Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Last night Jake spent a restless night moaning and even threw up a couple of times. Obviously to me, he was whipped from the yesterday's hunt. It was a tough hunt and I'm hoping after reading the events of the day, a better understanding of our dog's determination and dedication to us might be understood.
I must confess to picking this hunting location because of the toughness of the terrain and the usual good number of birds. A gentleman from Wisconsin was going to spend the day with me, but got stalled hunting eastern Idaho so he didn't make it. I figured if things went as planned he would either love chukar hunting or hate it. The way things ended up, I think he would have loved it. The bird numbers were there.
So Jake and I started up the mountain at 9 in the morning. The temperature was 35 degrees and the wind was calm. About 15 minutes into the hunt, a covey of chukars did a fly by over my head. I looked at my astro and Jake was straight up hill about 150 yards. Soon a single came buzzing by from the direction of Jake. After about thirty birds or so, I decided to recall Jake and find out what the problem was. He came to my whistle and was jacked up like a three year old child on two pounds of sweets. I gathered that the birds were running up the hill and with the lack of breeze he was following their scent up the hill and started bumping them. At nine months old, I couldn't fault the pup. A couple of bumps later and about an hour into the hunt the pace slowed to a normal hunting situation with Jake hunting hard with his nose.
The first covey of birds pointed were huns. I flushed the birds and dropped one out of the covey with a great retrieve following. Over the next hour the dog work was great and Jake covered the mountain like a seasoned pro. We had gained about 1500 feet of elevation and the huns were close to the top of the ridge on slopes, not quite as steep as where we had come up so the retrieves were not as tough.
After five huns in the bag I wanted to find some chukars. I needed to move to the steeper slopes like where we saw the chukars coming up. I had to break through a brushy draw to get to the slope I wanted to be on. It was steep and brushy enough that it took about fifteen minute to make about 100 yards before we got to the other side. I no more than got through and I could hear chukars calling from above. Jake heard them too and minutes later my astro said I had a point. As I mentioned, this part of the mountain was extremely steep. My knee was starting to really ache as I headed towards Jake. Luckily, this time of the year the slope is sandy and manageable. As soon as the first hard rain and freeze these slopes are almost impossible to navigate, even with good knees. I moved to the right of Jake. The birds flushed before I could get a solid footing and I fired a shot that was probably ten feet behind the bird I had picked out. With the report of the shotgun, Jake was following the covey looking for a dead bird. He was probably 50 yards down the hill before he realized there was no bird and came straight back up the hill to resume our hunt.
Soon after that covey, Jake was running down the steep slope chasing something. I hustled over the best that I could to find him trying to get a badger to play with him. It's amazing how fast a badger can slide down a slope on his belly. I yelled no at Jake which fell on deaf ears so I grabbed the shock collar. I must have turned the volume a little too high. Jake did a back flip on the hill with a loud yelp. I'm lucky he didn't hurt himself. Once again he came straight up the hill and hunkered beside me not liking what he had just felt. Hopefully he'll associate that pain with the next badger he encounters.
I wish  I had my camera with me. The next 2 hours provided points and retrieves that you expect from a well seasoned dog. He became quite an athlete on the hill. But getting shots on these slopes with a gun is tough enough without carrying a camera. Even though I feel I shot decent on those steep slopes, the birds always seemed to end up over 100 yards down the hill or better. Jake would get the dead or crippled bird to me and then look for a shady spot to stand while I gave him a drink. Four battles of water now gone and his breaks were getting longer. My knee was now hurting so bad I had to carefully plan each step to get off the hill. Jake was still on the hunt and even though I wanted to get down to a trail, I had to honor his points and somehow get to him. Every point produced birds and possible shots. Shots weren't always possible because of my footing on the hill.
By the time we hit the trail that took me back to the truck we had 8 chukars in the bag to go along with the 5 huns. I had no more water for Jake and my gatorade was gone. Jake was using each shade patch to stand in while I would catch up to him. My knee felt like a piece of bone was poking my knee from the inside and it took and hour to travel the final half mile of trail back to the truck where Jake and I started putting the fluids back into the systems.
As soon as I got refreshed I called Barb with instructions to get a hold of my knee doctor and move the operation up as soon as possible. As rough as the hill was on me it was at least three times as tough for Jake. I covered 7 and 1/2 miles to Jake's 29. My elevation gain was 1900 feet and I have to guestimate Jake at close to 600 feet of gain with 1/4 of that with a bird in his mouth restricting his breathing some. He never gave up his determination until we hit the trail and than he, like me, was ready to quit for another day. I know if my knee would let me, Jake would be ready to go through it all again.
Unless a sooner date becomes available, my replacement will be on December 4th. Until then, I'll get Jake out as often as possible but on slopes that are less steep and probably have fewer birds. But Jake will enjoy it all the same. In the end he is going to be the big loser while I am down. He loves what we do and though it won't be the full deal, he'll be fired up for spring training.
On a side note away from the chukars, my son in law Nick, Conner and I went on a deer hunt Sunday where Nick shot this nice buck.
We were better than 2 miles up the hill so I used my knee as an excuse to let them do most of the work. Congrats on a great shot Nick and a man size effort of a 11 year old pitching in on the drag down. Knowing that there will be many more days like the last two make the knee surgery worth doing.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like Jake is doing great.Looks like you made a decision to have your knee fixed up. How long after the knee replacement can you start walking? I've heard some good things about fairly quick recovery times. Maybe you can get your grandson out hunting and follow him with the 4 wheeler. You are smart in getting it taken care of now. I know its tough to miss some hunting trips but in the long run its the wise thing to do. Keep me posted as I might be in line to have my knee done as well. It really hasn't fully recovered. When I change directions is when it bothers me the most. Our hunting trips have been short as I am afraid to get too far from the truck when I hunt alone. I'm not sure what I would do if I run into a brown bear that is hungry for a meal before hibernation. We still haven't had any snow yet but lots of rain. Take care and don't stress the knee out too much.Oh yeah,take a crutch with you just in case. I throw mine in the back of the truck.

larry szurgot said...

Jake is doing great. My problem right now is getting to him. The country we are finding the birds in is pretty tough for me to maneuver in. He has learned to hold the birds for a long time if he knows I'm coming. It's those times when he is out of sight and the Astro says he's on point and then I see birds flying down the canyon. Can't see what happened so I don't know whether he broke or the birds just busted. Hard to fault a dog if you don't see what happened.
As far as the knee goes I'm toast. It hurts all the time now. Uphill, downhill, changing directions, flat land, it doesn't matter. I think it hurts as much as my last knee did post op on that replacement. I'd get it done tomorrow if they could move it up.
I'm sure I'm going to be happy with it since the right knee was such a success. This one just came on so suddenly I didn't have time to do the surgery in the off season. The other knee only hurt going downhill so I didn't mind waiting until Feb. 1 to have it done.
I went out in Oregon the last two days and Jake went 56 miles to my 12. Shows how slow I'm going. I had to cut my hunt a day short and come home to recover some. We're going south tomorrow with a friend and hope it will feel better. I do have to say the hunting conditions are great down here and we're finding more birds. Just have to find those steep slopes that weren't parched from the hot summer sun. Jake and I probably saw a couple hundred birds the last two days.
Good luck with the rest of your year and take care of that knee. I've got seven years on my right knee and still believe it was the best thing I could have done.

Larry and Jake