Friday, December 27, 2019

Good December

We've been having a fairly mild December making the hills more accessible for both hunter and birds. Of course the chukars are much wilder now but luckily with good dog work, I sometimes get to those far away points.
Boy, how I love hunting behind these two.
                                                                                                                                                                           Grady really puts on the miles (averages about 24 miles per hunt) but has become a great bird finder.
He also loves the retrieve.



And sometimes I do my part.




Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Utah hunters

I was waiting to do this post until I got a few other success pictures from other hunters but either the success isn't out there this year or hunters are too busy having fun they don't have time for pictures. I think it's the latter.

Anyhow, I was corresponding with a hunter from Utah, Riley Galt, who hunts a lot of the same areas I hunt and he sent me some pictures of his November hunt to Idaho.

He spent a week in Idaho with a buddy hunting quail, huns and chukars and it looks like they had a good time and good success. Their week was in all kinds of weather from warm to almost getting snowed in but they made the most of their time by being on the mountain putting lots of miles on boots and dogs.

Here's a picture of Riley. I assume he is just beginning the hunt because he is smiling.

Some good dog work always helps all those miles seem easier.
Especially when you get to a stylish point after trekking through the snow.
Warm conditions make walking easier and white dogs a little more visible.
But late November hunting leads to more points in the snow than the open country.
The rewards at the end of the day from hard miles by both dogs and man are the great memories of the hunt. But a good number of birds at the end of the day don't hurt.
Thanks for the pictures guys and I hope to meet you soon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Chukar memories

 

Made this short video today as the boys and I sat by the fire and looked at past and current pictures and videos. I'm just practicing for the day that I get some really good stuff. Filming good dog work in chukar country is hard. You very seldom get to see them lock up on point. You just know it happens and you get there. I've got literally hundreds of pointing pictures and retrieving pictures but very little video that shows the good dog work my boys do. Also, since I usually hunt alone, it's impossible to get a video of the dog pointing and me shooting a bird off the flush. Maybe I'll get that figured out one day but until then I'll just keep recording my memories.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Another bout with a sticky kitty

First off, I don't mean to steal my hunting partner's name for porcupines, but when he told me what he called them I had to use it  the name. Thanks Greg Allen, it fits.

Yes, it happened again today. Grady decided to get a taste of a sticky kitty. The day was getting off to a bad start as it was. We started hunting a fog that looked like it would rise but instead it got thicker. Greg took off one way and I the other in search of the chukars we saw tracks of on the way in. Chukar hunting was pretty slow and the few coveys we saw never got lead thrown their way. Either they disappeared into the fog too soon or I couldn't shoot not knowing where dog two was. About 45 minutes into the trip I finally got the signal that both dogs were on point about 150 yards away. I crunched my way through the snow and finally could see both dogs locked up. As I moved forward I could see a few bird heads sticking out of the snow and was ready to move forward for the flush. Suddenly Grady broke and I saw the sticky kitty by the sage. I immediately yelled but it was too late. Grady had a mouth full. I don't even remember hearing the birds flush and maybe they didn't. They may still be up there chuckling about the fool on the hill.

Crap happens and at times I feel like I'm stumbling over it too often. There were about 50 to 75 quills in his lips and mouth. Far less than Jake had two years ago and not that deep so I decided I'd pull them on the hill. Now you have to understand that Grady isn't the toughest dog on the hill and I found out he doesn't like pain much. The whimpering at each quill being pulled was pathetic but he started to put up a fight. I had never used a stiff hand on Grady but now the fight was on. There was a lot of tugging and pulling and yelling by me but I finally got him wedged in some snow deep enough that I could sit on his chest and finally get a good hold. He calmed some and I quieted down some also. Ten minutes or so and we had the job done except for a few deep down and broken.

Jake just sat there and watched more like a referee in case we got a little too rough. Things like this happen to almost all hunters at one time or another but it's how we handle them that is important. I had the right tools but I'm not sure I was of the right mind. I've always said how nice it is to hunt the mountain and never say a word. Silence is beautiful. Greg was on that mountain somewhere and either he didn't hear me or he was being kind and never mentioned I sounded like a raving lunatic on the mountain.

