Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

As promised, I finally got the camera working. So for you guys over seas I took some pictures on the hill today hoping they find you safe and give you just a taste of what is waiting for you when you get home. Some of the pictures are redundant but they give me a chance to show off Riley.

The day started walking up this ridge.
Riley searched both high and low for two hours without finding a bird.
And then it happened. Find after find, Riley started doing his thing. Riley was a little unhappy with me and the square box in my hand. He was more concerned about getting birds than having me walk around him taking pictures.
But it all worked out the same with a couple of retrieves.

This was another of Riley's points that offered a great chance to move around him and take some pictures and then hopefully get some shots with the gun.
He finally relocated as I moved below him with the camera.

At this point I could tell he had the birds pinned between us so I looked in the brush to my left and I could see a couple of the chukars that were in a covey of about 15 that eventually flushed.
A couple more retrieves.

Here are a few more of Riley's points for the day. I'll leave you with these pictures and the hopes they  fulfill your hunting needs for a short time and bring you home soon and safely.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hiding in the snow

I should have known better than to go out again today, but Riley and I had such a great time between the squalls yesterday we were ready to chance it again today. It wasn't a very good idea because there was quite a bit more moisture and wind in today's storms and the duration was a little longer. So we got a little wet.

Luckily we found a nice carved out spot in some rocks that gave us some protection from the blowing wet snow. I tucked myself back in as far as I could to protect both me and Riley, who was more than happy to hide with me. The hard stuff lasted for about a half an hour. It's amazing of the things that can go through your mind in that short of a time.

Riley pulled in as close as he could with his nose tucked deep into my chest. As he looked up at me with his eyes I suddenly saw Tucker in him. I remembered all the great times Tucker and I had together and how he used to sit next to me in the same way. He always made me feel like I was really something. Riley has turned into Tucker in his actions. He always wants to be close to me and is as aware of where I am on the hill as I try to be of him. If he comes back to where he thinks I should be and he can't see me he quickly gets that panic look in his eyes.

Tucker taught me more about chukar hunting than I could have learned from a book and now Riley is continuing my education. I remember feeling like all that I have to do to be successful in hunting chukars is to follow Tuckers lead and shoot well. We both had bad days but 9 out of 10 times Tucker's days were great. He had honest points that he would hold until I got into the position I wanted to be in. If I did my job the retrieve would be made with never a word being said.

Never a word being said. That is how my hunts now go with Riley now. Very few words have to be said for encouragement or because of discouragement, except for the times I'm cussing myself out. I know he does what he does because he loves it and it pleases me. I keep my mouth shut when he screws up because I know that he made the mistake trying to please me just as I sometimes miss a bird trying to please him with a possible retrieve. That is what Tucker taught me about being with a hunting dog. We are a team.

Finally the storm broke and it was time for Riley and I to work our way back to the truck before the next batch of snow and wind hit us. Riley jumped up and led the way, hoping to find a bird or two along the way. He seemed to know the way back to the truck and I was ready to head that way. As luck would have it, we did pick up a couple of more chukars along the way, but that wasn't what was important on my mind. It was the realization of how Riley and I had become one. He and I are not only good hunting buddies but are just great friends.

But with the good things our dogs do for us there is the one thing that they have no control over. They don't live long enough. With each passing of our animal friends we lose a piece of our heart. I have lost several pieces in my lifetime and Tucker took a pretty big chunk. Dakota, Tucker,s son probably only has a couple of years left before he will erase all physical evidence of his father. He will also take a large piece of my heart with him. He and his dad were an unbeatable pair on the hill. There will never be a pair of dogs that worked birds together than these two. Thus the name "Team Tuckota" will forever be engraved above my fireplace with the names of all their predecessors and followers listed with them.

While sitting under that rock I couldn't help but to wonder where I am going from here. I never thought I would have another dog that would fit with me as Tucker did. I don't mind saying that I bawled like a baby the day Tucker left and am getting tears now thinking back to that day. I also left some tears under that rock today. They were tears for Tucker but also tears of fear of the day when Riley leaves me. I don't know if I have many more pieces of my heart to give. I wish that the love each one of my dogs have given me would rebuild the heart but there's starting to be too much of a void.

