Sunday, September 22, 2019

Opening day take away

After a hard first day on the mountain I decided to look at a few other upland sites and see how others viewed the upland opener. It seemed to be a mixed opinion on bird numbers. There were plenty of success pictures and a few disgruntled opinions about how the fish and game reports were wrong and numbers weren't up. I'm not advocating either way but here's how my opener went. It's not pretty.

First off, I found out how poor of shape I am now in. The last month I made fewer trips to the chukar mountains than I can remember and it showed. I made more short stops heading up the mountain than I can remember and the boys were a little flustered. Especially Grady, who was excited to finally see a gun in my hand and decided full out was the proper speed for the morning. It wasn't long before he ran head long through a large covey of huns. I guessed about thirty. They just helped him find a gear I din't know he had, super high. The good news here was that I had never seen huns in this area, only chukars. Man, I was stoked up for a double limit on opening day.

My main purpose of opening day is to get a picture of the boys on their first point of the season and to make my first two shots count. It wasn't long before I accomplished both. The points weren't picture perfect but they were points all the same.


So, now it was time to make my past dogs proud. Once again the boys had a covey of huns on point as I approached. The first shot was way behind the bird I was shooting at and I knew I had stopped my swing through but I learned from that and dropped the bird on shot two. Whew! I only carried two shells with ashes and knew the boys were looking down hard at me after shot one. You'd think with the moisture we had last week the dead bird would put off plenty of scent but it took a while before Grady came up with the find and brought it proudly back to me. With pictures and first shots taken we sat and reminisce about past dogs and hunts. The would be the last time we sat the rest of the day.
As we headed further up the mountain I hoped to loosen up some but the hiking struggles stayed with me for the day. I had thoughts of cutting the day short but the dogs were working hard and loving every minute. Grady is quite an athlete an outran his nose several times. I couldn't believe how much green up there was on the hill already. One inch green grass shoots were every where so I figured the birds would be scattered and they were. The boys finally had a point an honor on a group of chukars and as I was trying to get the perfect picture but they flushed without me getting a shot. Camera or gun. I decided that this out of shape hunter better leave the camera alone for the rest of the day.

The day progressed with the dogs finding several more covey of chukars and me struggling to get to them. Some times the birds held and sometimes not but when they did I usually emptied both barrels with out touching a bird. The most dismal shooting I can ever remember. Two take aways from my poor shooting. Number one; a person should not put his gun away at the end of a season and expect to take it out of the safe on the first day of the next season and perform well. Number two; one of the things never mentioned when talking about becoming a decent chukar shot, conditioning. I couldn't believe how slow I seemed to be at getting into position and getting the gun up. It seemed like the birds had gotten faster but in reality I have gotten slower, a problem I plan on working on. 

Eventually a few more birds hit the ground but not after having a game pack full of many empty shells. The best way to describe it is to say Jake and Grady were very embarrassed for me.

When we returned home both dogs were very tired and sore. I had to help Jake get upon the couch. At least that made me feel better to know that my dogs hurt almost as bad as me. The only difference now is that both dogs are ready to go out again this morning but my body says "let's give it a day".

We found plenty of birds. Most coveys had at least twenty birds in them and were this year birds. The hatch seemed to have been good with most birds being from the later hatch. The only take I can get from that is that the earlier spring rains might have had an impact on some of the hatch so they renested and conditions were good for the second time around.

Last week we had some rain and that produced some of the best opening day conditions I can remember but I was surprised that the bird scent was not as strong for the dogs as I thought it would be. They still bumped a few covey and had a tough time finding downed birds. But at least their noses weren't covered wit a crust of dust and sage dust. I've never seen the rye grass (if that's what it is) so tall. In places it was up to my chest and the birds weren't in these areas even though there was plenty of green shoots under. I believe the chukars avoid these areas because they have a hard time taking flight. Huns seem to like it more.

Final tally for the day, No I'm not going to give away my shooting percentage, I saw at least 8 different covey of chukar and would say they averaged twenty per covey, and two covey of huns. I probably saw more but have to consider of few of our finds might have been the same covey as earlier. We spent more time on the hill than I intended and maybe that is why we found so many birds. Why did we spend more time on the hill? Because I shot so crappy and was hoping to right the ship which never happened.

