Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New chukar season and outlook

Well, the chukar season has finally arrived. It's pretty hard to give a bird forecast because things have changed a little for me. I'm hunting an eight month old pup where normally I would have at least one seasoned dog on the ground. In the four days I have hunted, I have to admit to seeing fewer birds this year than I ever remember. Before you get disappointed, let me point out that two of the days were hunting in rain where conditions were poor and also Jake is just learning how to find birds. I haven't seen a lot of sign on the hill but remember we have had a couple of torrential down pours in the last two weeks that would flush all signs of roost and other droppings.
What I can tell you is the long hot summer depleted a lot of the growth we might have had. Some of the hillsides are very bare, leaving little feed for the birds and making them easy prey to predators. Most of the birds Jake and I found were on the hillsides where the bunch grass was thicker. I didn't see much insect base on the burnt off slopes either. The recent rains have produced a good production of green sprouts to help the chukars and huns for the rest of the season.
I talked to a couple who lives in the country I chukar hunt. They ride it a lot on horseback and said the hatch was very good this year but as the summer progressed they saw fewer birds. They felt that there wasn't enough feed for the young birds. I hope they are wrong and the birds just traveled to a place with more insects and sprouts to survive on and will eventually return to their normal slopes. Either that or we'll have to find them.
As far as Jake goes, I am very pleased with his progress so far. I have seen him bust only one covey so far. There were a few other times when I saw birds flying downhill from where Jake was but I can't say whether he busted them or just bumped into them. He is holding point as long as it takes for me to get in front of him and flush the birds, which is much farther ahead of schedule than I thought we would be without having Riley along to help with the training. He has found and retrieved every shot bird so far. The long steep retrieves are his downfall. He gets the bird about half way up the hill and then drops it. With a lot of coaxing I have been able to get him to return to the bird and finally bring it to me. He drops all the birds a couple feet from me which I consider close enough. The retrieving will just get better as the season goes on.
Jake hasn't learned how to find birds yet. When he happens to be going the right way with the wind he'll hit scent and lock tight. He just wastes a lot of his movements going the wrong direction. He ranges good but just hasn't figured out how to use the wind to his advantage. That can only be learned by being on the hill as much as possible. By the end of this first season I'm hoping Jake will be pretty seasoned.
For those friends from Wisconsin, Alaska, Montana, Washington, as well as everyone else, I have seen 12 chukar covey's and one covey of huns in four outings. That is probably only 1/3 of what I have normally seen in the first week of chukar hunting. The 12 covey's seen is a fact but I personally believe there are more birds out there than that. If I were to guess, I'd say this year might turn out a little below average as far as the bird count goes, but there are still plenty out there for those willing to work at it.

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