Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Heavy rainfall concerns this month

Wow! what a month for moisture. So far this month we have had 3 times the amount of rain as normal for the whole month. The weather forecast says today is about the end to this trend for the month. Hopefully we will be back to normal from here on.

I've been getting lots of request on my thoughts about all this rain and it's effects on the chukar hatch. I've done lot's of reading and kept lot's of notes of observations of chukar populations but sadly haven't kept notes of rainfall amounts in June for each year. If anyone could possibly tell me how to find the average rainfall amount in June for the past 30 years I could come up with a little more positive answer to how much the spring rains effect the outcome for the coming seasons.

Even with the heavy rainfalls we have had I know we are better off than drought conditions. On dry years many of the birds don't even try to nest. The vegetation and insects are not there to produce healthy conditions for reproduction, so on drought years you will see many small coveys of birds in the spring instead of pairs. Spring rains produce lot's of green up and insects which are the main ingredients for good chick survival. This June has provided plenty of that. Chicks that have survived so far or that haven't hatched yet should have an abundance of feed for the remainder of the summer months. Conditions from here out should be optimum for survival. A rain or two in July and August might help conditions even more but won't be necessary for what could be a good year.

With that being said, I'll give my thoughts of what might happen. First of all, although most articles say the mean time for chukar/hun hatching is about June 10, I believe it occurs later in the month. My only reason for thinking that is from observations of size of birds in late July and early August. I raised chukars for a couple of years and "think" I can judge age pretty well from their size and flight ability. If I am right, than the most hatches are just beginning. The hatches that have already happened and have been lost have plenty of time for the hen to renest and still have good number of eggs to hatch. These spring conditions have produced prime nutrients for hens to reproduce plenty of eggs for a second hatch. The second hatch from these hens will probably be as good as the first one where on a normal weather year the egg numbers may be smaller.

Chukars and huns are resilient nesters and will keep trying to nest as long as conditions are right. I believe it is a myth that they will nest two or three times and raise separate broods. I think they will only have a second brood if they lose all their chicks. It's not possible to raise chicks and sit a nest at the same time so they will have only one brood per year. But on normal years with moisture almost all hens are reproducing instead of just a portion of them on drought years and they will keep on trying until successful or it's too late. That is why we sometimes see birds so young clear into late October.

I haven't been able to get out and locate chukar and hun nests this Spring because of my lack of mobility but I have been able to drive the roads and observe the bigger birds(turkey) and find a few of their nest for observation. I found five nests and the earliest of them hatched May 23rd and the latest was just five days ago. Two of the nest were destroyed by predators which I believe is definitely harder on nest than rain. I can't speak of survival of the chicks because of my inability to get out and observe little ones feeding with the mom nor do I want to take a chance of disturbing them on these wet days. I do believe that the other upland birds are two to three weeks behind turkeys in the hatch so that would place hatch times from mid June on.

I have no biological facts to say I'm right but I really believe June rains don't hurt the numbers as much as I use to. These heavy rains had to have hurt some but not as much as I once feared. Keep thinking positive. I do know that we will at least have a normal year. Every down year that I can recall has been preceded by a dry spring and summer. Hopefully this will be a banner year and we will learn a little more about chukar/hun reproduction conditions.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Snake avoidance.

Although we have never had a problem with rattle snakes I have always done some snake avoidance with my dogs. Tucker and Dakota went to snake avoidance class while Jake and Grady were taught by me. Sometimes you have to wonder if it really works but once in a while the right opportunity comes along to help ease the mind. Mine was today.

While rehabbing on a logging road with my dogs I came across a bull snake on the road. At 60 degrees he wasn't moving much so I didn't know whether the dogs had even crossed his path as they jogged around looking for some kind of prey. So I called them back down the road ready to give them some stimulation when either they reacted to the snake or the snake reacted to them and surprisingly they both stopped right next to the snake and looked for me to release them to go play.

Neither dog acted as if they smelled the snake and the snake wasn't interested in getting any attention so I snapped the photo and walked the dogs down the road where they proceeded hunting for whatever they could find. I went back to the snake and pushed him around with my cane aggravating it some until it was hissing and striking at the object.




I than called the boys back and when they saw the movement of the snake they retreated quickly without any stimulus. It's a nice feeling to know that the avoidance is there.

I don't know why the dogs didn't smell the snake because I have seen them react from the smell of snakes before but it was obvious they had no idea at our first contact. None of this will ever solve that chance meeting but it will eliminate the curious dog that has to see what the snake is doing and go in for a closer look, especially puppies. 

This also shows that generally snakes won't react to dogs or other objects like canes unless provoked. Knock on wood that our fortune with snakes will stay the same for the coming years.
For some reason the movie portion isn't working right so you'll have to imagine the snake striking at my cane. I'm about to give up on this technology.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Turkeys

Nothing exciting to tell about upland birds do to the fact I still can't put any weight on my leg and the exercising of the boys is from my side by side. Boys were finding some paired birds earlier but it's getting mighty warm for those runs.

