Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chukar's beware. There's new blood coming to your hill.

I'd be a liar to say that getting chukars is not the reason I chukar hunt. Although, like many others, I wouldn't go if it weren't for the dog.  But, I don't go only for the dog. I love to complete the process, which is dog points, I shoot and dog retrieves. I usually can't get enough of that combination to keep me from going out again as soon as possible. I love it. Well, I didn't think this love for chukar hunting was catching.

My grandson, Conner has been bugging me to shoot a chukar. He's shot a few huns and a limit of quail behind my dogs, but hasn't really been big enough to negotiate the steep hills with a shotgun until this year. He's been on a few chukar hunts with me in the past, but never packing. So, early this morning I put my ankle brace on, tightened my boot up extra snug and headed up to the mountain with Conner and Greg.

As usual, Greg and I headed off our different ways in search of chukar. I'd like to say I was towing Conner behind me, but I think it was more the other way around. Jake covering the mountain with Conner in pursuit and me behind. I'd like to blame my ankle but that would be a lie. Even healthy, I would have had a hard time keeping up with this 12 year old. You would think without seeing any sign of birds in the first hour he would be bored, but not this kid. We just kept hiking up the steep slopes following Jake. We finally got to the top of the first ridge and I was jacked to show Conner all the fresh sign and mentioned that Jake should be finding some birds now. Then, I looked at my gps and saw that Jake was 450 yards away. Jake never ranges that far out and I assumed that he must have already found these birds and gave chase. I explained to Conner what I figured happened and Jake shortly joined us in the hunt.

We had gone about as high as I wanted to get and Conner showed no sign of tiring so I figured we would follow that ridge into the wind. It wasn't long and Jake was on point about 100 yards below us. We moved down the mountain and I instructed Conner how to approach Jake and that I would hang back and watch the action. He did everything perfect and got about ten yards in front of Jake before the birds busted. Conner got his first taste of steep hill shooting as he fired twice and than watched Jake searching for a bird that wasn't there.
As I walked down to him, he was a little bummed that he had missed. I tried to ease his mind by mentioning when there's a large covey of birds, sometimes it's hard to pick out a single bird and you end up shooting at the covey. I asked if he was ready for a break and he was having none of it. Jake was already in search of the next covey and we soon found him on point. He was on the next ridge and pointing into the wind. I instructed Conner on how I would make the approach and hung back to watch.
Once again,a veteran chukar hunter couldn't have done it any better. Except for the shooting. Once again I saw Conner disappear in front of Jake and heard two shots. I hustled over hoping to find Jake retrieving a bird, but found a young man with his head low. He's already done a lot of shotgunning and couldn't understand missing these shots. We laughed about it and then heard a bird take off from below and saw Jake standing there looking at us, wondering what was so funny.

Jake turned to head out and another chukar busted from the brush fifty yards down hill. Within seconds his radar had another bird and Conner was heading down to help him out.
The bird flushed before Conner could get to Jake, but not without a couple of shots fired at it. Conner looked up at me but before he had time to show his frustration Jake was on another point below him. I told him to get down there and I'd catch up.
I took my time getting down to him snapping a few pictures along the way. Conner got in front of Jake and the birds started flushing. Somehow they were right in the middle of the birds and they were flushing a few at a time. Even the best chukar hunter has a hard time concentrating on a chukar when another is taking off closer. By the time this volley was over, Conner had fired five times. In Oregon, you can only have three shells in your gun and he had enough time to reload in between shots. After the shots he looked down the hill exclaiming "what's wrong with me?".
Several more shots were fired off Jake's points in the following hours without a retrieve until Jake's last point. He was a little over 100 yards away and I decided to take a short break with Conner and possibly do a better job at guiding him in on this one. I directed him to the left of Jake and I would come in below him. I told him to slow his shot down a little and let the bird get out where his pattern might be better. He is very quick with a shotgun. I snapped a few shots as he approached the point and then moved into position.
A single chukar flushed and Conner did just what I said; took his time on the shot. As the bird kept flying I snapped off a shot and watched the bird sail off into the distance. "Looks like it wasn't our day", I exclaimed.

We hit the jeep trail and headed back to where Greg had parked the truck. In four hours we had logged 6 miles and Jake 24. We had climbed over 2200 vertical feet and I was dead tired. Jake was content to walk the road back to the truck instead of hunt. I couldn't wait to get my boot off and all Conner could talk about was when are we going again. I was thankful that he has to go to school tomorrow. Give this kid a few more years and his own pointing dog and look out chukars.

When I started this piece, I mentioned how much I like getting chukars. Maybe that's not always true. Today I fired one shot and never enjoyed a hunt more. Watching my two best hunting partners hunt together was all the reward I needed.


Unknown said...

Great Story! One of your best. This is a hunt that Conner will remember forever. As time passes I think the fondness of this memory will grow for both of you. He is in good company regarding the difficulty in shooting chukar, that is for sure. No doubt practice on birds will help him greatly. I am glad you have this opportunity to hunt with your grandson.

Mr. McMichael said...

Swell write-up, Larry. Sounds like an epic day. My 11-year-old buddy has Saturday commitments all season, so we haven't been out much; it's nice to see young blood working the hills!

Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for this story...Glad you took Connor out with you for the day. I remember my frustration many years ago on my first chukar hunt in Nevada. I thought I was a good shot until that day. I shot so many shells at those chukars that day. I rushed every shot and I missed. The next day I relaxed a bit and hit some birds. My pointer was about to disown me. You will treasure those pictures of Connor and he will look back on the memories as well. So happy you shared a hunt. Rest that ankle and keep coaching that Grandson.
Alan and Mays