Monday, January 26, 2015

How it really is

After the "big guys" last blog, I decided I'd better chime in and let you know how it really is. Sure, I broke point and moved in behind him. I knew he hadn't a clue of where the birds were and I had to reinforce his confidence so I was just reestablishing my point and staying clear of the muzzle blast.

After two years being in the truck with him and his other human partners and listening to their stories, I feel it my duty to report to the rest of you chukar dogs the real story. Most of you can probably relate. First of all, the "big guy" is always posting pictures of me and telling some way out story about how tough it was. He mentions how far away or how steep it was for him or other similar complaints to make you feel how hard he worked to get there. Well let me say, this is poppy cock. I go about four times as far as him on an average hunt and I only have two times the legs.

The only reason I'm in all of the pictures is because "selfies" don't show very much when we're on the mountain. I must admit that I am a good looking son of a bitch.
I use those words in a different way than the "big guy" does. The bitches name is Penny, my mom.

 I wish you could hear a lot of the conversations that I have to listen to on our rides home with other hunters. If only I could speak the human language. The "big guy" talks about the tough shots he makes quite often. If he is such a good shot, how come he's always cussing after most shots? I've heard more lame excuses over the past two years for missing shots at chukars than most dogs hear in a life time. Yesterday, it was the wind. Sure, it was a little gusty, but most guys could shoot better in a hurricane. How many different tings can get into a guys eyes? I've heard them all, dirt grass, the sun and even tears, which is the one that I believe the most. He's probably crying because he thinks he's going to miss the shot. Thanks to a wide spread of shot the bird sometimes flies into his pattern.

Sometimes I wonder how much fun the "big guy" is really having. Last week he kept complaining about the fog and inversion. Inversion must be some kind of large device that keeps the fog from moving out because he was constantly speaking about the DAM fog. The fog doesn't bother me at all. I still find the birds. He just uses the fog as another excuse for missing. "I had to rush my shot", he'd say, or "they disappeared as I fired".
And then, there is the snow. Sometimes you'd think it was the kiss of death for the "big guy" the way he complains about going up a hill in it. As with any other type of weather, I don't have any problem getting to the birds and holding them but he seems to think it really hinders his movements and ability to shoot. He says he can't get his footing. I can almost believe that excuse, the way he is always stumbling around on the mountain. I remember this point. We both could see the bird hunkering down and he used the icy snow for an excuse for missing the bird.
At least he didn't try shooting him on the snow and spared my ears. I do have to admit, it was quite comical, watching him sitting in the snow cussing his gun as if it had anything to do with it. The "big guy" did get a chukar on that crusty snow day. I remember it well. He whined like a baby when I dropped the bird at is feet and it slid down the hill about thirty yards before stopping. He wanted me to get it again. If they're alive and flopping down the hill, I'll get them again but when I drop them at his feet and he can't bend over enough to pick the bird up than it is his problem. He needs to work some of that belly off in order to bend better.
I think the mud was his biggest obstacle. I've never heard so many different adjectives for mud. Most of them I better not repeat. My pads get totally covered by what he calls slop but you don't find me complaining like he does when he slips and gets some on his gloves. If he goes far enough down to get some muck on his gun you'd think it was the end of the world. The echoes of his not to kind words echo off the canyon rims for miles.

I've heard a lot of his excuses for missing but you're not going to believe this one. "I pulled up and missed on purpose" he said at one shot. The birds were too close and he didn't want to hit more than one. Strange, how just one week earlier he dropped two with one shot and said he did it on purpose. Go figure that one out.

As I recall, it isn't just inclement weather that brings the worst out in the "big guy". He did a lot of whining during the fair weather also. I remember him falling on a flat trail and cussing his new knee for not bending enough. I think there was a line of ants crossing the trail that tripped him. How high do you have to lift your leg to clear an ant? Maybe I'm being a little hard on the guy. Maybe those with only two legs should stay on the flat ground. I really wish there was something I could do for him because with all of his short comings he does get me out a lot. That's the main reason I don't cover my eyes when I'm listening to his stories from the back seat of the truck as we return from hunting trips. Humans will believe anything.

I have to admit that I couldn't have asked for a better companion than the "big guy" because he takes so much time to get me out. But I sure wish he was a little younger. You should hear all of the complaining Barb and I have to listen to when we get home. This hurts and that hurts. Would you rub some heat ointment on my back. God bless Barb for getting him back on the mountain with me. You chukar hunting dogs out there, be prepared. The complaining gets worse with age. Oh, they're still having fun, they just have a hard time showing it. In fact I think complaining becomes more fun as they get older. At least he's getting better at it.