Sorry about the lack of pictures. I ended up putting the camera into it's pouch and it will remain there until I get my act together. Chukar hunting is a team sport and the team can't come home feeling good when the quarter back keeps fumbling the ball.

Looks to be a pretty darn good season so get out there and have some fun with your dogs. Good Luck.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Final preparations for the chukar season

The season is about to begin for me and the boys so we're beginning our final preparations. We've already got the vest and shotgun ready because we've been out on a few grouse hunts. Not that grouse aren't a great bird to pursue, they definitely are, but our hearts are more into chasing the chukar. So Jake, Grady and I spent the afternoon loading our special shells and talking about my past buddies.

My special shells are filled with ashes from past hunting dogs of mine.
I combine their ashes so that my first two shots of the year at chukars will bring me as much good luck as these dogs did when they were running the mountain for me.
So far, since I began this tradition, it's brought me fortune all but once. These few hours of reloading and visiting with the dogs are a fantastic way to show my appreciation for all the wonderful times my past dogs provided me.
Without going into all the detail that I gave Jake and Grady I'd like to introduce my past hunting companions. The only girl of the bunch was Alli and we never got her ashes but her memories are just as fond as the others. Each dog had a special talent and taught me much.
                                                                                                                                                                    First off is Rookie. Although I had a couple family dogs early in life, I hunted with this Brittany who was the first dog I spent much time with training and hunting.
Rookie had more heart than any dog I know. He loved to hunt and loved me. I was definitely an amateur trainer and trained with a stiff hand. I would stop him from going over the hill in front of us in fear he would bust birds. To be honest I was a little quick with the collar. I was one of the guys who was the boss and it had to be my way. In spite of this he hunted with the exuberance of a dog that loved hunting.   There wasn't any bird he couldn't handle but he didn't like retrieving quail but I always forced him to bring them to me. I read that a dog should put the bird into your hand so by God that was what I expected. He could have been as good a dog as I ever had but I didn't give him the chance. I put to many restrictions on him. In fact he was so good I hated to leave the Brittany breed and the only reason I did was that a good friend of mine, Greg Allen, had German shorthairs and never had the problem with cheat in the ears like we had. Rookie was only 35 lbs. but he became a 300 lb. giant when at the vets to get cheat out of his ears and had to be put to sleep every time. He lived for 14 1/2 years before he left us but got a couple of years of good couch time for me to realize how special of a dog he was and try to make up for my rough treatment. To show how big his heart was, I often hunted with my son Doug back then and Rookie would have nothing to do with Doug when he wandered away from me. He actually wanted to be with me, the hard ass. So, along comes Alli.
Alli was the only dog I didn't get as a pup. She was a pound pup with German shorthair blood and something else in her. We picked her up from the pound for Doug to have a dog to hunt behind when we would go hunting. Doug was in high school back then so you know how much time he spent training Alli and hunting her. It wasn't long before she became one of my pack. Somehow she worked her way into everyone's heart and whenever a visitor would come by the first thing they wanted to see was Alli. Her hunting ability wasn't the best but she would point and retrieve because that was what Rookie taught her that a good dog should do. So she went on every hunting trip with Rookie and I and made sure we didn't forget her by laying on top of my gun case in the morning. She really had stole my heart and at five years of age she suddenly lost her appetite and would just lay in the front yard with no energy. Our vet, Katie Wright, Diagnosed her with Addison's disease