Monday, April 12, 2010

times change

Lately, Ive been hearing a lot of talk about the low numbers of chukars lately. Mostly, people are saying that it's not like it was twenty years ago. In order to know that, you had to be hunting twenty years ago. In my case I'm fortunate enough to say I remember what it was like hunting forty plus years ago. I agree, it's not like it was back than. But as far as game numbers, especially chukars, the numbers are as good now as ever. Pheasant may have taken a beating due to farming practices, but most other bird numbers are good.
I don't care for a lot of the changes that have happened over my life time, but if I want to be successful I have to adapt. The same goes for chukar hunting. More roads, more hunters, different uses of the land and many other influences have changed the habits of birds.
A perfect example of this is watering troughs or springs. Ranchers have developed watering areas for there cattle several miles away from roads to keep their stock from having to walk miles to water. The only water available at one time was probably closer to a road. Wildlife found this same resource much more likable then the water where everyone drives by.
Another example is fire. Over the past forty years there have been fires that change the landscape. Places that at one time were covered with sage may now be a mountain of cheat grass. Places where the cheat may have been, may have burned so hot the ground may be sterile for a few years. The wildlife had to vacate this area to a place more rich in food.
There are numerous reasons for change in wildlife habitat. The animals evolve with these changes. But we humans seem to find it harder to change. I remember forty five years ago fishing with my dad at lucky peak reservoir. It was nothing to see a hundred deer or more coming to the water for a drink. Ten years ago I fished the same place with dad and he complained that there were not deer like there use to be. Dad, being old and stubborn, wouldn't concede that it might be because there were five hundred cars a day traveling that road where forty five years ago we might not even see another rig.
So many of the people that complain about the low number of birds are people in my age group or older. I understand the feeling. But, my complaint isn't that the number of birds has declined, it's that it's getting harder. I'd like to believe that the hills have actually gotten steeper, but they haven't. It's not twice as far into that great chukar draw, it just seems it. Many times it is easier to lay the blame on something else. As we get older and things change it becomes easier to lay blame on lack of birds rather than that we have to work harder for them.
Sometimes I feel the same. I know that the chukars are on top of that ridge but my legs just won't carry me there. Because they are not where I am at doesn't mean a lack of birds. It means I am to worn out to get to them.
I often hear that we are losing the younger generation of hunters. Could one of the reasons for this be the message we are sending them? Instead of saying there aren't birds like there use to be we should be encouraging them to get out there and find them. There are plenty of chukars to be had if you don't mind getting out and finding them. If I was a new hunter and I kept hearing from my mentors that there just aren't any birds out there, I don't think I could get very enthused.
And last, I'm so grateful that there are plenty of chukars and huns out there to pursue. I still have a passion for this type of hunting. This is what helps me stay young. I plan on following my dogs after these birds for another twenty years. But when my time comes up, I don't want to be one of those who blame it on the lack of bird numbers. I will admit that they have finally worn these old legs down.
So, to you young chukar hunters. Don't listen to us old farts complaining. Train a good dog, grab your shotgun, put lots of shells in your vest, and head for the mountain. There are plenty of chukar to be had. All you need is a good dog and enthusiasm. Good luck.


fj790 said...

Very good historical perspective. I think you're right about the number of hunters, for better or worse Idaho's prime chukar areas are for the most part not that far from its population centers, just alot more folks in the vicinity.
I happen to be one of those "lost" out of state hunters still chasing pheasants in south-central Idaho. While pheasant numbers are certainly down, hunter numbers are down even more. I really kind of like it, maybe even prefer it this way. I often hunt during the week and seldom even see another hunter. No more consistent limits though, at least not until the crops have been harvested and there's more than 2-3" of snow and even then it can take 10-12 miles of walking. As I tell my kids, all the fresh air and exercise no extra charge!
Other observations from down here northern Utah way: chukar in Utah's west desert way down, sharpies in SE Idaho excellent, huns absolutely boomed in 1999-2001 then crashed but coming back nicely, as you said things fluctuate.

larry szurgot said...

I hunt a lot during the week also. An advantage that I have but forget to mention. Hopefully the chukars will come back in your area soon. I have no rcords to show this, but I think chukars hatch about two weeks after huns do. If this is true that might be a reason why the huns have started rebounding in your area and not the chukars. I know around my place we have had years where the huns did well and not the chukars and vice versa. I hope the pheasant hunting stays good for you. Nothing much more exciting than a rooster cackling his way out of the field.

Karl said...

I'm on board with you Larry. There's also too many people whining instead of getting involved and making things better.