seems to enhance the sounds of heavy breathing and also my heart beat which would drive me nuts while walking the steep hills. So I've decided to just put DIRECTIONAL HEARING LOSS into my arsenal of excuses for missing chukars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

left handed shooting

I was recently asked by a fellow chukar hunter named jojo about the specifics of my changing from shooting right handed to left handed. It seems that he/she has the same problem as I have. Left eye dominance. I swapped sides when I was in my early twenties when it was quite obvious my left eye was my dominant eye. It was a good thing, because now I can only see movement from my right eye and can barely tell the difference between a cow and a deer standing twenty yards in front of me. Back then I shot a 870 pump and I don't recall it being real difficult to shoot left handed but I do remember missing a lot. But I was missing right handed too, so I wasn't too stressed out. Getting used to taking the safety off and on and pumping the action smoothly was harder than the shooting. It's amazing how the mind works. There were a lot of jerky moments when the brain was still telling me to do things right handed since I had been doing so for about six or seven years in the past. Looking back, it would have been a lot easier to change had I been shooting a double barrel gun. All I could afford then was the good old reliable Remington 870 which I shot for many years. I shot this right handed gun for many years successfully before I could afford a 1100 automatic. Boy, could I put some shells through that gun fast. Of course it was right handed too, so when the shells ejected they were going right in front of my face. After the first few it never bothered me. Then one day while shooting clay pigeons, a fellow shooter mentioned how unsafe the gas and propellants flying in front of my face was. I had been shooting that way for many years now and never had a problem but I suddenly started getting particles in my face and eyes when I shot. I now had saved enough money to order a Benelli Montefeltro in the left hand version. That was about twenty years ago and I can't remember the specifics, but the safety was reversed from the right hand guns I had been shooting. That was the most difficult problem I have encountered over my years of shotgunning. My brain just wouldn't accept pushing the safety in the opposite direction. I even got to the point of taking the safety off as I appraoched a pointing dog but as I whipped the gun to my shoulder at the flush my finger automatically went to the safety and pushed the button which slid to the safe position. I'm not talking just once or twice, but hundreds of times. I couldn't beat my subconscious telling my hand how I had reacted many thousands of times before. After a year of trying I finally had a gunsmith reverse the safety for me. I now shoot an over/under that I really shoot well. For what reason, I don't know. It's not a left hand model (if there is a difference in over/unders) and was never fitted for me by a gunsmith. I don't pay much attention to all those terms that fits a shotgun to your size. I do know that lining the rib of the shotgun up to the target works whether it's the right or left eye and that once I convinced the rest of my body to cooperate I became a better shooter left handed. The only thing that could have helped making the change easier would have been to catch the problem early. Shoot with your dominant eye before you develope all these sub conscious habits that seem to take over your brain when you are making quick and snap decisions like shooting.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Old Farts

Usually I like to talk about my dogs and diagnose what they did right or wrong. This week I was once again impressed with the old man. Greg Munther, a friend from Montana that I met last year, joined Riley and me for three days in Oregon. Of course he had Lucy with him. Although we never hunted side by side I did get to observe his astro unit and of the three days we hunted together he outwalked me all three. I tried picking his brain as to diet, etc. but his humble response was always "I just try to keep a slow steady pace." Slow my ***. I tried to keep up with him on the trail before we split the third day and he had my lungs burning. Greg is 69 years old and covers more ground than most 30 year olds I have hunted with. Guys like him should be an inspiration to all of us. Get a good dog and chase the birds and at 69 we might be lucky enough to be in the physical shape he is in. Here's a picture of Greg and Lucy and a few of my goofy partner.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sight pointing.