My grandson took up archery hunting this year and his first quarry was turkey. Conner is a very stick to it type guy and damn if he didn't put an arrow in one a few days back. First shot at a wild animal.
This morning I got mine and even though it was with a shot gun it took all the energy I could muster up. I drove my side by side along a logging road until I found a bird that gobbled. Gave it about 15 minutes and than slid down the slope until I could find a place where I might see him if he decided to come to me. After about an hour of chatting back and forth he finally committed to about 15 yards where the twelve gauge mad a fine pattern on his head. I was jacked to have done it with a broken leg but was soon brought back to earth when I loaded the bird in my pack for the return back up the slope to my ride. On my hands and knees I crawled up the slope pushing my shotgun and crutches. It took over an hour to get back to the road. It was right at 1/4 mile. I remember when I use to run the quarter mile in 60 seconds, wow! how things have changed. After the hour long quarter mile I was shaking and more tired than any I can ever remember. I lay on the road for at least 15 minutes with my arms burning like they use to after a day of weight training. This time I got the job done but I guarantee I won't be doing any more hunting until I have two legs to walk on.
The picture was taken on the tree stump of my accident in hopes that I won't forget either event.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Crippled times

We're finally getting out in the field but I'm stuck to the vehicle seat. Here's what we're doing though. Grady was on point for about two minutes before Jake and I found him where Jake immediately honored. Four or five minutes went by and I finally got Jake to move by throwing a rock and saying dead bird.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A hunt from the past.

I'm getting some real cabin fever here right now. I've seen more of the couch, this chair, and the bathroom than I have in the past five years. The dogs spend most of their time laying beside the couch with big sad eyes staring at me. So I'm looking back through my hunting journal's and remembering hunts from the past. This one was from Jan.25, 2009.

My dad passed away on Jan.24, 2009 and with family all there and five sisters that wanted to take charge of the next weeks proceedings, I asked my brother, Tom, if he'd like to go on a chukar hunt the following day. It sounds kind of cold but I knew dad would have been fishing the day after if I had passed away to celebrate my life. That's what he loved to do. He hunted some but would rather have a fishing pole in his hand.

So, on Jan. 25th, Tom and I took a trip over to Oregon with my only dog at that time, Riley, and chased some birds in reverence to dad. I had a special spot that Riley seemed to relish even though it was very steep with more sage than most of my chukar hunting areas. Riley was such a tall dog I could keep an eye on him in this country even with the taller sage.

It wasn't long before we were into birds and it was great watching my brother walk in on points and shoot birds. I think it was Tom's and my last chukar hunt together. He likes chasing the elk with a stick and string more than chasing dogs. There was lots of good work and some good shooting but there was one event that will stick out in my mind forever.

As we walked the side hill looking for Riley we tried to pay homage to dad by talking about some of the fun things we had done with him in the past. As my receiver said Riley was on point, Tom and I went into hunting mode and approached his point. At the flush we hit two birds that dropped between us and crippled another  which flew around the hill and uphill out of sight. Riley retrieved the first bird right off the bat but spent some time finding number two with Tom doing some directing. We had to drop down in elevation some by the time we found the bird. We figured to stay at that elevation, knowing that going back and searching for a cripple that we had no idea of where it finally went down or  how high it got. Along with all the thick sage we figured it was a lost bird.

I'm guessing 20 to 30 minutes had passed before we resumed hunting. We kept our elevation and it wasn't long before Riley had found another covey, but he was 200 yards ahead of us. I was walking a game trail and about half way to the point a bird rolled out of the sage and landed on the trail in front of me. It was stone dead. I halted Tom and told him of the bird. It was a bird we would never find because we wouldn't be coming out that way. We both chuckled about it and told dad "thanks for finding that one for us".

We all have those special moments, and that was the last special moment for Dad, Tom and me together.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Life is full of journey's.

Don't know exactly what this post has to do with chukar hunting but I am stuck in this room for a few days and it would be a good time to write about my latest journey with my chain saw. I'm hoping to get a lot of readers just for the fact of knowing what we are capable of doing when we need to as well as to attach chukar hunting to the final outcome. Here goes.

March 2 was going to be a boring day around the Szurgot house and so I made plans to do a little yard work and then take the dogs for a hike to finish the day off. I had fallen a tree the previous day and had plans finish it up. Even though the tree was on the ground, the bottom part was still attached to the stump. It was obvious to me that when I cut the part still attached, the tree would roll off the stump away from me. The next thing I knew I was trying to get up off the ground and my mind was saying you're in trouble. I don't remember those few seconds that the log sprung back off the stump and shot into my leg. It had to have happened with great force. I couldn't get up and realized my leg was broken and so I called out several times "I need help". Grady and Jake were both licking me in the face and sensed something was wrong. The first thing I had to do was crawl across the creek and than pull myself 150 feet or so to my side by side.

That was my first sign of how bad of trouble I was in. My leg got stuck as I crossed the creek and when I looked back to see what it was stuck on I was sickened by seeing the way my foot was pointing the wrong way and my pants looked like there was a broken bone pushing on them. I tried to roll a little but the bottom part of my leg stayed in the same position so I just pulled a little harder and was soon heading up the yard. This whole time (I have no idea of how long) I would scream with each pull and then talk to the boys who were carefully walking by my side. They were super.

