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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

What a day

Just when I start wondering if things are going to ever get any better for me the dogs show me the good side of the mountain and things aren't quite as tough as I thought they were. Yesterday I had that day we all dream of, the day you just trust your dogs and let them lead you to chukar/hun heaven.

I should have known from the beginning it was going to be a good day. The area I hunted had two ways of getting into: legs or atv. There had been snow on the atv trail for over a month and I could tell there hadn't been a vehicle on the trail since the first snow fell so I figured hoped it hadn't been hunted much. I never saw another human track or old dog tracks, so I was hopeful for a fun day if my back and leg could handle it.

Quickly, the dogs took care of my health issues. They urging me up the hill with multiple points and honors. The dogs were fantastic. Not once did I see birds flying high above flushing from dogs. Not saying it didn't happen but if it did I never saw them. What did happen though, was my Alpha constantly telling me one or both dogs being on point. Sometimes not as close as I wanted but it didn't matter, they held the birds tight until I got to them. Sometimes it was quite a while. Two particular times I'm guessing it took close to 30 minutes to get to their point and honor. While you are huffing and puffing up the hill you don't take time to clock yourself but it sure seemed that long. 


Both times the boys held to the flush and got to retrieve some birds.


Although the two of them have always hunted well together they worked exceptionally well yesterday.


The only time one of the boys broke honor was on this point when I moved 30 yards below the point.  Jake couldn't handle it any more and swung below wanting to make sure he was in the action. Grady never moved a muscle and I could tell by his intensity the bird was between us. As I moved back up the hill towards him, the single chukar flushed and flew straight up so close I didn't dare shoot and blow him apart. He finally swung to my left, which is my bad side and I fired twice watching him sail away without even a feather falling from him. Of course the dogs made a short follow to make sure I didn't get lucky but were disappointed in my shot.


The only negative thing for the day was the number of times the dogs went on point on different birds. Sometimes as far between them as 200 yards. Of course I took the point that was easiest to get to. Not once did Jake or Grady break until I flushed the birds making it easy to get a clean shot or two.


Sometimes I would be successful and some not so good. 


Every time the dog that was off on another point showed up soon after the shot to see if I had done my job. I never knew what happened on the other point but moved in that direction hoping to find those birds and often the dogs found them for me.


We hunted for five hours and covered five miles which isn't much for many chukar hunters but these days it is great for me. Besides my grandson, Conner, there is no therapy better than these two dogs to push me into shape.


As tired and sore as I was at the end of the hunt, I was already wondering where we going to hunt next time out. I just can't get enough of watching these boys work. In my eyes they were flawless. They are perfect in my eyes.

Jake and Grady have become a great team and are now hunting like the original Team Tuckota, the two who originally got me hooked on chukar hunting with two dogs. I remember feeling like all I had to do was take those two into chukar country, follow them until they found birds, shoot well off their point and I would come home with some good eating. Well, that's how I feel about Jake and Grady.


This is a great January to be out on the chukar mountain. As you can see from the pictures there are plenty of burnt off slopes to hunt as well as some steep snowy north slopes to test your ability on frozen ground. Yesterday I got my taste of both and have to admit to liking the slopes with soft dirt for good footing even though I found as many birds on the bad stuff. 


I wasn't going to take a tailgate shot feeling that it couldn't add to the great day we had on the mountain, but decided to take a picture for encouragement that there are plenty of birds out there. I saw as many birds, both huns and chukars as I have ever seen on a January hunt and there are plenty left for carry over. More than anything else, this hunt showed me we are there. Jake, Grady and I are at the point where we know each and every hunt is going to be successful. Sometimes we may not get birds but we are at the point where we trust each other to cover the mountain with very little said and know that if there are birds there we have a good chance of finding them. 

Most of all, I have total confidence we have the same goal on the mountain and I trust these two to perform to the best of their ability to make me look successful. I only hope that all chukar hunters can have days like this. The kind of day that really shows the dogs worth. 

Good luck the rest of the season and give your dog an extra treat for working so hard for you. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

You got to believe

Five more days of hunting in 2020 and like most people I have to say it wasn't the best for me. But even at that, it doesn't take much looking to realize how lucky I am and there are many out there not as fortunate as I am.

