Monday, September 30, 2013

Wet finish to September

I don't recall ever having a September this wet. The weather has set in and been pretty relentless. In fact it was raining so hard this morning I got two thirds of the way to where I was going to hunt and the wind and rain forced me to turn around and drive 1 and 1/2 hour back to the house. The rain isn't hurting anything, but it is hampering my quality hours on the hill with Jake.
Yesterday, the rain was a little lighter so Jake and I stayed on the hill until I found it difficult to stand on the stilts formed by the mud building up on my boots. It was breezy but Jake figured out how to use that wind to find birds. He had a great day. His pointing is already like a mature dog but his retrieving was suspect. By the end of the day he was bringing the bird right to me without a word being said. Chasing a wounded bird up and down a hill helped with his training. The first run down the hill chasing the bird was tough, but after putting the bird down twice and starting the process all over again he finally figured out that he needed to get the bird to me in order to get a short break. He got to me and put his head on top of the bird until I grabbed it. We'll work on actually getting the bird into my hand if needed.
I didn't pack a camera because of the wet conditions as well as still being in a training process but I could have taken some great photos. I got home and took a tailgate picture between storms. I know many people don't like tailgate photos but I do. The birds are not about me but what my dog has accomplished. I'm as proud of the dog as I was of my children graduating, winning a trophy, etc. and that's why I like to see those pictures.

Not a limit but his best day yet with all six birds pointed and retrieved. The truth be it could have been a limit if the shooter would have held up his end.
We're going to try a couple different spots in Idaho this week and then head for Oregon Saturday after Conner's football game. We'll stay over there for four or five days and see how the bird numbers compare to Idaho. So far Jake and I have hunted six different locations in Idaho and have found different results in each. Some show little sign of birds and some show average amounts. No place has shown that banner year like we all like but also no place seems devoid of alectoris chukar.
Good luck hunting and if you're in eastern Oregon next week and see my truck "Tuckota" stop by and swap some stories.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New chukar season and outlook

Well, the chukar season has finally arrived. It's pretty hard to give a bird forecast because things have changed a little for me. I'm hunting an eight month old pup where normally I would have at least one seasoned dog on the ground. In the four days I have hunted, I have to admit to seeing fewer birds this year than I ever remember. Before you get disappointed, let me point out that two of the days were hunting in rain where conditions were poor and also Jake is just learning how to find birds. I haven't seen a lot of sign on the hill but remember we have had a couple of torrential down pours in the last two weeks that would flush all signs of roost and other droppings.
What I can tell you is the long hot summer depleted a lot of the growth we might have had. Some of the hillsides are very bare, leaving little feed for the birds and making them easy prey to predators. Most of the birds Jake and I found were on the hillsides where the bunch grass was thicker. I didn't see much insect base on the burnt off slopes either. The recent rains have produced a good production of green sprouts to help the chukars and huns for the rest of the season.
I talked to a couple who lives in the country I chukar hunt. They ride it a lot on horseback and said the hatch was very good this year but as the summer progressed they saw fewer birds. They felt that there wasn't enough feed for the young birds. I hope they are wrong and the birds just traveled to a place with more insects and sprouts to survive on and will eventually return to their normal slopes. Either that or we'll have to find them.
As far as Jake goes, I am very pleased with his progress so far. I have seen him bust only one covey so far. There were a few other times when I saw birds flying downhill from where Jake was but I can't say whether he busted them or just bumped into them. He is holding point as long as it takes for me to get in front of him and flush the birds, which is much farther ahead of schedule than I thought we would be without having Riley along to help with the training. He has found and retrieved every shot bird so far. The long steep retrieves are his downfall. He gets the bird about half way up the hill and then drops it. With a lot of coaxing I have been able to get him to return to the bird and finally bring it to me. He drops all the birds a couple feet from me which I consider close enough. The retrieving will just get better as the season goes on.
Jake hasn't learned how to find birds yet. When he happens to be going the right way with the wind he'll hit scent and lock tight. He just wastes a lot of his movements going the wrong direction. He ranges good but just hasn't figured out how to use the wind to his advantage. That can only be learned by being on the hill as much as possible. By the end of this first season I'm hoping Jake will be pretty seasoned.
For those friends from Wisconsin, Alaska, Montana, Washington, as well as everyone else, I have seen 12 chukar covey's and one covey of huns in four outings. That is probably only 1/3 of what I have normally seen in the first week of chukar hunting. The 12 covey's seen is a fact but I personally believe there are more birds out there than that. If I were to guess, I'd say this year might turn out a little below average as far as the bird count goes, but there are still plenty out there for those willing to work at it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A new season of chukar hunting and a fair forecast.

