Sunday, November 29, 2015

Inversion and cold

Once again the cold weather has locked in with the inversion. Jake and I made it out for two days in the miserable weather but after day two Jake was so wiped out that I decided to give him a few days off and hope for the weather to warm up some. I don't think the temperature got above 20 degrees in the area we hunted the last two days and with Jake already down eight pounds for the year he has no body fat left to help keep him warm. Me, that's a different story.

Yesterday, Jake's water bottle kept freezing up and I had to take the lid off, stir the water and put the spout under my arm to thaw it out. Jake had no trouble with traction but in places the slopes felt like solid concrete with a cover of ice over it. I never had any good falls but I moved at a snails pace at times.

Even with that, we had a couple of great days and the birds were very cooperative. I had my camera on day two and thought I'd share a few of the shots of Jake. He earned a couple of days off in the warm house.

The inversion we were in most of the time.
Visitors on the mountain with us.
Cold looking point.
And a retrieve that wasn't much warmer.
Another point.
With a long range retrieve that didn't impress Jake with my shot.
Last bird of the day.
And a shot that found it's mark.
Jake followed a cripple into this brush. We tried to get into it but finally had to leave it to the mountain.
Back at the truck, we were so cold we decided to wait and take a tailgate picture at home in front of the fireplace.
Obviously, we had a great day and are looking forwards to going out again in a couple of days when the sun comes out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Conner

There are few things I enjoy more than hunting chukars with my dog, but one of them is hunting with my dog and Conner. At thirteen years of age, Conner is more tuned in to the outdoors than most people are at 50. His young eyes are constantly pointing out animals, rock formations, and the chukars that are flying around a hill two hundred yards away. Things that I miss because my eyes are glued to the hill looking for the next obstacle that is going to try and trip me. At times, he almost seems like the teacher instead of the student. Yesterday was one of those times.

For our first chukar hunt of the year together, I let Conner pick the spot and he chose the area where he had shot a nice buck a month earlier. We had seen some birds on the deer hunt and I hadn't been back there since that day so I was willing to give it a try. The area didn't let us down. After parking the truck I let Conner pick the direction to go. 15 minutes into the hunt we were moving in on a point from Jake. I watched as Conner moved in on the point and was a little surprised to see the rise of a large covey of quail. It wasn't a spot where I expected to see quail and I watched as Conner fired three quick shots and dropped a quail on the third shot. He can fire his 870 wingmaster (20 gauge) faster than most people can shoot an automatic. I'm thinking maybe a little too fast, but who am I to say since he just dropped a quail and is shooting 33% already. Not too bad for a thirteen year old. Jake proceeded to get four more points on the quail as we proceeded around the hill and Conner picked up one more quail before we got into the chukars.

With some pretty good action in the first hour of the hunt I was thinking if nothing else happens from here we've at least seen some good dog work and Conner is having a ball. Than Conner started showing off. Jake's next point was on a large covey of chukars. I watched as Conner moved to the front of Jake and the covey rise. On Conner's third shot, I watched a chukar crumble to the ground and complimented him on a good shot. He excitedly let me know he had got a double and sprinted down and retrieved one bird while Jake retrieved the second.
As Conner admired his first double on chukar's, Jake looked up at me wondering if the gun I had was being used as a stabilizer for walking or was for shooting.
Last year Conner had a three chukar day and we were both excited for him to shoot one more chukar. That would be his best day ever chukar hunting with two quail added to his shooting. A little later the astro said Jake's was on point 241 yards down the steep mountain. We found him on point and once again Conner slowly moved to the front. As the birds busted his first shot found nothing but air but his second shot brought down two birds. Two covey's and two doubles. As many chukars in one day as Conner has ever got. I had a pretty happy hunter with me.

The day continued to show us plenty of action and watching Conner work with Jake was as rewarding of a day as I could have asked for. We had several more opportunities and although Conner's shooting percentage dropped back to 40 % or so he put two more chukars in his vest, which he insisted on packing. 

As we got deeper into the afternoon we decided to head back to the rig and give the birds time to covey back up before the cool night temperatures set in. 6 chukars and two quail was a fantastic day for a thirteen year old and a limit of chukar's would have to wait for another day and maybe another year. That's a lot of good dog work and some good shooting.