So in the future, when you see a picture like this,
understand that there are just as many days like this picture that I took of the "big guy", with plenty of excuses for the poor showing.
Notice the number of shells spent and the number of birds. I pointed a bird for each shell shot and also retrieved each of the birds he shot. Had we been riding with someone else that day, I  could imagine the story I'd have to listen to. It would go something like this. Didn't see many birds today and got the only one Jake pointed. As usual I would have just kept my eyes shut, pretending I was sleeping. That's just a part of being a good hunting partner.

So, whenever you see the pictures with all the birds that we got for that day, there is probably two days that would look like that last picture that are not mentioned. From a canines view, that's how it really is.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I had a chance to get out yesterday. With this inversion type fog every morning, I've got turned back twice. One because of an accident along the freeway and the second because I couldn't see thirty yards away and the fog seemed to follow me as I walked up the hill. So Jake and I were thrilled to have a day out without fog.

The day started out pretty slow and Jake busting a few birds. As we got further up the hill I could see why Jake was not able to hold down the birds. A dozen or so chukars were sprinting up the open slope towards the ridge top. They were very visible do to the matted down grass. As the first couple of birds crested the ridge they flew, witch was too much for Jake to handle and he sprinted up the hill and flushed the remaining birds. I suppose with a trial dog you have to stop that kind of behavior but for me and my hunting companion I have to excuse it, We weren't going to get close to those birds anyway so I figure no harm, no foul.

We had this kind of activity happen off and on throughout the day. Yes, Jake got a few birds to hold in the heavier brush, but most of those birds were runners also. Just like pheasants, they learn to run for survival. I remember thinking to myself, "we hunters are pretty arrogant to think we are going to make much of a dent in next years population by hunting these late season birds".

Anyhow, here is the situation that comes out quite often for chukar hunters. Jake had just locked on point about 100 yards down the hill. There was a pile of rocks in the area where he was on point, and although I couldn't see him I assumed that was where he was. I slowly walked towards where he was and found him rock solid on point.
There was no question that the birds were there. After snapping the picture, I surveyed the situation and couldn't find a way of approaching the birds for a shot. I finally decided to drop down below the rocks and come in on Jake from below. It took about 3 minutes to get around the rocks. I wondered what Jake would do once I walked up on his point and than walked away, out of sight. As I got into position to where I could get a decent shot a bird flushed further down the hill and out of range. Within seconds, Jake was behind me and immediately came to point. Yes, he honors me when I assume the intense hunter position. My next step flushed a nice covey of birds and I shot a rare double. The next time I saw Jake he was retrieving one of the birds.
My question is, "what would most dog trainers do in this situation?" Are you reinforcing your dog to break point by letting him relocate after he heard the first bird flush? The reason I ask, is because this morning while visiting with a dog trainer and hunter, this chukar hunter (who breeds some pretty great dogs) said I'm teaching my dogs bad habits and that is why Jake chased the birds he saw running up the hill and taking off.

I guess I'm the type of guy who will accept mediocre performance from my canine partner in order for us to BOTH enjoy the experience to it's fullest.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy birthday Jake

Last night Jake informed me that he would like to go on a chukar hunt to celebrate his 2nd birthday today. So, this morning we got up and took the long drive west hoping to find some blue skies. When we got to our destination we had a mixture of everything. Some sun, fog, inversion and a few snow flakes.

I had hoped to find some birds on the lower burnt off slopes but Jake couldn't seem to locate any. I had to agree because I didn't see a dropping anywhere. Two months ago I was on these same slopes and found a fair number of birds so I was hopeful that Jake would keep on doing his thing until he found birds. As usual, when Jake finally found chukars, I was baffled as to why they were where they were. All the green up on the bare slopes and not a bird. As soon as we got to the snow, 1700 feet higher than where we started, Jake locked on his first point.
Notice the slope behind Jake. The slope we had just come up was burnt off similar to that but with no birds. In places the snow was crusted enough that I didn't even break through. What were the birds doing up there? I decided not to question them and follow Jake from point to point.
Although Jake had some fantastic points I have to confess that he bumped more bird today than any other day this year. It could be that they were just so visible up in the crusted snow or possibly just forming some bad habits as most dogs do towards the end of the season. I think they do that just so we still take them out to the chukar mountains after the season is over for training.
Some of the birds flushed wild due to the crunching snow as I approached but for every wild flush or Jake bumping birds we had a good point with birds that would hold for my approach.
There were a few times when the birds were a hundred yards down the slope from where Jake was pointing. We had a pretty good wind coming up the slope. But he held point like a mature dog as I edged down the steep slope trying hard not to fall on my butt. Every twenty yards or so he would relocate with me but never go ahead. With our 50 hunts this year he has really matured.
His only downfall is that he usually drops the bird before I get my hand on it. I can live with that knowing how hard he has worked just to get the bird back to my feet.
What a great day for a dog that just turned two. He screws up once in a while but not as often as I do with the gun. The more I hunt with him the more I realize how hard he tries to please me. He is my hunting partner and deserves the best, so tonight I think we'll share a chukar dinner to celebrate his birthday.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Birds eye view

