Friday, January 26, 2018

Calm between the storms

As I headed out on my long drive towards the reservoir I was pleased to see a light snow falling. There was a 20% chance of snow today compared to a 90% chance tomorrow. I figured most of the past snows had melted and I would be on some fairly open slopes. Wrong. If this storm only produced 20% I don't wan't to see what tomorrow will bring. Although it was mostly fresh snow and very little slipping the body seems to tighten up and you use different muscles when hiking in snow and it didn't take long to feel those different muscles.

I wanted to hunt an area I haven't hunted since the first of November in which I saw many cooperating birds. As I approached the area I wanted to hunt there was about 6 inches of new untracked snow. Jake soon took care of the untracked snow and I wondered if there were more than one dog on the hill as I went higher, but knowing we were the only vehicle in this morning meant Jake was just doing his stuff. The top of the furthest ridge is where we were heading.
I was amazed how quiet everything seemed. The temperature was somewhere around 35 degrees and no breeze to be felt. I realized how quiet Jake and I must have been also when a red fox sprang up about 20 yards from me and disappeared into the brush. It's tracks began from under a sage brush clump. I don't think Jake ever saw it but he definitely was curious about the odor.
Although today was very similar to many of the other days on the mountain, my mind was filled with emotions of the wonders that God and chukar hunting have provided for me. Not only the beautiful country that seemed even more so on this calm and quiet day but the energy I seem to get every time I get on the hill. I was questioning whether to head up the hill when I saw the snow this morning but once I started there seemed to be a magnet pulling me further and further. I also become amazed at how the animals survive up here and how most of the time they go unnoticed by us. The fresh snow showed deer tracks walking the same trail as I but suddenly turned to long strides down the hill. Was the deer running from me or Jake? Was it a buck or doe? How is it I didn't see it? Questions I wouldn't have thought about except for the snow was so fresh. I've humped these mountains many times in the past and never seen or heard another hunter, but obviously Jake and I were never alone.

When I started this blog several years ago I did so mainly to show people how much fun chukar hunting is and especially how much fun I have hunting behind my fine partners. For some reason today really hit home to me on the reasons I chose to chukar hunt. I kept thinking, I can't wait to get home and put all these thoughts on the blog. As usual most of those thoughts faded into that part of my mind that I can't recover. I just know everything was perfect.

Jake is always on my mind. He has amazed me as a hunting companion. This is his fifth hunting season and there is very little that he can't do. Usually, this time of the year, I'm thinking we're going to have to break some of those bad habits come season end but this year he seems to have figured out what makes hunting click between him and me and just keeps delivering. I often wonder what he thinks when no bird hits the ground but this year it seemed to happen often enough that all he needed was no bird and off to the next find. How did this animal become so good at what he does? It wasn't anything I did. Maybe God picked him out for me knowing how much I enjoyed being on the mountain and I needed a partner to keep me going.
Jake is definitely my rock when it comes to chukar hunting. He seldom lets me down and always keeps track of me. He doesn't need a gps to find me as I do him.
Something different usually happens on each hunt to add a different flavor to it. Today, as I approached one of Jake's uphill points, the birds flushed a little wild. I fired and somehow hit the trailing bird. It must have been either a head shot or heart shot because it flew straight up in the air before flying back down the hill straight at me. It hit the snow not five feet from me dead as a stone. Jake watched it fall and ran over to the bird and than looked at me as to say, "if you think I'm picking up that crazy bird you're nuts" and he never did. I finally bent down and picked it up as he watched.
I spent as much time thinking on the mountain today as I ever have. I hoped that my grandson, Conner will keep the same love for the mountain as he has today and that there will always be mountains for him to pursue his passions. I won't be able to keep up with him much longer, but will be happy to go part way with him and excited to hear his stories when he returns. I hope that he and a couple of his friends I have introduced to hunting always respect the outdoors the same as they do now. 

Depending on the next storm, this may be my last hunt of the season, so I wanted to thank all of you who responded by phone or on the blog. It makes me feel good to know that there are a lot more of you crazies out there that love our dogs and hunting as much as I do. As far as the bird numbers go, I believe there will always be birds out there to pursue. The up and down years will go on forever but all most everything depends on the spring and summer months. 

