Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hunting dangerous game (the chukar?)

Hunting dangerous game has always been clssified as hunting an animal that can hunt you back. Lions, tigers and bears (oh my) are good examples. They have big teeth and claws that can rip you apart with a quick bite or swipe. Riley and I can tell you from first hand experience that an animal doesn't have to have claws or teeth in order to inflict pain upon a hunter. In fact some animals don't even need to come in contact with you. In our case, the animal is a bird that weighs about one and a half pounds. The bird comes from Asia and is called a chukar.

Chukars aren't aggressive animals, but will often defend their territory by torturing the individuals that tresspass on their mountain. These tresspassing hunters are known to have small brains and big attitudes making them easy prey for chukars. Even a person with a moderate IQ wouldn't waste time chasing a bird on steep cliffs, so anyone on the chukar's turf must be mentally weak. The chukar uses the hunter's lack of mental wellness to it's advantage. It traverses up the steep mountain knowing the hunter will pursue it. Usually the birds will go over 1000 feet in elevation before they stop to hear the groaning of the chaser. That's when they begin to chuckle. The hunters lungs are now burning, but the chukars laugh makes him push on. After another 500 feet the hunter is using his arms to help him up to his pointing dog. He is on all four limbs. The birds hold under a shaded rock as the mutt is locked in on point. One chukar sits above the rest acting as a sentry. The chukars giggle at the dog who is pointing from the hot sun while they sit in the cool of the shade wondering how much longer he can go without water. The hunter is packing the water and he has now slowed to a snails pace. As the sentry watches the hunter approach, he let's out some soft cackles to let the others know to be ready for flight.

 The hunter finally approaches the dog and tries to move acrossed the shale rock towards the birds. Suddenly a rock gives out below the hunter. As he reaches to grab the hillside the chukars take flight. The chukars fly in a manner that makes the shooter twist his body in the talus rocks to get a shot. As he shoots, he feels a shooting pain in his back and then another in his shoulder as he catches the weight of his body on the hill with his left arm. The dog runs around the hill wondering why he heard two shots but no birds fell from the covey. Dog's learn faster than chukar hunters and it only takes a few seconds for the hound to realize that it was the usual miss and then hurried over to his self proclaimed master . The dog now waits for a drink. That's when the (intelligent one) realizes he only brought dog water up the hill. His water jug is setting on the tailgate back at the truck.

After catching his breath and filling up with ibuprofin, the hunter heads in the direction of the chukars flight. The dog is already half way there. The birds only flew half way down the hill. The chukars could have flown all the way to the bottom but they knew if they went down too far the hunter might not give chase. Every once in a while there is a hunter who shows some common sense and would quit hunting once he reaches the bottom. Once again, the hunters small cranium and big ego will not let him go down the hill if he is half way in between top and bottom and there are chukars laughing.

Going downhill is faster but just as treacherous. It is steep and the rocks dislodge easily, not to mention the jarring on the knees. Once again, approaching the pointing canine, the hunter prepares for the shot. As he inches forward he reaches down to rub his aching knee. Suddenly two birds take flight. They are out of range but small brains can't compute that fast so two shots are fired. The dog goes ahead and flushes the six that are ten feet in front of the hunster as he watches them glide around the hill with an empty gun. Trying to massage the pain out of his knee the hunter hears chukars above him chuckling again. Fido has already heard them and is in pursuit. Here we go again.

This story could go on and on forever. The chukar hunter and his dog seem to never learn.

Riley and I are the epitomy of chukar hunters. Most people spend ten thousand dollars on a guided hunt that is relaxing, as well as successful. Not me and Riley. We spend that much on broken gear, dr.  and vet bills and then brag about how rewarding chukar hunting is. January 31 is the end of chuakar season so euipment and body repairs are scheduled for February. Small brains don't compute the fact that many times injuries get worse the longer you wait, especially if the season is still open.

Ten years ago, I had my first arthroscopy on my knee. I twisted my leg between two rocks while chukar hunting early that season. The Dr. said if we did the surgery I would be off for a few weeks or he could give me a shot that MIGHT help me through the season. Guess which I did. This scenario went on for three years. The pain in my knee was pretty intense going down hills. Sometimes I would side hill for a mile or so just to keep from going down the steep slopes it hurt so bad. After three arthroscopopic surgeries (all done in three consecutive February's) and several shots in the knee I went to Dr. Moore in Boise.

