Monday, December 30, 2013

It's about the dogs

It's been a pretty grueling month. I finally got out two days ago. It wasn't a chukar hunt but it just as well have been. Even knowing that I'd be lucky to last an hour I was as excited to be out there. I normally don't care to hunt quail only because of the terrain they like to inhabit. Thick brushy draws where they can sit up in the trees and scoff at the dogs. Dogs find it hard to hold point as the birds jump from branch to branch. But, today I felt it was just a treat to be out there with Jake.

There's a spot I chukar hunt once in a while and usually find quail at the base of the mountain. I was pleasingly surprised when I got there to find almost no snow. This time of the year usually has snow in the draws. The quail were there also. Jake had his first point within ten minutes of starting up the draw. I thought he had gone nuts because he was pointing a place I didn't figure on seeing birds.
I crested the knoll he was standing on and there were about thirty of the little buggers sprinting up the draw. They soon took flight and picked up another bunch about the same size. The turbo's fired up in Jake and he began covering the slope at like there was no tomorrow. He bumped several birds but also had some great points from quail hiding in the smallest clump of cheat.
I shot well and Jake was always in a hurry to get the bird back to me and spit it out. I don't think he cares for the fine feathers on quail.
Several times Jake would stop and listen to the chukars calling from way up the hill. I wanted to oblige him and head up after them but I knew better. One good tumble at this stage could undo all the good the Dr. has performed. So we stayed on the lower path and Jake did his thing.

Never would I have imagined being on the hill Dec. 28th after having a knee replacement the 4th of the same month. The Dr. might not be to happy with me, but God it felt good to be with Jake on the mountain. Even if it meant staying low.

The last month has been forever for Jake and myself, but I endured it mainly because of a few bird hunters that kept me posted on how things were out there. There were some success stories and some without as much success. I guess you can say all the stories kind of kept me in touch with the mountains.

I appreciate all the guys that kept me posted and as I look back at the last month I see what we all had in common. The love of our dogs. Not once was there a picture or a story that didn't something to do with a dog. Especially the young ones. They were stories about the great 400 yard retrieve from the pup that had to lay the bird down a half dozen times to catch his breath or how the pup finally learned how to honor. There was also the picture and story of the grey muzzled dog with what was probably his last limit of birds because the arthritis was taking him down. At twelve years old he and his master sat on the hill for a long time remembering all the good years they had had together. For all those stories and pictures, I thank you.

My little contribution a learning experience that Jake provided two days ago. I expected him to be pretty wild and still be out there 2 to 3 hundred yards because that's how we always hunt but instead he became a 100 yard dog and usually even closer. I don't know if it was because the birds were usually in thicker country or because I was so slow that he adjusted for me. To be honest, I don't really care what the reason. It was just a pleasure to hunt behind my dog who loves to hunt for me.

A side note. I just got a letter from one of the hunters that has been entertaining me with his stories for the last month. Jordan lost one of his dog hunting companions this weekend. Aggie was a great partner to Jordan and his wife. I hope you will all join me and say a prayer for the Oyler families loss.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Good news

I wish the news was that I was back out on the hill with Jake. Not so, but maybe this is the second best thing.

I'm getting some reports and stories from some that are positive for you chukar hunters. Yes, there are still birds out there. Although Matt Hutt didn't have much luck on his outings( he admits that they were just short workout hunts for Jack),
he's still thinking positive and looking forward to hunting some areas that have more birds. I never get tired of looking at his dog, Jack. No, he's not a GSP but a PP.
The Nevada area must still have some pretty good hunting as Abbey, a nine year old pointer proves in this picture.
Her hunting partner, Joe Corolla, says the hunting has been pretty lean but finding birds is possible with good dogs. He mentioned all his great dogs of the past and what they have meant to him. I believe he and Abbey  know what they are talking about.

