Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Utah Chukar Hunting Winter 2015


It's been a couple months since my last post and to those who frequent this blog I apologize.
December was a very busy month and the weather didn't cooperate with my hunting plans. There really wasn't anything to report.

January came and I was finally able to get out and do some hunting. We went to some of our local favorite haunts and found Chukar populations were up from the last few years. We were consistently finding good coveys in all the places we'd found them before.

With the dry warm weather we've experienced this January it wasn't long before those coveys were scattered and became harder and harder to find. By the end of the hunt in February most groups were just 2-3 birds, occasionally more. But, the action once we found them was usually pretty consistent. That doesn't mean I was putting a ton of birds in the bag but we got our share and had enough success to keep us wanting for more.

Typical local Chukar Terrain
Chukar hunting is hard and it's not for everyone but it's this hunters opinion that it's the most rewarding of all the upland birds, or at least the ones I've hunted. It's usually a lot of work to get to these birds. The dogs work hard, The hunters work hard, the shots are hard, the land is steep and hard but the payoff is so great. The bonus is chukar meat is some of the best if not the best eating bird in the game world. Tonight my wife and I made Chukar Coconut Kurma with Garlic Naan. It was so good. An Indian dish for a species of game bird  that was imported from that region of the world. Kind of cool. Every chukar is a prize and every time I get one I cherish it.

Chief on Point
The dogs had a good chukar season. Both dogs had their shining moments. But dogs will be dogs and have their.... not so good moments. But I have good dogs and they hunt hard. Chief has become an old pro and knows that if he is going to get his mouth on a bird he needs to be patient and wait for us to catch up to him. There was a couple points this year that he was pretty far out (500 yards or more) that he almost took on a casual attitude while waiting for me to approach. He was wagging his tail and looking over his shoulder. Once I thought he was going to actually sit down. This is totally new for him. Chief is as intense a pointer as any dog I've owned and more than most I've seen. I thinks it's that he has done this enough times that he knows what to do. The main thing is he held his birds and gave me opportunities. I also think on some of these occasions he was beat-tired and was taking the moment to slow down and relax. He was born to hunt chukars. It's really his element.
He gets to run as big as he wants and I'm not nagging him to stick around.


 I love it when a dog is on point and turns it's head to make eye contact with you. There is some communication going on with those glances that is hard to explain in words. I've had looks that I interpreted as "It's right there" and once this season Chief turned to look at me and I swear his eyes got really big and wide when we made eye contact as if to say, "I got it dead-to-rights.... DON'T YOU MISS!" I know that sounds crazy but his look had a tone. I didn't miss that one. I believe these interactions mean that this dog is hunting with you and is working as a team. Canine and human both have the same goal in mind and are working together to accomplish it. It's so cool. Those who haven't experienced it just don't know and can never understand. All the breeding, training and hunting pays off in those little moments and interactions.

Hazel with a nice blurry retrieve.
Fresh Chukar Sign. Yes, I'll pick up
poop to see if it's fresh. I'm weird like that.
Usually I just step on it to check but I
thought It would make a good photo.

Hazel ended the year as well as she started. She had her moments where I wanted pull her ears off but a minute later she'd do something awesome and all would be forgiven. She found her share of birds and held her points. She also had some great retrieves.  She is 7 years old so I have a few more years with her. (I hope). She had some moments this Chukar season that I hope I never forget. One comes to mind when we were on top of a mountain in kind of a flat area. I'm walking a long and see Hazel a hundred yards in front of me with her nose up bee-lining across this yellow cheat grass field for about 60 yards and stopping at the edge of some burned junipers. I hailed my brother on the radio and said "I got Hazel on point in the flats".  She held that bird long enough for both of us to get there and by the time the bird flushed we had 4 dogs locked up and backing her point. The bird flushed and we took the shot but the bird sailed around us and we thought it was gone. I was disappointed not only because of the good dog work we didn't reward but I felt like I got it. We left that spot and went around to were the bird flew and my brother's dog Sage found it dead among the rimrock. That was a sweet moment.

