For a chukar hunter, cheat grass is a blessing in many ways. Mainly it's the cover and food choice of chukars. Look for steep slopes covered with cheat and you will usually find chukars. This spring was exceptionally good weather for cheat grass. The hills in eastern Oregon and western Idaho are covered with the grass which is now turning from purple color to brown. Turning brown means it is drying out and drying out means the cheat is becoming prime for causing problems for dogs. This year, with the great spring weather, the grass is exceptionally high. Most of the places I walked today, the grass was about the height of Jake's head, the height perfect for collecting the seeds in his ears.
Although the cheat seeds aren't prime quite yet for falling off the stem, with about two more weeks of these warmer temperatures they will be prime to stick in dogs ears, feet, nose, eyes and about anything else on a dog. They are barbed, and once they stick in they don't want to come back out the same way. Sometimes this can be dangerous for the dog, so it is good to double check your partner after walks in cheat country. Twice today while walking, Jake started shaking his head, and sure enough, I found a seed working it's way down his ear canal. Both times the cheat was close enough for me to retrieve. Back at the truck, I gave him the once over in his ears, eyes and toes and everything looked great. Jake never shook his head once on the ride home, so I'm going to assume he doesn't have anything deep down in his ear that I couldn't find.
The hassles with cheat grass are going to remain until the end of the summer when a heavy rain and wind knocks the dried seeds off the stems. It's best to check your dog after every hunt, but once the weather comes back, the chances of getting a piece of cheat stuck becomes less.
But, don't use cheat grass as an excuse to not take your buddy into the hills. Post walk checks will usually eliminate any problems. Just either stay near water or pack plenty of it to help wet your dogs dry throat and he (or she) will be ready to treat you to some entertainment like Jake did me today.
About a half hour into our stroll, Jake locked up on a point that I was sure would be a hen setting on a nest. I've found several nests in the past this way. I've even found covey's of baby chukars this way. Momma will usually either freeze or play injured at the dog's point. I wouldn't recommend doing this with a dog that isn't solid with the point. Jake, as with most of my dogs in the past, will break to the flush but stop at the whoa if I have to. All my dogs have pointed baby birds and never hurt one yet. I hope I didn't just jinx myself.
Anyhow, here's Jake's point.