Tuesday, February 11, 2014

State of the Chukar address

Even with the bird season ending 11 days ago, I find myself walking the mountains with Jake on these good weather days. With a camera in hand, instead of a shotgun, we search for chukars that eluded us during the season. The bird numbers seemed down some to me this year and I was curious to see how this years after- season numbers compare to past February bird numbers. I have three different spots I go to each February and do a bird count along with taking some pictures of Jake, who never disappoints me with his thirst to find birds.
This is the State of the Chukar address instead of the State of the Union we had last month and hopefully a little more honest. Surprisingly, I saw more birds today than any of the past five years in this area in the month of February. All the birds, including huns, were in coveys. The coveys were no bigger than in the past, but I saw more coveys. Usually some of the huns are pairing up in February. But I found no pairs, but three coveys of five or more birds. The smallest covey of chukar I found was seven.
 I hunted this same area on the 30th day of December and saw half the number of birds that I found today, but there was 3 inches of new snow that day. As usual, I didn't see a bird for the first hour and a half. In fact, I didn't see a deer, coyote, or any other animal. The hills seemed almost dead without any movements or sounds. Finally, my Astro beeped that Jake was on point 163 yards away. I followed the compass to Jake and flushed a covey of 7 chukars.
From that point on we found chukar and hun droppings scattered almost everywhere. Jake had at least 10 points in the next hour and a half and 8 of them were definitely different coveys.
So, what does this mean to us chukar hunters? Probably not a damn thing, but just like our president does, I'll make up my own ideas as if they were the gospel truth. First off, there seem to be as many birds out there for breeding purposes as in the past. Probably because of the lack of participating by most bird hunters. Many of my friends who hunt chukars a dozen or more times a year only got out once or twice because they saw few birds and heard about the low numbers. They spent a little more time duck hunting and fishing. I'm sure many others decided it was too hard of work for too few birds, also proving that hunters self regulate hunting hours on low bird number years. Second,by the birds I got at the end of the season and the look of the birds I saw today, the birds are going into the spring in pretty good shape. Third, the grass is already green in many places which will help the birds get the nutrition they need for nesting success.

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and start putting more moisture on the ground in the next few months and then taper off into the summer. If we can keep some decent green up during the summer, the insects will flourish and so will the chukar/hun chicks. We have a good base for a decent season next year, if mother nature cooperates.

Thank you for reading and God Bless Chukar Hunters and their Dogs.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Jake's first year

The 2013 bird season was a challenge to say the least. The challenge started the day I lost Riley, who besides being a great friend, was supposed to train Jake to the art of hunting chukar. It's been well over thirty years since I have had only one dog and I've always been able to count on my older dog to do my training for me Luckily, Riley got some spring training in with Jake, making my hunting season training pretty easy.

It's been so long since I had only one dog I'd forgot how much work it could be. Having two dogs should be more work than only having one, except in the case of upland dogs. For the most part, they are pretty high maintenance. Especially when it comes to there energy level. In the past, my boys always entertained each other and burned a lot of their energy chasing each other around or other dog games. Jake and Riley played a lot of the dog games until Riley broke his leg. Riley was then sentenced to a ten by ten room and I was in charge of entertaining Jake. That wasn't too much of a problem because I love any excuse to be in the hills. But it became a problem when I was confined because of my knee replacement. Jake still needed that play time and was constantly reminding me of that. Either get outside with me or I'll see what kind of trouble I can get into. For me, that was a good thing. I had to get outside with him at first with crutches and later with a cane. Jake helped me in my rehabilitation. In my opinion, it's harder to have one dog than it is two or three.

The last day of hunting season was yesterday, but Jake doesn't understand that. He still thinks we need to get out and burn some calories. So at least three times a week I'll try and find some mountain to climb with him. We'll spend a lot of time scouting and training to be a little better. I have to admit that Jake has been a fantastic trainee and for the most part gets it done without any of my help.

Jake turned 1 year old Jan. 15th and he had a great first year, even though it was shortened by my knee replacement. Even during that time we got out on some short hunts. We took up quail hunting one day because the terrain was less steep. Jake did very well on quail at first, with several great points. But, it wasn't long before he decided they were more fun to chase out of the trees and brush than pointing. From that point on, we would only go to quail spots for one or two points and then vacate before he started chasing again. Jake didn't really care to have quail in his mouth and I had to encourage him to get the bird all the way to me.

But, on chukars and huns he had it figured out. Early in his hunting career, Jake would break early on his points, but soon figured out that if he held point and let me flush the birds, it usually meant a bird in the mouth. He had well over 100 points on chukar and huns this year and I'd have to say he held 90% of them for me to flush. Jake loves to retrieve and understands what dead bird means. Sometimes he's watching a bird fly off that I'm not shooting at and with my help will relentlessly search for a dead bird. Jake's retrieving needs a little polishing. Sometimes he likes to drop the bird five or six feet from me and other times wants to parade along the side of me with his trophy. If he never does any better than that I'll be satisfied but we'll work on it anyhow.

Like most hunting dogs, his point is sometimes flawless, with a perfectly straight back and tale and head high. But at times he'll get caught between strides and his point isn't perfect but I get the idea anyhow. I think he might rival Tucker, who had one of the most majestic points in a dog I've ever owned.

Jake is the most playful dog I have ever owned. I guess that is because he is a single dog and play is one way of spending some energy. He loves playing with the other dogs, but when it comes to hunting his play stops. He has one thought on his mind and that is finding birds. His normal range is about 250 yards but once this year was on point at 477 yards which for me is a little long, since most of the country we hunt is so steep. The most miles he covered in one day this year was 33, and it was in steep country, and was ready to go again on the next day.

Two days ago we had our last hunt of the season. It was my first full day hunt since my operation and Jake's first day out in fresh snow. He adapted well and although we didn't find a lot of birds he held his points great for this slow poke to get to him. I wasn't sure about this point until he hadn't moved for two or three minutes and than i decided I'd better get up there.
Sure enough there were four birds for me to shoot at, which I proceeded to empty both barrels without seeing a feather move. Jake watched them fly off and got busy finding more birds. I figured my poor shooting was due to the camera hanging on my arm and decided maybe I should worry more about getting the birds and than taking pictures for Jake's sake. It didn't help a lot although we ended up with a couple of retrieves before the day was over. 
 In summary I'd have to say Jake had a great first year and when it is all said and done he's either going to make an old man out of me or a young man. I guess that is going to depend on my attitude for the next 10 years or so.

As far as the birds go for the year, I have to admit to seeing fewer birds this year than any since I began hunting chukars way back when. It might have been because Jake hasn't acquired the skills to locate birds yet or maybe it was just an off year. Even at that, we always found a good reason to be out chasing them and knew that there were more birds just over that mountain which we didn't have time to get to on that day. With Jake having one more year of maturity and the birds having a good hatch, I'm sure looking forward to opening day 2014.