Friday, October 29, 2010

5 days of heaven

The boys and I took five days and headed over to Oregon for the first time this year. What a wonderful trip. The weather was more than cooperative and the birds were obliging as well.
The first day found Riley and Dakota together on the mountain finding the birds. There was a slight drizzle, but not enough to make us uncomfortable. The camera stayed in the truck but I had plenty of opportunities for good camera shots. We had a great day and managed to get off the hill just before the skies let loose with the rain.

On the second day I went to a different location. The weather was perfect. I left Dakota in the camper and hunted Riley. He had an outstanding day. We found plenty of chukars and I had ample opportunities for camera work as well as gun work. Riley at age three has turned into a fantastic chukar dog.
When I returned to camp I was pleased to find Kirklan of waiting. Kirklan is quite a bird hunting guru so I was excited to pick his brain. We discussed dogs, birds, falconry and every other topic involved with the outdoors and retired for the third day of chasing chukars for me.

On day three I had both Dakota and Riley with me and Kirklan split in his own direction with Darko and Rader. That was the last I saw of him until he met me back at camp hours later. That guy covers some miles and elevation when he hunts chukars. Rader is a ground covering fool. Back at camp we discussed the days activities and laughed about his shooting. It seemed like the first 6 birds went down as designed after the shot. The seventh wasn't long afterwards. But the final bird of his limit was taking a toll on his allotment of 20 guage shells. I could laugh with him because I knew the feeling well.
Day four Kirklan and I went to a fourth area and had the same fortune with the birds. Kirklan admitted to shooting much better that day. It saves a lot of miles on the feet and dogs when you shoot well. I made the mistake of taking Dakota two days in a row and he suffered for it. 11 year old dogs need a break when it comes to chukar hunting. It was my only slow day on the hill. My old boy just wasn't covering the country like normal.

The fifth and final day for me was the fifth different place to hunt. The results were the same. Lots of birds making for lots of excitement. Kirklan and I said our goodbyes before we headed off in different directions. If I got back first I was hooking up the camper and headed home and if he got back first he was picking up and headed for central Oregon for some more chukar hunting and possibly mountain quail. The last time I saw him he was a speck on the hill even with the binoculars. That guy covers the mountain. I had Riley with me that day and he had an almost perfect day. My shooting wasn't perfect though. But it made for more enjoyable points. We still had a mile or so back to the truck after we filled our game vest which presented some photo opportunities.
The trip was as good as they get and the company of Kirklan topped it off. I hope his final three days are as good as the first three. Now I'm going to take three days to get some of my honey do's taken care of, watch the grand kids in sports and celebrate Barb and my 36th anniversary before getting back to the birds on the mountains. I hope everyone else out there is enjoying the outdoor activities as much as I am.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Don't cheat on your dog

I was out hunting the chukars again today and came upon a situation I thought I could address and help some of the young dog owners and hunters that are coming up.
After a couple of hours of hunting I acquired a new dog. It was a GSP and a good looking one at that. When I got him to come to me he had a dog collar on but no name or number. Just the collar. It wasn't long before I heard three shots and started working that way. Sure enough the shots came from the owner of the pooch. He was a young guy and said that Savage usually didn't stay away that long. He was calling for him and informed me he had just lost a bird back on the rim rock 100 yards or so away. We took the dogs and went back and found the bird.
I mentioned to him that he might think about putting a phone number on the collar in case the dog ever got lost and he thanked me for the advice as we parted. I watched Savage and the young man hunt as they headed back towards the river. His dog was working the hillside very well. At one point I think the dog was on point but I saw a covey of birds get up wild 100 yards or so above the dog. The man was oblivious to his dog because he could hear birds chuking on the rim rock edges and that's where he was headed. Sure enough at the sound of the shots his dog sprinted down the hill from a couple of hundred yards away to what I hope was a retrieve. The was the last I saw of the two.
I'm sure most of us have been in this situation before. My advice to this guy, had he asked, would have been to explain that hunting with a dog is a team thing. Wait for your dog to get back to you and then hunt the rocks together. Don't watch your dog go one way and then hunt in another direction. Your dog may be on point and waiting for you to come and do what you are supposed to do. If you go to him and there are no birds pointed,  the birds at the rim will still be there.
In short what I'm trying to say is that let your dog know what your plans are. It's not hard to do. If you are going in one direction don't all of the sudden go another way without your dog knowing  where you are headed. Wait until he comes back to you and then change directions. That way he'll be hunting with you instead of that other guy a half mile away.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October hunt

Barb and I went on one of our October hunts the last five days and I was more than happy at the amount of wildlife we observed. Of course it was mostly of the upland kind, but there were deer, elk, bears, turkeys and other small game. The weather was semi cooperative as long as you got out early in the mornings. There was a good breeze every day but one, which was our less fruitful day for finding birds. It was very still that day, not carrying the scent across the tops of the cheat.
Day one had Barb walking with me and the dogs. After about an hour I decided that Dakota would head back to the truck with Barb while I finished the hunt. Having 11 hunting seasons behind him, Dakota has developed a few of his own tricks to compensate for his age. His health and nose are still great and he hunts as good as ever but he is a little slower. Especially compared to his 3 year old tall hunting partner. Dakota is still honoring great until I get in close, than he is trying to circle around the birds to trap them between him and Riley. It's fun to watch but usually ends up with busted birds. I could correct him but would rather just let Dakota do his thing for the next few years before he will retire.
It's harder on me than the dogs. I love having both boys out with me and have a hard time leaving one at home but I've decided to take them both once a week and than alternate them on the other days as long as Dakota doesn't get to stoved up.
The bird numbers are definitely up. I saw over 200 huns and chukars the first three days and at least 100 the last two. I hunted four different areas and returned back to one so that I could show a new friend and his pup an area where I had had some good fortune. Jon and his wife, Debbie hit the mountain with their 6 month old pup called Neka. I have to say that was probably my best day. We didn't actually see as many birds as I expected, but I got to watch Neka work. I have forgotten the enthusiasm of a young bird dog. What a great hunting partner she is going to make. She even found one of my birds that I had crippled. I didn't pack my camera on my hunts this week or I'd have some pretty impressive shots of a six month old pup locking in tight.
The fourth day I took both dogs and it was our slowest day. The weather was very dry, warm and still. The boys had a tough time finding birds although we knew they were there someplace. As I said, even at that we saw at least 100 birds.

This can be a great year for those of us who decide to put some miles on the boots and let our canine partners use their instincts and abilities to find birds. The birds are out there. Here are a couple pictures of Dakota and Riley's best days this week.