Snapshots of Chukar Hunting

Sloping in shadow
The Future?

“I can’t wait for chukar hunting season,” Bob said just yesterday. We have just over 6 months now. We need time to recover.

These are some snapshots of the 2015/2016 season mostly from down in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and a few at the Cecil Andrus Wildlife Management Area. We feel blessed to live in a state where we can access lots of quality, picturesque public lands for hunting and other recreation. We hope it stays this way. If you’re a chukar hunter, you’re well aware of the fact that some very misguided (or worse) folks are trying to have our federal public lands transferred to state control out west, which could very likely be the end of hunting, or any kind of use, for the common man and woman (not to mention the fact that many state constitutions – including Idaho’s – specifically disavow any future claim on federally owned land). As Americans and joint owners of this public land, this is the greatest legacy we can leave future generations. You can’t put a price tag on that.

_20150830_133504
Peat’s First Hunt
Halloween hunt
Halloween hunt
Reward at the top
Reward at the top
Huns
Huns
Early morning start
Early morning start
Follow the leader
Follow the leader
Bitterbrush or Basin Big Sagebrush
Basin Big Sagebrush
Fall is here
Fall is here
Steep country
Steep country
Pure joy
Pure joy
Beauty
Beauty
Boat, shed, cattle
Boat, shed, cattle
Bird dog trio
Bird dog trio
God's country
God’s country
Side-hilling
Side-hilling
Brownlee
Brownlee
Brittany beggars
Brittany beggars
Reflecting with Angus
Reflecting with Angus
Dog's country
Dog’s country
Chukar down
Chukar down
South-facing slopes
South-facing slopes
Snowballs on feathers
Snowballs on feathers
Agony (Peat eats the first chukar of the season).
Agony (Peat eats the first chukar of the season).
Early October view
Early October view
Typical chukar terrain
Typical chukar terrain
Angus fur
Angus fur
Brought to you by Vienna Sausages
Brought to you by Vienna Sausages
Ready, set, go!
Ready, set, go!
Wild turkeys
Wild turkeys
Heading back to the pickup.
Heading back to the pickup.

Thanks

Our chukar hunting season was blessed by being able to hunt with good friends and family. There’s something indescribable about sharing this activity with people and their dogs we care about. Maybe the photos can talk a bit…

P1130685
Bagpiping friend Rob came all the way out from western Washington with his young pointing Griffon, Talisker. (He even brought a bottle of the pup’s namesake!)
P1130728
Early October days were among the hottest of the season. We picked a doozy of a hike for this one.
P1130754
Talisker is a great dog, and quite fetching (get it?).
1002151243
Oh my…
P1130757
What you do after a long haul.
P1140424
Hunting with my brother Geoff and his son Porter was a treat.
P1140340
Father and son are super-fit and covered tons of ground.
This one’s for Donner, Geoff’s dog, who had to stay home on their trip out this fall (this was taken in January 2015).
P1140888
Hunting with The Kid for the third season in a row. He’s tough, smart, funny, and I’ll soon be watching him take off up hills ahead of me while I try catching my breath…

 

P1140165
The Kid got his very own shotgun this year, and shoots left-handed. He came close but is still looking for his first chukar.
P1140950
Peat took a liking to The Kid and has promised to point lots more birds for him to shoot next season.
P1140482
Cam was intrepidly good company.
P1140483
Cam gets up and down the hills with ease.
P1140491
Angus partnered with the shooter nicely on this Hungarian partridge in December.
P1090743
Didn’t get any photos of Dave hunting with us this year, but this classic old-school look from Dave last year shows his style. He’s always got something interesting to tell us…
P1090759
Dave’s Hun from last fall.
P1140044
Angie, Allan (with Quigley and Emma), me (with Angus and Peat), and Mike (with Paddy), on a blustery Halloween eve. Lots of birds, even more than we had dogs! Angie and Mike shared a great meal with us while camping in Hells Canyon. We hope to get out with them more next year in their new stomping grounds.
P1140058
Treat-hounds take a break from the action.
P1140627
Bryan is the figure in the upper left. He can move. His dog Bodie is up there somewhere, too. I wasn’t able to get any photos of Bryan up close.
1231151252
Angus, probably watching Bryan and Bodie on New Year’s Eve. This was the coldest hunt of the season, which felt even colder because we took the boat. Brr.

