Saturday, September 30, 2017

My dog's better than your dog.

Remember that add on T.V. many years back. "My dog's better than your dog." That's how upland bird hunters feel about their dog or dogs. I had an opportunity to hunt with a friends dog last week and a few things happened that made me think about that jingle.

All of my dogs have always hunted together, in fact I've always used the older dogs to help train their future hunting partners. It has worked well for me and they have always learned to honor and share retrieves from each other. But with Riley's short life, Jake has never hunted with another dog. He's shared the back seat with other dogs on the way to hunts but we always head out in different directions.

A hunting partner of mine had to go on a business trip and asked if I would watch Fergus for a few days until he returned. He said he thought he'd hunt for me and gave me permission to take him on the hill with Jake and I. We had location collars so the fear of losing his dog was lessened some but I had no idea of how the two dogs would hunt together on the hill. I was about to be entertained with the thrill of hunting with two dogs once again.

From the moment we started I was in dog heaven. That's a perfect pun. Both boys headed off with noses high in search of upland birds. The first thing I noticed was the difference in range. Fergus, a Munsterlunder (hopefully spelled right), ranged a little closer than Jake and was usually in sight while Jake disappeared over the ridges. I have to admit that my aching body kind of liked the closer range but by the end of the day Jake had two more finds than Fergus. The first point was with both dogs at the same point and I had no idea who made first contact but they held in the rocks until I flushed the chukars and dropped one.
At the shot both the boys were in hot pursuit of the downed bird. Once again I was filled with anticipation of what was about to happen when the dogs got to the bird. I was pleasingly surprised as Fergus showed up with the bird in his mouth and Jake was headed for another find.
Once again the strange dog gave me a surprise. He held the bird until I took it from his mouth and praised him. I don't know what Jeff's command to drop is but that is all I could come up with. There was no chance of a cripple hitting the ground and a new chase starting. Way back when, I use to make my brittanies deliver to hand but somehow over the years I decided that wasn't quite so important and now if Jake gets the bird within a step I'm happy. I have to admit that it was especially nice since Fergus is tall and I didn't even have to bend over.

Fergus had several points, as did Jake, and a few times we couldn't come up with birds but both dogs held well until I moved to the front.
The other great compliment to Fergus was his honor. I don't know if Jake ever had a chance to honor but I never saw him honor and I also never saw him bust one of Furgus's points. Fergus had several honors and one from about 75 yards.
The hunt was a real pleasure and it brought back some fond memories of hunting with two and some times three dogs. There is nothing like walking out in front of the boys and shooting a couple of chukars and than having two dogs bringing two separate birds back to you.
By the end of the hunt I was tickled with both dogs and the way they hunted together. They both have great qualities and I hope to hunt them together again some day. I'm still interested if Jake will honor. It's usually a natural habit they have but you never know for sure until you see it. As pleasurable as it was to hunt with Fergus, my dog is still better. Why? Because he's mine.

A few side notes. Conner had his first chukar hunt with Jake and me last week and his shotgun skills or as good as ever. We found plenty of birds and it was a pleasure to have him take on some of those uphill points while I stayed back.
I am still seeing lot's of chukars but finally saw my first huns of the season. The covey had only eight birds and the one I shot seemed like it was probably a June bird. 
Look at the green up on this last picture. Very good green up for this time of the year. The birds are already scattered making it even that much funner. Good luck.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

All might not be lost in those down areas.

Wow, it's been an exciting opening week to the chukar season. Day one; birds galore, Day two; rain all day and saw only five chukars, today; perfect weather and saw lot's of birds again but they were very young.

Although each hunting place was different, Jake and I spent about 4 to 5 hours on each hunt, I went about 6 miles each day and Jake averaged 19. Today was an elevation gain of 1400 ft. and opening day was almost 2000. That's a pretty good day for me.

I got a new camera after my first hunt and had great plans of taking some good action shots. Didn't happen. I did get some pictures of Jake pointing some of the young birds
and retrieving when I shot well, which hasn't happened too much this year.
So much for showing off Jake. What have I learned this week. I think there are going to be more birds out than the predictions from Oregon and Idaho game departments. Some of the birds I found today were so young that they wouldn't have been able to fly 4 weeks ago thus being pretty hard to count. I raised chukars a few years and am pretty good at telling about how old they are when they're not flying. So I decided to shoot one of the young birds from a covey Jake pointed. I was shocked to see that this bird was 6 weeks old at the most and probably closer to 5.
The good news is that I saw four different covey's of chukars about this age. They were all fairly large covey's, around 20 birds, and only flew about 100 yards before setting down. I did see some larger birds but those covey's had less than ten birds in them. Seems in this area the early hatch might have suffered some loss and the second hatch was pretty good.

In the area I hunted on the opener all of the birds I shot were this years but fully colored. I shot a few of those birds today but the number of fully colored birds compared to the little one I shot was maybe 25%.

So don't let those reports get you down yet and don't let my optimism get you too excited, just get your partner out there and find out for yourself.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How did your opener go?

I don't get out on opening day very often, but with the cooler temperatures I decided to give it a try. For some silly reason I decided to go to a place I haven't hunted or scouted for three or four years because it's a little closer to home. Just a short hour drive and I'm on the hill.