After xrays, we came to the conclusion that a knee replacement was the answer. I was very leary about whether I would still be able to hunt chukars as hard with a metal knee. My dogs and I averaged 60 chukar trips a year and most of them were pretty intense. Dr. Moore assured me that he would have my knee ready if I did my job of therapy. He gave me a shot to help me through the year and we scheduled the operation for Feb. 1. That was six years ago and we've aveaged 70 days of chukar hunting per year since without an issue in the knee or the intense downhill pain. Although my knee was better it didn't mean the chukars were through giving me hell. Tucker, my stallion of a GSP, came up lame in his right front quarter after one of our chukar hunts. When he'd run across the hill his right leg would swing away from his body and he'd often trip over sage brush. I can still hear the laughter of chukars as he would tuck and role down the hill. Dr. Warner DVM was a young new Dr. at the All Pet Complex. He quickly put a finger on Tucker's problem. He operated on Tucker's shoulder and had him back to 100% in just 6 weeks. Of course the operation was done during the off season. Dr. Katie Wright and Dr. Koob were busy for the next several years diagnosing, stitching and medicating my boys. They encompassed many different directions. Dakota had some type of a bite which was never determined for sure whether it was a spider or rattler but was taken care of in short order. All my dogs have been stitched up at one time or other and have torn toe nails, sliced pads and cheat grass between their toes. Every vet visit was chukar related except for the oral work that Dr. Katie Wright did on Riley in his first year. Dental work on a dog? Don't ask. But the chukar season of 2011-2012 took first place in the pain and agony caused by the mighty chukar. I got 80 trips in on the birds. The chukars were relentless on Riley and me. I can't tell you the number of falls I had this year or the number of trips to the vet for Riley but I can tell you we are still recovering. It's mid July and the season ended Jan. 31st. The birds got me first. It was mid November and the chukars took me on a spin mid mountain that flung me to the ground. I caught myself, but injured both shoulders in the fall. My right shoulder was the worst. I could barely lift it to shoulder height. But, that was high enough. I shoot left handed and don't have to lift the gun any higher than that to shoot. So I finished the day up toughing out the pain. As I said, I have a small head that houses even a smaller brain. I hunted two or three more times until it became hard to even put my hunting vest on.
My shoulder Dr. happened to share the same office as my past knee Dr. so it was obvious, even for me, to have Dr. Lindner look at it. Heck, I was already on a first name basis with the receptionist and nurses. They even gave me a nickname. Whimp, whatever that is. The Dr. suggested rotator cuff surgery. After I explained to him it was the middle of chukar season and my dog needed me, he gave me a shot to help hold me over to the end of the season. I heard him mumble something about "no pain, no brain" as he stuck the needle in. We set the operation date for Feb. 2nd. That was two days after the season and two days after Dr. Lindner's birthday. I was hoping with another year under his belt he'd have a little more sympathy for me. I'm happy to say he was kind to me and my shoulder is almost 100%. By pay day for the chukars, it will be. Riley had injury #2. We never have figured out for sure what it was but it required a lot of drain tubes.
He had a total of 6 drain tubes in his right hip. Dr. Stoenner, DVM at All Pet Complex, soon had Riley back on the hill. The next big win for the chukars came sometime early in January. I was having a pretty decent day and Riley was having his normal great day. He was on point about 100 yards up the hill from me. The ground was frozen with a couple of inches of snow on top. As I approached Riley some chukars took off below me. I swung for the shot and the ground just shot out from under me. I assessed the minimal body damage from the fall and than inspected my shotgun. It had made a terrible sound when I hit the ground.
Sure enough. the birds did their damage again. My gun had two pieces busted out of the stock and was pretty loose where it fits the trigger assembly. You could see right through the stock. Over the years I have learned to pack as much as possible on the hill in preparation for the damage a chukar can do. Right along side of my first aid kit is a roll of duct tape.
