Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The fun of it all

It's a good thing I like chukar hunting. It's not the cheapest form of entertainment.
Who says you need a properly fitted gun to get birds?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

2005 and 2010 revisited

The chukar seasons of 2010 and 2005 were the best seasons that I have had in the over thirty years that I've been keeping track. 2018 might just go down in my book right in between the two of them. Even as hot and dry as it has been me and the boys are having a ball finding birds. Barb, Jake, Grady and I just got back from the big pond and it was probably the most successful trip I've ever had.

It wasn't easy, but we didn't think it would be. The first two days were hot and dry and I packed a lot of water for the boys and although day three was cooler and a good breeze I had to pack a lot of water for Grady on his first solo hunt. His first solo hunt took me back in time to when Tucker took his first hunt at just over 6 months old and I got 8 chukars off his points and he retrieved most of them to me. I knew I had a winner. At 8 months and 12 days old Grady did all the right things to make me believe he's going to be in a class with my past great dogs. By the end of the day he had put 8 chukars and a hun in my vest and all were pointed and retrieved. I was a pretty happy man.
Like I mentioned, it wasn't easy. In the three days of hunting, I put in 22 miles, Grady put in 66 and Jake put in 42 miles missing the third day for Grady's solo. I didn't keep track of elevation gain but I have to guess it was between five and 6000 feet for me and only God knows how much for the dogs. When I say I couldn't hunt on day four because I had already gotten my chukar possession limit I don't mean it as a brag but more as encouragement to get out there with your dogs. The birds are definitely out there. They are not running along the road but I saw at least a half dozen covey's of chukar with at least 50 birds in them and probably 20 or more covey's of twenty or so birds. I also saw one really large covey of huns along with a dozen or so smaller covey's.
Most of the birds were a little wild, but once in a while they held tight while I walked up to the ridge where one or both of the boys were pointing as Grady did here.
There were some dry periods but it seemed like when you found birds there were several other covey's in the close proximity. Although I was glad to get Grady out on a solo hunt there's nothing more fun than watching the boys work together.
Sometimes there is a pleasing surprise along the way.
Another great surprise was Greg Munther showing up on day three. The old fart (75) took his first year pup, Oakley out on my day three and came back with three huns and three chukars. He's going to hang out over there for three or four more days with a friend and help to keep the birds educated. Dummy me, never even thought of taking a picture of him and his pups.

It really is looking like the year we've been waiting for. Lot's of opportunities for the dogs and human partners that are willing to hike. It's a great year for the young dog and the thrill of seeing the lights turn on. Be patient and don't get discouraged because sometimes it takes a while, but when you find them you're going to have a ball.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Chukar hunting is going to get you

I've heard the saying "the first time out chukar hunting is for fun and the next is for revenge" and although sometimes I think revenge is a good reason, I've seen more proof that chukar hunting is a sickness more than an attitude. Once you get over the fact that there is a lot of work to getting one of those red legged devils it gets in your blood and there aren't enough white blood cells in your body to ward off the sickness.

So, if it's so much work, why do we think it's so much fun? I think I found the answer through the chukar hunters I have met in the past. Although I don't hunt beside other hunters when we go to the hills we share many stories on the ride or in camp. The stories are always about the dogs or the impossible shots along with the scenery and what was over the next mountain. Although we're in search of a limit of birds that's very seldom the outcome. Getting a limit is hard and that's what makes it fun and keeps us chasing our dogs over the next mountain.

I started this blog 10 years ago thanks to another chukar site "Upland Idaho" moderated by Karl Dehart and some of his members. Most of them shared the same passion for chukar hunting that I have and understand that chukar hunting isn't just a drive to the park and doing some shooting. They had that love of dogs that I have. Because of this blog I have met many chukar hunters even though I haven't seen their faces yet. Hopefully, one day we will meet in person.

One of the people I met through this blog has increasingly impressed me. We traded words through the blog and then one day out of the blue he introduced himself to me at a high school football game. His grandson happened to be playing in a game and they were honoring me and some other members of past football teams and he recognized my name. We started talking chukar and the rest is history.

