Thursday, August 28, 2014

Anticipation

It's been a while since I posted because there just hasn't been much to talk about. The big guy got a little lazy this summer and didn't get me out as much as he promised. He kept complaining about the heat and having to pack too much water for me. I can't figure out how to communicate to him that the high mountains with running streams would be just great for a jaunt and then he wouldn't have to pack so much water. Maybe he'll figure it out next summer.

He did get me out for some turkey scouting, but left me at home during the hunts in lieu of taking Conner. Funny deal though, he and Conner had to come back and get me after one hunt. Conner had shot a bird and they couldn't find it so they came and got old reliable me to help and find the bird. I've never heard such groaning as I heard from the big guy. He wasn't too happy about hiking three miles back where he'd come from hours earlier. Man, they must be blind. I followed my nose right to where the bird was. Conner was super excited and kept talking something about a ten inch beard.

We did get out and do some scouting for chukars and huns this summer and the big guy described it as hit or miss when talking about how many birds we saw. I pointed some and the big guy seemed excited, but not enough to get me out three times a week.
We made it out once a week and a few times twice. Not enough for my liking.
But, I've got the feeling that things are about to change. The mornings are cooling off and the big guy sits out on the porch with me in the evenings instead of retreating to the cool house. All the sudden he spends lot's of time talking bird hunting on the phone. He bought a new Tenzing bird pack earlier this summer and wore it on most of our hikes, full of water for me.  Last night he started organizing things into the pockets. He told me some of the stuff would probably never be used but it only takes one time to make carrying it worth while. I haven't a clue what it was but he seemed so excited just talking about it. We also have been spending more time in the hunting room reloading shells. I know he loves shooting those buggers even though he cusses them some times on the hill.

As for me, I also feel the change of the seasons coming. These cool mornings make me feel like a puppy chasing one of his litter mates across the yard. Those days were so much fun, but now I'd rather find a bird. I have energy like I haven't had in months. The smells of fall are in the air. The sweet smells of most of the flowers and blooms are gone now and the scent of sage, bitter brush and cheat grass are starting to take over. Just two days ago, we had a short thunderstorm that knocked the dust down leaving fresh air and making finding birds even easier. Finding chukar tracks didn't hurt either.

I find myself checking on the big guy more often. I look to see if the bird vest is still hanging on the hook by the back door and make sure the sports bag with the collar hasn't moved. The big guy usually puts it in the truck the night before a hunt. Most of all, I make sure the shotgun isn't out. I've made a rule that the gun goes nowhere without me. I have to sleep with it the night before a hunt so that we can work as one, so I tell the big guy. The truth is, he can't take the gun without me if I'm laying on it.

Our anticipation for the season is getting more intense with every day. With only 22 days left before the chukar opener the big guy is getting more information about bird numbers and passing it on to me. It looks like numbers are up from last year, so he says. I don't really care. I just want to get out and hunt. There is nothing better than a full snout of chukar scent. A close second might be, the look on the big guys face when my snout is full of chukar scent and I point for him. Moments like that are why I picked him as my hunting partner. It doesn't matter how many times a day I point birds, he gets excited on each one.

I hope the big guy shoots well this year. I love retrieving birds shot by him. It makes him look so proud as I parade around him, showing off the birds he gets before I let him put them in his vest. I also am looking forwards to the challenge the birds provide when crippled. The way they run serpentine patterns trying to elude my nose makes the birds a worthy opponent. Several times in the past I have had the chukar slam on the brakes as I chase him downhill. I show my athletic abilities by doing a tuck and roll move before regaining my balance and continuing the pursuit. How I look forward to that.

The big guy promised a few grouse hunts before the chukar season for warm up. He says it's like a preseason game, whatever that means. If it gets me any more excited for the season than I already am, that might not be a good thing. I'm having a hard time sleeping as it is. I wake up from dreams of hunting chukar and running in my sleep.

Anyhow, I hope the rest of you hunting dogs have had a good summer and are anticipating a great season with your partners like I am. Our humans do a lot for us and the least we can do is to show them a good time on the mountain. Remember to throw in a few false points now and than to keep them on their toes. Don't make it too easy for them or their expectations become to high. Don't forget to make those points that make your human twist and fall at the shot once in a while. We deserve a little laughter on the hill too. More than anything else, don't be too hard on your human the first few outings. His or her shooting may be a little sub par and conditioning may need a little work but if you let them get down on themselves they may not want to get out again. Humans can be so moody. Help them keep the same anticipation for each hunt that they are showing right now before the season opens.

May the wind always be at your face, your points be plentiful and your human shoot well.

Jake

Friday, August 22, 2014

Celebrating Riley

It was cooler this morning, 52 degrees, so Jake and I hit the mountain, once again. We had already decided on this walk even if the temperature was warm. We were celebrating Riley's life with us.