Hopefully, Jake and I will be telling lies in the future to help keep you stimulated on pursuing chukars and huns. As long as Jake permits I will be sending pictures of what he does for me, such as this one which was one of my favorites of the day.
Oh, by the way, this is what the mountain looked like five hours after the picture of the same hill this morning.
And this was our final tally after a great day of dog work and a poor day of shooting.
May you always have public lands to pursue your dreams on and may you have the health and dreams to push you up that mountain.
Also, don't forget to give your other halves a big hug for allowing you to spend so much time pursuing chukars. I logged 64 trips just chukar hunting this year. Thank you Barb.

Larry and Jake

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

New tricks for Jake

Jake took me on a challenging hunt today. He decided the birds were up high, so we went up into the snow and gave it a whirl.
Yes, that's Jake in the middle of the picture. Yes, the snow was that deep up there. Yes, I was on my butt quite often. Yes, I can see those bare slopes way down there. After several exciting points, falls and misses I finally got a double. One of the birds dropped quickly and fluttered in the snow and my second shot hit a bird that traveled about two hundred yards down the slope. Jake quickly gabbed the first bird and then dropped it in pursuit of bird two. It was fun to watch him try and figure things out. Half way down the hill he stopped and started back up towards bird one when the lower bird started flapping. That was enough to encourage a retrieve on that bird.
Jake returned to where the first bird was and placed number two next to it. He looked up at me like I should come down and pick them up.
He finally picked one bird up and then the other and tried to pick them both up a couple of times before finally bringing them to me one at a time.
Jake gave me several other opportunities but my eyes must have been crossing because I missed a bunch. We took a picture of our birds and decided that this was our two bird personal limit day.
Now we are conservationists.
To add to my woes, Larry Semmens sent me a picture of the Scaled quail he was hunting down south. That does seem a little more fun than I was having in the snow today.
Seven more days in Idaho and Oregon. Better get out and get er done. Try not to be the conservationist I was today though.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A new wrinkle

With only two weeks left in the season and Jake turning 5 I decided to get in a good hunt for his birthday. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time I could hardly get off the road to hunt and this year the chukar hills are bare as far as you can go. We found birds over the 5000 ft. level and plenty of them. In fact we saw plenty of everything, even 2 cougars. The big one was leaving his tracks everywhere in the snow.
There was lot's of big game but we never found a kill sight. The sightings were short but they were definitely two different cats in two different locations.

Birds were plentiful and Jake was showing off for his birthday. He had an outstanding day with plenty of great points and retrieves. My shooting was even above par and there were more than enough birds left for seed since it will be the last hunt of the year in this area. It's one of the area's I hunted more than once this year. In fact it's my third trip and I have yet to see or hear another hunter. Speaking of seeing another hunter, that is the only animal I have not seen in the hills for the last month. It seems like many of the chukar hunters have given it up for the year. From the responses I got from my last post, calls and another chukar site, it seems like most people found plenty of birds this year even though some places were spotty. I'll try and post more about what people have said after the season is over.
Meanwhile, back to Jake's birthday hunt. We did so well that we had to put the shotgun on a sling and take some pictures on the way back to the truck. Accidentally, I hit the red button on my camera and realized it was the record button for motion pictures. I always knew it was there but never thought of using it. This was as good of time as any to see how it worked. I found out that it worked just fine but my eyes don't work so well looking at the screen unless it was at arms length. At that distance a 2 inch by 3 inch screen doesn't show much either. Add to that, my ability to walk and film at the same time is very limited, and you can see why the poor quality of the videos. It's like walking through a corn field at night and keeping your eyes and arms focused on a single light. Still, it was a great opportunity to highlight Jake, my superstar. Keep your volume down so you don't hear the heavy breathing and understand that once in a while I am actually looking around for a possible flush. The rest of the jerky motions and shakes are something I'm going to try and control in the future. Video 1.
  The next video was of a couple of huns. I hadn't seen a hun all day and my shotgun was slung over my shoulder while I watched another dozen or so birds flush within seconds of this.
The last video is is two parts. Jake was at a long range point, about 150 yards down hill, and shortly after I started the video I tripped over some sage and than did it again a few times and decided to delete that part of it.
Through it all, Jake performed like a star and relocated a couple of times, ignoring my cussing and laughing as I approached.
Leslie, from "Chukar Culture", better watch out. There's a new camera on the mountain. 
I'm sorry there isn't more information about chukar hunting today except that there are still lot's of birds out there to be hunted. If you're worried about shooting some birds this time of the year and not being considered a conservationist, don't worry, I won't tell.
Happy last two weeks in Oregon and Idaho.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Chime in.