Greg Munther is from the big sky country in Montana and we soon were on our first hunting trip together here in Idaho. After a few years we found time to meet up in other Idaho and Oregon locations to chase birds. We camped together and would head off in different directions to try and find a limit of chukars and then return with the great stories.

Greg is proof of how chukar hunting sucks you in and doesn't let go. Although, he is an accomplished hunter, fisherman and general outdoor enthusiast he keeps coming back to the steep mountains that chukar inhabit and follows his dogs to their points. When we met Greg had one GSP named Lucy.
She was a pup back then and so was Greg(67). I marveled at how he covered the country and hoped I could keep the drive to go like he did when I get to his age. Well the chukar sickness took care of that. Now 8 years later, Greg is chasing a new pup through the hills named Oakley along with Lucy.
What really blows me away about Greg starting with this new pup is what his plans must be. Oakley will be providing him at least twelve more years of chukar hunting and Greg is now 75. Getting to know Greg I have to wonder if he'll be getting another chukar dog at 87. Greg is 7 years older than me and has done some fantastic traveling and hunting in his life and has inspired me with his tales. We only get to see each other once or twice a year but I always learn something new from him.

I've met many other people from other places while chukar hunting and blogging. Last year I met a couple of great guys from California and am hoping to see Troy and his new pup again this year. I love hearing puppy tales. Also, this year a couple of chukar hunters from Badger country in Wisconsin are coming to Idaho to chase chukars in a week or so and I'm hoping to get some time in with them and hopefully be able to post some pictures of their great dogs and experiences.

I hope maybe one day to see more of you and be able to be inspired by your accomplishments. I'll end with a few more of Greg's pictures of his fine partners.

Good Luck and keep our lands public.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Aged birds

I took my birds to a bird biologist friend of mine to have them aged for curiosity sake and here is what he came up with.
Out of 16 birds there were only two adults.
Out of the remaining 14, eleven of them appeared to be hatched in June and three as late as August.
15 of the birds crops were filled mainly with grasshoppers and some seeds while the remaining bird had all seeds.
There was very little sign of green grass sprouts.

These birds were shot in two different locations at least 50 miles as the crow flies apart but the results were very similar.

There was no sign of fat on the birds which he said was probably due to the low amount of fresh grass to eat.

I don't know what any of this means except for the fact that 14 of 16 birds being juvenile is a good sign that the hatch was good. Guess I just needed something to do on this day of leisure.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The aging chukar hunter and the mountain

He woke up early this morning as he has done for the past 50 or so years. There was no alarm clock, just something inside his head telling him to get up. It seems whether it was for work or play this internal time clock always went off before the sunrise.

Getting out of bed takes a little more work now with a stiff back making it more of a roll out of bed than just sitting up. With the movement two GSP's jump from the foot of the bed and make their long stretch before heading for the breakfast bowl. The aging man tries to imitate the stretch but the body won't bend that much any more and a groan comes out waking his wife who asks "are you okay?" He confirms feeling just fine and that he's going to take the dogs chukar hunting for the day.

The dogs bounce around the living room as he puts his hunting clothes on and grabs the shotgun and hunting vest. They know we're headed for a chukar mountain and their excitement seems to help the aged man lace up his boots which just a moment ago seemed to hard to navigate with his arthritic hands. The lady of the house helps him load their lunch and gives him a kiss on the cheek with a "be safe comment" as the two dogs leap into the back seat ready for the hour or so drive.

The radio is on the oldies channel which helps the hunter feel a little peppier and the volume is turned up maybe a little louder than the mutts like, but it helps him get in the mood for a fun day on the hill. The sky is starting to show some light and the sun will be shining by the time they arrive at their destination.