I've read in many different magazines and heard in pointing dog discussions that sight pointing can be a bad habit for a bird dog. I am by no means an authority, but I can't see where it hurts as long as the dog also points scent. It seems like it adds just one more piece to the puzzle of getting more birds. Today, Riley proved to me that sight pointing is very useful. Maybe my other dogs have done the same thing, but I have never seen it as obvious as it was today. The conditions are warm and dry on the hills. I've never seen conditions this tough for dogs. Several times today Riley would act like he hit scent. He'd stop and then search the area with his nose looking for more scent. At some point he'd lift his head like he was looking for birds. Sure enough he'd go on point. Not a high tailed point, but a point all the same. I could tell he had made contact. His eyes told the story. As I approached he would break point and circle the birds pinning them between us. This happened at least a half dozen times today. Rileys nose couldn't pin the birds but his eyes did. I'm not trying to make Riley out to be a super dog. I think all dogs are capable of doing this. It's just that he gets out more than most dogs and is pretty much left to hunt and find the birds how he wants. He knows the point of locating birds is to find them and hold them for me. I don't care how it's done as long as we work as a team. Today was about as good as team work can get. But it was mostly done with his eyes today and not his nose. One more note on Rileys ability to communicate with me. After 3 hours of hunting the dry conditions today he just quit. I was heading back to the truck and walking a cow trail and Riley fell in behind me on the trail. He stayed about 10 yards behind me for the last half mile pretty much telling me, enough is enough.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October coolings

With the cooler temperatures arriving I decided it was time to test Riley's new knees on consecutive days of hunting. So we hooked up the fifth wheel last Tuesday and headed to Brownlee. The camping started out on a sour note. Wiithout going into detail let me just say I dropped the fifth wheel on my truck bed when we got to our camp site. The expenses of stupidity are just beginning for the year.
Barbara and Dakota joined us for a few days and hiked a few miles. It was great to have Dakota trying to find a bird on his fourteenth year of hunting. He soon tired and they left Riley and I to the mountain. With the amount of water I'm carrying on the hill right now I have decided to leave the camera behind. But the pictures of great dog work have been embedded in my mind. Proof that I still have one. Although the conditions are still very dry, the cooler days make it possible to stay on the mountain as long as you have or can find some water for the dogs. Riley is in great shape for being five months away from his second knee operation. In four days he covered 58 miles which included multiple retrieves straight up the steep slopes. Nothing wears a dog out more than coming up those steep slopes with a bird in mouth. A seasoned dog is worth it's weight in gold during these dry days. That I can remember, Riley only busted two coveys in four days. He ranged out hard but slowed way down when he hit bird scent. His nose would get low to the ground (something I rarely see during normal damp weather) and he slowly covers the area until he would locate the birds. It wasn't one of those weeks where I could watch Riley covering the hill and than suddenly slam on to point. If I saw him slowing and working his nose I just started moving towards him knowing there would soon be birds. The condition of the birds is going to be questionable in a month or so if we don't see some green up soon. There is no fat on the birds and there breasts aren't quite as plump as usual. It doesn't take much. Just one good rain and the cheat will start growing. When there craws start getting full of green grass they are getting the nutrients they need to fatten up and survive the winter. Although there weren't birds around every corner as some would like, the numbers are good. Riley and I came home not only for a recovery period but because we had reached our possession limit, even after cooking some up for a nice meal. Riley is favoring his right front leg a little. Hopefully a couple days off will cure this and it won't be anything serious. When the moisture comes and I don't have to pack so much water I'm going to start packing the camera again. Hopefully I can get some good dog work and just post pictures so you don't have to figure out what I'm trying to say. Good luck to everyone on what looks to be a great season. Spudfed, I did finally answer your question on the last post.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Weather