As I got to the side by side, I pulled myself up to the seat and got my good leg on the floor board and looked at my left leg which was just dangling over the edge. I don't remember a lot of pain at that time but there must have been more than I think because I remember screaming with every move. As I looked at my leg I remember thinking "Oh my God, you're going to lose your leg". I lifted my broken leg to the floor board and tried to position the foot flat on the floor. Both dogs were wanting to get into the side by side because that is where they ride when we use it to go some place but they seemed to understand when I said stay and then followed me to the neighbors with a heal. Wow! It looked like some of that yard training actually worked.

My neighbor, Bill Anderson, is a retired fireman and paramedic and I knew that would be the best place to go for help. He was burning leaves in his front field and casually looked up at me as I pulled up 20 yards away. "Bill, I need some help. I just broke my leg." Never seeing Bill do his paramedic thing, I was impressed as to how well he jumped into action. The doctor said his fast actions contributed to me not losing my leg. From that moment on I knew I was totally dependent on him and focused on every word he said. He calmly talked me into relaxing the best I could as he cut my boot off and then continued to my pant leg. As he cut the socks off I could finally see the bones and felt it wasn't going to turn out good.

Jake and Grady were trying to keep an eye on me but Gayle, Bill's wife, kept their attention while she called for life fight. I kept talking to them about the dogs and they assured me that they would be just fine. Their dog and mine are good buddies and play a lot together anyhow so at least I was at ease as to their care. I was just as concerned as to how I was going to get them their three times a week hike in the mountains. That has been my life enjoyment for the past thirty years. I was as concerned about that as I was my health. For now though, my leg and dogs were in the good hands of my neighbors.

Soon the Horseshoe Bend ambulance arrived but they said there was very little more they could do, other than what Bill had already done and I should just lat flat until the life flight showed up, which was very soon. They transported me to the helicopter and we were soon on our way to the hospital. They must have given me something good because I remember them mentioning how well I could screw up a leg and suddenly we were in the hospital.

Everything was a real blur at the hospital and I vaguely remember my conversation with the Doc but  it had to do with how to proceed with the possibility of losing my lower leg. Five hours later I awoke with my family standing there. Barbara, Kerri, Conner and Mac. I was really in lala land but somehow was convinced everything came out great.

Okay, that's how the day played out. What is so different from how many such stories go and why post it on a chukar blog? Maybe it would be better if I called it a passion blog. I believe my passion for chukar hunting and dogs is what is going to help make the ending of this ordeal positive.

When the accident first happened I was just concerned about my leg, but because of my love for my dogs I was quickly concentrating on how I was going to get back to what I love. There is an old saying about chukar hunting "your first hunt is for fun and the next is for revenge". I disagree. I believe the first hunt is for the experience and if you continue chasing chukars it's about the challenge. I can see how easy it might be to give up after an accident like this and say just go with the flow if you don't have a passion. But having that passion my mind won't let me even think of a life without it. Plus that passion probably helped making my body strong enough to overcome the injury.

Contained passions are a great thing. Without them life can become a little dull. I truly believe that if it weren't for my passion for chukar hunting and being with my dogs and the love and care from my family I wouldn't be sitting here with such a positive attitude. It would become too easy to sit here feeling sorry for myself and popping pain pills. If you're reading this blog you are probably a chukar hunter and maybe you already know what chukar hunting does for you but I can tell you your health thanks you for hitting that mountain.

Here are a few shots of my leg.
A couple of these stapled places are where the bones were protruding.
And some of them where they had to insert the metal plates.
In the end I have more metal in my leg to accompany my knee replacement.
Thank you to Bill, life flight and the hospital doctors and nurses for a job well done. I know two dogs you made very happy.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

down time

This is one of those post you hope you never have to do but I figure with all the inquisitive calls I'm getting I just as well tell the story.

Monday I cut down a few trees around the property and the last one got hung up in a precarious position. I knew it there was a lot of pressure on the tree but figure as I cut the remaining part of the tree the log would shoot away from me.

Wrong. It shot back through my leg busting it pretty good. I immediately knew I was in trouble and tried to yell for help but soon realized the neighbors couldn't hear me. I had to get across the creek and to my side by side so I could get some help. As I drug my leg behind me the foot was facing in the wrong direction and I could see a bone sticking out through the muscle. I had no choice but to get to the side by side, pull myself up into it and head for a neighbor who was an x paramedic who took care of me from that point on until life flight picked me up.

So, that it the short story of how it happened. I spent three days in the hospital and the doc kept stressing how bad the fracture was and that I would not be able to put any wight on that foot for three months. I have to admit that this injury scared the crap out of me and realized how hard it might have been to splint my own leg had I have had to. 

Jake and Grady are real disappointed at the thought of not getting out much this Spring but we'll get through it somehow. Say a few prayers for my dogs in hopes that we still can find a way to enjoy the mountains during this down time and hopefully I'll be seeing you all by late summer.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

More success photos

Keep sending them in.

Mark Midtlying
Quinn Inwards new pup, Joker has already got it figured.


Final days

Well the Idaho season has come to an end. We hit the hill as hard as possible the last three days and although we were successful in many ways, the last day painted a picture of what the future for me and the mountain is likely to look like. It wasn't pretty and although the pictures I took are the greatest parts of my hunts, they don't show the old man behind the camera. I hoped I would never get old ,but this year made me realize those dreams would not continue.