Although everything came out just fine I have to admit I could have been a little quieter. I was a wrestler in high school and I don't remember ever yelling at my opponent to hold still but as I wrestled with Grady I was pretty vocal for him to hold still. Point is, after I calmed down a little and let Grady calm down a little it was fine. Calmer heads usually get the job done easier than panicking.

Good luck in the next 55 days or so and watch for those sticky kitties.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Day off to contemplate

We're about half way through the chukar season and the boys and I are taking this Saturday off and enjoying some college football. I'm also doing some heavy thinking about this weird hunting season. I've had many hunters tell me they're having a hard time finding birds this year. I have to agree even though I am having a very good season.

October had some early moisture followed by very cold temperatures. Even with the cold temperatures, the grass popped up everywhere. Like normal, the birds scattered everywhere because the fresh sprouts were germinated. Mid October, I was finding small coveys of birds both high and low. Then the warm November temperatures and lack of moisture started drying everything up along with the green sprouts on the southern exposures where the chukars usually tend to use this time of the year. Many of the places, you could drop a match and start a fire. My yard is a perfect example. It is dry as a bone.

The birds I am getting are full of green grass and the coveys are once again congregated. Most of the green grass I find now is on the northern slopes and anyplace the sun doesn't hit directly for most of the day. Even though I see plenty of grasshoppers on the southern slopes I have not found any in the crops of the birds telling me the nutritional value to the birds is more towards the grass than the hoppers.

The birds are very healthy looking and I have been surprised that even the later hatched bird are developing a good layer of yellow fat. They are obviously eating well and prepared for the winter months.

My biggest thought on this season is the two hour rule. It takes two hours of humping the hills to find chukars and then the fun begins. You get your birds and then have a two hour trek back to the rig. This year the two hour rule has been stretched out some. Usually four hours is enough time to have some good success but this year I'm spending 5 to 6 hours on the hill to have the same success as the past. I believe I'm seeing more birds than normal, it is just taking me and the dogs longer to find them. It also could mean I'm getting a lot slower than I use to be but that's hard for me to admit.

So, don't lose faith. I believe some wet weather will soon make it easier for the dogs to find those birds and create some fun experiences.

I've also got some thoughts on Jakes strange behaviors this year. Although he will only be 7 in January he covers only 3/4 of the distance of Grady who is almost two. In fact every once in a while he'll walk behind me on the trail while Grady is out 200 to 300 yards looking for birds. It worried me at first but I've decided as long as he is having a good time and Grady is too I'll stay out of the way and let it be. Jake still gets plenty of points and retrieves and he seems perfectly happy to see Grady at a distance and honor. Last year he didn't seem to ever be looking for Grady but this year maybe he's got smart and decided to let the young guy do the work and he still gets to be in the action.

Sometimes Jake won't see Grady on point but knows he is by the way I am carrying my gun and moving towards a point. He'll honor me but slowly circle behind me until he see's Grady. He'll then either honor Grady or swing around behind me and try to come in and trap the birds between them. At first I whoa'd Jake but am now letting it be what it is. Grady stays locked up and doesn't appear to feel like there is any competition in this behavior.

As far as Grady's honor, it is very solid and he won't move until the flush. Grady's problem is also human  caused. Since he chases flushed birds a little further than I like I've worked on him a little on stop at flush. I've had multiple 200 yard points out of sight that by the time I got there Grady would see me and then just go on hunting. There were no birds. On our last trip I saw him bump some birds and stop. My Alpha told me he was on point and he once again stood there until I got to him. Hopefully he'll eventually quit this and save me those 200 yard hikes up and down the mountain to a pointing dog that has already flushed the birds.

So, I came up with two thoughts to help get more birds this year. Both aren't good for us but will help with success. First, until this weather changes, it's going to take a few more miles than usual and second, get out of the way of the dogs and let them do what they do best. They are a heck of a lot better predators than us so start listening to them and quit worrying about how they get the job done. Some day maybe I'll finally get that figured out.

