Thursday, October 19, 2017

The learning curve.

When I speak of the learning curve, I'm not talking about dogs but the human curve. When it comes to me, it's a long curve.

This blog has always been a place for me to brag about my companions and express the excitements and downfalls of my hunts. I don't claim to be an expert on chukar hunting or any kind of hunting as far as that goes and Jake and my outing today is proof of how stupid (politically incorrect word, but true)I can be.

Remember a couple of weeks ago a couple of guys from Bakersfield showed me how to be properly prepared with my side by side, well today I got another lesson in preparedness. On a normal day my pack weighs in at about 20 lbs. with water and all accessories and I've felt I've always been prepared for almost any situation when it comes to chukar hunting. I have a list and I pack all that gear into my pack at the beginning of the season and restock anything that I have used when I return home. Some things never get replaced and just become a fixture in my pack.

Today I finally got to use one of those fixtures not often used. My multi tool kit and the needle nose pliers. Yep, Jake finally did it.
Jake wasn't too pleased when I got my kit out to find that it had been in my pack so long that I had to cut the sheath off. It was almost glued to the metal. Then, when I finally got the sheath off the pliers were rusted shut. It sure makes a lot of sense to pack something like that around. Jake had as many quills in his mouth as outside and I got as many out as my arthritic hands could before we headed for the truck and the vet. How much time does it take to go through your equipment before you venture to the hills? Maybe all of five minutes. Learn from my laziness and be more prepared even if only for your dogs sake.

Secondly, Jake has shown some signs of chasing beginning this summer. We have a couple of wild cats in the fields around our property and they quite often hang around our pond. Jake has pointed them quite often and resumed a chase when they would take off. I'd yell at him and he would finally give up the chase but one time caught one for a brief moment. He's been fine around cats before but these two introduced him to the fun of chasing cats. I told Barbara that this would be a good training opportunity and should put the shock collar on Jake for the next time the cats came along and put a stop to the chasing. Learning to chase cats my translate into chasing skunks or porcupines and this was the perfect opportunity to put a stop to that. But I second guessed myself with the reasoning that he didn't chase rabbits when we're hunting so he won't chase skunks or porcupines either. My laziness of not doing the right thing and taking care of problem cost me and Jake a day of hunting not to mention a vet bill and much discomfort for Jake. 

It don't matter how many years you spend on the mountain, some of us have to go back to the basics at times to become better. Don't put off those little things because sooner or later they may become a big thing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

You gotta believe.

Tom Thorpe, a good friend of mine who passed away from cancer 18 years ago, used to tell me "you gotta believe" whenever we would go hunting and things were a little slow. Things haven't changed since then. This is one of those years when you have to trust in that belief on every chukar hunt you adventure on. The birds aren't as numerous as I thought they would be and there isn't a covey on every ridge, but there are more birds out there than a lot of the hunters are reporting. Maybe it's because they are giving up too soon or maybe they just don't want any competition from other bird hunters.

Last week I hunted the Oregon opener and was very disappointed in my first two hunts. I saw fewer birds than I'd ever seen.  In fact, the second day Conner and I never saw a bird. I had seen fair to good number of birds in Idaho so I was beginning to believe the reports I had heard about the Oregon numbers. Then there was yesterday.

Greg Allen and I decided to try another spot in Oregon. It was cold start when Greg dropped me off and I was bundled up as Jake and I hunted towards where Greg was eventually going to park.
The breeze even made it feel a little cooler, but it was a perfect wind for hunting. Jake and I began traversing the hillsides and I was once again impressed by his ability to cover so much ground using the wind to his advantage. Not often do I get to watch him work because of the terrain, but the area we were hunting had long sweeping bowls so with Jake's range he was in sight most of the time. His range is usually about 300 yards and he was using every bit of it. Watching a dog cover the hill with a high nose to pick up the slightest scent is  truly an amazing sight and I wish I would have filmed Jake doing what he loves to do best. A couple of times he would slow down and start following the scent straight up the draw. I would start heading in that direction knowing he was probably on the scent of some running birds and at any moment might lock up and hold the birds until I got there and he would suddenly resume his hunt in another direction. I could only hope that at one time, not too long ago there was a covey of birds there and now we had to just search and find where they had gone to. I had to believe. This went on for over two hours. Although it was wonderful to watch Jake work, I was starting to doubt the amount of birds in this area. I hadn't seen many droppings and the only proof of birds in the area was some tracks on a dusty trail. We had traveled over three miles and not seen an animal.

I finally heard what I thought was chukar off in a distance and decided to swing that way and see if my ears were playing tricks on me. I was amazed at how there was no green up, even though the rocks had pools of water covered with ice in the low spots proving there had been rain or snow to help germinate the cheat seedlings. There was plenty of tall cheat and bunch grass for cover but no green up. So far this year most of the birds I have found were in areas that the green up had already come. I was getting skeptical of what my ears had told me when Jake suddenly locked up 170 yards away. I could tell by his point that he was right on top of the birds. At my flush I was disappointed to only see five birds rise and dropped one. As Jake retrieved the bird I was doubting the amount of birds in this area because of this small group.