The first couple of days were on hills a little more negotiable than the third, but still put quite a hurt on the body. No falls or anything like that, just sore back and other muscles. I saved the last day for the bad stuff knowing where Greg and I would finish the season. Day one we had a darn good day and packed quite a good day on my back  to the truck.
It was warm and the snow was departing the mountain quite rapidly and we were lucky to beat the bad slides home.
We heard later that the road had been closed for a couple of hours that evening. The next day we hiked high above the fog and found a fair number of birds that wanted to tease us and we got some good entertainment, but it wasn't without some struggling. Not for the dogs but for me. My lungs and back said to make it a short one but we still gained about 1500 feet in elevation.
We got some great points and once in a while I even made a good shot ,but we cut the day shorter than usual. I always love taking point and honor shots with the camera.
Three days in a row are getting too much for Jake, even though he just turned 7.And  I knew he would be staying home the next day so I was concentrating more on his points as we headed back down the hill. He didn't disappoint me at all and finished the day with some fine action. The number of birds I've shot over him in the last 7 years is amazing.
Now to the killer. Day three. As I said. I knew where we were headed and I also knew how steep it was so I saved Jake the misery by leaving him at home with Barb. It was hard leaving my buddy behind, but I knew it was best. Greg Allen and I have hunted this spot for over 25 years and this was our first trip to this steep mountain this year. I mentally was prepared, so I thought. Here's a short video of Greg and his three girls Trudy, Katie and the pup Elsa. I headed up the slope early to video the excitement of the girls ready to go. Greg and I have been doing this together for over 30 years and he and his girls are the best hunting companions a guy could ever want.

Don't let the video fool you. This mountain is as steep a mountain as you can hunt. There is never a flat spot to sink your feet into. Even the ridges and draws are too steep to go straight up. Most places you can at least find a deer trail to follow, but not this mountain. You just side hill around and up the mountain until one ankle gets sore and than do a 180 until you get to the elevation you want to hunt. Greg always heads up the road about a half a mile and then hits the slopes to put some distance between us. I always know where he is from the distant shots or the covey of chukars flying high above me around the hill. Grady had no problem traversing the side hills, but even his points 150 yards away and usually up hill or down seemed to take me forever to get to.
Once again, don't let the picture fool you. The hill I am on is as steep as the opposite hill. In fact it is a continuation of the hill we are side hilling.  It just continues and the birds love it. I'd have to say I had at least 15 solid points on the day and most of half of them I just couldn't get to. Gaining the elevation was just kicking my butt.
When I would get to the point and shoot well the bird would always fall at least 100 yards down the hill making for hard and tiring retrieves. Once again this video shows the lst half a Grady's retrieve and the video does the steepness no justice.

Have I mentioned that the mountain was always steep. This long off shot of Grady is pretty much the same elevation as I was, but due to the steepness it still took me several minutes to get to his point 190 yards away and then not get a shot because the birds were down hill and to quick for me to get a shot.

 I took one passing shot that day and I ended up rolling side hill two or three times because of the steepness. I'd probably still be rolling if I had fallen down hill instead of  the way I did. I have to say seeing the number of birds I did kept both Grady and I excited but my body just decided to quit on me. Grady had find after find and I got some good photos and made a few nice shots afterwords but the work only began for Grady at the shot. The retrieves were long. 
As I look at these pictures I think was it really that bad or was I imagining it being steep. Did I mention how steep it was. This was my favorite point of the day and after the photo I made a crippling shot on a bird that fluttered down the hill out of sight.
Grady went down for the retrieve but had no idea the bird went as far as it did, so I had to head down the slope to what seemed forever until Grady found the bird and retrieved it to me. I looked back up at the elevation we had lost and decided there was no way I could get back up there and decided to stay at the current elevation. Grady's last point was shortly after that with the same results but this time the bird made it almost down to the road. Grady had no idea I had hit it and I knew I had to go down and help him find the bird. We did find the bird but I was spent for the day. We walked the final mile on the road with chukars calling us from above. In years past there is no way that I wouldn't have taken their challenging calls unless I had already limited out but this day was different. The will to continue was gone. It was almost not fun. Back at the truck we met Greg and took some photo's of his take.
Of course Grady had to get in the picture. In the past I would have considered this a great hunt but by now I was sore enough I was thinking of my bed back home. We drove the hour and a half back to Payette where Greg dropped me off  at my truck and continued my hour drive home. I stopped 6 times just to stretch and by the time I got home Barb had to help me bring the gear in while I soaked in the tub. 
If this post sounds like the whimpering of a whipped pup, it is. I'm apologizing for the future. Hopefully I'll be still posting, but it will probably be less success stories. I'm going to find more huntable areas for me and the boys and I know that means fewer birds. But you'll never hear me say it's not like it use to be because I know they are up there waiting for someone else who loves chasing chukars as much as me to come and challenge them.
I hope someone else comes along and starts a post about chukar hunting. Someone who has the energy to chase the birds in their natural habitat and understands the ups and downs of chukar hunting. Someone who understands that there will always be good bird number years as well as bad. Someone who knows that there is little interference by humans to affect those us and downs. Limit changing and season changing will not change what has worked for the last fifty years. Keeping public lands public will be the biggest challenge to keeping great chukar hunting. There are plenty of people out there to complain about those things as well as the tools and ways that others hunt. We need an ambassador for chukar hunting and the great dogs we follow and great birds we pursue.