Slowing to a stop on the dirt road gets the dogs fired up and their enthusiasm helps wind up the aging man. He opens his door first and once again rolls out of the truck with a groan. He tries a quick stretch but the dogs are having none of that and want the back door opened. The door barely hits the stops and both animals leap from the truck and make a few laps around the truck before relieving themselves. The aging man tries to get collars, guns, snacks and the works together as the two bounce around with gestures that say "what's taking so long?". They don't realize the joints don't work so good anymore. Pushing buttons and snapping buckles isn't as easy as it used to be. Finally he puts on his vest and gives a big groan of pain because his shoulder does not want to move in that direction anymore and lets him know it.

As he picks up his double barrel the two dogs take off up the hill hoping to be the first to find a bird. There's no way he's going to be able to slow them down so he starts his limp up the hill knowing they won't go more than 300 yards away from him and hopes they won't find a bird yet. The thought of limping his way straight up a hill before his body gets refreshed from the long drive wouldn't be pretty. For the last couple of years he begins every hunt with a left leg limp because of the stiff back he acquired from his job. The same job that gave him a bad shoulder, arthritis in the hands and other joints, and several other injuries, but also provided him with a good income.

There was no worry about an early point on this trip. Even though it seemed to be a perfect day weather wise and he was on one of his favorite mountains, the three of them gained almost 1300 feet of elevation before they had their first find. As he approached the honoring dogs with appreciation the hun busted behind him and to his dismay, he wasn't quick enough to turn and get a shot off. As the dogs made a short chase he though about how that would have been a gimme just five years ago.

The dogs went on search and he found a game trail that angled up the slope and realized the limp was gone as well as the arthritis in his hands. He thought to himself  "if I could only keep doing this all the time I'd feel great." He was into the hunt almost two hours when the next point came and the thought of going straight up the hill to the point was no problem at all now. He gave the boys a little praise as he walked past them and flushed the birds. It was his favorite shot and he emptied both barrels and two birds dropped. To add to the excitement, both dogs retrieved a bird and brought them back to him. One of his dogs was only 7 months old and he was excited about his progress.

He took a minute to hydrate the dogs and look over the valley floor below him. He thought "I've seen this view at least twice every year for the last thirty or so and it never gets old." The stop was short because he knew if he stopped and sat down for a few minutes the stiffness would try and creep in.So off they went looking for their next bird. Every once in a while he'd see the dogs looking far off and he knew they were hearing the sounds of chukars, a sound that isn't as clear to him as it used to be. He realized how dependent he had gotten on the dogs. Most of the time he probably wouldn't see other wild life if it wasn't for picking up on their keen senses.

They followed the ridge for another hour or so, dropping down and coming back up when the dogs caught scent. After climbing 1800 feet in elevation the aging man was suddenly feeling much younger. He was ready to travel to any place the dogs said there were birds. There was a perfect breeze and some times he would walk 50 or more yards in front of the points waiting for the birds to flush. His shooting wasn't perfect but he was now feeling limber enough to at least get into a good shooting position. He felt like a young man on the mountain again.

After four birds he turned and headed back towards the truck. He always told himself that if you get four birds getting to this place there should be four more chances on your way back for you to have that great day. Going down hill was much easier for him than it used to be. Ten years ago the pain in his knees almost brought tears to his eyes, but two knee replacements solved that problem and hunting down hill was no longer seeing how much pain he could endure. By the time they got back to the truck he could tell the dogs had had enough. He had also, but as he looked at his GPS he marveled at what they had done. One dog went over 23 miles, the other over 21 and he had gone almost 8 miles and gained over 2000 feet of elevation. He covered the same country he did ten years ago, hell make that twenty years ago. He felt great as he helped the dogs into the back seat, loaded the gear, and slid his vest off without any pain. This time he jumped into the truck and started the drive home to oldies music. God, he felt great being on that hill.

Once at home, he was greeted by his wife who helped him unload the gear from the truck. She called him an old fool as he rolled out of the truck. After over an hour of driving after a hunt it was hard for him to stand straight. His wife and him fed the dogs and got everything cleaned and birds into the refrigerator and then he went to his favorite chair and fell into it. The dogs had already curled up on the couch. He bent over to take off his boots and his wife could tell he was very uncomfortable and volunteered to take them off for him. As she did, she watched him rubbing his arthritic hands and asked "are you going hunting tomorrow?"

