Friday, January 24, 2014

Inversion

Jake and I headed out to the mountains yesterday in hopes to find some blue sky out of this inversion we're having. We figured maybe the Brownlee area might have some clear air with birds on the hill. Along the drive we soon found you had to be fairly high to get above the clouds. In fact about 4500 feet or so. The spot we were wanting to hunt was about 2500 feet so we were prepared for a long tall hike. As we parked, it was obvious that the clouds were moving up by the frost line. My thoughts tried to stay positive, telling Jake, "it looks like it might burn off."
So up into the frost we headed. I have to say it was pretty darn cold and seemed so lifeless as we walked higher. We passed through a couple of areas that usually hold a few birds with no success. Jake and I checked out this one rocky area that usually is a good roosting area for chukar sign but saw no fresh droppings at all.
At one point I heard some birds flush up in the fog but never saw them. After a couple of hours of cold walking, Jake's collar finally said "dog on point". Locating Jake in the fog was difficult but I found him on point and a slow relocate.
A half dozen or so huns took off and I crippled one as they buzzed by me. I don't know how Jake could even see the bird go down through the fog, but he took chase immediately past me and eventually came back with the hun.
From that time on we only had one more point. It was a single hun that almost hit me as it flushed. I knew Jake was on point close to me but I couldn't locate him in the thick frosty sage. When I finally found him, all I could see was a frosted head, motionless and aiming towards me. As I put the camera in my pocket, the bird flushed at my feet, never to be seen again.
I wanted to get above the fog but eventually gave up the notion of getting there. I knew that somewhere up above was a burnt off ridge with wildlife enjoying the warmth of the sun and green grass. Except for a couple of quick encounters, the world I was in seemed lifeless and dark. I know how the Alaskans must feel on these short light days. I enjoyed being out with Jake but have to admit, this dreary day wasn't much better than the cabin fever I'm getting.

As I returned back down the hill, I was happy to be out of the fog once again but there was a definite chill in my bones. The temperature was 21 degrees when I left the truck and it was 21 when I returned. My mustache had turned white from the frost and cold and the perspiration running down my back from the hike up, was now chilling me. Jake and I were both thankful for how soon the truck was putting out heat as we drove off.

Even below the fog we didn't see the countless number of deer or other game you usually see along the ride. The day just seemed dead. But, as usual, Mother Nature responded to my doldrums. Just about the time I was feeling a little bored this bachelor group of toms and jakes come walking out of the frozen creek. Jake and I watched them feed up the hill with new excitement. You know there still is a week left of the upland season and I'm sure the fog will soon be gone. After that we might have to come back here and scout these turkeys out.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Baby steps

Day 33 post knee replacement had me back on the hill for a short hunt. Although it was a little colder than I would have liked I found a burnt off hill that was pretty much sand. I'm still a little skiddish about trying to fight the mud or ice. Going straight up or down wasn't too hard but the side hilling got my attention quite often.

Jake was ready right out of the truck. He headed for the first brushy draw and locked on some quail.
Getting prepared to start chasing huns and chukars again I decided to pass on the shot and only flushed the birds. Jake took a short chase and then with a whistle and point by me he headed up the mountain. It didn't take long and he got his chukar legs back. As soon as we hit the open hillside he ranged out. At times he was almost 300 yards and at my speed it would have taken me forever to get to him.
Jake had two points. His first was a single hun, as far as I could tell, that busted wild. The second was a decent covey of chukars that busted just as I crested the hill. Being a little slow on the move I got one shot off and dropped a bird. The chukar dropped not twenty feet from Jake and the bird was at my feet before I could get my camera out of my pocket. Jake dropped the bird and headed in the direction of the covey.

I called Jake back before he could relocate the birds because my leg advised me to head back towards the truck. My knee was right and by the time we reached the truck I was bushed. Just over two miles and 400 feet in elevation felt like a full days hunt or more. What a great feeling!

At home I decided to take a picture of Jake and our bird. I didn't get to see the point or even prepare for the shot. The retrieve was so fast I didn't have time to appreciate it. The terrain wasn't all that steep and it wasn't that great of a shot. It was another day in the field for Jake, but it was a special bird for me.