Jordan Oyler came through for the Utah area. His stories of seeing up to 100 birds in a day do my heart good. How he got to the birds didn't make my knee feel quite so good, though. Snow chains on your boots is a sure sign of a dedicated chukar hunter. He reported places that had 18 inches of snow and the chukar tracks were thick. Amazing how those birds know where to be, but vacate when need be. But old pros like Jordan's ol shorthair
always seem to get the job done. Jordan's days quite often end like this with hard work and good dogs.
Eastern Oregon is also producing birds. My hunting partner Greg Allen called me Sunday for his report. He has been hunting with two girls mostly this year. Trudi is six and Katie has just turned a year old. Greg says he's finding birds and getting some real acceptable dog work, Katie is learning to honor and having a little bit of a problem with crippled birds. The same one most of us have. Dropping the bird too soon and the chase begins again. Greg says with training aspect he's not killing as many birds as he could but the possibilities are there for a limit. Even with the birds being pretty wild he's coming home with 4 birds or better a day.
For the more adventurous, Allan Howell in Homer Alaska says there are plenty of ptarmigan to shoot for those who like to travel on snowshoes or snow machine. The real plus of chasing birds up there this time of year is the big bears are sleeping. I mean the BIG bears. Maybe that's why Allan hunts with a GSP that weighs 110 lbs. That isn't a misprint and Mays looks to be in pretty darn good shape.
Bottom line is, the birds are out there. These guys prove it. With only 45 days left in the season and holidays taking some of them up, you'd better get those pups into as much action as possible. It would be a great Christmas present to them. My Christmas present was Jake learning to read so that I could relay all this information to you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Love to visit

Hey Matt, Joss, Alan and the rest who have tried to have somewhat of a conversation with me. I don't know how to do that through my blog but I have finally figured out how to post your pictures. I love B.S.n about the birds and hounds. Use my email and we should be able to do some bird talking. Lord knows, I need to start passing these rehabbing times quicker.

A Perfect Hunt

Hunts like the one I am about to tell you about come along very few times in life. Everything goes so well you think you're in a dream. You wake up and you're ready to hit the mountain. No driving time and you know that nobody else is here because you're at the end of the road. As the sun arises you can see off into the distance that seems to have no end, and that's in every direction. There is a definite bite to the air as you put a light jacket on under your game vest. By mid day the light dusting of snow will be melted and the jacket will be strapped on the back of your game vest which you are hoping is filled with birds.

The calmness of the morning is shortly interrupted by the excitement of dogs as the truck door is opened. The dogs waste no time checking out the terrain around the truck and fertilizing the grounds and soon have marked every spot where they think another canine might pass by. The collars come out and the dogs almost run over you waiting to get them on. Their shivering is not because of the crisp air but more from the excitement of what the collars mean. It's time to find some birds.

The truck doors are closed and the dogs are off to the mountain. You are a little slower getting going because of the beautiful surroundings you are seeing. All the different colors on the trees, the rock formations, the snow covered pine trees in the high country, the semi fog covered reservoir below, and the miles of draws that present themselves for your pleasure if you are crazy enough to hike the treacherous slopes to get to them. One last stop to listen to a distant howl of a coyote and it's time to catch up to the canines.

I think I had one of those hunts today. I'm not positive, but the visions are imbedded in my mind and all I have to do is shut my eyes to help remember the great day. The boys usually like to hunt uphill and today was no different. I could hear the chatter of chukars warning each other of the intruders on their mountain. I was sure the boys could hear their chuckles and would be off in that direction. Before long my Astro alerted me to a dog on point. I glanced down at it and saw I had 250 yards of uphill climbing to get to the point. Although the mountain was steep my energy seemed endless and I felt like I was gliding up the hill.

I crested the ridge and found Tucker locked tight. His high tail that puffed on the tip was sure sign that the birds were there. I paused for a couple of moments to take in his beauty. What a magnificent animal surrounded by the beauty of the hill. As the birds flushed I carefully picked a bird and dropped it. Everything was perfect. The shouldering of the gun along with the swing and report seemed effortless. Tucker was soon gone to find another bird after he retrieved this one to me.