 

P1140796
My across-the-street neighbor Jared and his son Logan joined me for a spectacular January hunt filled with a plethora of deer, elk, and eagle sightings. Their first chukar outing, they’re eager to go again next season.
1225141322a
The fact that my wife/BFF Leslie can share these experiences with me makes it impossible to imagine anything better. Life is good, but with her, doing this with our dogs, it is the best thing.

 

 

 

 

Finale 2016

Phew!
Phew!

Sad to say it’s over. For now. What a season! Ended up with a gorgeous day yesterday, lots of birds, even hit some, and Peat made several flawless retrieves and was a joy to watch. Angus had stepped up his game the past several hunts, and finished strong yesterday, too, with a marvelous retrieve of a Hungarian partridge that landed in the creek way, way down there. Here’s a video of the last few hunts. Stay tuned for Leslie’s 2015-2016 highlight film.

 

Glenna

Glennamouth
My first dog before she haunted me. Looking out my classroom window today, the view of the opaque winter sky obscured by piling snow, I had this thought…

When I was 37 I moved to Boise, Idaho, where I knew nobody and didn’t have a job. I rented a house, my first time living in a house since I left my parents’ house after graduating high school. It was a small house, with a small backyard closed in with a white picket fence and a one-car detached garage. Six months after moving in, I’d skin my first deer in that garage, my experienced younger brother driving from five hours away to teach me how to do it. My right index finger bears a scar from one of my slips with a sharp knife. That night, we grilled some of the meat and ate it with his wife and two boys.

I shot that deer with a friend of mine who was also on his first big game hunting trip. We stayed at my dad’s cabin in eastern Idaho, which I’d visited nearly every summer since I was 10, and whose existence and setting served as the primary reason I chose to move to Idaho. I wanted to hunt birds and big game as a resident because it was much cheaper, and Idaho had lots of public land and our cabin. Boise was a big town and I figured I could get a job and make a living.

It was a big change for me, and scary. I was lonely at the beginning when I was trying to figure out what I’d done, and why. The frame made sense to me, but the canvas was still blank. I bought a bird dog puppy from a backyard breeder in Mountain Home, my first dog, a few weeks after arriving at my rented house. The girlfriend from whom I was slowly separating helped me move from California, she helped me unpack, helped me buy sundries from Target, helped me absorb the weirdness of moving ten hours northeast. But she left after a couple weeks, and I got the puppy to stamp some kind of seal on my new life.

Glenna challenged me. I read the book my brother had used to train his remarkable first dog of the same breed. It sort of made sense, but the puppy didn’t, and I wasn’t a good trainer. A scar from her baby incisor on my left palm, near the thumb, reminds me of her jubilant puppy play. A decade after getting her, during which time I rarely hunted with her because she ran too big and hunted for herself, she was buried in my brother-in-law’s yard in the mountains not far away. Dave dug the hole, which, empty, looked excessively deep and wide, but just barely held her and her first toy, a stuffed cougar the size of a burrito. Dave had lots of experience digging dog graves, with several interred nearby. I dropped dirt as gently as I could on Glenna while my three-year-old dog Angus ran around, seemingly oblivious. I didn’t understand what I clearly saw.

Those first new months here, I told myself that this is my new life. I still tell myself that, despite all that’s happened since. It’s been sixteen years. There’s still the fluttering in my stomach, and the questions. And the images. The one that haunts me, the one that is among the richest and brings back smells and shapes and a certain humidity, is the sight of Glenna, white and orange, sitting upright patiently and eagerly from young puppy to full-grown dog in the middle of the green grassy backyard, bordered by white pickets she could easily have leaped over but never did, late in the July afternoon heat, fragmentedly shaded by huge catalpa and silver maple trees, waiting and looking and watching for a glimpse of me coming home from work on my bike.

