|Last Chukar of The 2011-12 Season|
Saturday was my last opportunity to get out and hunt chukars before seasons end on February 15. I was hoping to take a day off work and get one more hunt in but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Like every season we had good days and we had other days that were… lets just say… not as productive. Overall this year was a little disappointing in the fact that we weren't able to make some of the trips we were planning on. Locally we didn't get into as many birds as I would of liked but that is always the case. Forest Grouse numbers seemed to be down this year. Chukars seemed about the same as last year, maybe a little better and the Pheasants are always scarce and I wasn't able to get after much else. But, scattered throughout the year there were days that were as good as I could ever hope for.
Chief has gone through that crucial first season and I think he did great. The first part of the season he was hunting hard but wasn't initializing many bird contacts. But he naturally progressed and by the end of the hunting season he was hunting so well that I had to constantly remind myself that he is still a pup. He fulfilled all my expectations for his first year. He's holding his points, he is adamantly always searching for game, he is obedient for the most part. He is interested in hunting with me and given the opportunity he will make a retrieve. What else could you ask from a first year dog. He did awesome. I'm very proud of him. I just wish we had another month to hunt. It feels like he was just really getting it and the season is over. I will need to make sure he maintains his progression until next season.
|Laurel Mountain Wasatch Chief at 7 mos. Grouse Hunt|
In the field Chief has always been a natural and requires nothing of me other than to shorten up his range at times. He is bigger than I expected but he is not too large. He will probably end up in the 55 pound range. That's a good size for a male hunting dog in my opinion. He is tall and fine boned with long legs. He is athletic and has all the speed I could ever want. He has good conformation and I think he is one of the most handsome dogs I've seen. I love watching this guy hunt. He's got the power and the speed along with the grace, beauty and style that attracted me to the Llewellin breed.
A pleasant surprises has been how tough and durable he is. After a long hunt when the older dogs would be walking gingerly and were happy to crawl back into their crates, Chief would look fresh and ready to go for another round. I used to joke "no brain no pain" but that wasn't the case at all. Because he's smart, he's just tough as nails. He has really good, tight feet that have held up well in the chukar hills. .Good feet are a big deal when it comes to bird dogs who hunt the high desert. The dog's feet take a pounding in that terrain so the tougher the better.
I was a little worried about the setter coat but it hasn't been a problem. It does require some maintenance and I do need to spend a few extra minutes at the tailgate pulling burs and such but not much more than I've had to do with the wooly wirehairs I've owned. I brush my dogs daily no matter what coat length they have so the additional minute or so to clean his out is not a problem. I believe getting a dog up on a bench for a couple minutes and giving them that extra attention goes a long way with the dogs attitude. My dogs are usually bouncing off the garage walls when I get home from work but when I throw either of them on the bench and brush them out they calm right down. I usually go through this routine before I do any yard training too. This little bit of attention just seems to help them get their mind right and calms them down so they can absorb the training. Next summer I will clip him when I clip Hazel and give them both a clean up trim just before the season begins. I'm sure it will help with the burs and tag-a-longs we pick up during grouse season. I've done that with Hazel the last couple of years and then just let the coat grow out through the season and by the time chukar and pheasant season gets rolling the dog has a nice heavy coat to deal with the colder weather.
|Hazel and Chief with the last grouse of the 2011 season.|
These two dogs together are quite the combination. European Versatile paired with the American Birddog. They are really starting to work as a team and compliment each other. They are quite a pair of canines. Both are excellent bird finders, He still has a way to go to be as fine a hunter as Hazel is but I think he will get there. He showed me so much towards the end of the season. Chief will retrieve downed birds if he sees the fall and if he doesn't f Hazel is more than happy to search out a downed bird. Chief will get better at retrieving, he shows a good desire and with a little work he will be solid. Both dogs are starting to que in on one another and starting to hunt at times as a team. It's amazing to watch and I know it's just going to get better the more they hunt together. Some days it seems like neither want to honor the other and they will get over-competitive with one another and push birds too hard. But on the days that it all works and both are honoring one another and they are tag teaming coveys… It just doesn't get any better. I'm lucky to have two cool, unique hunting companions like them. The future of my kennel is bright. I can see myself hunting over this combination of breeds or similar type dogs for the rest of my life. I really like the versatile/setter combination.
Besides adding another dog to the lineup the other major change to my hunting style was the addition of an semi-auto shotgun the last couple of months. The Franchi 48/AL is a great gun. I really, really like it. In 12 gauge it weighs less than my 20 gauge New Haven pump. Its a joy to carry and It fits me well. I can't say I'm dropping more birds but I'm having a lot of fun trying. On chukars it has been awesome. It was a nice addition but it won't replace my doubles. I can't imagine not using my over/under 12 on pheasants or not using my 28 sxs on grouse. Life is too short to always be using the same gun. My wish list still has a 16 gauge or 20 gauge sxs on it and I still need a camo duck/turkey gun semi-auto of some type. There is plenty of room for expansion in my shotgun collection.
Regrets for the year: I didn't make it to some of the places I really wanted to hunt this year. I have a couple of mountain ranges in mind that I think may hold some chukar and I never made the trip out to see if I'm right. I didn't make it to some of my favorite grouse haunts. The biggest regret was the fact that the trip to South Dakota we planned on never happened. Hopefully next year all of it will work out better. Time and money is all it takes and lately I'm short of both.
Another regret was my physical conditioning was not what I like it to be. I was hunting slower than usual at the end of the season and I need to get back to were I was a year ago. My dogs are in great shape and I'm sucking wind and having to take frequent breaks on the chukar slopes. My dogs use my treadmill more often than I do. I need to get in the habit of biking, increase my walking and improve my core. I'm getting older and things aren't as automatic as they used to be. I need to make more of an effort for my health sakes. Hopefully that will lead to better hunting.
Goals for next year:
Take a couple of bird hunting vacations, even if it's just a weekend to Idaho. Improve my shooting, get to the clays coarse more often. Get in shape. Keep the dogs progression improving. Get my kids into the field more often and get them more involved. It's hard to take the kids chukar hunting but a grouse hunt here and a pheasant hunt there shouldn't be a problem. If I can accomplish these things I should have a great 2012-13 season
Overall, I did get into some birds. I brought a young dog along and my other dog keeps progressing nicely. I had some great days and have some great memories from this past season. I'm blessed to have done what I did, to live where I live and have the means to own the dogs and the time to do what I do. Hunting is my fountain of youth, my own personal time machine. When I'm hunting I still feel like that 14 year kid wearing his old, too small ski coat, pockets overflowing with shells. Clinging to a single shot 20 while chasing a bird dog through some thicket during an after school hunt. What's really cool is the same brother who was with me on so many of those adventures 25 years ago is still at my side today enjoying it all with me. We have the same love and passion for it as we always did. This never gets old. We will. But the feelings and experiences won't. I hope it never ends. Because when it does then I'm afraid that will be the end of me.
I'm already excited for next year but I say that at the end of every season.