On a previous post, Tim asked me my feelings about training on wild birds in the spring. There are many views about being out on the mountain during the Spring months. One reader on Tuckers Chukars was down right indignant about chasing chukars after the season. He felt I put stress on the birds. I respect his feelings, but wild animals never learned about stress. The only thing they know is survival.
My advice on Spring birds is to do what you think is right. If you don’t think the birds can handle the extra pressure then don’t go. I’ve been doing the Spring thing for as long as I can remember and I don’t believe that I have harmed this wonderful resource one bit. And besides, what a wonderful time to be on the mountain.
Most of us call it training, but anymore I like to think about it as just being on the mountain with my dogs. Jake and Grady know what they are supposed to do so there is very little training anymore. We just do our thing and once in a while a bird might oblige us for a point or the dogs might bust a covey and give a short chase. These will probably be my last two chukar companions so it’s time to just enjoy what they do. Today we had a visitor help finding birds. Funny how when it comes to birds, the boys still keep their focus on the objective.
As you can see, I found a lot more paired birds today. Things are changing fast and we are seeing fewer birds. Mainly because as they pair they spread out and occupy a large territory. We had just as many points but most of the time there were only two birds and pairs usually hold well.
All this is cool, but when do I quit “training” on wild birds? My first answer is when the temperature starts hovering around the high of 70 degrees. That’s when the snakes start coming out. Take this big rock outcropping that the dogs are running around.
This is what the rock looks like today,
and here is what it looked like April 15 last year.
Couple that with the squirrels and rock chucks appearing and you take the chance of a dog chasing one into the rocks. Even snake trained dogs get bit by crazy incidents.
But even more than the 70 degree weather, the dogs and birds tell me when it is time to quit. The closer it comes to nesting time, the harder the birds are to find. I don’t know if it is because nature has protected the birds by diminishing their scent or if it’s the grasses and flowers that throw the birds scent off. Either way scenting conditions go to heck. Bored dogs start listening for rock chucks or something else to keep them entertained.
I’m usually off the hill around the middle of April. The heat and the birds tell me it’s time to get fire wood.
Here’s how the nesting process is supposed to progress on a normal year. The game biologist have estimated that June 10th is the medium date of the chukar hatch in western Idaho and eastern Oregon. Chukars take 28 days to incubate their eggs. They lay an average of 12 eggs per nest. Chukars lay just over 1 egg per day but let’s say 1 a day. With 12 days of laying eggs and 28 days of incubation that is 40 days for the normal hatch from day one. So day one is May 1st if everything was normal. Up until that day the birds can be anywhere, but from that day until the hatch they will be in proximity to the nest.
The earliest hatch I have found was on May 19th which would have put her day 1 on about the 10th of April.
It is almost impossible to find a nesting chukar. Once they start sitting they very seldom get off the eggs or leave scent. The female will leave the nest and fly away but sneak back in shortly after. If you ever come upon a chukar pretending to be hurt, she has got young ones on the ground. She will fly away from the nest but try and get you to chase her once the chicks have hatched.
So that is my limited knowledge of chukars and huns and how I decide it is time to spend less time on the chukar mountain. I rarely return to hike the chukar hills with the dogs until August. And then it is just for short jaunts just to see how the birds fared. So, it looks like I have another month to watch the boys have fun like Jake is doing here on this video.