The big guy took Grady and I on a chukar hunt today. He said it was going to be a good one because the rain had recently stopped and he could see snow high on the mountain above. Grady and I knew that was good news for scenting conditions. I hadn’t been on this hill for two years and knew Grady had never been on it.
After the big guy put our collars on we headed up the steep ridge, Grady running like his tail was on fire and I was headed for some familiar areas where I had found birds in the past. About fifteen minutes into the hunt I noticed the big guy traveling a different route than in years past. He was walking a game trail meandering up the hill instead of going as straight up as was possible. I went down to the trail to make eye contact and saw him limping on the leg he broke last year. It wasn’t a bad limp but I could tell he was uncomfortable so I decided to hunt a little closer to him. Grady, of course was taking care of the distant country.
This is our ninth year hunting together and although we didn’t get out much last year, we have over 450 chukar hunts together, not counting at least that many hikes during the off season. I’ve seen him cover some pretty steep country and knew he’d much rather be following Grady and me up the steep slopes. Everyone of those years, the big guy packed energy bars and water for me and Grady and would do whatever need be done to keep us safe on the hill. Today was my turn to help him out by staying a little closer and hopefully save him that steep climb up to a point.
Outside of one time, when Grady had a long distance point straight up the mountain, things worked well. Yah, the big guy made it up to the point and hit a bird as it flew over head. It flew quite a ways down hill with the broken wing and I decided to let Grady sprint down the hill and bring the bird back. I thought that might slow him down some. He got the bird but “slow down” isn’t in Grady’s make up yet. During all of this, the big guy never stopped moving. I’ve learned that taking breaks just makes him stove up and hurt more so I just go with him.
I usually cover a little more country but today I did 2 1/2 times what the big guy did while Grady got 4 times as much country covered. Plus, Grady doesn’t mind going straight up and down thus covering probably 4 times as much elevation.
I could feel the satisfaction of the big guy when we reached a familiar rock high on the mountain. We had been there many times before and I always was rewarded with a peanut and honey sandwich along with a drink. He stated that it took a little longer this time but we still got here at the 2000 foot in elevation mark. After Grady and I finished our snacks we headed back down the sidehills. Game trails were still utilized wherever possible.
Twice I saved the big guy some steps by honoring Grady from afar. I followed the game trail ahead and looked back to see Grady on point on the same side as the big guy. He saw my honor and followed my point down to where Grady was. Both times it saved the big guy some extra steps and both times his shooting was surprisingly good. Usually he doesn’t shoot down hill very well.
By the end of the day, we had several birds in the bag and had no mishaps. The big guy fed us some snacks he said would regenerate some energy for tomorrows hunt and then loaded us in the back seat. He gave us both a big hug and thanked us for a good time. I think my hug was a little more special. As we drove off, he also said a thanks to the mountain for the trails.