Within short order my Astro was informing of another point. The distance was about the same but the elevation was a little less. The air was extremely pure because my body felt little resistance in getting to the dogs. I must have been breathing pure oxygen. I was not at all surprised to find Tucker locked up again but this time with Dakota honoring his point. What a great team the two of them make. When they're locked in like this you can bet on there being a covey of chukars. I can't tell you how many thousands of times I'd seen this in the past. As I slipped into position, Dakota broke point and slowly moved into position to triangulate the covey. He loves having the birds trapped and sometimes goes fifty yards out of his way to do so. With Tucker still locked in, Dakota finally reestablishes his point. Once again the shots seem so effortless. Almost like I'm not even firing the gun, just looking at the birds as two fall from the sky with two shots. I could tell each dog knew which bird was his as they headed down the hill and fetched them back to me. Wow! Seeing the two of them retrieving birds together is a sight I'll never get tired of. They are the best team of chukar dogs I have ever seen.

Traveling up and down the terrain was effortless. I've never felt so strong on the mountain. I was excited to see what I would encounter on the next mountain and was in a deep trance of the beauty of chukar hunting when my Astro once again showed "dog on point". With the same ease of motion I was upon two pointing dogs once again. This time my big boy, Riley, was honoring the squat point of Dakota. It would've been easy to miss Dakota if the tall Riley hadn't been standing twenty yards behind on point. Once again I effortlessly moved in positions on the two motionless dogs and watched two birds fall to the earth. One crippled and one stone dead. Riley on cue, took the dead bird and Dakota was off chasing the cripple. It must have gone 300 yards down the steep slope. I couldn't see Dakota because he was out of sight but I could hear the excited barking he exhibited while chasing cripples. Soon the noise subsided and up the hill
came Dakota bird in mouth. I couldn't believe with all the ground we had covered that we were all looking and feeling so strong. Everything was effortlessly done.

The excitement continued with yet another alert from my Astro. It had only been 15 minutes since the last point and we were heading down hill now. I can't remember the last time I moved downhill like this without one of my knee's giving me problems but it was like going down hill in soft sand. I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to get to Riley on point with Jake honoring him and I wasn't hurting. Especially with all the ground we had covered. As Riley always did, he stood tall on point, not moving a muscle. Jakes honor seemed to be in awe of the wonderful point. What a great feeling for a pup to be able to hunt with such a perfect partner as Riley. The birds flushed as I approached and just as the previous three times two birds fell to the earth. Jake was first to me with his bird and couldn't quit running circles around me showing off his bird. Riley brought his bird straight up the hill to me and placed the bird at my feet. Jake than relinquished his bird at the same spot. Never feeling or shooting this well before after a long hike I was wanting to make the hunt longer but knew with only one more bird to get I should head towards the truck.

Not far from the truck I was alerted to yet one more point. I never checked the Astro to see how far I had gone and didn't need to. I was feeling great and knew I could go forever if need be. Soon I found  Jake on point by himself with the birds a little above him. It was a beautiful point that looked more like a well seasoned dog than a ten month old puppy. He didn't move a muscle as I worked my way to his right. The birds busted and I dropped one uphill from Jake. I can't remember the last time shooting was that effortless. As I took the retrieved bird from Jake I looked up on the hill to see Tucker, Dakota, and Riley watching Jake become a hunting dog. As we loaded into the truck, Jake and I took one last look up the hill to thank God for a wonderful day.

As I awoke, Dr. Moore said the operation went just fine.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Good Luck Big Guy

Well, Big Guy tomorrows the big day. You're finally going to get that knee replacement. You thought you'd get away without a last word by me. Well, I had a pretty darn good season and I don't mind saying so. I talked you into getting that new camera and I know people would like to see me do my thing.

The last two months have been fantastic. Even with your gimping and whining we've had a good time. You've been a pitiful sight but I pulled you through the year.

I've decided to put some pictures together for you. I am hoping they'll encourage you to rehabilitate hard and get better fast. It's going to be very boring for me while you go through your rehab. I sure wish Riley were still here for me to play with. Like you, I miss him a whole bunch. I wish I could have seen him do all the things you talk about when we're on the hill. He must have been one heck of a hunting dog. I remember this spring when you took this picture and remarked these two are going to bring me bucket loads of chukar instead of gold.
We sure had some good times in our short time together. I'm sure he's up in heaven wishing you the best also.

