This season was much better than I could ever imagine. For those not familiar with me, I had a bad break in my right leg in March and a back operation Oct. 1. So my season was looking pretty short and on the more gentle slopes. But thanks to two dogs, my reigning chukar champions, I didn’t get to spend much time on the gentler slopes. Plus I got more birds than I probably deserved.
My shortened season comprised of 52 chukar hunts. Most of them were pretty darn painful but as most of you know, just watching the pups takes a lot of the discomfort away. When you get right down to it, who doesn’t hurt after a chukar hunt?
Early in the season my lack of mobility had me wondering about bird numbers and most of the birds I was seeing were being busted by the dogs. Especially Grady. I figured he got some bad habits during my rehab for the leg. We spent three months driving back country roads in my side by side while the dogs got exercise. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg so Grady learned how much fun it was to chase turkey’s. I thought it was kind of funny until chukar season came around. Three or four trips and Grady got back on track and by mid November the two of them became chukar machines.
Jake and Grady started finding birds just about everywhere we went. They also did a great job of letting me see them. Once we got in the real chukar country we started realizing that bird numbers were good. We had a few bad trips but for the most part saw good numbers of birds and with the mild winter we should have a good batch of chukars for breeding this Spring.
A lot of hunters complained about the amount of new chukar hunters out this year. I have to say I did see more rigs with dog boxes parked along the roads, but only once did I encounter another hunter on the hill. Fish and Game also says there has been an increase in hunting license sales. Could be all the people moving into the state and also could be because of the virus people are looking for something to do away from others. Either way it hasn’t made much of an impact on next Springs bird production.
My last chukar hunt was yesterday, Jan. 30. I think it covers all the aspects of what I have just written. Because of the rains the day before, Greg and I decided to go to a more popular spot and not tear up any roads or get the rig covered with inches of mud once more. As we drove in we could see evidence of other rigs ahead of us but you could have 100 rigs in this country and people would still be able to hunt away from others. About two miles before the road ended I dropped Greg off with his girls, Katie and Elsa. He was going to make a swing back up hill and eventually either see me up there or meet me at the rig. Problem was when I got to the meeting spot, another hunter had just arrived there and was heading in the direction I was supposed to go. I had to leave the truck there because that was the meeting place. To complicate it more, there was another rig parked there also. It had dog boxes so I assumed it was a chukar hunter. I had no idea which way he went.
I picked the most unlikely ridge to go up and me and chukar champions headed up. We gained elevation fast and never saw or heard the other hunters. Later I asked Greg if he ever saw the other hunter that took off his way and he said he never saw him or heard a shot. After gaining about 1000 feet and not seeing a dropping or having any dog action I was wondering about my decision. At least I had gotten away from where the foot traffic was most likely to go. I had reached a ridge where I had to make a decision. It was time to test my two rules of chukar hunting. Number one is, many times it takes 2 hours of walking before you ever even find a chukar. Then all hell can break loose with the numbers you find. Second is, you got to believe. I decided to head up this canyon.
I also knew the birds were more likely towards the top of these canyon walls. Theory one was a little short. It was about two and a half hours before I saw my first bird. It was off a distant point that took me a while to get to.
But when I got there, it was well worth it. Not only a solid good looking Jake but also a nice covey of cooperating chukar.
They only offered one shot but I connected. I immediately knew the dogs were going to earn their keep today. The bird rolled and rolled down the steep slope and when it hit a clump it would make a kick and role further. Eventually Jake caught up to the bird and brought it up the hill to me. Those who have watched a dog do this know how much we owe them just for one retrieve.
For the next hour and a half I was in chukar heaven. We saw no fewer than 100 chukars. When the boys weren’t pointing they were making long retrieves.
If it were less steep country things might have gone quicker because there was so much action but it took me sometimes 10 to 15 minutes to get to the point. I had already spent five minutes getting to this point and honor.
And then it took a couple of minutes to slowly move in front of Grady for the kill.
Trust me the hill is steeper than it looks. But the rewards were worth it.
The video feature of the camera wasn’t working or I could have filmed both dogs brining the birds back to me.
The rest of the day progressed that way. It’s just easier showing the pictures and letting you enjoy an epic hunt. They don’t come very often.