Good Luck

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Sometimes the stars align just right.

A few weeks ago, Conner took me duck hunting, something I haven't done for more than 40 years. I was impressed with how he could turn the ducks into the decoys and as you can see we had some great success.
Last Friday night, Conner invited me to a Duck's unlimited banquet along with his mother, brother and Barbara. We had a great dinner, met lot's of good people and had a great time once again. To top it off Conner was drawn for a rifle and two shotguns in the raffles. Unbelievable. Since he is only 17, I had to do the paper work and pick the guns up at Sportsman's yesterday.
Since Conner had school, I decided to take Jake and Grady to the big pond and chase some chukars and then come back through Boise on the way home. I know tailgate pictures aren't always cool but I snapped a picture of the dogs success also.
I am a lucky guy.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Oregon chukar hunt

Barb, the dogs and I spent 4 days over in Oregon last week and had a great hunt. Greg Allen and his girls came over on Saturday and hunted with us at one of our favorite hunting spots.

The hunt was very successful even with the super dry weather. Waking up to 20 degree temperature and having no frost on the wind shield is proof to the dryness. Also the crust of dust on the dogs noses at the end of the day made it obvious why more birds were bumped than usual. The plus side of the dryness was that it was easy to find bird tracks on the game trails thus keeping me excited even when the dogs weren't acting birdie.


Covey finds were far to often to keep count and day one for me was one of those great days. The dog work was great and I shot as well as the dogs held the birds. 8 for 8. That doesn't happen too often.
The following two days brought my average back to normal but it was still great for the dogs. Jake stayed at the camper on day two and Grady stayed there on day three. I figured out why Jake was ranging less and staying closer to me. I had the water and treats. Instead of giving him water every time he walked behind me I told him to hunt em up and he soon figured out I had figured his gig up. He started covering country like normal.

Every morning we would drive through Huntington, Oregon and their marijuana patches and Greg was wondering if maybe I was sniffing the air as we passed. I had two unusual sightings on the hill that day with no pictures to back them up. First off, I saw a nice bighorn ram. We have hunted that range for over thirty years and never seen even a sheep turd so I knew I had to chase the sheep down and get a picture for proof but you know how that ended up. Never saw him again. The second sighting was off of one of Jake's points. As I approached  his point a single chukar took off using a Juniper tree to block any chance of getting a shot. As I swung around the tree waiting for more chukars to explode suddenly about a dozen chukars flew out of the tree also using it for cover so I couldn't get a shot. I have seen a single chukar in Juniper tree's before but never a covey.

Greg was very kind in keeping back the laughs as we drove back to camp and I told him my stories.

The birds were in great shape with lot's of fat reserves ready for winter. Barb and I hung around the camp sight on day four giving the dogs a break since we had such a successful first three days. We only needed two more birds for a three day possession limit.

On my way home I stopped by in New Plymouth and finally got to meet Alan Howell and his girl Gracie. Alan and his wife Kate moved to Idaho from Alaska for the bird hunting opportunities and their setter Gracie has been providing them plenty of of great points.

On returning home I had some great messages from other hunters having great success also. There was a note from the small Munsterlander, Oakley who had finally got her master (Mark Midtlyng) trained and Having some great success.
By the success picture, I'd say Oakley and the other dogs are proving their worth.
I also got a note from Quinn Inwards telling me of the passing of his young shorthair Sage and the sadness of losing his first hunting companion. Like a true bird dog lover he is keeping her close to his heart but moving on with a new pup. Quinn is now training Joker, a GWP which besides being a good looking dog
is already showing some great style.
Last week seemed to be a good week for bird hunters and I think it will even get better once we get a little moisture on the ground helping the dogs use their nose. There is a little over two and a half months of bird hunting left so get those canines out their and let them show their stuff.

Good Luck.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Making another trip to remember

Not such a good day. I should have figured that going hunting today with the temperature hitting 12 degrees this morning and it being Halloween was not a great idea but who ever heard of record lows and ghost could make a bad day of chukar hunting. There is not such a thing as a bad day of chukar hunting. Well, today came pretty close.