Last week, before the fog came, Jake and I had one of those fantastic days together. It was a blue bird day and the chukars were cooperating real well. I got lot's of camera shot's of Jake in action and got a lot of shooting action in the process.

For most of Jake's 24 miles of hunting we were accompanied by what I think was a prairie falcon. The falcon traveled everywhere that Jake went and once in a while would take a break on a rock outcropping or sage. I found myself wishing I could watch Jake through the birds eyes. We all get to see our dog's on point over the birds
and watch great retrieves when we finally shoot straight,
but we seldom get to see the work and action of the dog before the point. Chukar hunting is usually on steep terrain with lot's of pockets to help hide dogs as they pursue their prey. In my case, Jake is usually out between 100 and 300 yards doing his thing. At least 75 % of the time he is out of my sight when I realize he is on point and I head toward him. 

Watching the prairie falcon following Jake in hopes of takimg a flushed bird from the air was impressive. I could only imagine what it was seeing. The beauty of a dog racing through the rocky terrain without breaking stride and changing directions as quickly as the wind changes. The falcon could see which way the wind was blowing by the way Jake would top over a ridge and then head into a draw with his head high. There were times when the bird would circle upwards as if to getting ready to dive and I had to wonder if Jake had slowed his pace smelling the scent of chukars. Twice the falcon landed high on a brush and shortly after my Astro let me know Jake was on point.

Through the falcon's eyes I could possibly interpret Jake's actions. How one moment he's headed at mach 1 to my left and seconds later on point to my right. I would love to see what actually happens when Jake tops over the ridge 200 yards away and locks up shortly there after. Those times when a dog follows the scent of running birds straight up the hill and there is a wild flush instead of a point, would be confirmed as to what really happened from the falcon's eyes.

We've all seen our dog's make great retrieves but imagine what the falcon's see. They could probably produce a funniest video of dog's doing accidental flips on the steep hill while trying to catch a chukar that suddenly turns directions.

A birds eye view would also be educational for the hunter. How often have we wondered how our dog's missed that covey of birds? A birds eye view also gets the falcon a meal or two. It didn't happen on this day, but I have seen hawks eating a dead bird I have shot but the dog failed to find. I have also used the birds eye view to help me find birds. Sometimes when you see a hawk circling and occasionally making a dive towards a hill, it pays off to head in that direction and find the birds that wouldn't flush for the hawk but held tight for the dog in spite of the hawk.

Like I said, Jake and I had a great day
but it would have been that much better to see what the falcon saw.

The next day the fog rolled in. It has stuck around for four days now and neither the predatory birds or I are getting to see much. Jake's nose is still telling me they are out there, but even with his point I only get to hear the flush.
Hurry up, blue bird days, and return to our skies. There are only twenty days left in the season.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Outdooor adventures

I returned home from my chukar hunt today and found a catalog from Cabela's in the mail. It was their 2015 edition of Outdoor Adventures in which they show legendary worldwide hunting and fishing trips. I must admit, I used to dream about those trips, especially a Brown bear hunt with a bow. But as I aged, my bank account forgot to keep up, and The modest amount of around 20,000 dollars isn't what this retired hunter can afford.

For curiosity, I checked out the bird hunts and found that most hunts were about 1800 dollars for three day hunts. Probably not too expensive for most, especially since you are usually guaranteed birds. But, after doing the math, I figured out how great we have it living in western Idaho or eastern Oregon when it comes to upland birds, especially huns/ chukars/quail.

Over the years I've done kept records of many different aspects of chukar hunting. A couple of years I've kept records of cost per bird. Those of you who try keeping your wife away from the mall might be better off to not keep those records around. Even at that, I'm sure my cost per bird is way lower than the cost after traveling east to some of these legendary locations.

As I said, most of those hunts are for three days. If you buy both a resident Idaho and non resident Oregon hunting license you have spent about $200.00 for 4 and a half months of hunting. Even if you only make it out on weekends and holidays you have about 40 days to hunt. Cut that in half for family functions, etc. and you still have twenty days. The lodging is a wash. The $1800.00 you spend to go east includes your lodging but your lodging is your home when you hunt Idaho/Oregon borders.