Most who are reading this have hunting dogs so nothing more need be said except, thank you God for giving us such loyal friends and I pray we all see each other again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Age, conditioning and shooting

Getting older has it's advantages. It also has some disadvantages. For the main scheme of it all, there are a lot more advantages than disadvantages.

One of the advantages is getting smarter as you get older. In other words you hunt smarter, not harder. I haven't quite grasped that one yet but I'm not alone. I hunted with Greg Munther of Missoula, Mont. the last two days and at 68 he has me by 7 years. I don't think smart is in his vocabulary when it comes to hunting chukars. He looks for the hardest hill and goes for it. He is in fantastic hunting shape.

I pride myself in being in chukar shape. I feel the best way to stay fit is to be on the chukar hills at least 150 days a year. Half of the time hunting and the other half just hiking. Outside of having a good bird dog, conditioning along with shooting are the next two major parts of chukar hunting. So what has that got to do with age?

I shoot aproximately 1000 rounds a year practicing at the sporting clays course or just with my automatic thrower and I keep in fairly good shape. I also have a great hunting dog so I should bring home lots of birds. It doesn't always work that way and today was one of those bad days. It wasn't that I just shot bad. It was that I crippled more birds today than the previous twenty trips. Usually you know when you make a poor shot, but today I felt like I was in slow motion when swinging the gun.

Greg hunted the same hill and he shot just fine so what could the difference be? I knew I was shooting behind most of the birds but just couldn't seem to catch up. It was kind of like the feeling when you're all bundled up in clothes. As I sat in the lounger watching the football game this evening it suddenly hit me. I couldn't even twist around to get my favorite beverage off the coffee table without moaning. I felt like rigamortis had set in.

I felt a little like this the last two days but not as bad as tonight. The problem is, this was the fifth day in a row of hard chukar hunting. When you're young that is no big deal but as you age your body doesn't recover quite as fast. As you age you have to give yourself a little more recovery time for the muscles to recover.

So, in short, what I'm trying to say is that I shot behind the birds because at my age I hunted too many days in a row which made me stiff so I couldn't swing fast enough on the fast escaping birds. That is going to be excuse #753 in my new book of 1000 reasons why I miss chukars.

Did I tell you I had fun today?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fun four days with Riley

Being able to take off and hunt for a week or so is one of the great perks with getting older. Riley and I just spent four days hunting Brownlee reservoir on the Idaho side. Not only did we save a lot of gas, we found some new country to chase the devil birds in. A couple of the places we discovered may never be seen by me again but the birds were there in large numbers. The miles and steepness may restrict me from getting into these spots in the future. It was still exciting to know that these fairly untouched places still exist for the hunter that doesn't mind being a little sore at the end of the day.

Hunting some of these areas teach you a lot about yourself and your dog. You really know how much you love the sport of hunting chukars by how far you are willing to push yourself into the next draw, and the next, and the next. While you are pushing yourself and your dog, not a word is spoken between you and him.  He is just doing his job and finding birds.

Riley and I are going into our fifth year together and I must say we are working like a fine tuned machine together. We both have our screw ups, but not a word has to be said because we know we'll make it right the next covey that we find. We lost one bird that hit the ground. That is only the second lost bird of the season. The first, we knew where it was but couldn't get to it because of the steep rocks it lodged itself in. There have been some that I have dropped a leg or knocked some feathers out of that we aren't sure if they went down or not but out of the ones that hit the ground, only two losses is pretty darn good.

In the four days I only ran into one other chukar hunter (Herry and his dog Max). He offered me a ride on the road I was walking on but I had just a short ways to my truck so I declined. Herry has a good looking male solid colored GSP and you know my feelings about those dogs.  Also Greg Allen hunted with me on the fourth day. His shots were the only shots I heard besides my own in four days.

My camera's zoom wasn't working properly so I didn't get as many pictures as I hoped. Here are a few of the sights I saw dozen of times. Riley is out here on point at 289 yards somewhere.
There he is. I'll just move in a little.
Okay, now it's up to me.
Good team work has it's rewards.

This is the end of the day results. Because of the number of birds and the great country this can be a fairly common scene.

Now it's time to clean up around the house and prepare for the next big outing.