Thursday, January 7, 2016

Forest Gump

There was a line in the movie "Forest Gump" that went something like this, "stupid is as stupid does". After arriving back at my truck after yesterday's hunt, I understood what that simple statement meant. This chukar hunter isn't very smart and many times my actions show a lack of any smarts at all. Yesterday's hunt was one of these times.

After checking the forecast I decided to head to Oregon and try a spot I'd seen a good number of birds earlier this year. Driving in, the southern slopes had a lot of exposure and I was sure there would be plenty of walkable land for Jake and I to cover. I was a little disappointed to find some old tire tracks on the four wheel road going into my secret spot, but figured with the amount of birds I usually find here, there will be plenty left for me. Shortly after Jake and I started our ascent up the snowy draw I found the carcass of a boned out elk and from there my tracks were the only tracks headed up the draw. I was the only person up this way for at least three weeks. I was prepared for the super hunt.

There was plenty of snow in the draw I chose to gain altitude in, but the southern slope was bare. Jake several times followed his nose straight up the slope where I'd watch a covey of chukar bust and fly around the hill. The hill was too steep for me to chase after Jake so I continued up the draw. There was no crust on the snow so the hiking difficulty level was about four out of ten. After gaining 1000 feet in elevation, I found the trail I had walked several times in the past. It paralleled the north slope of the hill and gradually gained some elevation. The slope that Jake had been chasing the chukars on was now snow covered and he came over to the elk beaten trail with me to get over the top to the south slope of that ridge. I've been there many times over the last thirty years and have always found good number of birds. We got to where I thought the "honey hole" was going to be and found the slope not as southerly as I thought and not steep enough to collect any sunshine that might help melt the snow. It was at least a foot deep. Jake at times disappeared through some drifts. Luckily the snow had not crusted and it was still walkable. Maybe an eight out of ten now.

The elk had made a good trail down the ridge and Jake and I took advantage of it and lost some elevation. We finally got down to a more southern slope with patches of ground showing through, but Jake showed no sign of birds and I didn't see a track or dropping anywhere. Three hours into the hunt, Jake finally had a point. As I approached the point, the birds dove off the hill without me getting a shot off. I don't know whether they were that quick or I was just too tired and slow. Soon we were at the snow level and so were the birds. I had several points on birds that refused to hold long enough for me to get a decent shot and I was getting tired.

The hill I was stuck on now was as steep as any hill I'd ever hunted but I had two choices, hunt it down or go back the way I came. Chukars chuking all over the place made my decision easy. The sun had melted all the snow on this slope and it was actually dry so I decided to try and side hill it back and forth down to the main road. I think it might be the steepest hill I've ever hunted. Difficulty level at least a nine. It didn't seem to have a lot of feed but the chukars loved it. Jake had point after point with most birds flushing wild but at times it worked out for some shooting. Shooting, not hitting. I tried to always move in on the down side of Jake. That was the only way I was going to get a reasonable shot.

Finally, one of Jake's points produced a large covey of chukar that held until I was about ten yards from them. The hill was so steep I could only manage one shot without falling. To my amazement a bird fell and started flapping down the hill with Jake in hot pursuit. I can't say how far he actually went but I know it went all the way to the road which was 500 vertical feet below us. I had thought about heading straight down to the road but Jake bumped so many birds on his way back up that I decided to do some more side hilling. Jake was having a great time. He covered the ground like it was no challenge at all. Some other hunters must have had some good luck on that hill also because there were several yellow shotgun shells scattered along my route. At times it would take me ten minutes to get to Jake's 100 yard point, my legs were getting so tired and my back was cramping.

Jake's last point of the day proved to be the last straw for this chukar hunter. Jake was locked in on the ridge above the truck. As I moved below him and onto the snow covered side I could see the two birds ten yards away under a clump of sage. I squared off and raised my gun at the flush. It felt like it weighed fifty pounds and I shocked myself by hitting one of the birds. But I only crippled it and it set sail across the draw and crashed into the hill not high above the tracks of my truck. Jake chased after it for a short time but lost sight of it and returned up the hill to me. I was spent. I dug my heels into the soft dirt and slid straight down to the road. I slowly walked the road to where I had turned off in my truck earlier in the day. I had one third of a mile to go and about 150 feet of elevation gain and one chukar to find. Jake did find the bird, but with no help from me. I didn't want to get out of the tire tracks. I directed him enough to where he finally got the scent and retrieved the bird to me. It took me a half an hour to cover the final 500 yards to the truck. My back was cramping and I had to stop and stretch every fifty steps or so.

 Six hours on the hill, four and a half miles covered, 1200 feet of elevation gain, and two chukars. Not a stellar day of covering country for me. A normal day would have seen a lot more miles and gain in elevation. I had to stop six times on my two hour drive home to stretch my cramping back. As I thought back to the day, I could have hunted all the burnt off area that I saw on the way in and covered almost twice as much ground without ever having to worry about where I would end up if I ever fell.  Jake would have been just as happy and the shots I took would probably have been a lot more reasonable. I wouldn't have felt like I had been run over by a dump truck. So why did I go where I went. The dream of that "honey hole" which didn't exist. Maybe I'll be remembered by chukar hunters as the Forest Gump of the chukar world. "Stupid is as stupid does".


Mark said...

I hope you carry a "spot" locator or something like it, just in case one day you roll down a slope and need the chukar hunting Rescue Team, to come to your aid. I do not think there is one set up, but there should be.

We call the birds on those steep slopes, "Brood Stock." I think serious chukar chasers have all been in those canyons and steep faces at one time or too many times in my case, as we follow our drug of choice into their safety zones. I went off a 15 foot "Cliffy" obstical once when in College. WE bounce in college, WE break now. I carry a "spot", and hit it once in a while to let my much smarter better half know where I am at. WE hope never to use it for emergencies, but if hurt, it could save my life in the cold of winter canyons. I had a friend chukar hunt alone and spend the night in the cold. If he had a spot locator, we would have found him asap.

They make those Spot Locators very small and light weight now, so it will not add weight to our already scrutinized vest pounds.

larry szurgot said...

Barb bought me a "spot" this year. I send the o.k message when I start my hunt and when I head home. I hope too to never have to use it in an emergency but it's a comfort having it. Thanks Mark.

Dave s said...

Great as usual.