It's getting to be that time of the year again. I'm starting to see those posts about the low bird numbers for the year and how last winter almost devastated them. Of course some of the post blame the F&G. I'll be the first to applaud the F&G for the job they do, even though there isn't much they can do when it comes to chukars. They are definitely a self regulating bird and can survive conditions a lot harsher than pheasants and quail from the lower valley. In fact, I believe the big game animals did a lot better than was expected.
Since my fall I've worked on traction
and it's got me into some fun sightings along the way.
As far as the chukar numbers being very low this year I have to call hog wash. This is turning out to be one of the best years in my recent memory. Even in Oregon where I zeroed out on opening day and didn't even see a bird, things turned around, A week ago, I went back to that same spot and found a very respectable number of birds.
Jake was loving every minute of it
and so will my stomach be.
I worried earlier this year about all the young birds with very little fat but every bird I have cleaned.  
Since then they have been very healthy and if they can escape all those predators from above will be going into the spring strong. Every once in a while Greg and I get the same day off from work and grandkids to chase some chukars and this was his take last week on an Oregon hunt.
Notice how Jake had to jump in and still some time from Trudi and Nikki.

I've been keeping records of my hunts for the past 25 years and I have to admit to putting on a few more miles this year then in the past and maybe that's because there are fewer birds, but I believe that they have just relocated for one reason or another. It seems like when we find them they are everywhere. Also, people have quit hunting, which is one of those self regulating parts of chukar hunting. When the birds aren't easy to find people stay home. Also last week in a popular hunting stretch in Oregon, Jake and I spent the day chasing chukars that did not want to cooperate.
We didn't see another human track and the snow had been on the ground for at least ten days. There were plenty of birds to be had and the only shots we heard were from my newly stocked citori. Which worked as good as it use to when the birds would hold.
Jake and I ended up a bird shy but it wasn't for the lack of birds but more because of my shooting. I usually drive past this spot because of the hunting traffic.
And then there is Idaho. The greatest state to hunt that there is in my opinion. Where else is there a possibility to shoot both 8 chukars and 8 huns in the same day? It doesn't happen very often but it's fun at least having that possibility. I've hit the Idaho slopes once since the Christmas break and had what I would consider my best day on the mountain so far this year. It was kind of the same old stuff for Jake
He had no idea what he was looking at as he retrieved this bird to me.
It was a cougar, which I failed to get a picture of. A little later we saw an even bigger one striding through the sage where it looked like elk had been laying. I have encountered numerous cats while chukar hunting which is just one more of those great reasons to be out chukar hunting. The closest I could get to a picture was of old tracks.
This last picture is Jake's take on our last hunt in Idaho. Although the temperature never got above freezing the sun made it a long sleeve t shirt type of day. How can you beat a day like that in the field?
Although it may seem that I am bragging by posting these tail gate pictures, that is not my reason. I'm proud of what Jake and I accomplish and I'm sure Greg Allen is also. I'm not a great shot, probably not much better than average and I'm definitely not a weight pusher or into aerobics or other work outs. My only exercise is the mountain and I'm very fortunate to have the time to get out at this stage of my life. If I can find the birds then anyone else with the amount of time to spend in the hills can find them.

So to those who say there are no chukars out there this year, once again I call hog wash. Although last winter might have done some damage to the populations the great spring we had made up for it. Don't use lack of birds for an excuse to not be on the mountain.