Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Old pictures

Rainy day today so I got caught today inside looking over old pictures. I don't mean digital pictures but those from a camera that needed film exposures, if that's the right term. I remember packing a camera around back then and having to stop and put new film in because I ran out. I had to climb out of a bear den once because I ran out of exposures and as I was changing film the bear about bowled me over escaping. 

Anyhow, obviously I had some fond memories brought back to me such as this one about 20 years ago while hunting with Tucker and Dakota the beginning of TEAM TUCKOTA. It amazes me of how many close encounters we have while chasing chukars. You'd think with all the commotion animals would be exiting rapidly but I believe at times wild animals are interested in what the crazy dogs are doing. This picture is one example.

I noticed both dogs acting strange towards a clump of sage but neither dog was acting birdie so I approached the bush. To my surprise I could see this lion staring at me. I was only about 10 yards away when I realized what was there and soon figured it wasn't acting threatening so I traded my shotgun and snapped this picture. As I moved to get a different angle he or she trotted away in a casual manner and the boys went on hunting.

It was a cool encounter since everything went without an injury. But it was also cool to be so close without the cat, dogs or myself getting aggressive. I always have a lion and wolf tag in my possession just in case. Take the case where I shot the lion hot on Dakota's tracks while chukar hunting one year. The lion wasn't a yard behind my dog when I pulled the trigger and later realized I didn't have to shoot. The lion was only using the same escape route that Dakota was using to get out of the rocks. He was just a little faster and probably would have run over the top of my dog getting out of there with me yelling like a crazed fool in fear for my dog.

Over the years my records only show two years that I haven't seen a mountain lion while chukar hunting but I have to wonder how many times there has been one within 50 yards of me and the dogs without us even knowing it. There has been three other times that I have jumped a lion at less than 10 yards and they trotted off at a fast lope with very little care. They had plenty of time to get out of the country with the dogs running all over the place but didn't until I got too close.

I found a few other interesting photos but will save them for another day. The weather is looking great for some bird hunting so get those mutts out there and enjoy it. I know I am.

P.S. for Alan

Treed large female lion.

Climbing up tree with her. 

Decided that wasn't too smart so I climbed the tree next to her to snap a shot. When she started digging her feet in I decided it was time to retreat not knowing whether she was going to head my way or down the tree. She lived to hunt more wildlife.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Moisture and the mutts

 Sometimes it's hard to put a finger on poor dog work. I know that more than just once I have wondered if my dog has gone brain dead. The beginning of this bird season had me wondering about Grady and my letting him run wild this summer. It seemed like he had found a new past time, chasing birds. As the hunting season came upon us, I tried to explain that I could make them run and fly without his help but it seemed like we weren't connecting. Jake, on the other hand, has learned to pace himself while Grady bumped more and more birds. I knew it was hot and dry, making scenting conditions tough, but things were getting a little out of hand. We had a few decent days but watching birds fly 100 yards away was beginning to get old. I was thinking we might have to go back to the basics and then the snow came.

It takes birds to make a good hunting dog, but it takes bird scent equally as much. I decided after Grady's performance today that for the past month his nostrils were filled with dust and pollen. He was running so hard he was creating clouds of dust he couldn't see birds through. Today's snow knocked all the dust down and Grady became a  different dog. I mention Grady just because for the most part Jake has become mister dependable and has learned not to get all fired up like Grady. His pace is a little slower and purposeful. He might not find as many birds but he very seldom bumps them.

From the time we left the truck Grady was off to the races. 300 yards to my left, then three hundred yards to my right and then three hundred yards behind me. There wasn't much area uncovered. I knew that because even though I usually couldn't see my boys there tracks were everywhere in the new snow. I was wondering how many birds had already been flushed that I never heard or saw, when my Alpha said Grady on point 158 yards away. I headed towards him and soon it showed Jake on point in the same general area. When I got there Jake was honoring Grady and I could see the birds about 20 yards in front of Grady huddled in the snow. The birds held well until I moved to the front of the dogs and then flushed. Neither dog moved a muscle until the flush and shot. Wow! That's how it's supposed to be. How come that hadn't happened much in the past month?

As the day progressed I saw more and more of that great dog work by both boys.  I only saw one covey busted wild. Both dogs were on point ahead of me and out of sight when the birds busted at about 100 yards away. I don't know if the dogs broke or the birds just flushed.

 I had 3 or 4 points that were solid but, when I approached, all I saw was bird sign where they had been feeding but had flown earlier and left plenty of scent.

To make it short I had excellent dog work today and I attribute that to the snow or moisture. I know better but I was expecting more out of my dogs then they could produce. Grady traveled just as far and fast as his past hunts but seemed to be able to find and hold the birds. By the time we got back to the truck we had 11 birds with only 10 shots. It wasn't because of good shooting but good dog work. Outside of getting a scotch double on one covey of huns I shot one bird out of each covey pointed.

The only draw back to the day was when I saw Grady trying to get something that seemed to be stuck in his mouth. As I approached I could see the quills in his lips. I never saw the porcupine, but evidently Grady is getting smarter because there were only about 20 and they came out fairly easily.

Another note is the condition of the birds. None of the chukars had any fat at all and the huns had just a little. Their crops were filled with seeds and no green grass. As long as we get some good sunny days this snow will have done us a lot of good. Not only for scenting but to get the grasses growing and helping the birds fatten up before the real cold season comes.

I saw loads of birds today so get out there and let your dogs do what you got them for. And trust them to use their instincts to find you birds.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Up Chuk or Chuk Up

 Today I finally got on a real chukar mountain and even with the hot and dry conditions I made 5 miles and 1800 feet of elevation gain. As the title says many times my body wanted to quit and do a little up chuking. Luckily, Jake and Grady were the stimulus I needed. They were covering the mountain with gusto even if I couldn't. Watching them covering the mountain forced me to chuk up and get to where they were telling me the birds were. 

It wasn't with a lot more stops than usual but just getting there was a huge accomplishment today. And although Grady busted far more birds than I would have liked they did have enough good dog work to keep me happy. Especially Jake who has learned to pace himself.

The really good news is that there were loads of birds. I don't believe we went more than 10 minutes without seeing a chukar after the original hour of getting to them. Some held great and some acted like January birds. It was my first time to really get into chukar country and I believe the numbers are up for the year even after that very wet June.

Tomorrow I'm sure I'll pay the price for being in such bad shape but it will be a good price to pay when I think of how much fun I had with the boys on the mountain. I'm not packing a camera on my trips yet but did get a tailgate picture of the boys take for the day. It looks like cooler and wetter weather coming in the next few days so I'm hoping to get out for some more fun and maybe a little better dog work (GRADY). Hope to see you and the dogs out there.