and warned us that she might not live a full life. The meds were very expensive, but Alli was worth every penny and she lived another four years. At 7 she was shot by another hunter and I had to pack her two miles through the steep and rocky terrain to my truck. She was about 70 lbs. and not an easy pack. Carrying her in front of me Alli seemed to know that she could trust me and stayed perfectly still. Dr. Koob showed me the xray that showed over 100 pellets in her. She stayed at the vets for two days until they were sure none of the pellets had penetrated any organs. To show how special she was to my family, my daughter, Kerri, spent the whole time at the vets with Alli. She passed away at 9 years of age and even in dying  she found that special way to touch my heart. Barb and I noticed she was feeling a little down and decided to take her for a truck ride, one of her favorite things to do. As Barb got ready Alli and I were sitting in the front room when she got up and came over and put her head on the arm of chair. Like usual I gave her a few love pats and she lay down. When Barb came back in Alli was gone. Her heart had given out. There were lot's of tears of love for that girl, not only from the family but from many of our friends that got to know her. Alli passed away two years before Rookie and a year after that we made the decision to get another hunting dog. 
Tucker.
I could truly write a book about Tucker and the things he taught me. It started off negative but turned into a positive experience in short time. When I went to the breeder I was looking for a whiter shorthair to compliment Rookie but the only male he had was solid brown. He was a pistol of a dog and I figured I could live with the brown color. Since then, I've done nothing but search for solid shorthairs. From day one, he took control and showed me how things were going to get done. We have plenty of quail around the property and he was constantly on point. There was no need in making him birdy. A little retrieving training and introducing him to gun shots was all he needed and at just under 4 months of age he made his hunting debut. When he locked up in the field I was ready for a quail but to my surprise a rooster erupted from the grass. You would think the loud noise would have spooked the young Tucker but it didn't. When the bird hit the ground he was on it immediately and had to drag and carry the bird back to me. As we headed back to the house I knew I had a winner. We became very tight and he checked in quite often when we would hunt the chukar mountains. I knew that when he went over a ridge he would stay out of sight for just a short time before checking in and if he didn't check in I had better head for the last point I saw him. Those were the days before the Astro so my only connection with him was the beeper. I had finally learned to keep my hand away from the shock collar and let the dog do what he was supposed to do. He taught me that he was the better predator between the two of us and if I would let him be he would find the birds and keep me rounded up at the same time. Tucker had only one fault. I was his and any other dog that tried to get affectionate with me was quickly taught not to get between us with a quick bite to the snout. Every dog in the neighborhood had a bite mark on the nose. He played with all of them but when it came to me they figured out that I was Tucker's prize possession. Rather than writing a book about Tucker I'll just point out what I felt is best trait was. He didn't like me out of his sight very long just as much as I didn't care for him to be out of sight for long. Quite often when he would go out of sight and point birds, if I didn't show up in short order, he would back off the point come back and make eye contact with me and than reestablish point. It happened so often that it wasn't a coincident. He had kind of a separation anxiety because several people I had hunted with would notice that when he would approach them, thinking they were me, he would get a panic look and head out for me. Tucker lived to be almost 15 years of age with the last couple of years just earning some couch time and run of the neighborhood. At 14 years of age Barb and I took him for a short chukar hunt where he made his last point and retrieve. Barb snapped pictures of us and that day will forever be in my mind.

