The beginning of Jake's third year had me questioning his abilities. After two good seasons, he began this year busting many birds. I believe it was because there were so many more birds this year than the last two. He couldn't handle the numbers at first but adjusted and it soon became clear that all I needed to do was follow his lead and shoot well and we'd be eating good. The shooting part let us both down more this year than in the past. The following his lead part was fine until the last part of the season. The deeper snow and frozen hillsides slowed me, but not Jake, and also hurt my shooting percentage even further.
I'm giving up on trying to figure out what makes chukar thrive one year and be down the next. I've kept records for over twenty years and nothing makes sense. The only constant is that there is no constant and chukar numbers fluctuate from year to year about like my shooting success. The one thing that is going to keep chukar populations healthy is where they live. Most people have no use for where the chukar lives so that land will be public for a long time. The one thing I can tell the young chukar hunters of today is, "don't listen to us old chukar hunters when we tell you about the good old days". Chukar numbers rise and fall and, at some point in our life, we get too old to chase them as hard. It becomes easier to say, " it's not like the old days" than it is to say, " I just can't walk those hills the way I used to."
I can remember great years and slack years in every decade since the 70's and I remember great years as late as 2010. This year was about average for me but I think we're on the verge of having another great one. So give your dogs a little break and then get them out for some great spring training and ready for next year.
Here are some pictures of the last few weeks on the mountain. Jake and I had a great time. Jake probably more than me watching me struggle to stay on the mountainsides. They are probably redundant to most readers but place your dog in the pictures and you'll have an idea of what to expect next year.
Jake telling me there are some birds under this fresh snow somewhere.