To be honest from the start, this was the worst opener in Oregon I’ve ever had. We’d be going pretty hungry if we had to survive on my take. But it wasn’t for lack of birds. It took a lot of leg work to find them, but they were there.
Day one was our best day. Greg Allen dropped me off at a spot on the reservoir where I headed up the mountain. He headed down the reservoir 3 miles where I was to meet him later in the day. Within ten minutes I had my first point. I was ready for the show when a large covey of quail busted. Not quite ready for quail shooting yet I let them pass and encouraged the dogs uphill. Another twenty minutes and the dogs were on point again. As I approached a covey of about thirty chukars busted wild 100 yards ahead and dove down into some nasty rimrocks that I knew from past experiences was not where I wanted to go. Shortly after that another group about the same size flew from higher on the hill and joined the first covey. About 60 birds over in those rocks was tempting but for once I used common sense and kept going uphill.
For a change, I actually did something smart on the hill and it paid off. I was soon rewarded with a point into the wind. The good thing was the wind was at my back and the birds were between me and the dogs. As I walked towards the dogs the covey busted and it was a very large covey. The kind of covey that doesn’t all explode at one time, giving me time to reload my over and under after my first two shots. Four shots fired and four birds on the ground. This was going to be some kind of super hunt. With a little help the dogs found all the birds and we were off for the next covey.
We saw several covey’s after that but none within gun range. My super hunt had quickly turned into a super hike. 6 1/2 miles for me, 19 for Jake and Grady covering 26 miles. Elevation for me was somewhere around 1800 feet.
Okay, just a fair start. Greg headed home to go deer hunting and I saved my favorite spot for day two. As I pulled up to my hot spot, I was greeted by a camper in the only parking area off the road. Nobody knows this spot. It’s reserved for me. I had a backup plan and decided to let the intruder hunt this spot just once. As I pulled up to the backup spot I was reminded about a fire there three years ago. Not easily discouraged I headed up as I usually did before the fire. The bunch grass seemed to be plenty of cover but there was little sign. I finally got close to a ridge that regularly held birds and sure enough two covey’s broke wild but instead of swinging down and around the hill I was on they flew clear across the canyon. I followed the ridge for a while and when another covey of birds flushed across the canyon I decided to head that way. The grass was definitely greener on the other side of the canyon.
I followed a game trail across the hill until I got to the other side and immediately started seeing more sign. This was a little more like it. The only problem was, the birds didn’t hold any better than they did before. Except for the one covey Grady pointed 20 yards straight above me. At the flush they flew straight over me and as I spun and shot I was immediately knocked to the ground with my poor footing. I was reminded once again why hunters only account for 8 percent of chukar mortality. The day ended with a couple nice points and a few shots and both dogs got to put birds in their mouths. I guess I should have been satisfied, but after 7 more miles with Jake getting just over 15 and Grady 22, I was scratching my head a little.
I had an easier plan for day three. Barb was to drive me to the top of this one hill and I would hunt down to the main road where she would pick me up later in the day. We woke up to a thirty mile an hour wind and it got stronger as we drove up the hill. Once again, I did something unusual. I decided against hunting in the wind and just taking a drive. So we drove around and looked some new country over and saw about 50 different chukars from the road and would let Grady see them from the back seat and cry like a baby. I hoped the wind would stop, but it never did.
Day four came and the wind was still howling. I was going home later so I had to give it a shot. I had Barb drop me off on that mountain. As I got out of the rig I could hear chukars talking through the wind. Barb watched as we strolled off and I heard her yell at me. I evidently didn’t hear the flush but one of the dogs busted a small covey of chukar that flew right past me and I never even saw them. A few minutes later a single come streaking by me with the wind at his back. I don’t think the lead from my shotgun was going fast enough to catch up to him as he glided over the hill. As I headed into the wind I could see chukars running up the steep slopes ahead of me and knew my only hope was they flush back towards me and I could make one of those hail Mary shots which never happened.
I hunted my way down towards the pick up area along the steep ridge and saw several birds take flight as well as several running up the ridge from me and the dogs. I was quickly realizing that this was a place where the chukar was king bird of the mountain and I was but a pawn aloud to set foot here. There were many other animals up here but I didn’t belong.
Even the dogs were amazed with the agility of these natives of the mountain. I watched as the chukars ran straight up the hill above these sheep and wondered what the dogs would do. I think they realized that they were the intruders here and gave wide birth to these nimble footed creatures. At one point I was heading up to Jake on point high above. I didn’t think I had any chance of getting to him but I had to try. I hit a spot I couldn’t get up and was working my way around it when this ewe trotted right up it and looked down at me. What a joke I had to look like to her.
As she looked down at me the birds flushed behind me and I decided to head down the mountain. These birds were meant for a younger and more agile hunter. We were fortunate enough to see a couple more small covey’s as we headed down but the mountain and we knew the chukars had beat us. Jake walked on my heals most of the way down and even Grady knew that the hunt was over.
So we packed up and came home. The chukars definitely won this battle. We saw plenty of birds and good country but our take was meager. We will be back. But time has taken a little more out of the legs than I expected. The dogs did their job the best they could but scenting conditions were tough. Put that with a seventy year old broken down body following two dogs through some pretty tough country and you get not such a good bag limit.
Oh, but what memories.