Back in the 70’s I became an archery fanatic. Man, I was going to kill at least one of everything and have some fantastic heads mounted. It all started out well and I got some pretty nice animals. I lived especially for elk season and scouted year long, shot 300 arrows a day, and lived with the elk as much as possible. After shooting a few nice elk I got trapped on looking for that huge elk. I passed up several different decent bulls during each season looking for mister big and ended up shooting just a bull the last few days of the season. It always seemed to lose it’s luster and I started feeling like I had to shoot a bull each year just to prove I was special.
After 20 years and 19 elk, it took a dog to make me realize I wasn’t really having much fun. Hunting elk with a bow can be very boring. In fact most of the time is boring. Usually once the morning rush of bugling subsides (if there is one) you are stuck sitting around waiting and hoping for action in the evening. I was never one for sitting, so sitting over a bog was not what I did. With a bow you can’t hope to walk and jump an animal and get a shot so during those off hours you just hang out and do nothing. So, I’d sit around watching a ant nest or plane fly over during the day and go to sleep on the mountain with the elk, trying to become one of them by bugling when they would. It usually worked and the next morning I could get in close enough to either find the animal wasn’t big enough or they outsmarted me by keeping a tree in between us or not even showing up at all. Than I was back to being bored again for the next 6 or so hours.
I’ve always had a chukar dog and back then, Rookie, my Brittany waited until deer and elk season was over and than we would go bird hunting. On my 19th year of archery hunting I got my first GSP, Tucker, who was to supplement the aging Rookie. On his first outing for chukars, somehow we ended up with a limit of birds. I still remember how impressed I was with that dog. I had hardly trained him at all. He was training me. We hunted birds more that year than ever before. I still had to get through deer and elk season though.
The next year Rookies fourteen year old body couldn’t get him on the mountain much and Tucker had to carry the load of chukar hunting after the archery elk season was through. I found myself looking for the first six point bull to shoot so I could get on to chukar hunting with Tucker. That was the last elk I ever shot.
The next year I went elk hunting and a cool storm came in. Instead of being happy for some cool elk weather I was thinking I could be back with Tucker hunting birds on a cool September day. I packed up and went home and haven’t touched a bow since. I realized the excitement of archery had gone and a chukar dog had replaced it. I have been a chukar addict ever since.
But yesterday I revisited the lonely elk mountain again. Not with a bow and arrow but with a shotgun and two dogs. Even though I knew it was going to be warm, I loaded up the dogs and a pack full of water and headed for the chukar mountains. I was going to try and hunt the shaded side of the hills to keep it as cool for me and the dogs as possible. That idea was soon changed as the dogs went to where the birds were. The cool 50 degree morning soon became 70 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. The dogs were coming back for water quite often and we were soon about out. It wasn’t long and Jake and Grady were stopping at every shade source they could find. We were more than a mile away from the truck as the crow flies and hoping to find a water source on the way back. Jake decided to walk behind me on the trail but Grady still wanted to find some of those birds he was hearing.
And find he did. He had just locked on point above me when the birds flushed. I shot a chukar as they flew over head and dropped him. Jake saw the bird go down and was immediately racing Grady for the retrieve. He won and started up the hill with the bird. He made it about 10 yards and dropped the bird. Something he very rarely does. Grady picked it up and started up the hill. He also dropped the bird three times before getting it to me. They both stood in front of me waiting as I gave them the remaining water in the bottles.We had shot a few other chukars early in the hunt and they were both the fire balls they usually are but they were totally shot now. They walked the same trail that I was walking and stopped at every shade along the way back to the truck. At the truck, they laid in it’s shadow. As I put them into the back seat, Grady just laid on the floor. They were spent.
During all of this, I was approaching points like it was a job to get up the hill. The sweat was getting in my eyes and I was wishing the birds would flush wild so I wouldn’t have to go any further. It really wasn’t much fun.
So, a day later, I’m sitting home watching football with two lifeless looking dogs and I realize how easily I could ruin the sport I love the most. There is somewhere around 140 days in the Idaho chukar season. It’s not that I have to go on days not conducive to me or the dogs. I’m retired with very little commitments to keep me home. I can’t imagine looking down from the chukar mountain at the river or lake below and feeling that I could be having more fun sitting with a pole in my hand. I feel that’s how the dogs felt today. So, I’m going to be a little more selective on my hunting days for a while. Both for me and the dogs. It’s a lot more fun for both of us when I’m encouraging them to slow down some rather than tripping over them.
Be careful in this heat and keep it fun for both you and the dogs.