As far as for me personally, you all know about my leg and back surgeries that are still up in the air as to whether they might need some tweeking, but no matter what I'm still able to get on the mountain. The new complication came December 8th when I was knocked flat by Covid. It was about as sick as I can remember being, but I probably said the same thing the last time I had the Flu. I was down for about three days and felt I was coming back and after a hunt with the boys I was down for another three. The Doc gave me some steroids and told me to treat it like the Flu and just take care. So me and the boys were soon on the mountain again. This disease seems to attack all the old injuries on the body and I have had a few. My lungs burnt like the first day of football practice and needless to say the dogs did a lot of waiting for me. But waiting they did and encouraged me up the hill.

The good news is that even though I'm still having some lung issues, I'm not contagious anymore and Covid is a thing of the past for me. 

Jake and Grady have had an up and down year. I believe the downs were mainly caused by my inability to move on the mountain as we have in the past and they had a tough time adjusting to me. We found decent bird numbers but had far too much busting of birds. For the most part, I held back from shooting those birds but was never in position to correct any bad habits forming. Luckily, as the season progressed the boys got it figured out on their own. My camera has been left in the truck most of this season so I don't have the proof of how the boys came around but they really got solid again for me. Here's a couple taken when I did have the camera. Jake

and Grady


The two of them have carried me through what could have been a very slow season if I hadn't believed in them, the birds and me. I really believed that I would recover much faster from my injuries and that part was a little disappointing but my belief in the dogs and birds kept me coming back. I knew the boys would turn it around and give me some great opportunities if I just kept going back and they didn't let me down. Even though there was a lot of pessimism from many hunters on the bird numbers this year I knew that those hunters would quit hunting and leave that many more mountains to search chukars out. I was right. I haven't seen another hunter or heard one in a month. But I have seen more birds than expected. Put being on the mountain together with two dogs and lot's of birds and you have a recipe for success.

 
Not all days are like these

but if you don't believe you'll find birds and the dogs will do their part
then you'll never have these days.
These were the results of my last three hunts. The only bragging I mean by these pictures is of those two dogs. I can't remember the last time my lungs burned like those hunts. It was hard to even get out of the truck and get started but once I did the excitement of those two transferred to me and I knew I was in for another fun journey. None of those trips started out finding birds early and it would have been easy to turn back and go another day but I believed the dogs would eventually find birds and they did. And while on the mountain I saw so much country we hadn't even touched yet and showed great possibilities. Country I believe has to have birds covering the slopes for my dogs to find. I still have another month to find the legs to get there and create another memory.




 

 



 
 



 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Another old picture

 Sometimes while hunting something happens that we can't explain. About 25 years ago, I had Tucker on a chukar hunt with me. As we headed up the hill we watched around 25 head of elk go over the ridge. Later as we rounded the hill I saw this yearling standing and watching Tucker trying to find some chukars. It was aware that I was there but showed no fear. I started taking pictures of the elk at about 75 yards or so and kept snapping pictures until the role of film was out.


The last picture I took was at 5 yards and the elk didn't move a muscle.


At one point I made Tucker stay for a picture with the elk. The elk didn't seem to mind but Tucker wasn't comfortable at all with the situation.


The only thing I can come up with on this encounter is that maybe this yearling was actually asleep when the rest of the heard meandered off and it didn't know how to react without mom along to show fear of me. Probably lot's of possibilities but interesting encounter all the same.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Appreciation

 Things haven't quite turned out the way that I hoped this hunting season. My leg hasn't healed the way I hoped and my back operation seems to be not  successful. None of it is due to nothing but me. Everybody involved did their best, but each step on the hill is painful and it is getting harder to stay excited about the next hunt. That's the bad news. 

The good news is two chukar dogs that love to hunt. They are the reason I get up at least three times a week and travel to a chukar mountain. I owe it to them to get them out as often as possible. After all, I'm the one who introduced them to this excitement that they love. So out we go chasing the dream. Like usual, it's a long hike before we finally find some birds but the dogs are willing to run and cover the ground looking for that wonderful scent. Outside of me being much slower, every hunt seems to be the same as before for them. I have become use to not seeing birds for the first hour or two but this year it's bothering me more because from the moment I step out of the truck I hurt. Somehow watching the dogs do what they do helps to forget about the pain. And even though we don't seem to be working as well together as we have in the past, I haven't lost my love of seeing them in action.

Take yesterdays hunt. After the collars were put on the dogs, they immediately headed straight up the mountain. Being cold, I had some muffs over my ears and maybe they had heard chukars high up on the hill that I couldn't hear. My leg won't let me go straight up so I have to side hill back and forth to gain elevation and most of the time the boys are out of sight. But they know we are a team and every once in a while they will come back and get a peek to make sure I'm still with them. I am amazed at how many times I check the Alpha and they are covering a different area but than show up right in front of me. They have an instinct to not lose me. 