I'm supposing most of the chukar hunters are watching the skies and praying for some cooler temperatures and some moisture. I know I am. Lower temperatures would really help the stamina but the moisture is more important as far as finding birds. A good rainfall would knock the dust and pollen off of everything and make it easier for the pups to hold scent.
Yesterday Riley and I were up on the hill and experienced one of those off days. I'm sure there were birds around but in 3 and 1/2 hours we found only two small covey of huns and a solo chukar. We had several unproductive points and relocates but couldn't come up with birds. The two covies we did find ended up being bumped after solid points and several relocates. Riley knew they were there but just couldn't pinpoint the birds until he eventually bumped them. I've talked to a few other hunters who are having the same kind of luck on the hill. In fact, I ran into Mike Richards and his good looking setter on the hill yesterday and when the day was through he concurred with me that there were birds around but the conditions are just making it tough on the dogs. A couple of guys I've visited with said they weren't going to hunt their dogs anymore until the weather changes. They thought it was tough on their canine partners. It might be. I don't know, but I do know that Riley loves being out there and it's a lot better than sitting around the house moping. I do know that it isn't hurting me being out there. As I get older I find when I take a little time off from hiking the hills it takes a lot longer to get back into shape than it used to. I have to hike the hills at least a couple times a week or my body lets me know I'm letting it down. So, I'll put up with these poor conditions until we have a good weather change, and be happy with fewer birds and packs filled with water, knowing that when it does happen Riley and I will be like kids at Christmas time. Here's to some good rain in the near future.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Riley not missing a beat

Well, the chukar season has begun. I don't know about the rest of you, but this was and is still a long summer. I've been worried about Riley's return to the mountain but he has come back stronger than I expected. We have been out twice now and Riley has covered over 11 miles each day. I'm sure he could have gone farther but the vet says he has a couple of months left before I can expect 100%. There were plenty of birds out there and Riley had loads of points. His retrieving is as good as ever. The only thing he is lacking this year is honoring. Riley is going to be a loner on the hill this year so I'll be missing that pleasure. I've heard some grumblings of people not seeing many birds. Riley and I did not find that to be the case. We got up early and hunted the shaded sides of the draws. The sun finally hit us about 10 oclock and we headed towards the truck drinking what little water we had left on the way. One advantage of being on the hill early is an occasional bugle of a bull elk in the distance. Outside of the heat, there were only two negatives to being on the hill this week. Number one was the smoke. My lungs really burned and it was hard getting that second wind. Number two was the dust and pollen. Riley's nose was caked with a brownish green substance by the time we finished our hunt. That's got to be tough. Just one more testament to how hard our partners work for us. We'll just keep finding some shaded draws to hunt until we get some cool and moist weather. Hopefully that will be soon.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Getting Closer

John Carter asked where I've been lately? I checked my blog and realized it's been over a month since I've posted. I have to admit there hasn't been much to post about except Riley's recovery. Although it's not that exciting, there might be some that are wondering what to look forward to if their dog ever blows a knee. We've been on the hill every other day since week 10 post op or August 1. Riley shows no sign of pain or limping. He has progressed from 3 miles a day to 9 and would probably go further except I stop at that distance. My only concern is, the evening of the hike, he has a pretty hard time getting up from the laying or sitting position. I hope we're not going too fast. The vet says it takes 6 months for total recovery, which is two months away. We've been able to throw the gun into the equation since Aug. 30 and that helped pick up the pace quite a bit. Every point and retrieve on the blues seems to help both of us forget about the long summer. We're going to get out 3 more times and then take a five day break in preparation for the chukar opener in Idaho. Hopefully, we'll know when to say when, once we start doing what we love best. On a side note. My 10 year old grandson, Conner, shot a limit of doves on his first ever dove hunt. I wasn't there to watch it, but he said there was a big pile of empties on the ground by the time he got his tenth bird. Riley and I have a lot of excitement coming to us through this boy in the coming years. You young guys out there working your tails off, trying to make a living and wondering whether it's worth it at times, keep faith. It does get better. I don't know anyone who has a better life than I do. Family, dogs and the outdoors. It really doesn't get any better.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thanks

