Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It's official

This heat has finally done me in. There's no more hiking the chukar country until we get some moisture and the temperatures drop. After only 2 1/2 miles for me and probably 2 to 3 times more for Jake I was ready to throw in the towel. Jake had downed over five quarts of water and I had sweat half of that. It showed by the towel I'm ready to throw away. On the way back up the road to the truck I was at a crawl pace and I thought Jake was going to make me carry him. My mind was thinking of my genius neighbor and wondering if he could make a remote control for my truck.

With only 8 to 9 hundred feet of elevation gained, I wanted no more of the chukar hills and for the first time Jake looked like he felt the same. It was only our findings that kept us on the positive side for later on in the year. Doggone it we didn't find some birds. Last week we found great numbers in Oregon and today found the same.

There's one thing I overlooked last week on my trip and figure other hunter's will run into same trouble this season. With the rough winter a lot of those back roads had some good run off and are impassable. I don't think the county and state departments would be willing to spend those thousands of dollars to repair roads for us upland hunters so be prepared to put on some extra foot miles to get to those special places. The spot in Oregon left me about 5 miles from where I wanted to be but as luck would have it Jake and I found a place we had been driving by and found a plethora of birds. (Plethora; pretty big word for an uneducated chukar hunter. but sometimes I even surprise myself.) I can only imagine how many birds I would have found further up the road.

Over the same way but on the Idaho side of the pond I had even better luck today. It was too hard to count the number of covey's because we were seeing so many birds and once we got the first group up they were consistently running into each other and were soon on a hillside with well over a hundred chukars all split up. They were calling and flushing everywhere and it was more than Jake could handle. He was constantly running between birds and either pointing or chasing the highly visible birds. When he'd come back to me for refreshment I'd try to slow him down but there was way too much excitement to go slow.

As we headed up the hill I took a snap shot of the hill we were going up hoping that maybe some of the flying birds would show up but they didn't.
There had to be some water somewhere but we never did locate any.

When Jake would point it was usually a low head point that told me the birds were really close and he was probably making eye contact.
The birds wouldn't let me go to the front before they would flush.
It didn't matter to either of us though, because we knew there would be more birds to have fun with shortly. Jake gave me several opportunities to take pictures as he ran past birds to locate others and the chukars would jump up on rocks to watch him.
Several of the young birds seemed to be trying to warn their buddies of what was coming up the hill.
The plus side was that almost all of the birds were this year's, making it fun to look forwards too. The big boys never stood around long enough for me to snap a shot at.
I didn't see any real young birds but you can see by the pictures of these birds about what there age is.
Jake and I drove into this spot in the dark so we were pleased to see these guys as we drove out.
Shortly after that we had to let another group run off the road.

To add to the craziness of it all, this was one of the places I had been into that had several pairs of birds in  March but very few birds in July. Maybe I can carry this lesson into my future years in scouting and save some heart ache.

I also got two phone calls that reported good finds. Both in chukars and huns. Both calls were reports on different areas than I scouted and from each other, promising even wider spread of good upland hunting. Thanks Steve and Greg, mums the word for their locations. Oh, that's right, you didn't tell me where. (What's with that?)

With this, the calls, and the other positive posts, I'm calling it an end to the scouting for the year. I think it is going to be a real fun year with lot's of action and hopefully a lot of good dog work with better than average shooting from the handler. To the gentleman in Tennessee, things have turned quite a bit since I spoke with you on the phone and I believe Jake and I were just missing the birds. If you do make it to Idaho, give me a call and I'll try to make it up to you.

Now let's hope for cooler weather, some moisture, and lack of fires. We've been real fortunate with the amount of tall grass out there this year that we have avoided a rough fire season. 

Keep posting your finds. I love hearing from you.                                 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Baffled

After my scouting outing on Aug. 1st, I was excited about the upcoming season but my last three trips lowered my expectations once again. Although I'm finding birds once again, they are not in the numbers I hoped to find. I've found covey's of both chukars and huns but the chick count has been lower than my expectations. Almost every covey has been from the early hatch with almost grown chicks. The largest covey had seven young birds while a couple of groups only had two or three chicks.

I have to use the excuse of tough scouting conditions much like early hunting season. Jake very seldom finds the birds this time of the year with a high heads up point but rather hits the scent and than tracks them as he would a wounded bird. When he gets his nose close to the ground I wait and either he bumps a covey or gives me a point. Usually he just bumps them making it hard to get a picture.