After the summer of 2013 Jake has been ready to get back to the hills to do what he was born to do. Find birds. Although it was a lot easier having Riley show him and motivate him to get out there a ways it has already been inbred as to what his main focus is on. Birds. The last weeks heavy rains have made it a lot easier to handle the early morning temperatures and cover some country.
First off, the rain has been a real blessing for the birds. I am sure the areas that have burnt will soon be sprouting lots of green shoots of cheat. The birds may not hold real well in these areas but they will still be visiting them for some good nutrition.

As far as chukars go, I have to say we have seen an average amount of birds in the last week or so of scouting and training. Covey's  ranged from as many as 15 to twenty birds down to a half a dozen or so.  Age of the birds ranged from mature to young only five weeks old or so. In my very unprofessional opinion this year looks to be a lot like last year. Maybe if Riley were still with me I might have a stronger bird forecast. Jake isn't the bird finding machine that Riley was but is getting closer with each trip to the hills.
As far as Jake goes, I wish I was half as lucky at betting on football games as I am with chukar dogs. I'd be rich. His enthusiasm and focus is already bird oriented. He is already pointing and holding point until I get to him.
Unless the birds start running, he'll let me go in front and flush the birds which is a problem he'll learn to handle the more we are in the field with birds. Once he scents birds he is very intense on locating the origin and with his inexperience of knowing how to use his nose will sometimes bump the birds. Jakes range is a little shorter than I am use to but I'm sure as he learns to put his nose to the air instead of close to the ground his range will get out there where I'll be cussing his 300 yard point straight up the hill but loving every minute of it. He checks in to make sure I'm not too far away.
                                                                                                                                                                         
We've been able to combine a couple of training trips with a blue grouse hunt. Jake performed like a champ. His first grouse was off this point and his next two retrieves were from incidental flushes by me. The first bird he was right on top of with his retrieve and after relocating the bird in his mouth several times and spitting out some feathers brought the grouse to me.
The next two were later and both times he came running back to  me at the sound of the shot seeking instructions. At the command of dead bird he put his nose down and started searching. With help from me moving in the direction of the downed bird and pointing he soon came up with the bird out of the brush. As I mentioned, I am a very lucky man. I have another good companion to spend many enjoyable hours on the hill. He is already a good chukar dog and by the end of this year will probably be another great chukar dog with what the mountain can teach him.
One side note. Jake and I will be going on several multiple day hunts in eastern Oregon and western Idaho. Although I prefer to go off in my own direction, it's always great to have someone to visit with on the ride to and from a hunt or in camp, so please feel free to join us any time and let us know when you might be in the area. We can always adjust camp sites.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Passing of the rock

At the insistence of Barbara and the encouragement of Jake, I am putting Riley's death behind me. I have shed numerous tears over the loss of such a great friend in the last three weeks. Every time I turned around I was encountering a memory of Riley. We did everything together. I have to confess to spending more time with him than my wife since she is still supporting me with a job.
As I was looking at photos today I realized that possibly Riley was passing the torch on to Jake in the form of a stone. Riley had only one annoying habit. He would wade into the pond, put his head under water, blow bubbles and come up with a rock. Usually it was a sizable rock. He would pack it around and drop it at my feet. There were even times when hunting would be slow and he would chase a rolling rock down the hill and bring it back to me. Before Riley broke his leg in May he must have shown Jake this trick. Jake now performs the same trick in the pond and usually with a nice sized rock. He has actually become more annoying with this habit than Riley was. He brings the rocks into the house with him.
This was the last picture I have of Riley. It was taken about a week before Riley left. He was out laying on the drive way soaking up sun when Jake came up with a smaller rock and laid beside him.
This is now a habit I will cherish forever.
Meanwhile I've been sitting around the house getting in the worse shape I have ever been in and Jake has been staying in shape by being as destructive as he can be. I now know what people mean when they comment on how calm my dogs are and I can state for a fact that it is because we burn so much energy chasing through the hills. Yesterday, Jake tried some more encouraging tactics to get me up on the hill. His encouraging tactics made Barb a little more insistent on me getting up on the hill with Jake .

So, starting tomorrow, Jake and I are beginning a full scale attack on the mountains. Hopefully we might find a few blue grouse as we train on chukars, but no matter what we see, we're going to get some of that good blood flowing in our veins again. We are going to leave the sad times behind and get back to posting on great hunting and comical dog events, which I'm sure Jake will provide many of. Heck, who knows, I might even do something stupid along the way. Riley will always be a part of every hunt. He defined what great chukar hunting was about as well as defined me, but we're going to concentrate on the great times and information we can provide. Information to dog owners, like not letting your dog wander through your wife's closet while you're picking your nose. You learn words and things about your wife that you didn't think possible.