I sure appreciate all the hunting time on the hill since bird season began. We had a ball didn't we? I think I've been real patient with you and you've come a long way. The last three weeks have been tough for me watching you hobble around on the mountain, but I know how much you love it, so I put up with your whining. Hopefully, you'll be back in top shape for spring training. I put these pictures of the last three weeks together for you to reminisce of great times to come. I know if I were hurting they would help me hurry up and get better, so please toughen up and get it done.

Because your memory is getting so poor, I'm going to walk you through most of these photographs. It's getting so bad that you left the lunch Barbara made us a few days ago. Both you and I were starving on the way home from our hunt because you forgot the lunch. Hell, I remember you almost tripped over it on the way out the door and still didn't put it in the truck. Maybe you've put too many miles on the hill for your brain also.

Remember this point? You sure took your time getting to me. I remember thinking "Can you hurry it up a little. Just because some birds flew already that doesn't mean there aren't more here". Sometimes I can't style up like you'd like and I get stuck in these weird positions waiting for ol slowpoke to get to me. At least you shot well at the straggler.
And how about that foggy day.

I swear, I was up out of the fog at least 15 minutes before you finally appeared through it. But it was worth the wait. You yelled at me to slow down because your muscles were still stiff. I don't understand humans. You'd think they would be faster learners with as much education they get. Watch us animals. Have you ever heard us complain about being stiff when we start a hike? No, because we always stretch when we get out of the truck. I have never seen you stretch on a hunt to loosen the muscles. Also, have you noticed how we always lighten the load as we begin our trek? Enough said about that.
Those birds were ready to break but I found a way to calm them before you finally arrived. I was even getting cold standing there on point for ten minutes.

 That was a pretty good shot you made. I didn't even mind that retrieve. Bringing a dead bird from uphill fifty yards is easy compared to most of those straight uphill retrieves. I don't think you understand what that takes out of a dog. It's fun chasing the cripple down but hard bringing it back up the hill when you're out of breath. Maybe you should use that time to stretch instead of saying "atta boy". I got the message with the first retrieve over a month ago.

And how about those points looking back at you. Remember, even though my head is up high, if it looks like I might be on point than I probably am on point. Hint, if the wind is at your back in these situation than it is my face. Start moving towards me and quit scratching your ..... head. Those birds aren't going to sit there forever. Also, maybe your shooting would improve if you trust my point instead of walking up half asleep.

Maybe next year you can leave the camera at home for a while. It gets a little bit frustrating when I let you take a picture and than you start moving in to take a closer picture

and then you miss the birds.  I get a little discouraged watching those kind of birds fly off. I've even contemplated calling your doctor to see if he could do some improvements on your trigger finger and shooting eye but figured let's just get one thing at a time accomplished.