Today was my first day back on the hill with Riley. It's been 10 weeks since his second knee operation and he is free to hit the hill again, at moderate rates. He did very well covering 3 miles of fairly steep terrain. Needless to say I was very excited. The swimming he's been doing really advanced his recovery. We even got a couple of points on chukars and huns. We went to a favorite spot of mine. The place where Tucker pointed his first chukar. It was a good time to take a water break, so Riley and I sat on the shaded hillside and took a break. A lump built up in my throat and tears dripped off my cheek as I thought of my old friend. My heart got even heavier as I imagined some day that Riley would be gone also. In five short years we have sure been through a lot. I again pondered the thought of Dakota and Riley being my last canine partners because each dog in my life has taken so much of my heart with them. Then I remembered a saying a friend sent to me one day. Carol Barton sent this photograph to me. It helps me realize what each dog in the past has done for me and that there is still a lot of room for improvement in my heart.
Nothing more needs to be said except that maybe by next spring I'll be ready for a new addition to the family. Thank you Carol

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hunting dangerous game (the chukar?)

Hunting dangerous game has always been clssified as hunting an animal that can hunt you back. Lions, tigers and bears (oh my) are good examples. They have big teeth and claws that can rip you apart with a quick bite or swipe. Riley and I can tell you from first hand experience that an animal doesn't have to have claws or teeth in order to inflict pain upon a hunter. In fact some animals don't even need to come in contact with you. In our case, the animal is a bird that weighs about one and a half pounds. The bird comes from Asia and is called a chukar.

Chukars aren't aggressive animals, but will often defend their territory by torturing the individuals that tresspass on their mountain. These tresspassing hunters are known to have small brains and big attitudes making them easy prey for chukars. Even a person with a moderate IQ wouldn't waste time chasing a bird on steep cliffs, so anyone on the chukar's turf must be mentally weak. The chukar uses the hunter's lack of mental wellness to it's advantage. It traverses up the steep mountain knowing the hunter will pursue it. Usually the birds will go over 1000 feet in elevation before they stop to hear the groaning of the chaser. That's when they begin to chuckle. The hunters lungs are now burning, but the chukars laugh makes him push on. After another 500 feet the hunter is using his arms to help him up to his pointing dog. He is on all four limbs. The birds hold under a shaded rock as the mutt is locked in on point. One chukar sits above the rest acting as a sentry. The chukars giggle at the dog who is pointing from the hot sun while they sit in the cool of the shade wondering how much longer he can go without water. The hunter is packing the water and he has now slowed to a snails pace. As the sentry watches the hunter approach, he let's out some soft cackles to let the others know to be ready for flight.

 The hunter finally approaches the dog and tries to move acrossed the shale rock towards the birds. Suddenly a rock gives out below the hunter. As he reaches to grab the hillside the chukars take flight. The chukars fly in a manner that makes the shooter twist his body in the talus rocks to get a shot. As he shoots, he feels a shooting pain in his back and then another in his shoulder as he catches the weight of his body on the hill with his left arm. The dog runs around the hill wondering why he heard two shots but no birds fell from the covey. Dog's learn faster than chukar hunters and it only takes a few seconds for the hound to realize that it was the usual miss and then hurried over to his self proclaimed master . The dog now waits for a drink. That's when the (intelligent one) realizes he only brought dog water up the hill. His water jug is setting on the tailgate back at the truck.

After catching his breath and filling up with ibuprofin, the hunter heads in the direction of the chukars flight. The dog is already half way there. The birds only flew half way down the hill. The chukars could have flown all the way to the bottom but they knew if they went down too far the hunter might not give chase. Every once in a while there is a hunter who shows some common sense and would quit hunting once he reaches the bottom. Once again, the hunters small cranium and big ego will not let him go down the hill if he is half way in between top and bottom and there are chukars laughing.

Going downhill is faster but just as treacherous. It is steep and the rocks dislodge easily, not to mention the jarring on the knees. Once again, approaching the pointing canine, the hunter prepares for the shot. As he inches forward he reaches down to rub his aching knee. Suddenly two birds take flight. They are out of range but small brains can't compute that fast so two shots are fired. The dog goes ahead and flushes the six that are ten feet in front of the hunster as he watches them glide around the hill with an empty gun. Trying to massage the pain out of his knee the hunter hears chukars above him chuckling again. Fido has already heard them and is in pursuit. Here we go again.