Now, for my feelings about the 2019-2020 chukar season. For me it was above average. It started out with seeing a lot of young birds later in the season than usual so my early season found fewer shot birds but it picked up as the season progressed. We didn't have any rough weather conditions so accessibility wasn't much of an issue. Hunting pressure was minimal. The biggest plus for me was my shooting percentage. For the first time I was in the 70% range. 73% to be more exact. I think that was because I'm much slower now and am usually only getting one shot off so I'm taking more time.

One more thing. My rants for the year. Once again there is the talk about seasons and limits. Some want to move the limit back to 6 birds. Why? How many times do you shoot eight birds and what will it accomplish? It won't affect the bird numbers at all but might make some feel better because they got a limit. Most people know golf. That is like saying let's make the hole 4 inches bigger and make 80 par instead of 72. As far as the seasons, the game management has done a great job in finding what works best. The early season works for some and the late season for others. Accept it and move on. Some don't like the heat and some don't like the muddy roads in January. I wouldn't chukar hunt without a dog but I see no fault in those that drive a road until they see a covey bust and than chase them down. What makes their way of hunting any different than mine. This year I heard the rant of hunters riding in their four wheelers while their dogs ran and than would get off and shoot birds when the dogs would point. Not my style but do you really think they get more birds than the walking hunter? As long as what they are doing is legal put it out of your mind and enjoy your hunt the way you should.

Good luck to all in the future and I hope I'll hear from you soon.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Conner's back.

My little buddy has become a duck and goose hunting fanatic. So when he called a couple of days ago and said he wanted to do some chukar chasing I was more than thrilled to hit the snowy slopes again. The bird numbers were great and I'd have to say we saw a couple hundred birds. Most of them were running straight up the ridge or flying from the predators high above but they kept us encouraged that sooner or later we would get some points.


Conner and the boys had a little more hustle than I did and were soon hunting way ahead of me. I was amazed at how the dogs abandoned me for Conner. I guess they knew who the shooter was and I was happy just to hang back and watch. The day started out with this point (Grady is in the brush and Jake was honoring) and shot.


I really felt bad when the bird fell on the other side of the draw and the three of them had to go find it while I caught my breath.

Not much later, the boys pointed another covey and Conner got a double with one dropping dead and number two crippled it's way down to the deep brush. Conner had to help the boys located the bird and Grady finally stuck his head in and brought it out.

We had gained as much elevation as we thought we needed and started to cut across the slopes. Of course the northern exposures had a foot or two of damp snow to trudge through but the southern faces were bearable and the boys had yet another find for Conner. I cut the video short trying to get into a better position to watch Conner but before I got there he had one more bird in his bag.


The final point on camera was too much for me to handle. I'm saving the flush of these birds for another time. I was thrilled to watch Jake honor Grady as soon as he saw him but suddenly his attention turned to scent. Somehow the three of them had walked into the middle of a large covey of chukar that were lucky Conner was carrying my alternate over and under. He fired his two shots and dropped a bird. He didn't even try and reload but yelled up at me "wow, I've never seen that many chukar at one time.


Conner now had five chukars in his vest and I hadn't fired a shot. It's no wonder the dogs wanted to stay with him. We had gone almost three miles and a lot of the birds flew back behind us. Conner tried to convince me that most birds flew ahead of us but I was sure they had gone back toward the truck. As we headed back towards the truck the dogs picked up lot's of stragglers and Conner had to walk with an open shotgun. He had his eight birds.

With the camera down I finally got to participate and added another five to the pot.



The duck season closes Friday so I think Conner will be hunting with me next week end which will be the final weekend of the season. With 12 days left in the season I'll be chasing as much as possible but Jake and Grady get pretty spent after a days hunt in the snow. Of course I could go every day because I float like a butterfly through the snow. NOT!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Snowy hunt.

I had a good hunt over at the big pond today. Good because we got some birds, had some fine points, shot fair and didn't break anything or hurt anything.

We hunted in up to a foot of snow and a fierce wind. Luckily the temperature was somewhere in the mid 30's so it wasn't unbearable. There was no crust on the snow but the chukars ran on top of it as if it were a concrete highway. It's amazing to see the length of their stride.

Dog work wasn't the best because the birds running were so visible. Jake started a new habit this year of yipping at running birds and he did a lot of yipping today. We also saw birds flying high above us from all the birds of prey. The birds were also talking more than I have heard this year. I didn't see another rig on the way in and I'm pretty sure the only hunters on those slopes were the Eagles, Hawks and us.
Although we never saw the sun the temperature was warm enough to melt some of the snow. A few more days like this and it might get easier for me to get to the points. The steep ridges combined with the snow were sometimes taking me 10 minutes or so just on 200 yard points. Especially when they were on opposite of the draws. Only once today did Grady get outside of 250 yards and that was because he was on chase of about 30 birds that crow hopped around the hill
As usual the birds used the rocky area for shelter  and every time we approached one of those areas there was at least one chukar to be pointed.
I'll make it short by saying there is still some great hunting to be had over there and I assure you I will be over that way in the next two weeks as often as I can. Go get em and good luck.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

It's getting harder.

