Monday, November 25, 2013

Sometimes you just need to blow your own horn

Many years ago a good friend of mine told me "you gotta blow your own horn because no  on is going to do it for you". It seems often times chukar hunters frown upon tailgate pictures. I don't know where that started but look at all the other forms of hunting. There's nothing better than those pictures of big game animals. The hunter's are proud of their trophy's and rightfully so. How many times have you seen groups of hunters behind a long line of roosters in Kansas or South Dakota or the duck hunters with both a limit of ducks and geese laid out in front of the blind. In most cases these hunters are just trying to get a memory of a great time and a chance to show their friends of how great the hunting was.

I love tailgate photos of chukars because I know how hard chukar hunting can be. I also know that it usually takes some pretty good dog work to come up with one chukar let alone 6 or 8. We'd all love to get pictures of our dogs on point and retrieving birds but most time it's tough enough getting a shot at the birds with a shotgun let alone trying to get a photo first. To me tailgate shots are more of a tribute to the dogs.

Another reason tailgate photos mean a lot to me is showing the fact that there are birds out there. Too many times I've heard the stories of low bird numbers and a lot of dismal stories of no success. I should be happy about that because that keeps many hunters at home instead of chasing the birds. But I love chukar dogs and watching them work the steep hills. The people that post pictures are usually those who have the same love as I do and are proud to show that with  a little hard work and good dogs it can be done even on down years.

In my opinion, this is a down year. I'm seeing fewer birds and getting fewer birds than I can recall over the past thirty years. But I don't want to blame it all on low bird numbers. I have a 10 month old pup to hunt behind and I'm lame so that could be some of the reason for my slower season. But even at that, we're having some pretty darn good hunts. People I am talking to are seeing a few more birds now than earlier in the season. I'm guessing that is probably because they're finding out it takes a little more work to find birds this year and the conditions are getting better for good dog work.

A chukar hunter from Utah and I have been corresponding about chukar hunting a little this year. Jordan Oyler mentioned to me that he was hearing of dismal bird numbers in eastern Oregon and western Idaho. I concurred that that was my findings. He and his brother traveled to Oregon anyway for a hunt. Afterwords he sent me this tailgate picture of his brother and dogs.
 He said something to the fact that people over here must have a different opinion of low numbers than those hunters in Utah. I was ready to go up on the mountain the next day.

Post script to this photo. I'm hoping to become a GOOD friend of Jordan's. Also I'm sure the reason for their success is in the back of his truck. Ava is a solid colored GSP in her first year of hunting. Not that I'm biased or anything.

Here's a success picture of the greatest chukar hunter I've ever hunted with. Greg Allen and his girls will always be able to find birds if they're there. His favorite saying is you can't get satisfaction unless you get to the top of the hill


And then there's Jake. Just being with him, as was with my boys of the past, keeps me encouraged to push on. Sometimes we even limit out.

So, now that Barb has showed me how to transfer pictures, send them my way. I'll blow your horn for you. I'd be damn proud to show off the fun we chukar hunters have.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jake and the ol crippled hunter

In two days Jake will be 10 months old. As with all my pups of the past, he has amazed me with his quick learning and hunting ability. He got short changed a little when it came to training. Riley didn't have enough time to work with Jake and now Jake has a cripple trying to get to him on the mountain. I do the best I can, but I think it's a little much to ask a pup to hold birds as long as it takes for me to get up or down the slopes.

Today I made it even harder on Jake. My son, Doug has a small camera I wanted to try. It's a great camera that has all the neat functions and trick stuff of the big camera's and it fits in my pocket. My normal camera is bigger and hangs around my neck, thus making it harder to take with a gun. As I said, Doug's camera has all the neat features on it, so it didn't take long before I pushed the wrong buttons and it quit working. It wasn't long after it quit and Jake went on a classic point. He had his left front leg bent up and his back and tail were as straight as a level. So from about forty yards I fought with the camera trying to get it to work. I guess it was about ten minutes or so and I gave the occasional glance to see he hadn't moved a muscle. Suddenly, I heard the birds flush. I haven't a clue if the birds got nervous or Jake got bored. Whatever it was, only one half of the team had his head in the game and that half has four legs.

