The Chukar season in Idaho has officially begun. As mentioned before, Barb and I camped at a spot we usually hunt later in the season hoping for birds galore. There were plenty of birds but not a covey at every likely spot as I had anticipated.
Our trip began two days before the season and we drove some four wheeler roads just to see where they went to and what bird numbers were out there and I was very excited for opening day. Most of the birds flushed before I could get a camera on them but we saw several covey’s like this as well as one covey that must have numbered close to fifty birds.
Having hunted this area for the past forty years, I know these roads are magnets for people who want to get further up the hill and away from the main road and after driving them I can see why. There is so much great chukar country to hunt that hunters can access without worrying about running into other hunters. But like usual, I decided to start from the reservoir and head up.
Barb hiked the hills with us for a while, but when I showed her where we were headed she snapped this picture and headed back to camp. My plans were to head into the draw behind me and hunt the side hills above the dry creek until we got to the top of the hill you can see on the upper right hand side of the picture. I figured there would be some wet seeps along the way and birds would surely be around them as we had found on our drive. As usual, the birds showed me how little I understand what makes them tick. The further I went, the sounds of chukars made me realize they were up high.
As I traveled I was surprised at the amount of bird sign in the dusty areas where the sunflowers and thistles grew. Although I never got a point in any of the areas, the droppings, tracks and dusting bowls made it obvious they frequented those areas. I understand the sunflower seeds but don’t quite know what thistles do for the birds.
The higher I got the more birds I found. They seemed to be in the same type places as later in the season. There were plenty of places with green sprouts and it was obvious that being near water was not necessary. way up the hill where the road goes over the top I heard plenty of shots indicating that hunters were having success finding birds. Even in my younger days I wouldn’t make it up there on foot and there was so much country between me and them why would I.
Okay, how did we do? The dogs surprised me with great dog work and better conditioning than I expected. I was also pretty excited about how my leg felt after three days of pretty hard hiking. I decided against the breaking in gradually method. As I mentioned, the birds were there. I’d estimate I saw about 100 chukars each day and add 20 or so huns each day and that’s a decent day. Scenting conditions were so so and there were some busted covey’s but some great points also. The dogs were excited to retrieve chukars to me once again. I’m sure there were some busted covey’s that I didn’t see but we had a great opener and my first two shots, the shells that are filled with ashes from past canine companions, were successful. A perfect way to stat the season.
There were plenty of hunters on day one but the numbers dwindled on day two and three. I visited with one group of hunters from California that were camped for a while. I already forgot two of their names but remember the age of one of them. He was 82 years old and hunting with a 4 1/2 month old GSP. I don’t know how many birds he got but know that he was having some success. How cool is that. One of the other gentlemen, Mark, reads my blog and I thought that was pretty cool too.
One interesting note was the crops of the birds. Most were filled with seeds. There was some grass but mostly seeds. A few of the birds crops were almost empty and I didn’t find a grasshopper in any of them. I don’t know what that means but just some food for thought. Also, I didn’t shoot any adult birds. They were all first year birds, which is a good sign.
So, all in all, it was a successful opener and I’m excited for the season to come. How was your opener?
3 thoughts on “Thistles and sunflowers”
Wow Larry sounds like a great time. When cooler weather comes should be great.
I didn’t put any birds in the bag, but still had a successful opener in my mind. We went to an area that I didn’t think would hold a lot of birds, but I also didn’t think there would be anyone else there, and we ended up having it to ourselves. I went early Sunday morning when the temps were a bit cooler. We were able to hunt for about 5 hours before running out of water. I saw 2 small Chukar coveys (7-8 birds each) and they were acting like late season birds. We couldn’t get close. My young dog had a beautiful point on a larger Hun covey (18-20) birds, but ended up breaking early, so I opted not to shoot. I think she picked up a few bad habits during our off season runs/hikes or maybe just got a little too excited. We had another covey of Huns get up wild on us and didn’t have any luck relocating any of them. The conditions were extremely dry (almost no green-up where we were). It was great to be out in the hills again and seeing a few birds was an added bonus. I’m hoping for some cooler temperatures soon.
It was a great time but as you both mentioned I’m also looking forward to cooler and damper conditions. My back got real tired of packing all the water we needed. Tim, I also had to hold off on a couple of shots. Grady held great on scent but twice broke on seeing the birds running.