To start off with, this area must have had a real harsh winter. An ice berg must have slid down the canyon carving the walls and making them a lot steeper than I remember. Boy did they seem steep. Also, there were a lot more loose rocks than I remember. About 1 1/2 hour into the hunt I rolled one under my foot and did something to my hip as I hit the ground. My hip showed no visual damage but the new gouge in my Citori really bruised my ego.

My memory of birds being there didn't let me down though. There were plenty of chukars on the hill and they kept us going a little longer than I had planned. Jake didn't let me down either. His close ranging while grouse hunting didn't change his attitude on the chukar mountain and he covered the ground the same as years past. The only problem we encountered was even though it was cooler, it was still dry and Jake usually didn't hit scent until it was too late and we moved a lot of birds without points.

My past canine partners were a little disappointed with me. My first shot at chukars every year has been with a shell loaded with their ashes and, until this year I have never missed on that first shot. I think I might have got that bird a little later because Jake and I came back through the area the birds flew to and he jumped a chukar with a leg hanging and I dropped it. My boys in heaven know for sure. They keep a close eye on Jake and me.

I would guess that we saw somewhere around 150 to 200 chukars and no huns. There was plenty of shooting in the area that tells me others were having the same luck. I never saw another dog or hunter but the echoes of their shots let me know I wasn't the only upland hunter on the hill.

My shooting wasn't so great. It serves me right. For the first time for as long as I can remember I didn't shoot my shotguns since the last shot of the 2016 season. I did get some birds and Jake got some good points along with his retrieves. For some reason, Jake will hold a chukar in his mouth longer than any other bird. He was always in a hurry to get the grouse out of his mouth this year and has also been that way with huns in the past. Go figure.

Outside of having to crawl out of my truck on our return to home, I'm super optimistic about what this season has to offer and what Jake is capable of doing in his fifth hunting season. It looks like the birds are there and he definitely has the tools to get me plenty of opportunities on the mountain.

Picture taking was minimal because my camera quit on me again. I got a picture of Jake's first point and then the camera quit and won't let me retrieve pictures either. I'll slam it around a little and try the charger again and maybe I can get it to work again. I like this camera because it fits in my shirt pocket and is easy to get to. Barb helped me see through the view finder on the back of the camera better. She wiped the dust off. Amazing how easy things can be. She also commented on how the knobs shouldn't crunch when you turn them. I always thought a little sweat and dust was a good thing.

Chime in. Are you finding birds out there?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Heat, Pollen and dust, OH MY.

The upland season did arrive. There wasn't much hoopla about it, but some of us were eager enough to give it a try. I think everyone survived, but a post I received as well as my opening day outing suggest that I might remind upland hunters of some of the potential threats to us and our hunting canines on these very warm days.

First of all, the post I received from Steve told me how he was sidelined after his first hunt by an asthma attack and was hospitalized and put in a medically induced coma. I'm not sure whether he already had asthma conditions that might have led up to his hospitalization or whether it just came on but I know this heat, dust, smoke and pollen can knock a guy down real quick. I'm hoping that's why I was so punky on opening morning. I just couldn't get going. You'd think with finding grouse five minutes from my truck the enthusiasm would have had me pumped up but, within a half hour I felt like my pack weighed 100 pounds. Even when Jake busted or pointed another bird I felt drained and it was now only 8 A.M. I refuse to think I'm getting to old so I'm going to blame it on the weather and air conditions.

If you're like me, you'll go out there anyway. Just be prepared and pack lots of water and snacks to help you make it through the hunt. Slow yourself down along with your hunting companion and make it a short trip.

Speaking of hunting companions, keep a close eye on your pup. I remember something about a hot pheasant opener in the Dakota's and stories of many dogs dying of heat exhaustion. Watching Jake last Thursday, I could see how that could happen very easily. He drank a gallon of water in an hour. That's a lot of water, but he kept coming back to me and staring at my water bottle and I'd squirt more into his mouth. All of my dogs in the past would lay in a bog or puddle of water and cool down but Jake hasn't figured this out so he doesn't cool himself down. We were at about 5500 feet in elevation and in an area where a creek would perk out of the ground for 50 yards or so once in a while. Jake wouldn't use the creek but I'd refill his bottles when I could. His nose was so dry he didn't get that cake of dust and pollen over it like on normal early hunts. The worst part, (if you can call this bad) was there were enough birds around to keep his enthusiasm up and he refused to slow down. I finally had to convince him to cut our hunt short when I saw him stumbling a little.
I know it's hard not to get out there and chase birds, since you've been waiting since January 31st or before. Just beware of the heat, dust and pollen. First, it may affect you more than you realize and second, it will defiantly affect your dog. A heat stroke and do permanent damage to a dog. I don't know a lot about systems of dogs overheating but I do know to check there tongues. The darker they get, the closer to heat stroke they are getting. I hunted with a friend one time that when I caught up to him he was telling me his dog was very disoriented. Her tongue was almost purple. I poured what water I had left on her stomach and we then carried her to a creek and place her belly down in it. We didn't lose her but she was never the same hunting dog again.

Enough on the negatives. Just be careful and smart out there. There are defiinately birds out there to be had. They are tough to find because of the poor scenting conditions but if you can find birds on these hot and dry days it's only going to get better from here.