There was just enough to make my shotgun shootable for the rest of the day. Luckily, knowing the damage chukars can cause, I have several back up shotguns at home to finish the season with. Chukar dogs are a very dedicated animal. They will go anywhere the hunter will go and a lot further. They'll make unbelievable retrieves from way down in the canyon, time after time. The dog knows that a GOOD shooter would make a cleaner kill thus creating a shorter retrieve for the dog, but he also knows that a chukar hunter does not know the concept of straight barrels. To a chukar hunter, the shotgun is a multi use tool. I've seen them used as walking sticks, knocking apples out of trees, and sometimes as a poking stick to see if that really is a bear down in the hole. Chukar dogs are also very tough. The dog's toughness and the hunters IQ don't mesh well. Most people would realize that a limping dog is in some discomfort. They would also know that when your dog lays down every time you stop to take the weight off his legs does not mean he is just getting lazy.
This is exactly what Riley was doing in the month of January. We made twenty trips chasing chukars and each time his limp got more pronounced. Even my wife, Barbara, made comments about Riley's health. I would just shake it off, telling Barb, "we're both hurting a little because those damn chukars aren't playing fair, but we'll be alright". On our Jan. 30th hunt the chukars were extremely tough on Riley and he came home with more of a limp than usual. Although we had one day left of the season, Barb informed me that if I took Riley out one more time she'd break the next shotgun stock over my head. I think I cried that night, knowing I was going to miss the last day of the season. Eighty times just wasn't enough. So the last day of the season had me visiting Dr. Katie Wright instead of hunting. She informed me that their was too much movement in Riley's knee. When I mentioned that the movement in his knee's should be up on the chukar hill she got a wierd look in her eyes and for a moment I thought she was looking for something to throw at me. I knew I was reading her wrong. Dr. Wright is way to nice for that. She arranged for an operation with Dr. Stoenner after I had my shoulder operation. Riley's operation was on March 6th. That way I had a month to heal from my chukar injury. Riley's knee surgery was a success. Dr. Stoenner called it a TPLO or something like that. I really didn't pay much attention. Hell, my shoulder was still in a sling and I'm sure it hurt a lot more than my dog's knee. When the Dr. explained that Riley had a metal plate on his right leg now it all came to light. Riley's knee injury was kind of fake. He wanted to be just like me, so if he limped on his right leg maybe he could have some metal in his leg just like me.
Both of us healed pretty well over the next couple of months. My shoulder injury was definetely worse than Riley's knee because Barb mentioned several times how much more whining I did than Riley. Eleven weeks post op Riley had his second set back. While rehabbing he blew his left knee. Both Dr. Wright and Stoenner had warned me that this was possible. So why was I so shook up? I was now counting the days until chukar season. How many weeks does Riley have to heal before the season opener? I have to get out there on the opener or I might not get 80 to 85 trips this year. What a tough life I have. Now some might say that the chukars had nothing to do with knee number two. Riley hurt it during th off season. I seem to recall something about if A=B and B=C than A must =C. Riley hurt his first knee chukar hunting so there you go. Rileys xrays showed the bones are healing well and we can start on the final phase of rehabbing. Not that I'm counting, but we have 60 days before the opener. I sure hope Riley can tough it out like I have.
So here we are. Riley and I, along with a new stock on my gun. I wish I could say it is the end of the story, but, when hunting any dangerous game, who knows what is lurking over the next mountain.
I've already sent notice to my Dr.s and Riley's vet's that we will be back on the mountain this year. We will be pursuing the most dangerous animal of all. The chukar. I asked them to keep the first two days in February open.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

2012 spring fling

While Riley has been recovering, I have been taking some hikes up in the higher country in order to keep some conditioning. Maybe some of these pictures will help you make it through the summer and dream of a fruitful fall.

Riley gets his xrays Thursday and hopefully we'll start getting a little more time in the chukar hills. They will be short trips at first but hopefully we'll have some good reports about chukar populations.


    There was one buck and bull elk that I'm saving the pictures of for later. I'm sure they'd make your mouth water.
       This cow was chasing three small bulls away from her calf. The calf kept going back to the bulls as if to intentionally get them in trouble with mom.

 I saw loads of elk in all my walks even though I saw some wolf tracks now and than.

                   Very aggressive bull snake
           Let's not forget the upland birds including this hen with chicks following.
  There's a little proof that there are still some animals out there to be chased this fall. Riley and I are sure looking forwards to it.

I didn't get a picture, but our neatest sighting this spring was a bob cat. I've seen many over the years but this was Barb's first. She spotted it at about twenty yards crossing the trail we were on.