When Tucker was 3 years old, Greg Allen, the person responsible for my GSP addiction, had a great female named Moki that was looking for a boyfriend.  Since Tucker wasn't fixed yet we thought they might produce some fine hunting companions. I decided that if there was a solid brown male I would like a pup. There was and as strange as it may seem I wanted the runt of the bunch. I figured with Tuckers alpha tendencies it would be better. I made a great decision and along came Dakota.
My worries were soon forgotten when Dakota came into out lives. Within two weeks Tucker had accepted him as part of the pack. Tucker never got into Dakota's face for getting close to me and was the only dog I can remember that didn't have a Tucker mark on the snout. Although he was the smallest of my shorthairs, his heart was as big as any. He covered the ground like a chukar dog should and soon learned all the great traits Tucker taught him. We had a few solo hunts but it wasn't long before I couldn't leave either dog at home and they became a terror on chukars. They became "TEAM TUCKOTA" and my license plates have remained that ever since. The two of them hunted together for seven years before Tucker finally got couch time and Dakota had to go solo. Whenever I took the two of them on a hunt I remember thinking all I have to do is follow them and shoot well off their point and we'll come home with birds. They were that good of a father and son chukar team. Dakota's points were less than stylish but the birds would be there all the same. Many times his belly was almost touching the ground in a crouching position but he never moved a muscle as I walked past him. If the birds were on a steep down hill decline he would almost be in a sitting position but once again not moving a muscle as I flushed the birds. His strong suit was trailing wounded birds. He loved to retrieve and Tucker quite often would back off the find and let Dakota retrieve while he headed out looking for more. He was one of my more vocal dogs and many times you could hear his yipping bouncing off the opposite canyon wall as he chase the cripple down the steep slope. I always knew it was time to take a break because Dakota was relentless and wouldn't come back without the bird. I can only remember one time that I heard him in chase and not show up with the bird. Dakota was an instant honoring dog and I have 100's of pictures of the two of them on point and honoring each other. I don't know how they did it, but although each dog might be hunting different areas they always seemed to be complimenting each other on the same covey of birds. As Tuckers time grew short, Dakota was also slowing quite a bit on the mountain and I knew if I were going to keep hunting it was time for a young pup to enter the game. The only solid liver colored shorthair we could find was in Oklahoma. We made sure his parents were hunting dogs and immediately got him coming to Boise. Riley showed up at just over 8 weeks old.
Once again, just like the others, this character requires a book to describe the short 7 years he was with us. From the beginning the breeder had warned us that the vet said he had a slight over bite. When he first showed up it was hardly noticeable but got more pronounced each week. From the moment he got off the plane no disfiguration would have mattered. He was family. His medical bills were just beginning with the dental work we had done to keep from having other problems later on. A character dog like this I had never seen. He soon ballooned into the tallest gsp I've ever seen and somehow took on a clowns personality. He was always ready to entertain anyone new that came around. His first year he looked like a skeleton before we finally got him on the right feeding program. With his tall structure it was very often that he got caught in strange positions while pointing but he would still be solid as a rock. Probably my favorite memories of chukar hunts was when I hunted Tucker, Dakota and Riley together. It only happened 6 times but each time I got the thrill of seeing all dog's on point with different leads from each. God, that was fun.
Riley's hunting style was a little different than the rest in that he wasn't up and down, here and there, and quick sprints. He used trail and the topography to cover the country with a high head, like he knew his big nose could suck those bird scents in from greater distances. He was right. One of the years when Riley was a solo dog we got out on 80 chukar hunts and averaged the most bird per day than I probably will ever see again. He did it all like a great hunting dog. Looking back I should have realized maybe so many long hunts wasn't right for a dog with his build. He blew both knees, had a surgery to chase a piece of cheat that mad a journey through his body heading for his internal organs and busted his front leg. Throughout all this he never missed a hunting day. He blew his first knee on the last day of chukar season and did the second 14 weeks later and was back up chasing chukars on opening day. He broke his leg on a May day and the vet said it would be a lengthy healing process and he would have to be fairly immobile for quite a while. So Barb and I turned the master bedroom into a master living room where we all slept. We built a special ramp out the back door so that he could easily negotiate the steps for bathroom duties. We spent most of our time in the room with him. A month of this and the vet said it was okay to move around more. Riley busted two of the screws and we had to start over again. At the end of the second month the same thing happened and Riley was in for the third time. So after three months of being bed ridden he finally got some outside time. We spent a lot of time down by the pond. It was his favorite place to be. He loved swimming and picking up rocks from under the water and I'm sure as we lie in the sun he was looking forward to the day he could do those things again. He started having seizures and lot's of pain. Short story is that after watching a few and finding out that blood clots were the culprits we couldn't stand to see him in such pain any longer. I don't mind saying I've shed tears for each of my past friends but this guy produced buckets. The last three and a half months this guy had spent in confinement just to have an ending like that. By the time he past away we had spent over 17,000 dollars in vet bills but I would have spent another 170,000 to let him live the full life he deserved. Maybe it was because he didn't get to live his full life as to why it hurt so much but as I looked back I would have gladly stopped after his first leg operation failed and never hunted with him again just to let him live a full life at the pond.
So that is what Jake, Grady and I talked about during our reloading process and I'm sure next Saturday when the ashes fall to the ground we'll sit down in respect to our fallen partners and discuss a few more of those great memories.