For those who don't know, Riley's life was cut short by blood clots. He and I had become best buds and went through quite a bit together. Besides all of our great hunts together we also became nurse maids for each other. He encouraged me through several injuries and I did the same for him through two knee operations and three operations on a broken front leg. Through it all, we never missed a day of hunting during the hunting season due to an injury. My operations came on the first day of February and his first knee injury came on the last day of the chukar season. His other injuries were during the off season.

The hardest thing for me over this past year was the way that Riley left. He was only seven and in his prime. I was fully retired and so we spent almost 24 hours a day together. During his last three months he had three operations on his broken front leg and was confined to a bedroom where either Barb or I spent as much time as possible with him. We built a special ramp for him to go outside to retrieve himself and that was about all he could do. Once in a while the quail would come around. Riley would put his heavy head on the end table and watch and dream of someday being on a hunt again. I remember watching his tail shake as he watched.
Finally, in the first week of August, the vet gave the okay to take short walks outside. Riley enjoyed being outside again but could only make about 50 yards before laying down for a rest. He had improved to 100 yards or more by mid August and I was wondering if Riley would ever hunt again or just be with me for encouragement. I didn't care, just as long as the too tall gsp was with me.

Than on Aug. 22 of last year a sedge hammer crushed my heart. It came in the form of blood clots that became so painful for Riley that I had to make the decision for him. I don't recall if I have ever hurt that bad before. It was something I wasn't prepared for. It's been hard to put Riley's last three months behind me. We worked so hard to get better and a simple blood clot took away our time to just be friends for a while.

God did well in placing Jake with me. He knew the hole in my heart was big and it would take a goof ball like Jake to shrink it down some. That was what today was all about. A day for me to tell Jake of the thousands of great points that Riley had produced for me and how he did it with such excitement.
Thanks you for the great years, Riley. I love you.
I'll catch up with you chasing chukars someday in heaven.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Aug. 15

After getting messages from Matt in Boise, Alan in Alaska, Jeff in Oregon and Jordan in Utah wondering where I had slithered off to, I thought it might be time to hook up with the chukar world again, In all honesty, because of the heat this summer, I haven't been out as much as I have been the past several years. Since Jake doesn't like to swim, he is a testament to my laziness. This is the first time I have ever not been able to see the ribs on one of my shorthairs. Jake weighs about 70 right now and prime is between 60 and 65 lbs. for him.

I wish I could figure out how to post Alan's pictures. He and his daughter flew into a spot in Alaska to hunt ptarmigan with his dog Mays. Looks like an awesome hunt and I'm very envious of them being able to hunt already. Congrats on what looks to have been a great trip.

My optimism for the chukar year has gone from pretty thrilled to not so good to back to thrilled again. I saw plenty of breeding pairs in the spring and figured there would be plenty of little ones coming from them due to the weather we were having. I also saw loads of insects for them to mature on so I was pretty positive.

Then I went out towards the end of July and Jake and I didn't find that many covey's and the ones we saw were small. Most of the chicks were more mature than I expected and the small numbers indicated that maybe the hatch wasn't so good.

Then came the cooler weather and rain. By cooler I mean high's in the low 80's and 60 degrees starting up the mountain. But, it was obvious what Jake needed. In the two days we found at least 10 covey's and all of them had at least a dozen birds. Grasshoppers were everywhere so malnutrition shouldn't be a problem. The only down point I saw was one of the areas we went to usually has blue grouse also and we saw one single and later another one with only one half grown chick flying off with her.

Another great sign this week was the quail. I haven't seen the quail around my house at all this summer. Yesterday afternoon when I got back from my trip over towards Oregon, Jake and I found about 30 quail of all sizes in the front yard. I guess Jake figures the yard is his turf and he doesn't have to point because with one leap from the truck he had them scattered everywhere.

After that I loaded Jake back up for a ride down a local road that I know usually has quail so I could see if there were many. I wasn't disappointed and within a couple of minutes was looking at 30 or so chicks about 4 weeks old and 4 adults. I wish I would have taken my camera. While I was looking at the birds a tall, skinny, and bushy tailed fox walked out on the road between my truck and the quail. He knew I was there but didn't care. He walked towards the quail and I thought there might be some excitement, but was surprised when he turned about five yards from the birds and went back into the brush and crossed the creek. The quail hardly even looked up from their snack's on the dirt road.

Anyhow, I think the year is shaping up for the upland birds. It seems like many chukar hunters hibernate after January and wake up about November, so it's hard to find much information this time of the year. Some of us and our dog's live it every day of the year, even if it's only communicating over the internet. I hope everyone's dog's have summered well and are ready for the upcoming season. I'm looking forward to some pictures of hunts and hope to be able to figure out how to post them.

Fifteen days from now, weather permitting, we will be able to join Alan in Alaska and put our dog's on the ground chasing grouse. Twenty days after that we'll be able to chase the birds of my choice on those cooler mornings.

Good luck to everyone and send me some good stories.