Although I try to always let you get this close the birds don't always cooperate. So please don't miss shots like this. In this case you made a good shot which, and as usual,
I retrieve. You later take credit for the bird and I understand. That's what I'm here for.
With all your screw ups we still had a pretty darn good day. We do make a pretty good team.
Speaking of doing good. Remember the day we got this limit? I was on fire wasn't I. Sure, you'll get the credit at home but let's be honest about who really did the work. Like this point.
Sure it wasn't the most stylish point in the world, but you didn't hear me saying anything about taking two shots to kill the bird.
The country was a lot flatter that day and you moved better than usual. If I could, I'd like to ask if you'll not approach my point from behind. I've seen some good shooting from you but I've also seen some questionable shots, so I'd rather you come in from the side or front so I can watch and see if I need to dive for cover.
Also coming in from behind shows your lack of confidence in me. I know the country sometimes is open but just trust me. The nose doesn't lie. See what I mean.
I'm hoping by the time you recover from your knee replacement you realize I'm not a puppy anymore and will quit calling me that in front of your friends. I think you do that so that everyone thinks you're the great hunter. Remember, you'd probably get nothing if it wasn't for me. I am almost one year old and already a master of my trade. Remember the hunt with Greg and his two girls?  I think male dogs have better noses than those women.
I must admit that I was pretty impressive. Man, was I styling that day. We call them bitches but I still like impressing them.
I thought you did a pretty good job yourself. Especially since you some of your shells had no shot in them. That explained why I didn't see many feathers falling from the sky. That reminds me, quit yelling "how did I miss that shot"? Everyone is wondering the same thing without you blurting remarks.
3 for 10. Maybe you can explain what that means to me one day while you're rehabilitating. I mean your leg not your head. I had so many great points like these that day I figured you'd surely  be happy with your bag limit.
Trudi and Katie were so impressed with my style they let me use them as pillows to soften the ride home. I think they look at me as quite the stud. Sometimes it's nice being the only guy around.
And remember that hunt over at. Oh! I forgot. I'm not supposed to mention that spot. It's supposed to be a secret. I can't believe you don't trust me more than you do. Blindfolding me is a little too much.
How would you like it if I blindfolded you before I pointed the birds? Wouldn't be much of a team game, would it?
Maybe I'll start hiding the birds and play hide and seek with you. That would sure make the day a long one. Imagine, with your nose trying to find a dead bird. Ha!
Talk about finding a needle in a haystack. You'd be lucky be looking until the rotted dead bird smell started. Your family would starve to death if we counted on you finding dead birds.
I think it would be better if you trusted me not to tell other dogs about your hot spots and I'll keep doing what I do best. Making you look good. That's not as easy as it sounds either.
I point, you shoot,
and I retrieve. Even if it is a hun.
Remember, I point, you shoot,
and I retrieve.
point and shot
Retrieve. I hope we've got that straight now. Seems a little bit unfair though. I do two things to your one. All you do is pull the trigger. But, you do pay for the gas, etc. so I can live with that. You also feed me and are a darn good friend to have around. You even let me pack a bird around when we take a break on the hill. Sometimes it's just nice to show off my trophy. I don't know why you are always in such a hurry to get the bird in your bag.
By the way, quit panicking every time you see my standing on a cliff of rocks. I have super good balance. I wouldn't do anything that would put our fun times to a halt. I hope you'll be careful too. I probably only have ten or eleven more seasons to hunt hard and we don't want to lose any more time than we're going to lose in the next two months. Looking at these pictures and remembering how much fun we have had together makes me sad we're going to miss the next two months. Man, we have had fun. I know I make fun of you but you're such an easy target. I have to admit it's fun to watch you hobble towards my far away points. You look like Chester on those old Gunsmoke reruns.
You look like you are hurting pretty bad at times. Those are the times I am proudest to fetch the bird to you. You have to really love chukar hunting to walk these hills feeling the way you do.
I know a few times I might be getting a little too far out there. I don't like doing that to you but the birds are so few this year I have out get out there to find them. It's in my blood. I wouldn't have to go so far if there were more birds. Ya, that's me out there 300 yards on point.
I can honestly say that after a long walk like this I am really proud of you when you shoot a double. I will always gladly fetch those birds, especially when you have worked so hard just to get to my point. That's another thing for you to put into your memory bank. Trust me and take your time getting to my point and you'll shoot better.
Man, just looking at these pictures make it sad to see this season end. But if this is a down year, like you said, I can't imagine what the years ahead are going to be like. I pray that Dr. Moore gets you back up on your feet quickly. In fact I wish he could give you bionic knees. Wouldn't we be a threat to the chukar world then. Thank you for the wonderful year. I'll miss you while you're at the hospital but you don't have to send me to Dr. Koob while you're gone. Having me neutered so we'll both be out of operation for a few days is a little much. As usual I'm getting the short end of this deal also. At least you're getting a knee replacement. I'm losing two things permanently.  I'm taking back my promise not to jump on you when you get back from the hospital.
Just remember my great points and the beautiful country 
and we'll soon be back on the hill this spring practicing our pointing ability.
Man, I love chukar hunting