Monday, January 7, 2019

Chukars and wind direction

I took a high school friend of mine chukar hunting today and the hunt didn't turn out the way I had planned. Ron and I spent some time hunting ducks and pheasants way back then, almost 50 years ago, and his dad had a Brittany named Buck that  we hunted behind. We got lot's of pheasants and although I wasn't much of a dog expert I can remember many of those birds that were either flushed or pointed and retrieved by Buck. Back then I didn't know a thing about chukar hunting or see a dog that would range past 75 yards or so. In fact, it wasn't uncommon to watch ol Buck get birdy and take off running through the stubble before the bird flushed. That was just how we hunted. It didn't matter if the dog did the work or not, the chase was on.

Sometime after those days we both found out what a good bird dog could do for hunting and the pleasure it is to hunt behind one. The big difference between Ron and myself is that he stuck to the flat lands while I made my home hunting turf in the mountains. Ron has kept his love for Brittanies while although I once sported them I have changed to GSP's. He also has a chocolate lab named Ruger for duck hunting but takes Patch out after pheasants and quail.

We haven't seen each other for over twenty years and evidently while planning for our 50 year reunion this year he found out I had a love for chasing chukars. His call came about two weeks ago and we planned a hunt after pheasant season closed and that day was today. I wanted to impress Ron so I took him to my favorite spot over by the big pond. I hunted it twice this year and both times came home with birds and left hundreds there. We headed out at 6:30 this morning in hopes to get our hunt done and be back in time for the big Alabama/Clemson game.

Ron was a pretty good athlete in the good old days and as I figured, he had no problem with the steepness when we got there. He was a little shocked that we were going to head in opposite directions but was ready to head into the wind when I asked him which way he wanted to go. Four to five hours later we were to meet back at his rig. As we parted I could see him and Patch working the opposite ridge while Jake, Grady and I ascended ours for a half hour or so. Patch was making some pretty nifty quartering moves back and forth in front of Ron. There was never more than 100 yards between the two of them. I kind of figured he was going to have a tough time finding many birds and it turns out I was right.

As I usually do when hunting with someone new I stayed within hearing range until I heard a shot and than headed in which ever direction the dog's wanted to take me. Shortly before an hour on the hill I heard Ron shoot twice meaning he was into birds and I could now put some distance between us. To make this story short, five hours later I returned to the rig with my birds and found that Ron had already been there for about an hour and a half and had shot one hun. He had seen two other covey's but they got up wild.

We had a quick snack and returned towards home, discussing our adventure. His biggest frustration was trying to hunt into the wind. The wind was constantly changing and he was always trying to work Patch into the wind. He would make some big loops around a likely bird spot so that he could hunt it into the wind. That's a lot of pointless walking to me. I explained how I hunt chukars and Ron didn't think he would be comfortable letting Patch get out of sight and at 67 years old I wasn't about to try and change what he loves to do.

We transferred cars at the gas station and Ron invited me on a pheasant hunt this coming fall. I said that probably wouldn't be a good idea because he would likely want to shoot my dog's for being out there 2 to 3 hundred yards. Ron and I will always be good friends but it looks like we will pursue our hobbies and leave the others alone. I'm sure we will tip a few on our 50th to the things we did accomplish together way back then.

As far as wind direction goes when hunting chukar/hun on the mountain you just can't worry about it. The wind is constantly changing directions and often times the wind is blowing in one direction as you top a ridge and coming the complete opposite direction on the other side. There has been many times when I see a dog on point and I swear he's pointing with the wind at his back but when I get to him the wind is blowing in his face which was the opposite of what it was 100 yards ago.

A dog that has been on chukar slopes will learn to use the wind to their advantage by making big loops in front of and some times behind you using the wind to their advantage. At times they may even go across a canyon to get scent. As humans we try and guide our canine partner and forget that he/she is a much better predator than we could ever be and if we just let them do the job we'd be finding a lot more birds. Many hunters stop their dog's from topping the ridge in front because they are afraid it will spook the birds when in reality most of the time that is where they get a snoot full and lock up. Many times those birds will hold tight because they haven't been watching you approach for the last ten minutes.

My favorite point is when the dog has traveled out 2 to 3 hundred yards and is coming back towards me with the wind in his face and suddenly locks. I'm now walking towards a pointing dog with the wind to my back and birds in between. Those birds will usually hold tight enough that even I can get a second shot off and that seems to take a long time anymore.

Even though Ron doesn't have a long ranging dog he can still be very successful chukar hunting. It doesn't take a special long range dog to get chukars. I have friends that do well with labs that stay within 50 yards. The secret is to let the dog's use their abilities and quit trying to direct them, They are predators and God built them with the ability to use that great nose. Don't be afraid to follow them if they know what they are after. You will see more birds that way. Sometimes I'd be walking circles if I kept trying to get my dog's into the wind.

All of us do something very well and would get confused or upset if someone came and tried to change the way you did it so how do you think a dog feels when you tell it how to hunt.

After reading all this B.S. you might think Ron and I had a bad hunt. It was a very good hunt with just a little education for both of us. Thanks for the fun day Ron.


Anonymous said...

Good Points. I remember when I was first learning with my first dog all the experts/books preached to always hunt into the wind! I remember becoming frustrated trying to do this --- these experts obviously had never been on a 10 mile chukar hunt where at some point you have to start hunting back towards the truck no matter what direction the wind is blowing. My success greatly increased when I said to hell with trying to always hunt into the wind and recognized my dogs can learn to hunt in any wind direction -- they will just hunt different wind directions differently. I wish I would of read this post when I was first learning.

Anonymous said...

Some of us who have bird hunted more than fifty years and been lucky enough to have some good to great dogs can become totally convinced that what we do to approach a hunt is the ONLY way it should be done. I fall absolutely in to that category, and have ticked off some friends with me by suggesting they do certain things on the hunt. They say I order them around. I tell them I am merely suggesting a potential likely successful approach. Mostly these discussions occur when they are hunting with my dogs. When they have their own dogs and are experienced bird hunters, in my experience it is only a divisive move on my part to "suggest" something to them about the hunt or approaches.

Larry has developed the ideal solution to the dilemma I have described. Send the dog man and dog in to likely territory, stay close enough to tell whether he s finding birds, then go on with your hunt when he finds some on his own.

With younger inexperienced hunters I try to keep them right with me to increase their chances, but with the old farts it is best to let them do their own thing and just keep your mouth shut. I hope none of them old farts read this, or they will continuously remind me on the next hunt about what I wrote here. ; >)