Jake and Grady never let me down. Every point had birds, but sometimes the birds didn’t cooperate for a shot. Although we had several points on our way down to the rig this was the last hunting pose the chukar champions gave me.
And I moved out in front and did my job.
A double to end the season with.
This season was no let down. Anyhow not for me or my hunting partner Greg Allen. Chime in and let me know how your season was. Hopefully I’ll hear from some of you and we’ll be in touch this Spring.
4 thoughts on “Final take of 2020-2021 season.”
Congratulations on 52 days afield! That’s impressive, especially considering all that you’ve overcome this last year.
I really like your first 2 rules of chukar hunting, which are completely accurate in my experience. It makes me feel good to know that I’m not the only one that frequently hikes for hours before getting into birds. I’d never really thought about it much before, but during those times, I think that my outlook has always been to keep going and keep believing.
Wishing you good health and additional recovery this off season.
Thank you Tim. I’m thinking most people that chase chukars eventually figure that it isn’t a park your rig and instantly be shooting sport. Congrats on your new pup. It sounds like you are on your way to good things.
I’ve been a bird hunter since I was five years old, which now means that I’ve occupied that vocation longer than any other. Indeed, over half a century now. But in that time, I’ve taken chukars once.
That occasion was some time in the very late 1970s or the very early 1980s. It was very late in the season and I was goose hunting. I saw some chukars, knew that it was open and got one or two, I don’t quite recall. What I do recall is that I was with my father and I crossed the frozen North Platte to retrieve my birds.
That says something, whether we are to admit it or not, as there’s no way on earth I’d cross the North Platte if it had ice on it now and there’s no earthly way I’d let my kids do it. But my father did, and I didn’t worry about doing it. I knew it was frozen solid.
Last weekend I was out by the Platte and it was completely open.
Anyhow, I’ve seen chukars from time to time since then but I didn’t go out and make a dedicated effort to hunt them. . . until this season.
And that intent formed the season before last.
The season before last I was hunting deer late in the season, in a snowstorm, and ran into a big bunch of chukars in the mountains in territory much like that you have recently depicted in another post. I had a shotgun with me, but I was carrying a rifle. I didn’t see any deer, and I didn’t try for the chukars, but it stayed on my mind.
This year I ran into chukars again while deer hunting, but out in a sage brush covered area where I’ve never encountered them before in my life. And it was a lot of them. Again, as I was deer hunting, I passed on.
I didn’t get a deer, however, I went back into the aforementioned mountainous area and encountered them walking down a road. I got a deer later in the day, and looked for the chukars on the way back, but I didn’t run into them again. Opportunity lost.
About a week later I was out duck hunting and walked for a couple of miles across the plains to get to a water hole with ducks on it. Walking down a draw I ran into a big bunch of chukars. I was completely unprepared to shoot, or even encounter, chukars. On my way back out, I looked for them again to no avail.
I mentioned to a game biologist at that point that I’d run into chukars three times that year. He was checking my deer for CWD. I noted how surprised I was by the last encounter I just noted. “Big hatch this year” was his reply.
Later, hunting ducks on the river, I paused on a bluff just to observe the river. I then noticed the dog was nowhere to be found. Looking around, I saw him working the area behind me, nose to the ground. He was on to. . .chukars.
I figured they were gone but sent him down a draw to work it. He found them again, and I got a long shot. Missed.
Of course steel shot waterfowl ammo isn’t ideal for chukars either.
About a week later, I was hunting the same area and crossing from one spot to another, not seeing any ducks, and not prepared for anything else, when the dog got them up again. Another long shot and another miss.
The next week, walking to the river from a different spot, yep, once again. I wasn’t prepared to shoot at all, and when I did, I missed. I saw where they’d gone and we worked them again, and one more long shot, with the same results.
After this, it was game on. I went back three more times just looking for them. We walked for miles.
Never saw them.
All of which is probably some sort of a lesson. . . but I’m not sure what it is.
Great story Pat. There’s a sayin in much of the chukar community that ” the first time you hunt chukars it’s for fun the next time is for revenge”. Although I haven’t gotten to the revenge part yet, it sounds like maybe you have.
Keep enjoying the outdoors like it sounds you do.
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