Being retired, I’m lucky to have plenty of time to think about my favorite past time, dogs and chukar hunting. Today, Feb. 26, it’s snowing again. Although I’d rather be out there hiking the hills, the dogs and I are sitting here enjoying the fire and thinking about being out there the next time and what we’ve seen since the hunting season. It’s definitely been a different February than we are used to.
First off, there has been a lot of snow. It’s been a good snow in the sense that it is providing the snow pack we need for future moisture. It’s also burnt off the southern facing slopes leaving lot’s of feed for the birds to get at. But, for us two legged animals, we still have the northern slopes to navigate to get to the next southern slope, and as we all know, that breaking through the crust in 12 to 18 inches of snow is a workout we don’t need.
Jake, Grady and I are trying to get on the mountain every other day, weather permitting, to see what’s going on with the variety of animals we get to see. It’s a good chance to work on training as well as seeing how the birds are doing. Through all this snow it seems to me that the chukars and huns are doing great. I have to think the quail are doing well also, since I’m constantly avoiding them on the roads to my hiking locations.
Usually, by this time of the year, we have some tulips sprouting on the south side of the house and also I’ll find a buttercup or two on the southern slopes of the hills, but not this year. We just haven’t had any of those real warm days like we sometimes do in this month. From the amount of fat I found on the chukars and huns at the end of the season and the amount of green sprouts in their crops they’ll survive just fine.
But, what I have noticed different in the birds is that I am not seeing much pairing yet. Usually, I find lot’s of huns paired this time of the year. In one of my training areas, it’s not unusual to find ten or more paired birds paired this time of the year. This year I’m still finding larger coveys. I have yet to see a paired bird, chukar or hun. It doesn’t concern me except that my curiosity makes me wonder what stimulates these birds to pair up. We know that the amount of light on the eye stimulates animals to the breeding season and for the most part that is late April and early May. The hatch usually begins towards the end of May.
By this time of the year huns are usually pairing up and claiming their territory. By March chukars are doing the same. Paired birds are fantastic for training. They seem to hold tight and after you flush them it isn’t long before you might have another point of another pair. On our hikes this month we are still finding fairly large coveys that still handle like late season birds. The ones that hold for the dogs but flush as soon as they see me. Not the best scenario for filming.
Another thing I’ve seen this month a lot more than usual is both huns and chukars flying from one location to another for no reason. I’m sure they had a reason, but it wasn’t because of the dogs or me. Maybe sometimes they just feel the need to stretch their wings. Yesterday, I was trying to approach Jakes point with the camera and while doing so several birds were flying past him to the next ridge.
You can see a couple different covey of birds flying past Jake and heading around the hill. Grady was below me and when I went over to where the birds flushed I saw no predators or reason for them flushing. I guess they were just relocating for whatever reason.
I’m sure the birds will soon be getting back to normal and pairing up. Just needed an excuse to talk chukars and dogs. And besides my dogs are getting so bored they’re starting to play with dolls.
3 thoughts on “A different February”
I got out for a hike with my 1-year old dog today (Feb 28) and we started seeing birds paired up for the first time. We found 1 pair of Huns and 2 pairs of Chukar as well. We also found several larger coveys. Is there a general date/time when you recommend keeping your dog off the hillside to let the birds mate, chicks hatch, mature, etc..?
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Tim, I generally stop my training around the 15th of April. I don’t think it hurts to train on wild birds longer but by mid April the rock chucks and ground squirrels are in abundance and the dogs attention gets distracted. Rock chucks like to hang around the same places that snakes might den so I worry about that.
Just my opinion, but for me it becomes clear when it’s time to quit. Scenting conditions seem to be tough when they start nesting. The birds don’t travel the distance they normally do leaving their scent. Also, I don’t know if they lose part of their scent or it’s all the scent from new grasses and plants but the dogs definitely have a much harder time finding them.
The earliest I’ve ever seen a hatch was on the 19th of May. I actually found a nest where the first bird had just come out of the egg. Incubation is 28 days and if you figure the female lay an egg a day an averages 12 eggs, that is 40 days. That bird probably started the process about the 9th of April.
I usually get back on the mountain towards the end of July. There isn’t much training involved because of the heat but I get a sense of how the birds are doing. The snakes are out there but they are not congregated in an those denning areas plus the rock chucks aren’t out as much.
Great information! Thanks Larry.