The first birds I saw were swinging around the mountain about 100 yards to my right at a high rate of speed. Shortly after, Grady came down at a fast trot. My first instincts were to correct this bad behavior but I quickly remembered I am the variable that has changed on the mountain this year. I gave him a quick no and he headed back up the mountain. Not long after that I heard Jake excitedly yipping as he does when he is following some running bird scent, and just as I see him the birds flush way out of range. It is something he has done all his life, without the flushing so I let it go. But still, I'm hurting and would just like to get a shot. 

About an hour and a half into the hunt I had my first point, or should I say dual points. Grady was 250 yards to my left and Jake was 47 yards to my right. No brainer here. Jake's point was flawless as I walked in front and busted the covey. After the shot Grady was there before Jake had retrieved the bird to me. I don't know what happened on his point but he wasn't about to miss out on action. Bird in the vest we moved on.

The rest of the day went about the same. We had some more blunders along with some great dog work. At times, when I could see the dogs, I stopped to rest and just enjoyed watching the dogs cover the ground. Taking the weight off my leg and back was welcomed. It was amazing to watch them work the area in their different ways. Grady going 100 miles an hour and Jake methodically using his nose. Watching them I really got an appreciation of what they do for me. 

Later on I heard Grady wildly yipping and suddenly a large covey of chukars dove over my head with Grady not too far behind. I didn't know why the yipping and chase but figured that maybe someday when I could actually see the action I can correct it. We had plenty more blunders, some I can understand, and also more good dog work. It ended up being one of those good days in spite of me limping around and the dogs doing some bird chasing. I'd say if someone was watching from the distance and saw my boys chasing birds they might think I had some pretty wild dogs and at times they might be right. But they would have to see the many points in between those wild moments to really appreciate how special they are. They know how to find birds and many times hold them so that even a crippled old man can get some action. That's pretty darn special.


A side note back to the last post and old pictures. This ram was obvious hard asleep on this hunt. Tucker and I were chukar hunting when we got about twenty yards from him and he jumped up. He seemed startled before he quickly disappeared.



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Old pictures

Rainy day today so I got caught today inside looking over old pictures. I don't mean digital pictures but those from a camera that needed film exposures, if that's the right term. I remember packing a camera around back then and having to stop and put new film in because I ran out. I had to climb out of a bear den once because I ran out of exposures and as I was changing film the bear about bowled me over escaping. 

Anyhow, obviously I had some fond memories brought back to me such as this one about 20 years ago while hunting with Tucker and Dakota the beginning of TEAM TUCKOTA. It amazes me of how many close encounters we have while chasing chukars. You'd think with all the commotion animals would be exiting rapidly but I believe at times wild animals are interested in what the crazy dogs are doing. This picture is one example.


I noticed both dogs acting strange towards a clump of sage but neither dog was acting birdie so I approached the bush. To my surprise I could see this lion staring at me. I was only about 10 yards away when I realized what was there and soon figured it wasn't acting threatening so I traded my shotgun and snapped this picture. As I moved to get a different angle he or she trotted away in a casual manner and the boys went on hunting.

It was a cool encounter since everything went without an injury. But it was also cool to be so close without the cat, dogs or myself getting aggressive. I always have a lion and wolf tag in my possession just in case. Take the case where I shot the lion hot on Dakota's tracks while chukar hunting one year. The lion wasn't a yard behind my dog when I pulled the trigger and later realized I didn't have to shoot. The lion was only using the same escape route that Dakota was using to get out of the rocks. He was just a little faster and probably would have run over the top of my dog getting out of there with me yelling like a crazed fool in fear for my dog.



Over the years my records only show two years that I haven't seen a mountain lion while chukar hunting but I have to wonder how many times there has been one within 50 yards of me and the dogs without us even knowing it. There has been three other times that I have jumped a lion at less than 10 yards and they trotted off at a fast lope with very little care. They had plenty of time to get out of the country with the dogs running all over the place but didn't until I got too close.

I found a few other interesting photos but will save them for another day. The weather is looking great for some bird hunting so get those mutts out there and enjoy it. I know I am.

P.S. for Alan

Treed large female lion.


Climbing up tree with her. 