Looks to be a cooler opener than normal so good luck to those hitting the hill.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Education

Most readers are more interested in how the chukar season is going to be, more than what I'm writing about today and for those my views haven't changed since I haven't been in the chukar mountains since my last post due to the heat. For those interested in more than just the numbers, read on.

Two days ago, Jeff Knetter (Idaho Fish and Game migratory and upland bird biologist) and I were invited to speak to an upper level zoology class at Boise State University. Jeff spoke about how the F&G operates as well as showing many interesting biological facts about upland birds. He finally got it soaked into my head as to how upland birds are aged. Although upland birds were the focus, the main bird discussed was chukar so my perspectives as a hunter was much easier to talk about than I thought it would be.

I spoke of how passionate I am about my dogs, the bird and the country chukars live in. My main points were how important my dogs are to the hunt and how they work for me, why chukars are such a great bird for pointing dogs, the roughness of chukar country, and the other magnificent animals we see while chukar hunting. As chukar hunters, you already know this stuff, but imagine how much fun I was having relaying this information to mostly people that have never hunted the bird nor been to the high desert country chukars inhabit.

But by the end of the class, I learned much more than the students. I'm still trying to process what I've learned about chukars and combining that with what little knowledge I have about the bird to not only be a better hunter but see what I might be able to do to preserve this great bird for future generations to enjoy as much as I have.

Jeff Knetter and I have been friends for several years now and have hunted chukars together several times. We usually leave shop talk at home so it was interesting to find out how complicating his job can be and how important his interaction with the public is.

Jennifer Forbey (Professor) and her assistant, Brecken Robb, were fantastic people with great personalities and super knowledgeable about the internal organs of upland birds and what they do. I was impressed by what they and their students showed me. By the time I left their class I was confident that with their studies we might one day be able to identify more the reasons we have such up and downs in numbers of birds each year and how we might change that for the better.

Many times I have examined the crops of chukars to see what they were eating. My evaluations usually were to see if they were eating grasshoppers, green grass or seeds and that was the end of it. This class goes much deeper as these pictures Jeff took show. I provided some birds from last October for the class to dissect and here's what they found.

This bird seemed to have a lot of mud in his crop but after washing the mud away we were surprised to find a bunch of snails and a wild onion.
I keep track of where I have shot the birds and other conditions so they can compare to another bird shot in the same place at different times and see what changes. These snails were a surprise for all and we were wondering if the muscles in the gizzard were strong enough to crush the snails against the gravel to get to the actual useful food. Examining the gizzard contents showed they were.
You can see the broken shells and gravel in the contents and from there the good stuff moves on down the system to be utilized for energy etc. for the bird. Here is a picture of what the students find when they open up the bird.
But their work doesn't stop there. They take measurements, examine other contents, and record what the contents exist of along with many other things. By many of these findings they can tell the health of the bird and many other things. Who would ever guess that the length of this birds intestines could tell the health of the bird,
They take measurements of the beak and other parts and record them along with the other records. Wow! Things aren't quite so simple after talking with this class. After talking with them there may be an idea out there that the spring conditions aren't as important as I thought and that this years conditions might be caused from last years fall conditions. It's only a possible theory but would be very interesting to finally find what makes for good and bad years. I'm going to stick with the good spring for now but keep my mind open.

This last picture looks like maybe I'm teaching the class but in fact I'm just standing there while the students are teaching me how things work.
In the end I came out with a great respect for their work as well as the F&G's work with upland birds. Together along with the sportsmen we may be able to keep this bird one of the top sought birds in Idaho and available for decades to come. They have already got me scheduled to take a few birds at different times of the season with records and pictures so that their studies can continue. Gosh it's a tough job to do my part.

Good Luck this season.                                                                             
                                                             


Friday, August 16, 2019

Final scouting trip of 2019

I know it's been only a week since my prediction post but the dogs and I got out a few more times since then and although we got whipped by the heat we were more than pleased with our findings. The reason today was my last scouting day of 2019 is due to the heat. With the temperature going to be in the 90s for the remainder of the month we're going to spend some getting in shape time in the high country and close to water. Today, all three of us did a little more than we should have and this air conditioned house is feeling mighty good.