The point and back described above. After this moment I realized my camera was not working too well. Sorry for the blurry picts. I'm still mad about it because it was such a cool moment.
Another crazy moment during the hunt was I came across the strangest creature. It was brown with a small round head with big ol' eyes a hump back and moved in a weird shuffle drag motion. When I first saw it I had no idea what it was and it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. It kind of freaked me out. I was wondering if I was looking at a Chupacabra or something.  A few minutes later I saw a jack rabbit and realized that what I saw before was a badly mangled large jackrabbit that had somehow had it's ears removed and could no longer hop. It was a strange looking sucker. I wonder what that rabbits story is.



Last Bird 2015
The last bird of the year happened on the way off the mountain on the last day of the hunt. We were just starting to head back down when Chief's beeper collar started to scream point. I run him on silent mode and my point signal is a hawk scream. I find him head down and tail up looking down a slope among some burned out junipers. Before I could get close enough for a shot 3 birds flush about 15 yards in front of him. 2 dive down a canyon but one flies up over the canyon and lands on the next ridge not far from were we are headed. We look around for a moment to be sure there are no stragglers. I water the dogs well and we head for that ridge in hopes of a reflush. I swing around pretty wide hoping not to over pressure the bird. We approach the area from above but to no avail. But again within a few minutes, Chief's beeper is going off just above me. I bounce over to him just in time to see a chukar running about 10 feet in front of Chiefs nose. He breaks point and does a stiff legged stalk but the bird bolts down the hill. Again this bird doesn't fly too far. Maybe 300 yards and I watch it land again. So off we go again we go to where I marked it and both dogs were birdy but no bird. I let the dogs work and Chief went wide to my left while Hazel stayed pretty close working down hill in front of me. She was about 40 yards out when she froze and I knew we had it. I came down on her left side and walked past her about 10 yards when the bird came up right beside me it flew straight down hill and I shot it with my second shot.  It fluttered in the air for a moment and landed almost directly on Chief. He picked it up and headed up towards us then dropped the bird and just sat there with it until I came and picked it up. He was really hot and I guess didn't want to retrieve it but didn't want to leave it until I got there to pick it up. So I had 3 points on the same bird. That is rare with wild chukars. The birds and the terrain hardly ever allow that to happen. It was cool to end the year like that.

Hazel with another nice retrieve after a nice point by Chief
Overall it was a good year. Not only the chukars but I had a really good grouse season and the pheasant hunt was pretty fun. No out of state hunts this year. But the action was pretty good here in Utah so I don't feel like I missed out.

Lessons learned: 1) I like having a beeper on Chief. There was a few coveys and birds that I would of never known about if I didn't have him wear one.

2) Hazel needed a confidence boost for whatever reason and is back to her old self. It is so good to see. I love that dog more than ever.


3) I had to check my shooting. Concentrate on the target and not the gun. Once I did that chukars started ending up in the bag.

4) You can never pack too much water in the chukar hills. We had some warm days this year but I packed enough water that I could really let the dogs drink and that helped our success because the dogs had the stamina to hunt long and hard.

Worn out Dog Booties after a day on the mountain. Only a chukar hunter can appreciate this shot. 
5) Dog booties last longer if you coat them with duracoat or some other spray on rubber. I give mine several coats and got a lot more wear out of them. Plus I think it helped with the traction.
https://www.dogbooties.com/shop/1000-denier-cordura®-booties/

6) Time for a new camera. Mine is no good. I like using a camera rather than my phone. It's quicker than digging out my phone and trying to get it to wake up.

7) Chukar hunting is not for everyone. Don't expect everyone to love it the way I do.

I have a few posts and product reviews pretty much ready to go. I'm going to try to get back on my game and keep the blog more current this off-season.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on this bird hunting drivel. I really appreciate the support I get from family and friends and those new friends I've made along the way.

Until next season.
Brett

Tired dogs and a tired hunter. Can't wait 'til next year. After reviewing this post I notice my dogs looks trashed in almost every photo. It was a dry hot January and February. It made for some long hard days. The dogs did great.