Monday, January 31, 2011

The sum of it all

Well, another great hunting season has come and gone. There were many ups and very few downs to the season and the downs were so minor you can hardly include them when you sum up the experiences we had.
To start the season, upland hunters were made aware of the probable availability of chukars/huns by the usual helicopter survey by the Idaho Fish and Game. The counts were similar to last year which was slightly below the 10 year average. To my delight and many of the other upland hunters I visited with, the counts seemed quite higher than they estimated. For me personally, out of 25 five years of keeping records I only show two years that were comparable or better than this season.
Part of the reason for the poor helicopter survey might have been due to the young birds. There were many young birds in the early season due to late hatching conditions. Many of these birds may have not been able to fly well during these flights by the game department.
Birds at times were hard to find, but when you finally found them there were lots.. I had several days where I would only see a covey in the first couple of hours of hunting and then see fifteen coveys in the next two hours. Many times this year I saw coveys with over fifty birds in them. Early in the season I saw very few huns but as the season progressed I found more and more huns, even in the places I hadn't seen any earlier in the season.
To sum up my season, I went chukar/hun hunting a total of eighty times this year. No hunting adventure was less than four miles or under 1200 feet of elevation gained. Riley hunted solo with me 59 times, Dakota 9 times, and I hunted with both dogs 12 times. That's a lot of entertainment for one season. We got to see a wide variety of wildlife on our trips. We encountered one cougar, many deer, elk, coyotes, skunks, and walked among a host of bighorn sheep. We had a first this year. We saw a moose and he was in an area that you would never expect to see one. Another first for me was seeing a mule deer actually drop an antler. I jumped him from his bed and he dropped one side as he bounced off.
As I said there were very few negatives for the 2010 chukar/hun season. The biggest downfall was my shooting. I usually shoot in the mid 60% area on chukars but fell to a dismal 59%. The season started like gang busters and ended up in the cellar. The only excuse I can come up with is that we had an unusually snowy and cold December and January. The frozen ground and deeper snow made footing hard to establish at times. Those same conditions kept the birds on the burnt off slopes which made getting to them harder. The only other bad things that happened this year were the normal adverse things that happen on hunting trips. Riley got stitched up a time or two and lost a toe nail, I had several cuts and bruises, along with a misaligned nose, and I have some new battle scars on my guns.
The pluses to the season are many. Too many to name them all. Probably the best thing that happened in the 2010 hunting season was having my son hunt with me on three occasions and my eight year old grandson tag along with me on another. My son, Doug, a 34 year old who spends a lot of time in the gym, kept Riley and I hustling up and down the hills. In fact, on our last hunt yesterday we went further and gained more elevation than any other trip this year. I also have to admit his shooting even made me feel like I was good. Conner, my eight year old grandson, insisted on we keep going until we get a limit of chukar. We ended up going 5 1/2 miles and climbing 1500 feet of elevation. I was ready to head down for his sake but he wanted nothing to do with it.
My dogs had nothing less than a spectacular year. Dakota, in his twelfth season, didn't hunt quite as much. When the hunts would be through, I could tell his hips would hurt so I decided to limit his outings. He took his last hard hunt January 6 this year and rewarded me with a limit of chukar before we came off the hill. Riley, four years old now, just kept on keeping on. He seems to be tireless and has perfected everything I expect from a hunting companion. Both dogs made countless points and retrieves that seemed almost impossible. Although our lost bird count was up a little this year over the previous years it was still only .057%.
As all upland hunters know, it's about the dogs. Mine fill my life with excitement. Especially the 2010 season. But along with the dogs are the new friends that come along from season to season. Upland friends seem to be a special bunch. They all seem to share that same love for their canine partners. Besides my family I was fortunate enough to hunt for the first time with several others. I spent many days with a new friend, Jeff and his munsterlanders, Kirklan and his four variety of great hunting dogs, Jon and his Braque du Bourbonnais, and Jon and Deb and their GSP pup. Not a one of these people have a dog that wouldn't be a pleasure to hunt behind but I have to admit to a special appeal to Jon and Deb's Neka. Being that she was such a young pup, watching her work and learn was especially exciting and I'm looking forwards to seeing her become a seasoned veteran. I met all of these people through the Upland Idaho Forum and traded conversations with many others through this site. There seems to be a special group of upland hunters that visit this site often.
The number of birds put in the bag this year is of no importance. The way my dogs and I got them is. The forty two different locations we hunted, and the sights and sounds we encountered while there are. The thousands of points and many retrieves are what it is all about to me. In the end, my hunts can be summed up by how well my dogs and I work together and respect each others ability to perform their duties. When I add it up we are 100%.


Pete said...

Larry, nice summary. It sounds like you're truly blessed to get to live and hunt up there. 80 hunts! Awesome. That's almost 8 times as many as me. But I still managed to have a nice little season down here in the beautiful California desert, even managing a few limits. I don't have a dog, but maybe someday...

larry szurgot said...

Pete, I'm truly blessed. Watch out for the day you get a dog. It adds even more passion for our hobby and 80 times doesn't seem to be enough anymore.

Kirklan said...

It was great getting out with you Larry. My season slowed down a lot at the end With all the snow on the eastern side of idaho. I look forward to getting out with you again next season.

Ethan said...

Larry, dig the sum-up of the year. I will definitely be living vicariously through your blog while I'm stuck in Korea next fall. Keep it up, and good hunting to you and the pups!


larry szurgot said...

Ethan, Thank you for the kind words, but more than that THANK YOU for your service. If there is any way I can get you some chukar meat next fall let me know. It'll give you another reason to hurry home.
Be Safe.

Anonymous said...

Hi Larry, do you know if the 2011 chukar counts have happened yet?

larry szurgot said...

They usually do their counts the end of August or the first week or so in September. I understand that they are not going to do the counts this year and possibly not anymore. The cost and the helicopter crash that killed two F&G employees last year are the reasons as I understand it.