Monday, May 12, 2014

Dogs and Boys

I know this is supposed to be about dog's and chukars hunting but I've been having such a fun Spring with my grandson I thought I'd share a little of the excitement. Don't for a minute think that Jake was forgotten, except for our turkey hunts he was with us leading the way.

I've always said that if you want to stay as youthful as possible, get a bird dog and exercise it like it deserves and you'll stay in the best possible shape you can without going to the gym. Now, I have to add 11 year old boys to the equation. Conner, my 11 year old grandson, is becoming my second challenge to keep up with in the mountains. He, Jake and I have been doing quite a bit of walking this Spring.

Having a young hunter along reminds me of the keen senses I use to think I had. While working Jake one day, Conner told me he heard a rattler buzzing. I never heard it but finally found a couple in the crack of the rocks trying to keep warm.
We snapped a few pictures and than were off to find Jake looking for chukars. Conner has no problems keeping up on the hill but hasn't had to pack a gun yet. We discussed how that extra 6 1/2 pounds of shotgun and vest full of shells seems pretty heavy on the hill but he figured he could handle it. As Jake locked in on a pair of chukars, we discussed how he'd approach the dog and make the flush for a safe shot. He shot a limit of quail over Riley last year so I know he can shoot under the pressure of flushing birds. We've been on three of those training hikes together and he has not fallen behind once.
Conner even takes some time to help rescue goslings once in a while. This one was trapped away from the pond by a pointing dog. Yes, the same dog we follow on the hill.
Most of April had us chasing turkeys. With the youth season opening a week earlier than general season Conner got to score first. With him playing baseball on Saturdays it left him only Sundays for hunting, so I got two birds before he finished off our two birds each. Although all four birds had great stories, number four was the best.

Conner and I started walking at 4 in the morning to get to our hunting location. It was a steep area and takes about 1 1/2 hour to get to. The bird were already gobbling from the roost and we set up as close as we could. I placed the decoy and than got behind Conner in the sage brush. The birds flew down and gobbled away from us while Conner relaxed a little.
After a while they gave us notice with a gobble that they were returning to my calls. Conner sat back up and it wasn't long before he said that he saw the bird strutting. I was in a poor location and couldn't see the bird. I finally saw two birds twenty yards away at full strut and we could hear another bird spitting and drumming behind us. I told Conner to take one of the two birds I could see in strut and he said the one he could see was huge. I finally leaned enough to see his bird and told him to go ahead and shoot it. At the report of the shotgun (my 12 gauge with 3 inch magnums) Conner rolled back into the brush. I watched his bird fall and flop a couple of times and than disappear over the ridge. Conner gathered himself before I could get up and ran over the ridge. By the time I got to him he had that discouraged look on his face and said he saw the bird fly across the draw. He was sure it was the one he hit. We talked the situation over and decided to spend some time looking for it with no success. By the time we finally gave up the search it was almost noon. We had left the decoy where we started and had to go back and pick it up. As Conner walked over to pick up the decoy I jumped a crippled bird about twenty yards from where Conner had shot. Conner had chased the wrong bird and the one he shot had burrowed down into a sage brush. I yelled at Conner and he raced over to grab the shotgun from me but by then the bird had run over the ridge. Conner got one quick glimpse of which direction he went and the search was on again. Once again we had no success finding the bird. It's now 2 o'clock and Conner suggest we hike out, get Jake and come back and see if he could find the bird. I must admit I was dog tired and didn't really want to, but I'll be damned if I wouldn't give it everything I could if he was so willing to do the right thing. My biggest problem was getting him home on time to get his homework done. We both promised mom we would get it done.

While  looking for the bird earlier, Conner found a winter killed five point bull and he insisted that we pack it out on the way down. So, to make a long story short, out went the elk and in came Jake. We didn't bring a gun this time because it is illegal to hunt turkey with a dog and I was amazed at how much better I felt being able to swing my arms while hiking. We got Jake onto the last spot we saw the bird and within no time at all he was pointing a turkey which had given up his fight to live. I took the four fans on our trip to Brownlee this weekend hoping to get a good picture of Conner and I together but we were having so much fun we forgot the picture until we were heading home, so we took a quick road picture in the wind.
A few other notables from the last month or so. A picture of the green mountains you'll find everywhere this year. Lot's of cheat for the birds and  plants for the insects. Let's hope it stays this way for a while.
A bull elk I would be keeping an eye on if I was still chasing them. I've never seen a bull with tines this long on the 3rd day of May. I'm thinking he's gonna be a good one.
As I mentioned, Jake is always with us, so I was amazed that this first bear stood there at 30 yards while I took pictures and Jake was at whoa.
We found a few other bear enjoying the green grass and doing some grubbing but never got as close as to our first one.

The most amazing thing of the spring so far is that Conner got me to do some fishing. He had me fishing for small mouth bass at Brownlee for about ten hours in the three days we were there. Our largest fish was 4lbs. and 4 ounces. With several over two pounds. I haven't fished that much in the last ten years totaled. I have a feeling a lot of my weekends during the chukar season might involve a new hunting partner for Jake and Me.
I might add that it's not going to slow down for quite a while. Grandson #2 will be next in line for me. That is if I can get him off the tractor. While Conner can tell you each and every duck on the pond, Mac can name every tractor and implement and their purpose. One is going to keep me working and one keep me hiking.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Challenge to all chukars.

This pair of geese challenges all chukars to the most babies n a brood.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wow!

I was looking at another site today and saw some facts that might interest chukar hunters. It was a survey of upland bird success in Oregon. It looked like just about everything was down last year, but I just wrote down a few notes from the chukar counts.

To my recollection, the survey was a phone survey of upland hunters. I have to agree with the surveys results in the fact that it was the worst year for me since I have been keeping records. But I was amazed at how poor it evidently was.

The total chukar harvest was down 44.8 % from 2012 which was the second lowest chukar harvest year between the years of 1993 and 2013. I hunted equally as much in Idaho as I did in Oregon and I'm sure the numbers probably are similar.

There were 22,826 chukar harvested in 2013 compared to the high of 221,418 in 2005 and an average of 85,619 birds per year between 1993 and 2013. I have to say that the Oregon stats mirror my stats as far as year by year success goes.

What shocked me the most was bird numbers compared to days hunted. In most of Oregon birds per day was less than one. Malheur county was slightly over one. With those kind of numbers it can't get much worse.

I am a little luckier than most and have been fortunate to have higher chukar harvest days than the average. In fact, many of the people on this site and many of my friends have far better days than the average. I have to wonder how much higher the stats would be if the question was number of birds shot at instead of harvested. I just can't imagine it being that bad.

I like to be an optimist. So if those statistics resemble what you saw last year and you still enjoyed being out there following your dog think of how much more fun it's going to be this year. The chukars are bound to have a rebound this year. The Spring is shaping up to be a great bird producer and if the weather cooperates for 45 more days or so the bird numbers might double or better. For me that's a recipe for a lot of fun times on the hill.