This story could go on and on forever. The chukar hunter and his dog seem to never learn.

Riley and I are the epitomy of chukar hunters. Most people spend ten thousand dollars on a guided hunt that is relaxing, as well as successful. Not me and Riley. We spend that much on broken gear, dr.  and vet bills and then brag about how rewarding chukar hunting is. January 31 is the end of chuakar season so euipment and body repairs are scheduled for February. Small brains don't compute the fact that many times injuries get worse the longer you wait, especially if the season is still open.

Ten years ago, I had my first arthroscopy on my knee. I twisted my leg between two rocks while chukar hunting early that season. The Dr. said if we did the surgery I would be off for a few weeks or he could give me a shot that MIGHT help me through the season. Guess which I did. This scenario went on for three years. The pain in my knee was pretty intense going down hills. Sometimes I would side hill for a mile or so just to keep from going down the steep slopes it hurt so bad. After three arthroscopopic surgeries (all done in three consecutive February's) and several shots in the knee I went to Dr. Moore in Boise.


After xrays, we came to the conclusion that a knee replacement was the answer. I was very leary about whether I would still be able to hunt chukars as hard with a metal knee. My dogs and I averaged 60 chukar trips a year and most of them were pretty intense. Dr. Moore assured me that he would have my knee ready if I did my job of therapy. He gave me a shot to help me through the year and we scheduled the operation for Feb. 1. That was six years ago and we've aveaged 70 days of chukar hunting per year since without an issue in the knee or the intense downhill pain. Although my knee was better it didn't mean the chukars were through giving me hell. Tucker, my stallion of a GSP, came up lame in his right front quarter after one of our chukar hunts. When he'd run across the hill his right leg would swing away from his body and he'd often trip over sage brush. I can still hear the laughter of chukars as he would tuck and role down the hill. Dr. Warner DVM was a young new Dr. at the All Pet Complex. He quickly put a finger on Tucker's problem. He operated on Tucker's shoulder and had him back to 100% in just 6 weeks. Of course the operation was done during the off season. Dr. Katie Wright and Dr. Koob were busy for the next several years diagnosing, stitching and medicating my boys. They encompassed many different directions. Dakota had some type of a bite which was never determined for sure whether it was a spider or rattler but was taken care of in short order. All my dogs have been stitched up at one time or other and have torn toe nails, sliced pads and cheat grass between their toes. Every vet visit was chukar related except for the oral work that Dr. Katie Wright did on Riley in his first year. Dental work on a dog? Don't ask. But the chukar season of 2011-2012 took first place in the pain and agony caused by the mighty chukar. I got 80 trips in on the birds. The chukars were relentless on Riley and me. I can't tell you the number of falls I had this year or the number of trips to the vet for Riley but I can tell you we are still recovering. It's mid July and the season ended Jan. 31st. The birds got me first. It was mid November and the chukars took me on a spin mid mountain that flung me to the ground. I caught myself, but injured both shoulders in the fall. My right shoulder was the worst. I could barely lift it to shoulder height. But, that was high enough. I shoot left handed and don't have to lift the gun any higher than that to shoot. So I finished the day up toughing out the pain. As I said, I have a small head that houses even a smaller brain. I hunted two or three more times until it became hard to even put my hunting vest on.
My shoulder Dr. happened to share the same office as my past knee Dr. so it was obvious, even for me, to have Dr. Lindner look at it. Heck, I was already on a first name basis with the receptionist and nurses. They even gave me a nickname. Whimp, whatever that is. The Dr. suggested rotator cuff surgery. After I explained to him it was the middle of chukar season and my dog needed me, he gave me a shot to help hold me over to the end of the season. I heard him mumble something about "no pain, no brain" as he stuck the needle in. We set the operation date for Feb. 2nd. That was two days after the season and two days after Dr. Lindner's birthday. I was hoping with another year under his belt he'd have a little more sympathy for me. I'm happy to say he was kind to me and my shoulder is almost 100%. By pay day for the chukars, it will be. Riley had injury #2. We never have figured out for sure what it was but it required a lot of drain tubes.