Decided that wasn't too smart so I climbed the tree next to her to snap a shot. When she started digging her feet in I decided it was time to retreat not knowing whether she was going to head my way or down the tree. She lived to hunt more wildlife.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Moisture and the mutts

 Sometimes it's hard to put a finger on poor dog work. I know that more than just once I have wondered if my dog has gone brain dead. The beginning of this bird season had me wondering about Grady and my letting him run wild this summer. It seemed like he had found a new past time, chasing birds. As the hunting season came upon us, I tried to explain that I could make them run and fly without his help but it seemed like we weren't connecting. Jake, on the other hand, has learned to pace himself while Grady bumped more and more birds. I knew it was hot and dry, making scenting conditions tough, but things were getting a little out of hand. We had a few decent days but watching birds fly 100 yards away was beginning to get old. I was thinking we might have to go back to the basics and then the snow came.

It takes birds to make a good hunting dog, but it takes bird scent equally as much. I decided after Grady's performance today that for the past month his nostrils were filled with dust and pollen. He was running so hard he was creating clouds of dust he couldn't see birds through. Today's snow knocked all the dust down and Grady became a  different dog. I mention Grady just because for the most part Jake has become mister dependable and has learned not to get all fired up like Grady. His pace is a little slower and purposeful. He might not find as many birds but he very seldom bumps them.

From the time we left the truck Grady was off to the races. 300 yards to my left, then three hundred yards to my right and then three hundred yards behind me. There wasn't much area uncovered. I knew that because even though I usually couldn't see my boys there tracks were everywhere in the new snow. I was wondering how many birds had already been flushed that I never heard or saw, when my Alpha said Grady on point 158 yards away. I headed towards him and soon it showed Jake on point in the same general area. When I got there Jake was honoring Grady and I could see the birds about 20 yards in front of Grady huddled in the snow. The birds held well until I moved to the front of the dogs and then flushed. Neither dog moved a muscle until the flush and shot. Wow! That's how it's supposed to be. How come that hadn't happened much in the past month?

As the day progressed I saw more and more of that great dog work by both boys.  I only saw one covey busted wild. Both dogs were on point ahead of me and out of sight when the birds busted at about 100 yards away. I don't know if the dogs broke or the birds just flushed.

 I had 3 or 4 points that were solid but, when I approached, all I saw was bird sign where they had been feeding but had flown earlier and left plenty of scent.

To make it short I had excellent dog work today and I attribute that to the snow or moisture. I know better but I was expecting more out of my dogs then they could produce. Grady traveled just as far and fast as his past hunts but seemed to be able to find and hold the birds. By the time we got back to the truck we had 11 birds with only 10 shots. It wasn't because of good shooting but good dog work. Outside of getting a scotch double on one covey of huns I shot one bird out of each covey pointed.


The only draw back to the day was when I saw Grady trying to get something that seemed to be stuck in his mouth. As I approached I could see the quills in his lips. I never saw the porcupine, but evidently Grady is getting smarter because there were only about 20 and they came out fairly easily.

Another note is the condition of the birds. None of the chukars had any fat at all and the huns had just a little. Their crops were filled with seeds and no green grass. As long as we get some good sunny days this snow will have done us a lot of good. Not only for scenting but to get the grasses growing and helping the birds fatten up before the real cold season comes.

I saw loads of birds today so get out there and let your dogs do what you got them for. And trust them to use their instincts to find you birds.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Up Chuk or Chuk Up

 Today I finally got on a real chukar mountain and even with the hot and dry conditions I made 5 miles and 1800 feet of elevation gain. As the title says many times my body wanted to quit and do a little up chuking. Luckily, Jake and Grady were the stimulus I needed. They were covering the mountain with gusto even if I couldn't. Watching them covering the mountain forced me to chuk up and get to where they were telling me the birds were. 

It wasn't with a lot more stops than usual but just getting there was a huge accomplishment today. And although Grady busted far more birds than I would have liked they did have enough good dog work to keep me happy. Especially Jake who has learned to pace himself.

The really good news is that there were loads of birds. I don't believe we went more than 10 minutes without seeing a chukar after the original hour of getting to them. Some held great and some acted like January birds. It was my first time to really get into chukar country and I believe the numbers are up for the year even after that very wet June.

Tomorrow I'm sure I'll pay the price for being in such bad shape but it will be a good price to pay when I think of how much fun I had with the boys on the mountain. I'm not packing a camera on my trips yet but did get a tailgate picture of the boys take for the day. It looks like cooler and wetter weather coming in the next few days so I'm hoping to get out for some more fun and maybe a little better dog work (GRADY). Hope to see you and the dogs out there.