It’s a good year for…snakes!!

•October 22, 2014 • 8 Comments

Last chukar season we encountered only one rattlesnake the entire four months of hunting and that was on a late November day. This year, we’ve already seen three rattlers while out hunting. It seems to be a good year for all types of snakes. More of them slithering across the roads, more flattened road killed ones, and just the other day our neighbor told us she found two rattlesnakes hiding in the tall grass near the children’s sandbox. Yikes!



Hells Canyon rattler, a couple weeks ago.

Before knowing it was going to be the year of the snake, we thought about sending our bird dog Angus to a rattlesnake avoidance class. Angus’s older sister Glenna took the class a few years ago and was the star pupil and passed with flying colors. Unfortunately, her glory was short lived when she went after a big gopher snake the very next day. We didn’t ask for a refund since what do you expect from a dog that was affectionately known as a.k.a. “the Honey Badger.”


Cat doors and snakes won’t stop me!


Our dog Angus is a sensitive, cautious little fellow who hates bugs, flies, or anything creeping and crawling. We hope his lack of curiosity in the snake department will steer him clear of rattlesnakes since we didn’t send him to a snake avoidance class. This summer we decided to have our veterinarian give Angus the western diamondback rattlesnake vaccine for dogs, given in two parts: one shot, then a booster shot a couple of weeks later. The vaccine is designed to create an immunity, decrease the severity of a bite, and to buy you time until you can get your dog to the nearest veterinarian clinic to see if additional treatment is needed. Of course every bite is different depending on the size and age of your dog, size of the snake, where it was bitten or how many times, and how much venom is injected.

As you know, chukar hunting takes you far from roads and your vehicle. Luckily, most snakes try to avoid your dog and you but it helps to know the basic first-aid in case your dog accidentally gets bitten. We are no experts and you can do your own research but the following seems to be the most common ways to treat your dog.

First thing is to recognize the immediate symptoms if you think your dog is bitten:

  • puncture wounds
  • severe pain
  • swelling and bruising
  • restlessness, panting, or drooling

Depending on how much venom is injected these are the more severe symptoms:

  • lethargy, weakness
  • muscle tremors
  • diarrhea
  • seizures
  • depressed respiration (normal is mid-20s)

What to do if your pet is bitten:

  • Keep your pet calm and carry if possible.
  • Limiting the dog’s activity will limit the venom moving around their body
  • Immobilize the limb if bitten on the leg. Try to keep the area at or below the heart
  •  Do not cut the bite
  • Do not try to suck out the venom
  • Do not apply ice
  • Drive your dog to the nearest vet clinic

Talk to your own vet about the vaccine and see if it’s right for your dog since some vaccines are not made for all types of venomous snakes. If you’re hunting out-of-state or far from your home territory familiarize yourself where the nearest vet clinic is located and put them on your speed dial. If you are hunting down in Hells Canyon near Brownlee or Oxbow Reservoir, Heartland Animal Hospital in Council, Idaho has an excellent vet. Weiser, Idaho, nearby, also has a vet clinic.




Lulling, or How to Carry the Wrong Gun All the Time

•October 20, 2014 • 9 Comments

Is this the right gun for the job?

I’ve been looking for, and finding, birds. I’ve seen chukar, Hungarian partridges, and “dusky” (formerly “blue”) grouse (which makes the statuesque, elegant galliform sound like a porn star trying to make a comeback). But I’ve also seen lots of horned deer while holding my Benelli Ultra Light 12-gauge loaded with 1-1/8 ounce 7-1/2 lead shot. Deer season ends soon, and my freezer’s empty, so I’m kinda hoping to run across (or over) a li’l forkie while sporting my .270. The thing is, though, that I see deer when I’m looking (with the Benelli) for birds, and I see birds when I’m looking (with my Remington 700) for deer. This weekend was a comedy of erred firearms.

I’d bet there are a few folks out there in the same conundrum. You can’t realistically carry two guns with you. I don’t even know if it’s legal. Once I had my poor wife carry my rifle on a bird hunt, and my shotgun on a deer hunt (she doesn’t hunt). You might guess that on both of those occasions we saw lots of sparrows and squirrels but no galliforms, dusky or otherwise, or ungulates, horned or otherwise.


Sometimes, birds don’t matter, right?