Back at the truck I snapped the picture of his successful day.
I then put my contribution on the fence with his, pointing out that I shot two for two today.
Grandpa has to still be best at something, doesn't he?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Great week and very tired dog

One week ago, Jake and I embarked on a longer trip to hunt both Idaho and Oregon and see if we could fix some chasing problems as well as get some birds. Putting my camera deeper into my vest was probably the best thing I could have done. Instead of trying to get the perfect picture I worked on letting Jake know we were working together on putting birds in the bag. So many times this year when Jake has been on point I've been so concerned with getting a photo I haven't been able to see what was causing the wild flush and just assumed Jake was busting the birds. By concentrating on Jake instead of the camera I think I have solved a lot of my worries and realized that not every covey is ready to be pointed, no matter how good the dog is that is hunting them. Most of the time, when the birds flushed with Jake in hot pursuit, it was because they were just wild and Jake's chase was a short forty yard chase and than he was back to making sure there were no stragglers.

There were the times, when I saw Jake hunting above me and could tell the way he had his nose to the ground and zig zagging quickly up the hill, that he was chasing a running bird. Even though the bird would fly straight towards me, I resisted the urge to shoot and strongly urged Jake to "whoa". After thirty seconds or so I released him to "hunt em up". It seemed to work because by the end of the week we were having some pretty darn good team work. I try to keep the "whoa" to a minimum because I know how I hate hearing another hunter yelling at his dog on the hill but at times it is just necessary. Jake knows that the word means stop no matter what and has nothing to do with birds.

Another drill I did a lot this week was move to the front of Jake's point and stand there longer instead of just moving in for the bust. There have been a few times this year when Jake has tried to relocate on birds after I move in front of him by circling around and trying to trap them in between us. This is a normal pack animal instinct but more often than not it cause the birds to flush premature. By standing there for a while before making the flush, I believe that I'm reassuring Jake that we will get the birds without him having to relocate. The second part of this is don't miss. A few repetitions of this with the dog getting the bird in his mouth solidifies the team relationship.

The training part of the trip was very successful as well as getting some birds. We found good number of birds just about everywhere, some more cooperative than others. Not only did Jake find a lot of birds, he wore himself out putting on 133 miles in five days of hunting. He's laying on a heated blanket as I type licking his feet.

The hunt also had a diversity of weather. This is what the weather looked like as I headed into my hunting area Monday night.
And what it looked like from camp Tuesday morning,
I was fortunate enough to get to hunt with Brian Dierk on my first day and this is what we found where we began our hunt.
Brian was better known as shrthrcrzy back in the days of Upland Idaho. We decided to hunt down lower towards the snow line. Shortly after we separated Jake was on point and I snapped one of the few pictures I took during the week. 
It was one of the few hun covey's that we encountered.
I also snapped this picture of Jake on point as I headed down the hill to get out of the heavier snow.
Both Brian and I had pretty good days below the snow but after ascending back up hill to the rig I realized that we would have probably done better staying up in the snow. Jake had a long distance point above our starting point and with the report of my shotgun blast several other covey's busted even higher up the mountain. Jake and I returned up the mountain on day two and did very well in the snow except for the aches and pains from tripping over snow covered rocks.

Jake and I spent day three relaxing and driving to Oregon where we had another three days of great hunting as well as a rendezvous with Barbara. I know that a lot of people aren't impressed with tailgate pictures but I enjoy them. They are usually proof of great dog work, which I am very proud of. Each day produced lot's of good action.
One other story I like to tell. Greg Allen came over and hunted with me on one day. We drove to one of our hunting spots and went in our own directions but not before deciding to add a little flavor to the hunt. I decided that instead of hunting back to the rig I would hunt back to our camp and Greg would pick up the truck and meet me there. 11 miles later and over 3000 feet of elevation gained I finally showed up to camp. I didn't know a senior citizen had that many muscles left in his body that could hurt so bad.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Humbled

Barb and I headed over to Brownlee for a camping and chukar hunting outing last week. We spent five days there and the best word I could come up with to describe my hunting adventures was "HUMBLED".

Yes there were plenty of birds and more country than I could cover in a whole season of hunting. My mouth was watering just thinking about getting on the mountain. It had even rained the day before we got there so conditions couldn't be much better. Also, for the first time I was using my four wheeler on the dirt roads to get me further in this year instead of walking the roads just to be passed by others. It was to be a dream trip for chukars.