He had a total of 6 drain tubes in his right hip. Dr. Stoenner, DVM at All Pet Complex, soon had Riley back on the hill. The next big win for the chukars came sometime early in January. I was having a pretty decent day and Riley was having his normal great day. He was on point about 100 yards up the hill from me. The ground was frozen with a couple of inches of snow on top. As I approached Riley some chukars took off below me. I swung for the shot and the ground just shot out from under me. I assessed the minimal body damage from the fall and than inspected my shotgun. It had made a terrible sound when I hit the ground.
Sure enough. the birds did their damage again. My gun had two pieces busted out of the stock and was pretty loose where it fits the trigger assembly. You could see right through the stock. Over the years I have learned to pack as much as possible on the hill in preparation for the damage a chukar can do. Right along side of my first aid kit is a roll of duct tape.
There was just enough to make my shotgun shootable for the rest of the day. Luckily, knowing the damage chukars can cause, I have several back up shotguns at home to finish the season with. Chukar dogs are a very dedicated animal. They will go anywhere the hunter will go and a lot further. They'll make unbelievable retrieves from way down in the canyon, time after time. The dog knows that a GOOD shooter would make a cleaner kill thus creating a shorter retrieve for the dog, but he also knows that a chukar hunter does not know the concept of straight barrels. To a chukar hunter, the shotgun is a multi use tool. I've seen them used as walking sticks, knocking apples out of trees, and sometimes as a poking stick to see if that really is a bear down in the hole. Chukar dogs are also very tough. The dog's toughness and the hunters IQ don't mesh well. Most people would realize that a limping dog is in some discomfort. They would also know that when your dog lays down every time you stop to take the weight off his legs does not mean he is just getting lazy.
This is exactly what Riley was doing in the month of January. We made twenty trips chasing chukars and each time his limp got more pronounced. Even my wife, Barbara, made comments about Riley's health. I would just shake it off, telling Barb, "we're both hurting a little because those damn chukars aren't playing fair, but we'll be alright". On our Jan. 30th hunt the chukars were extremely tough on Riley and he came home with more of a limp than usual. Although we had one day left of the season, Barb informed me that if I took Riley out one more time she'd break the next shotgun stock over my head. I think I cried that night, knowing I was going to miss the last day of the season. Eighty times just wasn't enough. So the last day of the season had me visiting Dr. Katie Wright instead of hunting. She informed me that their was too much movement in Riley's knee. When I mentioned that the movement in his knee's should be up on the chukar hill she got a wierd look in her eyes and for a moment I thought she was looking for something to throw at me. I knew I was reading her wrong. Dr. Wright is way to nice for that. She arranged for an operation with Dr. Stoenner after I had my shoulder operation. Riley's operation was on March 6th. That way I had a month to heal from my chukar injury. Riley's knee surgery was a success. Dr. Stoenner called it a TPLO or something like that. I really didn't pay much attention. Hell, my shoulder was still in a sling and I'm sure it hurt a lot more than my dog's knee. When the Dr. explained that Riley had a metal plate on his right leg now it all came to light. Riley's knee injury was kind of fake. He wanted to be just like me, so if he limped on his right leg maybe he could have some metal in his leg just like me.
Both of us healed pretty well over the next couple of months. My shoulder injury was definetely worse than Riley's knee because Barb mentioned several times how much more whining I did than Riley. Eleven weeks post op Riley had his second set back. While rehabbing he blew his left knee. Both Dr. Wright and Stoenner had warned me that this was possible. So why was I so shook up? I was now counting the days until chukar season. How many weeks does Riley have to heal before the season opener? I have to get out there on the opener or I might not get 80 to 85 trips this year. What a tough life I have. Now some might say that the chukars had nothing to do with knee number two. Riley hurt it during th off season. I seem to recall something about if A=B and B=C than A must =C. Riley hurt his first knee chukar hunting so there you go. Rileys xrays showed the bones are healing well and we can start on the final phase of rehabbing. Not that I'm counting, but we have 60 days before the opener. I sure hope Riley can tough it out like I have.
So here we are. Riley and I, along with a new stock on my gun. I wish I could say it is the end of the story, but, when hunting any dangerous game, who knows what is lurking over the next mountain.
I've already sent notice to my Dr.s and Riley's vet's that we will be back on the mountain this year. We will be pursuing the most dangerous animal of all. The chukar. I asked them to keep the first two days in February open.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