January Shmanuary

The snow it is a-comin’. Stayed home today, and probably tomorrow. Gave me time to show Leslie how iMovie works, and she made this cool video of some fun dog-work:

P1140950.jpgLast weekend we got to take The Kid out again, but he’s still in search of his first chukar. He got a couple shots off over a nice point by Peat, but no cigar. Still, it was a gorgeous day out of the fog shrouding our wee valley to the east of Hells Canyon.

Also, I have a new Q5 Centerfire Upland Vest (Quilomene), which can be seen in the latter part of the video. I’ll give it a thorough review next fall after I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces. The first outing with it was good.

P1150056.JPG

 

Pointing Peat

P1140803Chukar hunting four years ago, at 49, I jumped off a rock because for a moment I thought I was 18. It didn’t end up well. Sometimes it seems age is the only thing. Yesterday, age took center stage on a series of steep, rocky, muddy, bunch-grass-covered, sunlit desert hills. My aging butt trudged slowly up and down them trying to follow my puppy and my old-man Brittanys.

P1140796While climbing, I was able to keep the dogs on the north-facing, frozen slopes so that when we reached the top we could reverse direction into the prevailing wind and work down the open, sun-drenched south-facing terrain. On the way up, Peat, the puppy, found and pointed two small “bonus” coveys. Angus was elsewhere. Near the top, Peat ascended with considerable interest in a straight-ish line while Angus progressed in his typical quartering fashion, and on a more northerly vector than Peat. When Peat stopped, rigid, stretched motionless I boogied up to him, then crept ahead. After a few yards  a super-covey of at least 50 chukar burst right in front of us.

P1140801On the way down, Peat found and pointed two more groups that Angus did not, one of which Angus ran across without busting. I winged one bird, which sailed nearly half a mile, landing in a bitterbrush. I hustled both dogs down there, and Peat tracked the running partridge (and brought it straight back to me, thank you very much!).

P1140102In people years, Angus is nearly 63, (the “new 53”?, my current  actual age, which feels like the new 73). He’s had a rough go this year with the new, young, annoying blood, and he’s still kind of grumpy about it. In the middle of the season I realized he’d lost quite a bit of weight, so we increased his food. Finally, thanks to post-hunt Vienna Sausages and elevated kibble levels, he’s not quite so bony in the hips.

P1140804After today, I can’t help wondering how well the best nose I’ve had the pleasure of hunting with these past six seasons (I didn’t hunt with him until he was three) is working. Peat clearly outdid him on the olfactory score. While I’m thrilled with Peat’s progress, I can’t help resenting at least a little bit the “out with the old, in with the new” feeling it gives me. I’m sure that everyone who works with more than one dog at a time experiences this. It’s my first go-round with it, and makes me see from yet another angle my brother’s advice long ago to avoid having two bird dogs simultaneously. Not trying to start something here, mind you, just Vienna Sausages for thought. Aged ones.

P1090813And what might Angus be thinking? The reality of it is that he’s probably looking for birds, as always, and really excited about it. He still looks enlivened by the activity, and never looks happier than when doing this. Peat sometimes focuses too much on Angus and that has got to bug him, having to shuck and jive to escape Peat. But I wonder if he noticed Peat outperformed him today, and I wonder what he thought about it. I hope he’s just lying at my feet now resting up for the next hunt. I’m sure that’s it.

P1140636Peat’s got a long way to go, but I actually hunted with him today for the first time. Here’s a bit of footage from the past several weeks of the dogs working; the first section is on a trail during a walk, hunting prohibited, with lots of grateful quail. Enjoy.

Not just for the birds

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 397 other followers