It started out with uncertainty. I was going into a place I have hunted several times in the past years but have always walked in from the main road. A few times I saw ATVs back in there so I decided today I would take my side by side in and make a shorter walk. It didn't take long to figure out why I walk in. The rock loaded trail was beating me and the dogs to death. Grady finally decided the only safe place was to sit behind me and lodge me against the steering wheel thus keeping him immobile while Jake kept falling off the seat onto the floor and compressing the gas pedal to help keep things exciting. About four miles down the trail I noticed the right front tire was a little low. So, thanks to the lessons from the California crew, I got my trusted can of fix a flat out and figured I fill the tire. I shook the can as instructed and screwed the cap on and air started coming out of the tire so I quickly depressed the button and nothing happened. I unscrewed the cap and found the can of air and goo was frozen solid. Now the tire was low enough that I didn't want to drive any further.

I looked up the hill and decided it looked like a great place to hunt. I parked the side by side and contemplated on setting the can on the hot engine than came to my senses not knowing what kind of explosion I might create. Instead I placed the can next to a tire facing the sun with hopes of it thawing out. The boys were ready to start having some fun so off we went. About two hours into the trip I realized why I had never hunted that place before. We crossed over the canyon to see if the other ridge had any more to offer. To my excitement the dogs found a good covey of chukars but they dove off the ridge with the wind to their back with no shots fired. I might have got a shot had I heard them taking off but my ears were covered with muffs to keep them warm. Who wears muffs on Oct. 31.

Things started picking up with a point on a small group of huns and a second group of chukars but luck always had me in the wrong position to fire. Finally my Alpha says dog on point. I was just about to cross one of those short rock slides and I peaked at the Alpha to see where the dogs were. For some reason my small chukar brain didn't activate my legs to halt and I tripped over one rock hitting the remainder of the slide with my face, gun and Alpha. My first concern was the terrible sound my gun made as it hit the rocks. As I looked over the damage I realized a steady flow of blood onto the stock might be a reason to assess the damage to me. Wow! My nose sure felt big and there was quite a bit of that red stuff coming out. I don't even remember if the birds flushed or what happened but both dogs were right there seeing which one could lick the most blood off. I inserted some toilet paper and used one of the dogs cold water bottles to help stop the bleeding. After about ten minutes we started back off the hill. I finally figured out that my nose wan't as swollen as I thought but just shifted some to the left side of my face. I remembered the drill from my baseball days and running into the left field fence and having to realign my nose and with a quick pop and more blood we were back to walking.
It looks a lot better now that I've showered but trust me I'll have some good black eyes in a couple of days.

The Alpha didn't sustain any damage but my shotgun didn't fare so well. I got some good scratches on the stock,
a small chunk out of the forearm as well as a dent in the rib vent and some barrel scratches.
But things got better from that point on. We found a few more coveys on the way back to the side by side and actually ended up with two chukars and two huns by the time we reached the side by side. I was surprised to shoot so well with my eyes watering like they were. The can of fix a flat had thawed and we got the tire back up to normal before heading back to the truck. Grady was not moving from the drivers seat and our ride back to the truck was cramped for me but comfy for him. I checked the temperature on my truck when we got there and it had risen all the way up to 36. The good news is that it's supposed to get warmer.

Be safe out there, get some birds and treat those dogs to some good times.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

strange month

More than a strange month, this has been a different year for me. After an exciting scouting season I was a little surprised as the season progressed at the fewer finds than usual. I caught Grady a few times chasing the birds and figured that might be the reason for fewer bird encounters. Add to that I wasn't seeing much bird sign. Weather wise, it's been one of the best opening month and a half I can remember. You name the conditions and we've had them. I don't always have great years but I can usually figure out why. Lack of birds, poor dog work or me being lazy are a few reasons I can speak of but this year too many variables had me scratching my head. But I think I have put a finger on a few of the variables affecting my success.

 First of all is Grady and the chasing birds. I don't know what I did to create his chase, but fixing this particular problem with a stern whoa has worked wonders. He's now back to a 20 yard chase before he starts back to hunting. I'm sure on some of his earlier chases he was busting other coveys and that's why I wasn't seeing many birds.