Admitting defeat is tough. Especially when it is between me and an inanimate object like a mountain. After this hunt I am giving in to the mountain and snow. The two of them together have beaten me. As much as I love watching the dogs work, these kind of days are no longer a challenge but almost torture. I came off the hill hurting so bad that I was ready to give it up. Of course after the long drive home with the hounds I once again can't wait to be on the mountain again but without the snow. Here's a summary of my day. Be prepared for a little whining.

The day began with around 4 inches of new snow and the temperature on my truck said 29 degrees. The roads were fairly clear to my destination until I got to the one lane dirt road which went up the mountain for about three miles. My truck made the only tracks for the day on the road. After getting stuck twice coming out I figured out why my tire tracks were the sole tracks for the day. I was the only one stupid enough to drive in there.

The snow was falling again but the temperature was very comfortable so Jake, Grady and I headed towards the mountain we intended to hunt.
You can see a 4 wheeler road in the draw but it can't be accessed this time of the year accept by snow mobiles which I actually saw one year but they were lion hunters. I knew once we got on the mountain we would be having bird dog fun. The problem became getting on the mountain. The walk in the draw wasn't too tough but eventually we had to head up. This is where we eventually started up because we could see chukars crow hopping through the rocks above.
Needless to say, my alpha said dog on point several times but before I could even get in sight birds were diving over the top of me heading for the other side. I never knew whether the dogs flushed the birds or what and after several falls I wasn't even caring very much. I just knew I had to get to where I could get some solid footing for a shot if it ever presented itself, and I was starting to doubt there was such a place. Here's a short video of Grady as he moved over the hill wondering why I never shot.
At one spot in the draw he had a hard time leaving it with all the tracks left after the birds got off their roost. I never saw those birds but could hear them taking off one by one, wondering how much fun it would have been if I were just 50 yards up the hill.

After 2 and a half hours I finally got above all the bad stuff (not for the chukars but for me) and followed the boys looking for birds.

We had climbed over 1800 feet and I could follow game trails around the hill to get to points without the worry of splitting my head open. By now my back was killing me but there was no way I was coming off that hill without seeing the dogs get a few points and me getting a few shots. We were in about 6 inches of snow now with soft dirt underneath. I wasn't up to taking pictures but did manage to get this long range shot of Jake on point but didn't get any follow up shots as I approached because I was more interested in putting a bird in the bag.
I also got the camera out to prove that I shot straight that time.
After about four hours on the hill I decided that I had had enough and started the trek back to the truck. Both dogs were hunting a lot closer now and I knew they felt the same. By now my back was gone and after we picked up one more bird I decide to break my gun down and put it in my pack. I shot a quick picture of my take with Jake and Grady, put everything back in my vest and slowly headed for the draw and the trail.


From that time on the boys seemed to know we were done with the hunt and pretty much broke trail for me to head down. By the time we got back to the truck I had gone 6.2 miles, Jake went 18.8 and Grady went 26.4. As I mentioned I got over 1800 feet in elevation gain and we had been on the hill for almost 6 hours.  That means I was covering a whopping mile per hour. To be honest, that surprised me. I thought I was even slower than that.

It was a very successful days in most ways. Bird numbers were great with some coveys looking to have close to 40 birds or more but those were the coveys we never got close to. We got more birds than I probably deserve but not as many as the dogs deserved. We saw deer, elk and a coyote. Pretty much what most would call a great day, including myself. 

But back at the truck I wasn't feeling so good about it. I wasn't sure about the hour and a half ride home with my back hurting like it was. I stopped every 15 minutes to do a lap around the truck and stretch the best I could. The dogs were fine just to sleep in the back seat of course. My back has been getting worse every year and last year my doctor said I should probably look into getting an operation. This year it has seemed to get worse by the month. But more than a bad back, I think it's the snow and frozen north exposures. From the moment I stepped out of the truck until I returned I felt tensed up on each step. Somehow I think the brain prepares you for these conditions and you use different muscles as you hike.

I know that's a lot of whining for such a wonderful day but it opened my eyes to my capabilities as I approach 69 years of age. It's time to let the young men take on the mountain on these snowy days. Hell, I'm retired and can pick and choose the days I hunt now. I've got 4 and a half months to choose from so all I have to do is convince Jake and Grady that is best. 

Just a thought for you guys reaching the middle ages. Stretch a lot and don't let your upper body get so out of shape and maybe you won't ever have to say I can't swing left to right or vice versa. Being sore is the pits.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Chukar populations.

Today after reading a post from Bob Mcmichaels  "Chukar Culture" blog I decided to try and dismiss some of the common myths about chukar seasons and numbers. Understand that I know Bob and respect his and Leslie's abilities to hunt chukars and keep us entertained with his blog. His hunting with Angus and Peat (Brittanies) is well known and his blogs are informative and fun. Rather than stealing his page with a long rebuttal I decided to use my own space to hopefully portray my feelings on a few of his rants.