2012 spring fling

While Riley has been recovering, I have been taking some hikes up in the higher country in order to keep some conditioning. Maybe some of these pictures will help you make it through the summer and dream of a fruitful fall.

Riley gets his xrays Thursday and hopefully we'll start getting a little more time in the chukar hills. They will be short trips at first but hopefully we'll have some good reports about chukar populations.

Deer


    There was one buck and bull elk that I'm saving the pictures of for later. I'm sure they'd make your mouth water.
Elk
       This cow was chasing three small bulls away from her calf. The calf kept going back to the bulls as if to intentionally get them in trouble with mom.

 I saw loads of elk in all my walks even though I saw some wolf tracks now and than.

                                                       Antelope
                   Very aggressive bull snake
           Let's not forget the upland birds including this hen with chicks following.
  There's a little proof that there are still some animals out there to be chased this fall. Riley and I are sure looking forwards to it.

I didn't get a picture, but our neatest sighting this spring was a bob cat. I've seen many over the years but this was Barb's first. She spotted it at about twenty yards crossing the trail we were on. 
                                                                          

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is all lost?

I can't begin to explain how long the last five months have been for me. It all began Jan. 30th, when Riley came up lame in his hind right leg. It was our last hunt of the 2011-2012 season. I was scheduled to have shoulder surgery in four days, so I waited until after surgery to take Riley in for a check up. My fears were soon answered when the vet announced that Riley had blown a knee ligament and needed surgery. Riley had his surgery on March 6 and everything was going well until week 11 post op.  While rehabbing Riley blew his left knee. This was just another set back and he had operation #2 May 23. It's over five weeks since his second operation and we have over 10 weeks to rehab before the season opener and suddenly Riley gave me reason to believe all might be lost.

Riley has been healing very well and his limp is hardly even noticeable. We've been (trying) to take it slow. The knees are doing great. But todays series of events make me wonder if five months out of chukar country has made Riley brain dead. Come out to the pond with me and you'll see what I mean.

While trimming some trees I lost track of Riley. I looked around and finally saw him laying in the shade by the pond. There were a few geese within 20 to 30 yards from him and some others in the pond. This didn't bother me until I watched a pair of geese with their 7 half grown babies walk about 20 yards from Riley and join the others on the grass. Riley just lay there in the shade between the geese and the pond. I thought, this isn't going to be pretty, but Riley just watched them go by. I had to go inside and get the camera.
By the time I got back Riley had stood up, but still watching over his flock. As I moved in to take a picture the geese eased into the pond and away from me. Right behind them goes Riley. He isn't supposed to start rehab for a couple more weeks but I decided "what the heck". The geese just swam with Riley as he seemed to be counting them as a good herder would do.
 After he was satisfied to the safety of the geese he trolled over to the shallow end of the pond. For the next half hour Riley stood in the water chasing and pointing fish. He would stand there and follow the fish with his eyes, slowly moving his head towards the water and than going under.

After a while he even figured out how to herd the fish towards the stream and slap at them with his paws. During all this time he'd look up and watch the geese graze across the field without showing any excitement to give chase or point. He just went back to fishing.
Two problems have been created by todays activities. Number one, I didn't spend all that money on two knee operations to have a fishing dog. Number two, I already claim to be world's worst fisherman. How embarrasing if he starts catching the fish that I can't. Man, I hope the work and efforts of the last five months is for not.

Is all lost? Is there any help for Riley? For that matter, is there any help for me?

Maybe we should just take up golf. I'm sure Riley would let me caddy for him.