Next is the hatch. There were a lot of real late hatches this year. Just a couple of days ago I got a bird that had to have hatched in late August. In September I'm sure the dogs were having a hard time getting any scent form these young birds creating that lack of bird finds which we are not having that problem now.

Jake has the opposite problem of Grady. Suddenly he has slowed and spends more time close to me rather than hunting the whole time. He had a physical yesterday to check his thyroid etc. and has no problems so I've decided he is just smart and letting the young punk do the hard work. Two days ago Grady got 24 miles in while Jake got 15 and I made 7. Last year Jake would get as many miles as Grady. I'd like to see Jake range a little more like he used to but am perfectly happy if he stays like he's doing now.

Competition. Since last year I have done something wrong and created some competition with the dogs. At first I thought they were pushing each other on point but finally figured that I am the problem. They honor each other and don't budge until I get into the picture. If Jake is the pointing dog, Grady honors just fine until I flush the birds but if Grady is the pointing dog, Jake will break honor when I move ahead and try to circle and trap the birds. This makes Grady nervous and he starts creeping. Once again, I can halt any movement with a whoa but it's sure a lot more fun when nothing has to be said.
On this point I dropped to the right of Jake and he broke honor and swung behind me and reestablished a point below the rocks. Luckily Grady held point and we were successful.
Things are getting a little more back to normal for the three of us and we're having some great outings. I'm counting on November being a really good month with all these young birds being more mature and provide some good scent. The mornings are frosty and scenting conditions are becoming optimum. Those who saved their vacation time until November are going to be pleased.
Get out there and have some fun with your dogs and please stop by and say hello if you see my camper or truck along the road. You'll know me by my TUCKOTA plates. Good luck hunting.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Not always chukar.

My grandson, Conner, drew a cow tag so we switched guns for the weekend and after 12 miles of covering the country he made a great shot on his first elk.
It wasn't an easy shot and as you can see it was right in the boiler maker.

But more than just the shot I have to give a little brag about the pack out. It was evening by the time we got the elk quartered and all the rest of the meat in bags so we made one trip down to the truck 1 1/2 mile away. Conner figured he could pack a hind quarter and a front quarter in the new pack bag we had bought. I was skeptical but after we got the pack on his back he was off and it was all I could do to keep up with him and I was only carrying both our packs and a rifle. I had a hard time keeping up with him and never got pictures.

We slept well that night and headed up the next morning for the final load. I'm glad we got to pack the elk down hill because it was a chore just heading up that hill without any weight on our backs. We did our usual poking fun at each other and by the time we got to the elk somehow I was challenged to pack out the same weight he did the night before and he'd pack out the back strap, tenderloin and scrap meat. Here I am half way down the hill.
I have to admit to taking more breaks than he did,
but in the end I made it to the bottom without any mishaps.
Yes, I was glad to get the pack off my back but it was also great to have that feeling of accomplishment again. Thanks to a great grandson for keeping me challenged.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Chukarhunter50 aka Mark Midtlyng and his small Munsterlander

I met Mark on a turkey scouting trip months ago and he told me of the small Munsterlander he would be getting in July and promised to pass on the progress of Oakley. He has been working hard with Oakley and their first chukar trip was Saturday.

I have another friend, Eric Bullock who stopped by the house and was a little discouraged about his new pup, Breezy (poodle pointer), and her progress. Telling Marks story might help Eric understand that by getting the dog out on birds as often as possible suddenly the light bulb flashes on and you have a hunting companion. Some dogs come along slower than others but birds will make it happen.

Oakley's first chukar hunt started out a little wild for Mark. He was hunting with some other hunters and Oakley decided to blow through a few pointed coveys by other dogs. Mark figured it was time to get off on their own and soon good things started happening for him and his hunting partner Travis. A solid point on a meadow lark was cool but not what they were after.