I think the camera is going to be a lot of fun when I learn to use it. Somewhere in this picture is a dog on point. He was behind some sage but I thought I could see him good enough to show up on film.
We probably had 10 photo opportunities with points and retrieves but all I got before the camera failed me (or I screwed up) were these two pictures.
The sad fact about these pictures is that they were about two hours into the hunt. Until than we had seen no birds. We were 1700 feet in elevation higher than at the start of our hunt. Jake was still doing well, but my knee was getting sore and we're now seeing a lot more bird sign. The camera was put away and the points became more frequent. Every point produced birds, but sometimes it took me so long to hobble up or down to Jake that the birds would either flush or be flushed. Each time my eyes were focused on the ground, so I don't know if there was a miscue by Jake or not. Pretty hard to fault a dog unless you know he's guilty.

There was enough good dog work for me to know that next year is going to be loads of fun with two metal knees to get me to Jake. In the past my boys might go two to three times as far as me but today Jake went over four times the distance I did. I made it 6 miles and Jake 27. I gained 2200 feet of elevation and I'd have to guess on Jake's total elevation gain. In other words, with me being inept to technology and a cripple, Jake still has become a pretty darn good chukar hunter. We got home and I took out my old camera to show Jake's success for the day.
I don't like wishing time away, but I'm already looking forward to spring training with Jake, Two good legs, a great dog and a camera I know how to use is all it is going to take to put me back on top of the world.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Passion

Passion; Any intense, extreme, or overpowering emotion or feeling.

If you have an activity that is on your mind from the moment you wake up until you hit the rack at night and you love it, it might be said that you have a passion. Many say you might be obsessed, but I like to think of it as a passion. Some might have a passion for restoring an old automobile,  photography, being an artist, coaching, sports, or a number of other things. I even know women who have a passion for baking or cooking. My passion happens to be my dogs. I love being with my dogs in the mountain. Even more, I love being with my dogs hunting chukars in the mountains.

Tucker began my passionate love for chukar hunting 18 years ago. From there it continued with Dakota, Riley, and now Jake. Every morning I wake up knowing I'm going chukar hunting with my boys, I feel like a child waking up on his or her birthday. Every time one of my dogs locks in on point I get as excited as the first time it ever happened. The retrieve, the shot, watching the dog cover the mountain, and all the other different things that happen on the mountain never get tiring. I even love looking back over the country and love the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a hunt. Jake and I actually walked from here to there. That in itself is gratifying.

Never in my life have I ever wished time would fly by until now. My knee is constantly in pain now. Seven years ago, when I had my right knee done, it only hurt going down hills. At least I enjoyed going uphill hunting chukars pain free. I have to admit the last half dozen hunts were not quite as fun as the hundreds of hunts in the past. But, as long as I'm going to hurt, I just as well hurt having fun. It is amazing how Jake's point or some other off the wall action he might perform can relieve the pain for a short time.

Barb says she doesn't feel sorry for me. It's self induced. She's right, but it's been worth it. But now, I just want to get this behind me and on to the fun times on the hill like I know we can have with a replaced knee. If the surgeon would call tomorrow and offer to operate, I would gladly accept and be ready to get the next two months over with so I could get on with the good life. But until then I'll gimp along with Jake and see if we can pick up a few birds. Jake deserves that.

I know Alan in Alaska is thinking about having a knee replacement. My right knee operation was one of the best things I ever did for my love of chukar hunting and I'm sure the left will give me the same result. The only thing I would do differently would be to have the operation last summer when the problem started instead of putting it off for a year. That way I would be enjoying Jake's success as much as Jake is enjoying it.

Yes, I am a chukaholic. That's what being passionate about something will do to you. Yes, I'm going to start going to chukaholic meetings and begin the rehab as soon as possible. The first step in the rehab process is to sit on a mountain and listen to chukars talking from high above and saying to myself  "I know I can, I know I can". Step two is going hunting with Greg Allen and watch him shooting from high above and coming down with a limit of birds as I walk a low trail with a dog that is disgusted with me. The final step will be Jake on point 300 yards straight above me on a shale rock hill. The point is so intense that I must make the ascent with only no breather stop before I get to him. If I still love chukar hunting after the final step, it's a passion that won't go away as long as I have a chukar dog.

I hope Jake lives forever.