I had no choice but to keep going because I had to meet Greg at our rendezvous sight. About 15 minutes later Jake was on his next point and then another and shortly after another. By the time we traveled the next mile or so we had so many encounters with chukars I lost count of points. I'm not talking about 5 bird flushes anymore, now we're seeing 20 to 30 birds in every covey. The country was not a bit different nor did I see any more sign of birds, they were just there. I know by the way I saw Jake working the country earlier that the birds weren't there and I saw no reason for the birds to be in one area over the next. They were just there. I saw well over a hundred birds before I had to head for Greg's side by side. I saw several more covey's after that and realized I probably would have turned earlier in the hunt and wouldn't have hunted this way if I wasn't forced to because of our rendezvous plans. You just gotta believe. Greg didn't fair too bad either. This was his, Katy and Trudy's take for the day.
The birds are out there you just gotta believe.

A side note. Winter conditions aren't too far off. Barb dropped Jake and I off on top of a mountain the day before our Oregon hunt and this is what we found at 5500 feet.
Although my dress wasn't appropriate, it was worth being soaked to pick up a couple of ruff grouse to go along with the chukars. The hills were bare where Barb picked us up five hours later but it was great hunting the hillside after a morning rain. Jake's nose doesn't lie on a morning like this.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Good Ol Days

I spent the last five days camping and hunting in chukar country and it was the best trip I've had for years. It wasn't as much the birds or even Jake that made the trip so special but people. I remember 40 years ago when everyone you saw on the road or trail always had a friendly smile and wave. Everyone would stop and chat a while and exchange information. For the most part those days have changed. We have turned into a "it's all about me" society.

But last week was the way it used to be. Shortly after I got camp set up I took a scouting run to decide where I would hunt the following morning and ran into a gentleman coming off the hill. We visited for a while and admired each others dogs. When he saw Jake's name on his collar he exclaimed "hey, you're the guy with the blog". He had already been hunting for several days and readily passed along information of what he was finding. Jeff was from Hawaii and was going to be traveling through several states upland hunting until sometime in February. Although my life ain't too bad I still envy him. He'd been coming over to these parts for many years and was a book of information of the area.

The next morning I unloaded my side by side to take up the road and the left front tire was going flat. I loaded it back up and started the long walk I was hoping to avoid. After about a half hour or so, two guys were headed up the road and saw me hunting. They stopped when they saw me hunting the ridge and asked if I was having problems. They were wondering why the side by side was in the truck and I explained about the tire. Mike pulled out a can of fix a flat and said "try this". We introduced ourselves and as soon as they saw the name on Jake's collar Troy said "hey, you're the guy with the blog". Seems like everyone knows Jake and finally puts me together with him as a side kick. Mike and Troy had traveled over from Bakersfield, California and have been making the trip for something like 15 or 20 years. They, too, were a wealth of information. I even got to watch their dog's work a little from a distance. Troy had a wirehair and Mike had a pair of pointing labs and they were great to watch work.
They went on their way and I continued my hunt. When I got back to my camp I filled the tire with the fix a flat and noticed it still leaked a little air. It wasn't long before Troy and Mike pulled up to my camp on their way back to town. When Mike saw my tire was still leaking some he pulled out a tire patch kit and suggested we try it. Before I could even think about doing the work Mike had it done for me. We swapped some more tales and Mike said he'd bring me back a can of fix a flat and a repair kit the following morning if I wanted. I gave him some money to replace what I had used of his and some for what he was going to buy me. The following morning I found this on my sxs.
He had also left half of the money I gave him. I guess he felt like the material I used of his wasn't worth anything. Not often do you find that. On their way out that evening they stopped to  say good bye as they would be returning to California the next day. What a couple of great guys.

Shortly after they left, three guys stopped by my camp and reflected upon me giving them a ride last year in the same area. Their names slip past me but I remember they had some fine brittanies last year and added a poodle pointer to their team this year. We swapped information about our hunts and bid farewell.

They had no more left when another truck pulled up to visit. Another guy with a wealth of information. I had heard of Jeff Funke before but never met him. He is a local Wirehair breeder and as fate would have it, Troy from California had one of his dog's and Jeff from Hawaii also had one. What are the odds.

I've camped in that location at least a half dozen times and until this year the only person that ever stopped and visited was the rancher that runs his cattle there. Yes, it was like the good ol days.

As for the hunting, it was pretty good also. I saw more huns than I have ever seen there but maybe a few less chukars than usual.
The wind was a little stiff at times but it produced several of these over the ridge points which made for some good shooting opportunities.
This was our best day in Idaho.
Jake and I also had this visitor on one of the hunts. He seemed to feel that we weren't much of a threat and stayed within 100 yards for close to five minutes before ambling off.
Not all was good though. Our trip to Oregon was a little discouraging. One of the spots I scouted this spring and saw plenty of birds produced a big goose egg for finds. It's one of my favorite hunts and I hope it isn't indicative of the rest of the area's.