As far as the chukar go, it’s been a little frustrating. We’ve taken the boat out and kept to our goal of hunting new ground every time, but the birds have proven elusive. This past summer, while fishing on the nearby reservoirs, chukar serenaded us – it seemed – constantly. We’re finding more evidence of them now, however, than the birds themselves. I’m thinking it’s a timing thing, mostly. I know they’re moving, and it’s been unusually warm, so they’re near the water. Exactly how near, I think, has been the issue. Arg. After doing this for a while now, it’s bizarre not having a better idea of what to do where and when. When it comes down to it, luck seems to play as big a role as anything else. If I were bionic, and Angus, too, we could hunt all day (we’re no Larry of Tucker’s Chukars, after all!).

As much as it pisses me off to admit it, and as hard as it is to remember it, we do this for bigger reasons than killing birds. I’m so grateful I have Leslie to shoot pictures to remind of why I shouldn’t care if I don’t shoot birds.

Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields

Me Find Birds

•October 4, 2014 • 16 Comments
Residual chukar

Residual chukar

It’s days like this which, despite the snags, make the rest worthwhile.

I shot horrendously. I tied up the boat after a 12-mile trip in the chill morning air to discover I’d forgotten to put my boots – the most important piece of equipment – in the boat (so I motored back to the dock, and got ‘em, adding an hour to the endeavor). Leslie and Angus waited patiently.

But oh, the birds. In just two hours of hiking (very hard hiking) we saw over 100 chukar in at least four coveys. I haven’t seen this many coveys of this many birds in quite a while, maybe ever. I bagged only one bird (no excuses, but man, that is hard to take), and my friend Dan (who hunted elsewhere this day) thought it was the largest chukar he’s ever seen (he’s a retired US Fish & Wildlife bird biologist and lifelong upland hunter).

So here’s a short video of the day. Enjoy.

Week Two: conflict, torn metal, and joy

•September 28, 2014 • 4 Comments
Failed negotiation

Failed negotiation

Saturday proved unsuccessful in several areas:

  1. Aside from a couple of stealthy ruffed grouse, we saw no birds of any kind in nearly 4 hours of hiking high and low across chukarific terrain, some of which Leslie termed, “the most technical hiking I’ve ever done.”
  2. During our lunch break in the boat, I was unable to convince The Kid to trade me his peanut butter (Skippy Creamy), jam (strawberry), Cheetohs (made with real cheese), sandwich (on white bread) for my piece of cold pizza. I tried my best to save face after being shot down, but it didn’t feel good. Never try to separate an 11-year-old from his sandwich.
  3. On our way back to the dock, flying along at a good clip in the Sea Runner across some pretty big chop, we encountered a stranded boat, and towed it and its grateful occupants back to the dock. Somewhere along the way, however, our propeller got shredded. Ah, the costs of being a good Samaritan.


    Sea Runner as tugboat

As far as the non-chukarness goes, my only theory – which is worth its weight in a couple ruffed grouse tail feathers – is that the stiff wind had them hunkered down somewhere we weren’t lucky enough to stumble across. We focused on the leeward slopes and draws, in places we’d heard and seen chukar all summer long. Maybe the change in weather sent them packing to higher ground, but there’s no greenup anywhere yet.

Working the downwind slopes with The Kid

Working the downwind slopes with The Kid

Sunday worked out better, without the boat. Angus and I headed up an old, familiar trail along a creek, and within 30 minutes I had three ruffed grouse in my bag. We continued up the road a couple miles and then decided we’d better ascend and look for chukar.  Hiking up the steep slopes was bone dry, with thick, very tall bunch grass, often over Angus’ head. Very tough footing. Steady, calm wind, warm. I was dubious about finding birds high up with no greenup whatsoever, but Angus pointed just below the ridge top on the east-facing slope (about mid-day). A good covey of 20 chukar rose, and I got two adults. I kept thinking we’d find some more birds on the way down, but didn’t. Still, a really, really good day.

I think I learned they can be anywhere, regardless of obvious food sources. Taking a page out of my old book of hiking to the ridge, working it carefully on both sides with the dog, and praying we’ll find something might be the ticket. It’s just that it’s so damned hard to get up the hill.

What a relief to get to the ridge and mostly flat footing.

What a relief to get to the ridge and mostly flat footing.