Filming was tough with most birds just being bumped and not a lot of time to get the camera into action. We got a couple of blues pointed, and some chukars off point but the number of chukars seen in our last two outings would have excited even some of the old timers that say it isn't like it use to be. The big difference in the last two trips was the size of the birds. I'd say at least 50% of the birds we saw were around four weeks old and we saw very few chick coveys over 6 weeks old. On top of that, most coveys had good number of birds. Almost every covey we found had at least 15 birds and one covey had no fewer than 40 chicks in it. I saw adults with them but couldn't say how many.

After looking over my notes from the past years I am now convinced more than ever that the majority of chukars hatch  around the first of July. I know that's not what the bird biologist say but it seems that I see this more than not. But it doesn't matter when they were hatched.  We have five more weeks before the opener and most of these birds will not be that much smaller than a full grown bird and will give you all of the challenge you could want.

I am convinced now that it is going to be a good year for the bird hunters. I am seeing quail numbers like I've never seen, the huns seem to be doing alright, and the chukars are definitely up from a good last year. The huns are probably doing great also but I usually don't find many until later in the season. I can't say much about grouse populations because I really haven't given much time in those areas this year. I know turkeys aren't a dog hunting bird but they have done phenomenal this year. If quail have done so well and turkeys have done the same why wouldn't all those birds in between their sizes do well also.

The main reason I mentioned turkeys is because of where I am finding them this year and how much Grady enjoys them. My Astro showed a new long distant record for Grady today. He was 700 yards away and when I looked way up the hill in his direction I saw a flock of turkeys flying my way. Evidently they didn't want to hold and Grady figured he could out run them. Here's a picture of a few of them in the chukar country we hunt. I know of no roosting size trees within two miles of here. Notice the size of the young ones for August 16.
                                                                       
I did the best I could at getting some chukar action on video but as I said it was to fast and furious for me and a camera. One part of the video is where I'm walking up on Jake's point but missed the flush of over 40 birds but I showed it anyway just to show how thick the cover is in spots. The rye grass or whatever it is was up to my shoulders in spots.

So, as far as I'm concerned, coming August 30th, I'll be out chasing grouse on any cool morning I can find and training for a great chukar season which opens about three weeks later. Get your boots greased, your shot gun oiled and that canine partner in shape for a great chukar season.

Good luck this year and send me plenty of pictures.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Predictions

It's a little early for predictions but I thought I'd describe my day and let you make your own predictions.

Before I begin, I want to welcome a couple of new chukar dogs. First is Elsa, a female GSP. She is the one sitting under me and is owned by one of the best chukar hunters I know, Greg Allen.
Next, is Breezy. The spelling is wrong but easier to pronounce this way. She is a Bob Farris Poodle Pointer and Eric Bullock's first bird dog. Eric is a long time friend and I'm hoping we get some time in together this fall.
It's been a little warm for the last three weeks and I've had a hard time getting excited about taking the dogs out in chukar country but I finally mustard up the energy today. We did a lot more driving than walking but came up with some good observations that I thought should be passed on.

I didn't get the pictures or video's I would like to have but I got enough to get the juices flowing.

First off, I was thrilled to see many pheasants in the grain fields with young ones chasing insects. I even saw four young roosters with just a little head coloring already.

Next came the turkey's. It seemed like almost every likely spot held a decent flock of turkey's. They grow fast and many of the little ones could be mistaken for full grown birds.
If there is a real success story to tell, it would have to be the California quail. They are every where. It seemed like almost every other corner in the road produced another covey.
The size difference was amazing. They went from bumble bee size to almost full grown.
It amazed me how the little ones could fly from the road and straight up into the trees or bushes. I can't remember ever seeing this many quail.