Oakley was learning quickly his purpose in life and as Mark put it the pup was making the usual blunders of a pup and suddenly things started sinking in.
In 400 yards he had 5 solid points with no flinching. The only blunders were human. Missing the safety button and forgetting to reload gun after lunch break proving the hunter isn't perfect either. In Mark's description of his hunt I liked his last paragraph of his hunt description. 

He said Oakley went from a first grader to a high school student. Sure she'll have some puppy dog blunders but he showed the promise of what the future has in store for him with Oakley.
Every bird dog is different and some take longer than others for the light bulb to click on. Eric, get your dog out on birds as often as you can until he she becomes obsessed with looking for them and with a little human help you will have the same success as Mark. Believe in her abilities and it will soon happen.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Non residents

Barb and I took a four day trip over to a popular camping spot which also provides some pretty good chukar hunting. There were plenty of other campers there and many of them having hunting dogs meaning we weren't alone at chasing chukars. It was evening time so I decided to make my rounds and see what people were finding. For the most part people seemed pretty happy and were finding birds. 3/4 of the hunters were from out of state. I was a little slack on getting pictures and names but the states included were Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Washington and Tennessee. All of them were positive and were pretty excited about the number of birds they were seeing. Except for the guys from Arizona and Washington this was their first trip to Idaho. I have to say one of the reasons I didn't get to visit more with them was because they were out hunting almost all day. They evidently were taking advantage of their time in Idaho.

Dog's breeds were also very different. We had many English pointers and English setters along with Weimaraner, Brittanies, Labs, and GSP's. I didn't see one unhappy dog.

There were two different groups of Idaho hunters also. We got a little more time to talk because shortly after I returned from hunting each day they were at our camper to see what I had found. If these two groups read my blog I'll probably lose them after this post. They seemed to be the only ones upset with the bird numbers. Of course they were back at camp by noon while most of the non residents weren't back until very late afternoon. I guess we all can read between these lines and make what we want out of it but I can tell you I enjoyed my conversations with the non residents because they were just excited to be here.

The only pictures I got were of these two Georgia guys and their dogs. These two, along with a guy from Wisconsin had hunted many states for various birds but this was their first time at chasing chukars.
They definitely were from down south with that accent. Oh gosh, I hope that wan't politically incorrect. From the feathers around the camp I could tell they had at least chukar, huns and Blue grouse in their bags. Listening to their stories I could tell they were getting the full deal with their Idaho hunt, especially when they talked about where they were finding chukars and how they couldn't make those down hill away shots. Pretty familiar stuff to me.
Two thoughts I came up with this week. As residents, maybe we expect too much when it comes to bird numbers and secondly, maybe we give up too soon and get off the mountain. These guys didn't seem to have a problem with either.

Now, what did I find. Day 1 had me thinking maybe the bird numbers weren't there. It started hot with Grady taking off like a mad dog and soon we saw three blue's flying down the hill. Barb, wanted to walk a ways with me and do some filming and it wasn't long before Grady found birds with Jake honoring. Barb decided to keep me out of the picture so I wouldn't be caught missing again.
After this video Barb left and the three of us covered many more miles and saw only three covey of huns and never got a shot. It was looking pretty dismal. But I decided to not give up on this area and cover more different country the next day. As everyone knows of this country you can get out of your rig and never step on the same ground as you did the day before. Take a look at the grass in this picture and you can see why the birds were probably distributed everywhere. We never see this kind of green up this early in the year.
The next two days were much better. Once Grady would slow down and quit over running his nose points became a lot oftener and day ones negative thoughts were soon behind us. Bird numbers were good and not so good. We saw more huns in this area than ever before but fewer chukar. We also saw more blue grouse than I can ever remember.

We took day four off due to the three of us feeling a little abused by the mountain.
Grady put in 67 miles in the three days and Jake put in 58. I put in 24 miles and felt I a little break was deserved. We ended up getting a good number of huns and a few chukars and blue grouse. A first for me. I have never come home with more huns than chukars but I have to say they were every bit as fun.

They're out there. Maybe not in the numbers I hoped, but a little extra walking seems to produce birds. Who knows, over the next ridge might be that honey hole.

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.