A soothing bath for Angus after a great day’s work

Bonus shed, with the day's plenty

Bonus shed, with the day’s plenty


•September 21, 2014 • 4 Comments
Chukar in the house

Chukar in the house

Opening weekend came and went, and we’re still vibrating from it. We camped in Oxbow the night before opening day, greeted by a big sow bear as soon as we beached the boat. We waited a while, not sure if we should look for another cove, and then two cinnamon cubs appeared, and the train left the station. So we tied up, and enjoyed the stars, all night long, courtesy of Angus’s nearly constant woofing at things going bump in the night. We also learned that Oxbow (and probably most reservoirs) reduce the water level at night, because we awoke about 1:30 a.m. to our boat listing about 45-degrees. When it finally got light, Leslie and I eagerly prepared coffee fixings, only to realize we forgot a crucial part of the stove. As hardcore addicts, we fiddled about to create some heinous caffeinated beverage to dispel the certain migraine-like headaches that would have set in without our morning fix. Note to self. Remember stuff like that next time.

It's the water, and a lot more.

It’s the water, and a lot more.

But what about the hunting? Opening day was tough, but we saw three coveys. The first numbered at least 40 birds. I knocked one down and Angus got it. We saw two more large coveys (20+ birds) in the next two hours, but they busted early, probably because we were pursuing them across huge scree fields and must have appeared like Brahmas in the China shop. It was awesome, though, to explore new, heavily birded terrain and see lots of birds. Especially after last year. I think I hunted four times before bagging a chukar last year.

The next day we took the boat onto Brownlee and found a nice cove with decent access to a dirt road. Angus pointed just above the water level after being out only a few minutes. We followed the birds across a few little finger ridges near the water (cow trails on precipitous slopes), and Angus pointed again. I managed a double, but was only able to recover one bird, which is always incredibly aggravating. (Later, we returned to the area and found what I believe was that bird, which must have only been lightly wounded because it blasted up a draw right where I thought it should be; y’all know that when a chukar busts uphill the chances of finding it are slim to none and slim left town).

Good morning, opening day.

Good morning, opening day.

We hiked a lot and saw amazing new terrain. Since it was really warm it made sense that the first birds we saw were so close to the water, especially since there’s no greenup yet: no food higher up, and scarce water. But we came to a watering trough near a spring, and – sure enough – there was a large covey just next to it, and I managed one of this year’s small birds, which was so small that at first I thought it was a Hungarian partridge when Angus retrieved it.

We heard lots of calling, saw healthy-sized coveys, and are excited to head back out next weekend. I’m grateful to have a few days of rest (if you can call teaching 7th through 12th graders English “rest”) before next time.


Good Birds and High Hopes

•September 3, 2014 • 2 Comments
Chukar habitat is in good shape

Chukar habitat is in good shape

We rambled in chukar country last weekend, looking for grouse with the gun. Didn’t see any, but found plenty of chukar. We found partridges along rivers and reservoirs, in large (30+) coveys. A much better outlook than last September. To say the least.

Angus is ready (perhaps too ready; he chased down and retrieved a chukar, to my horrified delight). So am I. So is the boat. We’re hoping to see a lot of new country this year courtesy of that vessel, places we couldn’t access previously without great travail and even more time.


“May I hop ashore, cap’n? Methinks numerous alectoris await!”

The time is nigh

•August 26, 2014 • 8 Comments

The Sea Runner is ready

Getting close. We’ve taken to sitting in the boat in the evenings now, imagining, strategizing, speculating, expectorating, and imbibing IPA.

Chukar have serenaded us during every fishing trip this summer. Angus has filed away their crowing coordinates.

We took a hike last weekend through a favorite late-season spot (which is the same place we took photos for an earlier post), which is bone dry now – I just wanted to walk and get Angus some hill work, and didn’t expect to see any birds or sign. I didn’t. There’s nothing for partridges to eat there yet. I did notice a plant (see photo below) that looks like cocklebur spread everywhere the cattle have been, but as far as I can tell it’s not cocklebur.

What's this plant?

What’s this plant?

Anyone have any ideas on what it is? I’d never noticed this plant here before; if it is a cocklebur, we’ll avoid that area in the fall because Angus has a real talent for collecting them, which adds an unpleasant hour or two to every post-hunt ritual.

Finally, I bought a new domain for this blog (decaled on the boat: It shouldn’t affect how you get here, or anything else. Just shorter.

Hang in there, I tell Angus and Leslie. It’s almost time. But I’m really talking to myself. It happens a lot this time of year.


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