Another observation today was the amount of sun flower's I saw at all elevations. Wild birds love the sun flower seeds and I'm sure the birds will be using them as the seeds drop.
Also the ground cover is tremendous. There were times today that I couldn't see the boys because of the tall cover.
This was the area that the dogs and I hiked today. We were out for 1 hour and ten minutes and saw a good number of birds. Good dog work was nearly non existent with Grady covering the country at mach 10 and not getting scent until birds took flight. It didn't help much to bump about twenty huns 100 yards from the truck and a second large bunch of huns five minutes later. Getting camera action was almost futile. In the next hour we saw at least 7 covey of chukar and one more covey of huns. The only down side is that the coveys of chukars weren't large and I guess there was an average of 8 per covey. The only filming I got were of the birds running up the hills while the dogs were in search of more in a different area.

I have no formula to say how many birds per square mile but describing my day might give a clue to whether the birds are out there or not. I was pretty excited and this area is a fairly popular spot and easily accessible.

Steve Schwin over in eastern Idaho says he believes the cover is preventing people from seeing birds over there. He told me that if the birds don't do well this year it's time to throw all the data away and get back to the drawing board. I agree. This could be the perfect year.

I'll try and get out one more time before the grouse season and hopefully get some good footage of some large coveys.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hot!

July isn't usually a good month for finding game and this July looks pretty much like the past 40 or so years. Almost all animals have had their young and are pretty much in solitude from the rest of the world. Wild animals know that the little ones will be safer if they stay separate from others. They also know that there is no reason to be vocal and attract predators. It's just time to raise the young ones.

Jake, Grady and I still try and get out three times a week for some exercise but we mainly go to the high country where the water is still flowing down the creeks. I'd do a little more early scouting in chukar country but Grady hasn't proven to me that he wouldn't bolt if he saw a young chukar darting through the grass. At 17 months he still has a little work to do.

I have seen some birds but not the number I hoped for but I have to confess that is my fault. I'm being a little lazy this summer. Just last week I saw a small group of blues with the young ones around 8 weeks old. I also saw turkey's about the same age. My notes don't show that I have seen birds this mature this early. This week I found a small covey of chukar and the chicks looked to be about two weeks old. Yesterday I found a hen turkey with a dozen or so two week old chicks. Over the last two weeks of traveling I've seen over a half dozen quail broods and the chicks didn't look much larger than bumble bees as they sprinted off the roads.

Good news is that I have seen no coveys of large chukars or huns. Usually, reorganization of mature birds means a poor hatch.

Idaho chukar season is two months away and grouse is a mere 39 days a way. Hopefully this time next month I'll have some footage of chukars and huns as they reorganize into large groups. Of course I'll list the drainage where I found them. You remember, No tellum creek, over by the old burn, that drainage off the snake or way past Mountain Home.

Meanwhile, here's a short clip of a ruff I filmed this morning. I'm hoping it's a male because I couldn't find any little ones with it.



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Go Figure.

I know many of you have had this same thing happen. Early in the hunting season you drop a bird dead and your dog runs over the top of it and can't find it. He knows there is a dead bird but can't get it's scent. I've had it happen many times. I've even had a dog standing right above the dead bird like it doesn't exist.

Now let's go to my front yard with a gravel drive way about sixty yards long. I can pick up a piece of gravel that is about the same size as the other hundreds of thousand gravel pieces and mark it so I know it from any other and throw it into that sixty yards and Jake will find it almost every time. I know he's smelling my scent on the rock but I can't understand how he can smell that better than a dead bird unless I stink more than a dead bird. I can possibly believe that but I have had Barb do the same thing with the same results.

Why? And don't tell me Barb stinks also because she's a good shot and she'll find you.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Good, the Bad, and the Cute.

I just got back from a four day camping trip and couldn't wait to get out and check on the nests I found earlier this month. I've been trying to keep track of them to find the date of hatch. There were five nests, two turkey, two chukar, and a hun. I also found a second hun nest (I believe) on my drive. I saw these two huns in a hay field and decided to look for a nest. After about a half hour I located a smashed nest from a tractor tire and assumed it was their's.
The other hun nest I found earlier looked to have had a clean hatch and I counted an even dozen eggs in the nest earlier this spring. You can tell if the eggs were hatched or destroyed by a predator by the way the eggs are cracked. Chicks peck a fairly even circle around the egg in order to free themselves while a predator destroyed egg will be broken randomly and often not even be there anymore.