He replied, "hell yes".

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Grady has become a hunter

What a difference weather makes in dog work. Until this week, the points have been few and even finding dead birds was tough for the dogs. Even Jake (in his sixth year now) had tough times finding downed birds.

Then the weather changed and we had some good rain followed by some cooler days. I even found some frost one of the mornings. With this change in weather, the boys found a different gear and started covering a lot more country and of course with that came more bird finds. Jake, as expected held most coveys pretty good but Grady couldn't contain himself while I covered a couple hundred yards to him and would bust the birds. He's honoring like a champ and letting me walk 50 yards past him while Jake is on point.

As the week went on and we found more birds I could see the light bulb flickering a little brighter in Grady's head and each point has been a little better and longer. Today he held a point like a stud as I covered the ground and moved in front of him and stood for thirty or so seconds before the flush and the light bulb got brighter as he retrieved the bird.

Two days ago, on a hunt with Conner, Grady made one of those retrieves we all love to talk about. Conner was sure he had dropped the hun dead and we had Jake and Grady on search for a dead bird. Pretty soon Grady was following the scent straight down hill and finally about 200 yards away we could see the bird jumping in front of Grady before he grabbed it and brought it back up the hill to us.

It looks like I'm going to have another fun year and for the first time in ten years with two dogs again. I'll let Grady get a few more trips under his belt and hopefully will be able to get some pictures of him and Jake doing what they love best. Meanwhile, here's my buddy's take behind Jake and Grady two days ago.
It was going to be a short hunt but eventually Conner got me to the top. Like usual we started down at the bottom of the draw behind him and gained 1650 feet before I impressed upon him that the old man was getting worn out.

Monday, October 1, 2018


A short Idaho update.

Wow! was the end of September hot. My pick up said 87 degrees at 4 p.m. on the 29th over at Brownlee and my pups and I thought it was closer to 100. Needless to say with the temps like they were and the lack of any moisture, hunting conditions were pretty tough. But, with our limited brain capacity, Grady, Jake and I spent three days over on the border chasing the birds. Barb came along to comfort us but showed very little sympathy as us mighty hunters spent most of the afternoons on the bed in an air conditioned camper.
The good news is there seemed to be plenty of birds. The bad news was by the time we found them it was getting warm and we were running out of water. The places I saw birds a month ago seemed void of wildlife but thanks to some birds of prey we found that we had to go higher. It was hard to do since we were seeing birds right on the road as we drove into the area. Chukars and huns were pretty much separated in different area's with the huns hanging in the taller grass area's.

Three other bird hunters were leaving the day I got to the camp ground and told me they found plenty of birds where they hunted. As I watched them clean their birds I could tell they had a successful hunt. They said there didn't seem to be any of those really young birds and from what I saw on the mountain I have to agree.
Troy, congratulations on your new pup, Ben from Jeff Funke's kennel. I'm looking forward to hearing some stories and seeing some pictures of how Rowdy does introducing him to the chukar hills.

As far as Grady, we didn't have any outstanding things happen. He did have a couple of so so points that produced birds, but I could tell he wasn't even sure there were birds there. But with conditions as they were, Jake didn't fare much better. Grady did have one exceptionally good point. It was hard not to take my camera out and snap a shot but I wanted this point to be a good training opp. Grady let me move about twenty yards in front of him and I could tell by his eyes that the birds were between us. As I moved towards him he stayed staunch until a sparrow took off from the grass a yard in front of him. At least he got me excited.

Each day over there I saw about 100 birds. I do believe there were a lot of birds we never saw because the dogs walked right through so many covey's not getting any scent until it was too late. The weather looks to be cooling down and some moisture is on the way so I believe my dog work is going to improve quite a bit. By the amount of success pictures I see on other sites, those who are tough enough to endure these bad conditions are finding birds. The rest of the season is going to get even better as conditions improve.

Good luck out there hunting and pack plenty of water for your canine partner.