First, is the mention of moving the daily limit back to 6. I remember back about 10 years ago when we fought to get the limit back up to 8 and the several meetings I had with other hunters and the F&G. The end result was that the reason the limit was moved down to 6 was because of the need to please some hunting groups. All records showed that lowering the limit did nothing to increase the next year's populations. I remember one member of a popular hunting group actually saying "he didn't care if the limit was lowered to two birds because that was his personal limit anyway". He obviously had a louder voice than me.

Most of what I say is just personal feelings, but there is a lot of literature out there to help me out. Every written study on chukar populations say that hunting pressure has very little impact on populations. In fact the average of birds taken by hunters is 8%. This isn't just a guess. Many studies have used radio footed devices to track the birds throughout the season. The main cause of death was from eagles and hawks during the migrating season. Obviously they are much more efficient hunters than humans. Plus they are adapt to getting to where we can't get. One study I read from Nevada said "the effects of seasonal limits has little impact on bird numbers but the problem is for biologist to educate hunters to accept this". Properly informed hunters are an integral part of good game management.

Second, Bob mentioned about moving the opening date of chukar season back a little. He's right. There are lot's of young birds and it would be nice to see them get a little bigger. Be careful in what you wish for. Once we lose it it will be harder to ever get it back. What about those who say January is a bad month for hunting because the birds are forced closer to the roads. I personally don't believe that, but I hear that at times and quickly try and dismiss those thoughts before they get a group together and go complain to the F&G. Those are the people that the game department hear from the most. Why would the happy hunters go in and complain until they feel they are going to lose a good thing. Remember "properly informed hunters are an integral part of good game management". You don't have to shoot the 3/4 sized birds on that early season. Be a little picky. It's easier than you think once you set your mind to it. There is also the complaint that the early season makes it too easy for hunters to slaughter the birds around a water source. This may be true but it wouldn't matter whether the opening day was September 20 or October 10, that opening week will still be the same slaughter until the birds have been educated. Opening season of everything is pretty much the same.

Every game department in the northwest pretty much have the same feelings about chukar and hun hunting. It is pretty much self regulatory in the fact that hunting pressure decreases as the chukar population decreases. In other words, there will be more chukar hunters on those peak seasons and hunters give up soon on the down years. Since I've been hunting chukars in the 70's I can vouch for this.

As far as the atv's and utv's, I wish many of the people that use them in the way that Bob mentions wouldn't do so. They give chukar hunting a black eye in my opinion. My way is boots on the ground and using the side by side just to get to an area. I don't believe the guys that are just riding on the atv while their dog is up hunting are killing as many birds as they are educating but as long as it is legal we have to accept it. I just know the places I hike to can only be accessed by foot unless you are an eagle.

One last thing I'd like to mention. Another hunting companion asked me why the F&G doesn't build guzzlers in Idaho like they did in Nevada. It's pretty simple, guzzlers do not improve chukar survival, productivity or availability to hunters. Think about it. How many times have you found hidden seeps or springs while chukar hunting. Utah State did a study on the effects of available water on chukar populations and their final conclusion was "installation of rain-catchment devices is not a feasible technique for improving chukar habitat."

I try and learn as much about the chukar seasons as I can because it is the dogs and my favorite time of the year. I always go with the intentions of getting 8 birds but that seldom happens. Yes, I do stop hunting  an area because I don't see many birds and am satisfied with fewer birds. I do try and do everything possible to keep the bird numbers up but am still conscious of what really matters. What really has an affect is what I have no control of.

Pretty much, each season becomes hit and miss as far as chukars go. This year was a prime example. I really thought with the spring we had it would be a banner year, but according to most it was just average. I had several good hunts and honestly saw a lot of birds and did see a lot of late young birds but chukars don't have a calendar. Range conditions determine chukar production but our hunting attitude is what makes for great chukar hunting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A new decade

Today is the beginning of a new decade for all of us. For the younger hunters just starting their journey in upland hunting or any other type hunting for that matter, I encourage you to keep a journal. I've kept notes for the past thirty years but only on a tablet my first ten years until my daughter, Kerri, made me my first upland journal. Since that time I have recorded each individual hunt no matter how meaningless it may have been.

I quit keeping a journal the last two years and after reading through the past twenty years of journals I will be back at recording my hunts.

I started out by looking through my journals to find the date Dakota, my second GSP, was chased by a cougar and I ended up shooting the cat at 7 yards. Once I found the date, Christmas eve 2004, I became curious about many of the other things that happened during my thrilling chukar hunts.

Of course the most memorable moment was Tucker's first point and retrieve on Oct.29, 1996. He pointed his first upland bird which ended up being a pheasant and he was so small he had to try and drag it back to me. Since that time he brought me many memories such as the time he went head over heals several time while chasing a cripple down a steep slope. I wrote how scared I was when I watched it but also how relieved I was to see him unscathed and the crippled bird in his mouth. I had many more of those moments over the years, but got more used to it realizing that is part of hunting chukar terrain.