The two turkey nest results were the same as the two hun nests. One success and one failure due to predators.
The destroyed nest.
Sadly, the chukar nests were the same. One successful and one not.

Outside of the successful turkey nest was a full egg which must have been infertile.
The five nests I discovered were hatched out or destroyed some time on the 16th, 17th or 18th of June. This is pretty consistent with past years on what I have seen. Hopefully the birds that lost their nests will renest and in about 40 days we will have what is usually called the second hatch.

Mother Nature has been kind and we're getting a grasshopper hatch at the right time. I see all kinds of tiny little hoppers everywhere. The birds should be eating well. It's hard to see just a 50% survival in nests but that's what happens in a world with predators.

Survival of the chicks hatched now depends on insects and weather. If we have just a little moisture in the next couple of months we will be looking at a perfect scenario. 

So there is the good and the bad before summer hits. The cute are these little critters we got to see as we headed back to our truck. Mom tried to distract us but we knew if we looked hard enough we could find one of her babies hidden in the grass.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Baby season has begun

I'm sure everyone expected to see baby upland birds on this post but thankfully they haven't begun to hatch quite yet. I say thankfully because the amount of rain we got the last week would have caused fatal effects on chicks.

My observations show that turkey's are the first to hatch followed shortly by the rest of the upland birds with quail trailing the hatch. Yesterday we found two turkey nest on our hike and both were still sitting on by the hens. I know there are a few that think the dogs and I should stay away from the upland birds and other babies this time of the year but to my knowledge I don't believe we have ever caused any harm.

This first nest was a perfect example. This first picture is Grady pointing into the thick brush.
                                                                             
When I moved in a hen turkey ran off but not too far. I looked into the heavy cover and found a nest with nine eggs,
The dogs and I left the area and came back a couple of hours later. I whoa'd the dogs and moved in and took this picture.
She nervously stayed on the nest and I backed out to resume our hike.
Here is nest two with a count of 8 eggs. 
One of the nests is only a 15 minute hike to, so I'm going to try and check every other day and see what the hatch day is for curiosity sake.

The big game has begun having their babies and by the amount of lone cow elk and does I'd say the next two weeks will have much new life on the hills. Here's some pics of new life on the mountain.













Saturday, May 11, 2019

Chukar Rama

Spent this morning watching some dogs run in the GSPCI fun event called the Chukar Rama. Had a good time and saw some pretty good dogs along with met some good people. I wish I could have stayed a little longer and filmed all the contestants but my boys were anxious to get on the hill so I had to go. It's almost 14 minutes long. When I left, the last guy, Luke Smith with Huck was leading with three birds in a very short time. A few pictures of some of the dog contestants and the leader of the pack Pat O'Kief.






Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Summer is coming too fast.

Readers have slowed down quite a bit so I figured I'd wait until I had some fun pictures of spring birds before posting. The spring has started out fantastic for upland bird hunters. We've been seeing a lot of everything and are now awaiting the big game babies as well as the upland babies. Here's a few of the boys out there doing there job.
Let's start with some Gobbling Jakes.
                                                                 Next a strutting blue grouse.

       A ruff grouse that charged me to keep me from his ladies.
                                                                             
And of course the big rooster pheasant watching over his harem.     
                                                                               
The quail haven't completely paired up but I'm seeing plenty of them.
Although we've seen lot's of huns this year we haven't been able to catch one for a still picture.
                                                                                 
This turkey came eye to eye with Conner and myself.
And of course there is my favorite among the upland birds.
The geese have already started hatching and pooping all over the place.
So, like I mentioned, Spring has really had a strong start with lot's of early moisture. We should have a very strong hatch but I'm not sure we'll have the big number of birds with the recent trend in our weather. It's getting warm and dry way too soon. We need moisture to keep insects coming for protein for the young birds. So keep your fingers crossed that we get some more moisture in the next couple of months.