What's baffling me is first of all, the number of paired birds I found this March. I was sure there would be covey's of birds everywhere this time of the year. Secondly, the great spring we had. Not too cold and enough moisture to keep the insects coming. I can't count the number of grasshoppers that have hit me in the face while scouting this year. Thirdly, the number of chicks the turkey's produced this year. There were successful hatches everywhere and most of the groups averaged more than 12 chicks per group. Although they hatch earlier than the chukars the conditions were pretty much the same.

I visited with a rancher last week and he pretty much echoed what I just said. Although he was seeing birds while riding he hasn't had any of those large covey's that take off with so much noise it spooks both him and the horse.

The grouse I am encountering also have small chick ratio's. The most chick's I've seen on Blue grouse is five and 3 on Rough grouse. The Rough grouse are hard to count because of where they usually are and there is usually more noise than what three chicks and an adult can make but I only count what I see. Quail still aren't showing up like I expect but I have neighbors that say they are seeing bumble bee sized quail now.

There are some great reports out there. Chukarhunter50 is finding some great numbers and Calton in Utah put up some great numbers for the grouse. Look back at my last couple of posts to see what they have seen.

 I'm still confident that we are going to have a good year but maybe not the stellar year I predicted clear back in March. It's very possible that Jake and I are just not covering the hills right and if we would have zigged instead of zagged we would have found more birds. Cooler, wet weather and the season after Sept. 16 will provide the answer for the huns and chukars while cooler conditions and some rains will be a good excuse to chase some grouse after the 30th of this month.

Jake and I will still be getting out because that's what we love to do. We will try and keep you informed of any progress and excited for the upcoming season and I hope that the rest of you will keep reporting what you are finding out there.

On the lighter side, if I ever get tired of hunting chukars, Conner will teach me how to fish work out style.
The hook up,
Dragging around the pond

                                                                                  Hands on the fish finally
                                                                                  Feet on solid ground
                                                                                       21 inch bass

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

chukars

Jake and I had a pretty good outing today and although it wasn't quite as good as chukarhunter50 had a few days ago, it made me pretty excited. If you really want to get jacked up about this years upcoming chukar season, look at chukarhunter50's last comment on my "ouch" post. If that doesn't get a person fired up what I found today will put you to sleep.

To start out, the area I scouted was inaccessible once the winter storms hit last year. Maybe a snow mobile could have gotten there but the grade a person had to go over was too covered with snow to get any kind of a wheeled vehicle in. I questioned that many birds would survive up there because of the deep snow last year but was pleasingly surprised shortly after I started up the grade and saw 53 chukars running up the road ahead of me. I know there was 53 because I got a great picture of them and have counted them several times. I'd show this picture except for a prominent feature in the background that would give this location away. I'll give you a hint on the location. It was in Idaho.

The covey had at least two different size chicks. Some were around three weeks old and most of them were closer to eight weeks old. I was surprised how many of the big chicks I saw. There goes my theory of most chukars are hatched later in the summer. I got plenty of pictures of those birds and several other birds further into the trip but bare with the quality because I was using a little camera with no view finder and my eyes aren't good enough to see the screen on the back of it. So the pictures are a true point and shoot situation and hope that the image is even in the screen. Kind of like my shotgun shooting.

I did see one more small covey from the road and snapped this picture as I passed.
Jake and I took two hikes but didn't get that far out because of the dry conditions. He was constantly sneezing and shaking his head but he was finding so many birds I think he would have kept going until he dropped dead. So against his wishes I would turn him and head back to the truck. This was a large covey of about 40 birds but somehow I managed to only capture three in the photo.
Being young, a lot of the chukars ran ahead and would pause for a shot but most of the time my camera only got pictures of brush.
I had a little better luck getting a focused shot against the sky.
Jake had some great wildlife viewing on many of the running birds and would stop and stare so that I could tell he saw birds. The conditions are so dry and the scent is minimal enough that Jake often times found the birds quite close.
Summing the day up, I'd have to use the word fantastic. After my last few outings, I have been getting a little worried. Today brought me back to reality and how tough these chukars are. They survived this hard winter and now it looks like they are flourishing again due to a wet spring. Outside of the large covey and the small covey on the road I know we saw at least 6 other covey's. We saw between 150 and 200 chukars and I'd guess around 90% of them were juveniles.

To top it off, we saw two covey of quail on our drive out. One covey, the chicks were about 2/3 the size of the adults and the second, the chicks were a week old at the oldest. No pictures because they totally disappear in the cheat.

I am back to being very optimistic about the season. I am looking forward to a good rain storm without the lightning soon. The cheat is terrible and tall.  I pulled several seeds from Jake's ears and luckily he doesn't seem to have any up his nose. The birds have plenty of cover to elude us next fall.

Grouse season is 29 days away and if the heat ever leaves it will be great practice for chukar season.