Everywhere I hunt is within 150 miles from my home, but that still takes fuel to get there. I get a lot of trips each year and most of them are solo and I spend somewhere around $2000.00 in diesel per year. So now I have $2000.00 in fuel and $200.00 in license for over 50 days of hunting in my case. Compare that to $1800.00 for a three day hunt which does not include fuel or plane fare getting there and it makes it pretty clear why this retired boy chooses my own legendary hunt right here in the west.

We have literally thousands of miles to hunt so we can hunt with a group or venture out on a one on one hunt with our chosen guide.

Most everything else becomes a wash. You already have your gun, shells, and other hunting gear. You choose your own guide. You don't have to tip the guide on our hunts either. He's just happy to guide you for a drink every now and than and maybe a treat or two.
The only thing the guide requires is that you don't try and second guess him and follow instructions if you want to be successful. He's even happy to carry your trophy for you.
There are no trophy fees on our hunts. After you retrieve your trophy from the guide it will be your responsibility to care for the animal. Even larger trophies like this one.
The meat, when prepared right, will be a testament to a great hunt.
Let's say that you might average 10 points a day on your eastern extravaganza and only five per day on a western chukar hunt. You have a budget of $2500.00 for bird hunting expenses. Which trip is the best bang for your buck. I know which one I will choose for the next twenty years. The same trip I've been on for the past thirty.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Getting schooled by the chukars

Because of the flu and the cold snap that hit over the last week, I've been stuck sitting by the fire for the last week. Between Jake lying in the bedroom watching quail run up and down the driveway and Conner calling wondering when we were going out again, I was manipulated into giving it a go today.
Once Conner and I parted ways from Greg, Conner and Jake's enthusiasm carried us uphill through the snow. As we hiked through the four inches of snow up the draw, Jake twice followed his nose up the burnt off slope following the scent of running birds. Both times the birds flushed, with a little help from Jake. He was about 300 yards up the hill and there was no way on this day I was going to get up there anyway. After gaining 1000 feet in elevation, we cut back on the hillside and worked our way up to the ridge. After we got to the top I was disappointed to find the snow was even deeper on top with no bird sign. I knew the south side of the ridge should be burnt off so we headed south. As we reached the burnt off slope, my Astro suddenly let me be aware that Jake was on point 286 yards to the north. When we caught up to Jake on point I remarked that I didn't really want to go down there even though I knew we had to. Conner suggested he go down while I wait up high and I agreed. What a great kid.
I knew the birds would probably flush across the canyon and light on that steep ridge you can see behind Conner, and they did at Conner's flush and shot. Luckily a few of them broke left and flew around the ridge we were on. The snow was a little deeper where they went but at least we could walk there.
Although struggling for footing, we got in on a few points and somehow every once in a while a bird would even fall at the sound of our firing.
We were lucky enough to catch a few birds in the deep stuff that would stay long enough for some shooting but the numbers were fewer and they all retreated to the south side at flight.
We didn't know it at the time, but any of these easier to get to points were going to be our only equalizers for the day. We should have taken more advantage of some of these easier shots because the chukars were about to give us some valuable lessons on side hilling. 
We were on the trail of several covey of chukar's that were about to humiliate us. Yes, there would be less snow but the ground would also be more frozen and steeper.
For the next two hours we chased the birds around these frozen slopes. Jake had several points  and even the ones that were on the same level as Conner and I were almost impossible to get to without falling several times. Although we got to shoot some lead at the birds, the only damage done was to our guns and bodies. We ended up with 8 solid points across this slope without knocking a feather from a bird. We could see birds running up the slopes, but we couldn't find a foot hold. Luckily cheat and bunch grass has deep roots so we had something to cling to. I don't know how many times we fell on that mountain but I know we were both celebrating when we finally came across a game trail heading down. Of course the chukars kept  taunting us to return up the hill but, the only one willing was Jake. It took a while for him to retreat with Conner and I but he finally did.

After we reached the warmth of the truck and waited for Greg, Conner and I watched the chukars  running across the slopes through the binoculars.  Conner was in agreement with me that there was no way that hunters would ever do much damage to the chukar populations. It takes maybe three seconds to be out of range and another ten to be on another mountain. 

I believe in fair play, so I'll wait until we have another warm spell that might at least make some of the mountain hospitable. Chukars don't know how to play fair and are only concerned with survival. You'd think after chasing these birds many hundreds of times I'd have it figured out, but they seem to give me more education each time I pursue them. Well, I'll see how many more times I can be schooled before January 31.