Thursday, December 24, 2009
When it's cold out things not only change for the hunter, they also become more extreme for the hunted. I was out on a chukar hunt yesterday and the temperature at 9 A.M. was 4 degrees and when I got off the mountain at 12:30 it had only improved by 7 degrees. Even at that I was sweating from all the up and down hiking I did. It didn't take long to cool down though. I was getting cold by the time I had loaded my gun into it's case and organized everything for the ride home into the back seat of my truck. I was ready for the truck heater to kick into high gear.
Riley was also cooling down fast. Staying dry on the hill he never showed any signs of being cold. As soon as we got back to the truck he was ready to get inside and curl up into a ball in the back seat. Not moving, he was also ready for the truck heater.
Birds don't have the luxury that we do. They don't have a heater to turn on when they get cold.If we want the birds to survive the winter cold we have to use a little common sense and let them use what mother nature gave them to survive. That is simply the ability to group into coveys. That is why you start seeing bigger coveys in the cold harsh weather. At night the birds huddle together in a covey and use each others warmth to survive the cold. You may recall finding big piles of bird droppings in the bottom of draws. That is where they roosted together. In the morning they feed back up onto the sunny slopes or into the heavy sage where they can find some open area.
There are several things we can do to help these birds survive the winter. Don't hunt the same area time after time. Give the birds at least a week between hunts so they aren't stressed all the time. If you are finding few birds back off them for the year completely. Don't road hunt. Many times under severe circumstances the birds are on the edges of back roads getting what food they can. That may be the only open country. Pushing those birds up into the deep snow just stresses them out more. Besides that's not hunting, that's just killing.
The main thing we as hunters can do to help the chukars survive harsh conditions is to quit earlier in the day. Chukars can survive almost all conditions given the opportunity. Call the hunt off early enough for the birds to covey up. Often after shooting at a covey you hear the birds talking all around you. That is what they are doing. Communicating to try to covey up. If there's only a couple hours of light left then get off the hill and let them do so. Next year you and your dog will appreciate the precautions you have made to keep these birds healthy.