I remember those words from my younger days in sports and thinking, “I thought I was.” Yesterdays hunt reminded me of those days once again. To top it off, my daughter, who will always be with me on the mountain, kept chanting, “just a little further”. She was a health nut and always challenged me in everything we did. But it didn’t help much. My leg and back hurt more than usual and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. That’s one of those feelings that doesn’t get you very far.
The long hike from the road to where I like to hunt was kicking my butt. I always hurt at the first of a hunt, but it usually gets better ass I get the juices going. It wasn’t working that day, in fact my back got worse and it was hard to stay with the dogs. I still haven’t hunted the same spot twice this year and after only an hour on the hill and very little sign I was ready to whimp out for the day, using the lack of sign as probably no birds here.
I cussed the Alpha out when it told me that the dogs were on point 180 yards away. I didn’t feel like I had it in me but at least they were at about the same elevation as I was and there was a trail leading around the mountain. The sight of the boys doing what they do best was somewhat stimulating but with each step through the rocks my back hurt enough to wonder if I would even be able to get a decent shot.
The chukars were kind and held tight. I was too slow to get a shot at the main covey but one of the two stragglers took a few of the pellets from my shotgun. I say a few because he sailed a ways down the hill before hitting the ground on the run. Luckily the dogs saw the action and were right on it. Here’s the last half of the retrieve. How would we chukar hunt if it wasn’t for our great canine partners?
Jake usually drops the bird at my feet but knew better on this one. He didn’t want another one of those chases. It was a wonderful retrieve but Grady isn’t one to sit around and celebrate and before I even had the bird in my vest the Alpha was buzzing “dog tree’d”. That meant Grady had been on point for at least 45 seconds. I finished pulling the feathers from Jake’s mouth and gave him a short drink and headed off in Grady’s direction.
The dogs have learned by the way I’m carrying my gun that it’s time for action and Jake was creeping to my side looking for Grady. The 90 yards seemed like it took forever since I was trying to place each foot in a spot where the pain in my back wouldn’t be quite as intense. Grady didn’t let me down and had a small covey of chukar held tight.
Jake honored as I picked my way through the rocks. Since my operation I don’t always lift my left leg as high as I think and the results aren’t pretty. The birds flushed and my back wasn’t going to let me swing in that direction. I was hoping for a straggler but it didn’t come. As usual, the dogs made a short chase and than came back to me with a look of discuss.
The action, although beautiful, didn’t seem much fun. Once again, Kerri, who is always in my head, told me maybe it’s time to head down. So I headed back down towards the rig watching the ground. Every time I stubbed a boot on a rock or slipped it sent a shooting pain in the back. The trip down wasn’t uneventful though. Jake and Grady were still looking for birds and although I couldn’t swing and shoot, I could honor their point.
I di learn something about Grady on the hunt. He went on a couple of points in the distance and when I got to him the point wasn’t quite as intense as usual. He moved his head to look back at me and when I looked back at him, after getting in front, he wasn’t watching me but looking across the canyon. Either he had flushed a covey across the canyon or he could hear something I couldn’t, but he was letting me know that’s where we should go. On a normal day we would make that trek but not on that day.
So we made our way back to the truck looking for the softest ground to go down hill with many stops along the way. We had been spoiled on our last half dozen hunts with loads of birds and lot’s of action and I’m sure the dogs were disappointed with only seeing about thirty or so birds and only getting to retrieve one. I was tickled to be back at the truck and being able to turn on the heated seat for some relief on my back.
Just one of those bad days. We don’t have too many, and this one was all on me. I wasn’t capable of doing my part as a team effort. I’ve placed myself on injured reserve for the day and hoping for a recovery before tomorrow.
One positive note. With all the recent rain, it’s nice to not have to pack water around for the dogs. Get out there and chase some birds. There’s never a better time.