Although I usually hunt alone, I  travel to the hunting areas with other hunters and then we go our own ways. I'd forgotten about many of those people and the great stories we shared to and from home. Greg Allen and I have spent so many hours riding together over the past thirty years I could write a book of all the crazy things that have happened to us. Like the time we got stuck in a snow drift with his son and his son's friend. It was before the cell phone craze and we had no way of communicating back home. We were pretty sure we were there for the night and this was the first hunt the friend had been on and his parents knew nothing about Greg or I. As we huddled in the truck Greg and I wondered what the parents were thinking about us. Then the lion hunters came and pulled us out. That was clear back in 2001.

Like I mentioned, except for Conner, I usually hunt alone but I offered to take a friend hunting one day. He mentioned he might bring a friend and I was a little miffed when he showed up with four guys. I was hunting with Tucker and Dakota at the time and they had never hunted with anyone but me. I bit my tongue and figured on giving it a try but left my shotgun in the truck worrying about watching hunters and my dogs to make sure everything was safe. By the end of the day I was one proud dog owner. Team Tuckota were champs and everybody got to shoot off points. None of the guys had ever shot a chukar before and by the end of the day we came home with 26 birds.

Oh , and my fall on November 28, 2004 that put the final crunch on my right knee. The next day we scheduled my knee replacement for the first available day in February, after the season ended.

On January 8, 2005, Jeff Dooms, my neighbor and best friend shot his first limit of chukars. He had hunted with me for several years without a dog but didn't like my pace so his wife, Teresa, got him his own GSP, Calvin, and the hook had been set. Four years later he died in a head on collision. A person who shared many hours talking about our dogs. He and I got pretty beat up dislodging a deer stuck in a barb wired fence that year.

That same year, another friend of mine,Claire Eberhardt, lost his twelve year old GSP on a hunt. It was 1/23/05 and the temperature in the Owyhees never got above freezing. She didn't have one of the new Astro's and with the fog and cold had no way to look for her. We started a fire and walked and drove around calling her name for five days with no luck. On the fifth day we had figured the worst. On the way out, a local rancher, 25 miles away stopped us and had found her walking the road by his house. Happy ending and a hunt to write about.

The season of 2005-2006 was my most successful season to that date. It was the first year of the Astro and maybe that could explain my success, but I'd rather believe it was my dogs. I wrote in my notes "all I have to do is let my dogs find the birds and they will hold them until I get a good shot". I got my first double/double that year. That's a limit of huns and chukars in Idaho.

One of my notes said "the dogs pointed a coot today". I remember it well. Miles from a reservoir and a coot takes off from the sage.

2006 and 2007 were probably my funnest years. I get to hunt behind three shorthairs. Tucker, Dakota and Riley. They complimented each other very well and I can't count how many points I walked up on with two honors.

11/21/2008 was the first day I ever can remember going chukar hunting and not seeing a single bird.

I compare all of my dogs by the notes of my journals and it is amazing how I had the same complaints about each one as well as the compliments. I've finally learned that bird dogging is a process that takes time. They have all chased, they have all dropped retrieves, they all seem to have no nose at times, and they are all great.

I don't know how we hunted before the Astro came about. Several of my earlier notes mention my dogs being out of hearing range of the beepers. Somehow we managed and although I had some panic moments I never lost a dog.

Evidently I've always been a whiner. I can't count the times that I complained about how hard it is getting up those mountains. Even clear back in the early 2000's. Complaining about having fun must be a chukar thing.

Other notables, Oregon shut down chukar season 15 days early in 2004 and Idaho closed season 1/10/09. The only early closures I have notes of. The Oregon closure was for Baker county and because of that I ended up finding some more great hunting places in Malheur county. Reading through my journals brings back many of those spots I don't hunt anymore and am wondering why.

My last hunt with the three Amigo's was 10/22/09 and Tuckers last hunt was 11/19/09. Great days. My last chukar hunt with my son was 12/23/11 and he limited out.

The season of 2010-2011 beat 2005-2006 in success. It was truly the good days. That year it was nothing to go to different places every day and see 100 birds or more.

January 2011. I finally beat the mountain. This steep hill is always filled with chukars but I could never get a limit. My best at this spot was 5 for 18 shots. It had my number.  On this particular day I went 8 for 8 and finnaly beat it.

January 2012. The duct tape eight. I had to duct tape my shotgun back together to finish a hunt. Chukar hunting has been rough on many  guns.

Summer of 2012 had Riley in getting knee's fixed and he was back at it for hunting season.

This is a big one. Conner's first chukar hunt. Although he wasn't carrying a gun yet he was right with me on each step. 11/23/12.

10/19/13. Blew out left knee bad enough that I couldn't wait until season end to replace it. I got one more month in before the operation but was on the hill hunting chukar the last week of January 2014.

1/13/15, Conner's best day on the hill. 4 chukars behind the dogs at 12 years old. On 11/25/17 he shot his first limit of chukars at the age of 14. He's done that several times since.

So, that is my account of why I keep a journal. Even typing this up gets me excited and brings a lump to my throat at times. There are so many memories besides the killing on hunts and the brain don't remember them all without some help. Unlike many of the gentlemen my age, looking back over the years, I can't say it's not like the good ol days because I don't believe chukar hunting has changed that much. At least for me it hasn't.