Day 1 had me lower on the reservoir face. I figure on going in about 6 miles because I had covered most of the rest of the country in the past. Half way to my destination I caught up to a very nice Excursion which had the whole road covered. The doors were open so I knew the hunters couldn't be too far away. After hearing about ten shots a fellow finally showed up and let me around his vehicle, but not before telling me that this was the third day he and his three partners had driven this road and they were seeing more birds than they had ever seen here before. They didn't even have a dog so I was very excited about what was ahead. It wasn't long before I also flushed a large covey of chukars while driving. I parked and told Jake this will do. The birds flushed down towards the reservoir but I figured on heading uphill and finding the mother load of chukars. Within the first half hour Jake had three points on two separate covey of chukar and one of huns and I knocked a bird down out of each of the covey's. We kept going higher on the mountain into the great looking country. In the next two hours we saw one covey of chukar  which took off a couple hundred yards away and sailed to the bottom. After about 1500 feet of elevation I decided to head back down since the top of the mountain still wasn't in sight. We followed a different ridge down without seeing any sign of birds until we got just above the road. A large covey of huns surprised me with their flush and I fired two shots somewhere in the direction of the birds without dropping a feather. All was good though. The birds flew between the road and the reservoir and I knew there were more birds than just that covey. The next hour was the hunt I was dreaming of. Between the road and the reservoir was point after point. The elevation difference couldn't have been more than three hundred feet but Jake never found birds at the same elevation. I'd drag myself up the hill to Jake's point and than miss before he'd call me down the hill for another miss and than we'd repeat the process. I finally got to the road, took off my vest and laid my shotgun on it, admitting defeat. Jake and I walked to the two seat utv and returned to pick up my vest and gun. I don't know if the mountain beat me or I outsmarted myself by going high, I just knew I was beat.

A good night's rest cures all and on day two I decided to hunt a different area. Knowing the birds were low I zig zagged my way up the slope looking for birds. It was over an hour and about 1000 feet of elevation before Jake found the first covey of huns. As we gained elevation we found more and more birds but we also found the wind stronger as we gained altitude. We finally found what I thought had to be a chukar ranch with a covey on almost every little point. Why do chukars like those windy ridges? The wind is one more reason why we will never be able to extinguish chukars. They get up and are immediately a surface to air missile. I once again gave in and headed down to a more reasonable wind speed and found a some of the birds I had chased down. While searching these birds out I heard no more than fifty different shots across the reservoir on the Oregon side. Wow! What was I doing wrong?

When I finally got back to the truck I searched the Oregon side for the hunters. I found four hunters and dog's on this mountain.
My hat is off to these guys and their dog's. There is no way I could negotiate that mountain and shoot. Not only could I hear than shoot but I could hear huge boulder's rolling down the hill and splashing into the water.

Day three was weather delayed by the rain.
I waited it out, but it didn't leave until late afternoon. Once again there were four guys across the reservoir (probably the same four) firing away. Those guys are some chukar hunting stallions.

Day four found me high on the mountain again. The colors on the trees were beautiful and the chukars were there but so was the wind.
I consider myself a decent chukar shot and shooting 25 % would have made me happy at these mock 5 birds. Even off point they were 25 yards and moving away fast before I could even shoulder my gun.

Day 5 was a lot easier getting up the hill. I had Barb drive me up high and went higher from there.
She snapped a picture of Jake and I before heading down. We both were feeling pretty perky for being that high on the hill already.
The wind was already blowing twenty miles an hour and increased as we gained elevation but the chukars were there. Once in a while we'd find a covey in a draw without much wind and would get lucky but for the most part we found them in the wind where swiveling the hips to shoot quick is a must and I don't seem to have that motion any more. After fighting the wind again for a few hours I decided to head back down where it might be manageable. Loosing about 1000 feet of elevation brought dead calm conditions. Maybe I had been hunting up in the jet stream? We found a few birds as we headed for our rendezvous with Barbara at the road but once again we both were whipped and ready for the truck.

Not far from the truck, Jake pointed a brush pocket with one of those weird points that said maybe he wasn't pointing birds. Sure enough, as I moved into the brush a larger object went running out of the other side. The very large black bear ambled down the hill towards where Barb was parked. The bear went straight at the truck with Barb watching with excitement. She waited for it to come up the side of the road but it never appeared. When I got to the bottom I investigated the disappearance of the bear and found a culvert right where the truck was parked partially covered by tumble weeds. I peeked down the culvert and could see no light. Confirmation was made when I tossed a rock into the culvert and could hear him moving about. I finally gave up on seeing him again after hearing Barbara telling me to "please get up here" from a partially opened window on the truck.

To sum up my hunt, there were plenty of birds and plenty of beautiful country to cover. This new generation of chukar seem to like the steepest slopes human's can encounter and obviously like to congregate on these steep slopes where the wind is strongest. They are gettable but you have to be tougher than me. They humbled me, but I'll be back for another round.