Lesson be learned. Not everything is as it seems. Greg and I headed down south this weekend to chase chukars. He’s been down in the Owyhee’s a couple of times but my trips have been in the Snake river canyons, Boise river drainages and reservoirs and most places in between. For the most part my hunts have been pretty dry but with the recent rains there were plenty of puddles to help me keep the dogs hydrated. So, I figured it would be the same when Greg and I got to our hunting location.
We got there early in the morning and headed our separate ways. I packed just two bottles of water and a gator aid along with the boys peanut butter and honey sandwiches. It felt nice carrying a light bird vest. The cover was good with lot’s of bunch grass and there were green sprouts everywhere. From the get go I was seeing fresh chukar turds. Not a lot but enough to get me excited that at least there was some birds around.
It wasn’t too far along when the dogs bumped a small covey of chukar and they flushed in the direction I wanted to go so we followed. It was pretty obvious where the birds were likely to be, because there would be a small tract of nothing but that dirt that when wet turns to what Larry Semens calls chukar gumbo followed by large tracts of sage and bunch grass. Chukar gumbo, when wet sticks to your boots until you are about six inches taller and is not light. But it wasn’t wet today and was easy to skirt across. It was obvious that it had rained not so long ago but the ground had soaked up the moisture and wind had dried it off.
The dogs did a great job of relocating that covey and we managed a couple of birds out of it before heading higher up the mountain range. The further we got from the truck the more sign we saw and the better the cover got. The coveys got a little bigger also with some cooperating and some refusing to hold for the dogs. I was sure we would find some pockets of water as I finished the two bottles of water for the dogs. The heavy rains from a month or so earlier had ripped deep cuts in the draws and tore sage brush up and stacked it up in areas that looked like a makeshift damn. But the water had soaked into the ground.
I usually try to give the dogs a drink after a retrieve to help wash the feathers out. We hadn’t gone as far as I had intended and when Jake retrieved a bird back to me and waited for a quick drink. I had to pour my gator aid into their water bottle for hydration. It was time to turn around and head back to the truck. Of course we took a little different route hoping to find more birds, and they did. The dog’s range started getting shorter and they drank the last of the gator aid as they downed their sandwiches.
Two more points and a retrieve from each dog was all we could handle. They were now looking for shade in the brush. It was 60 degrees or more and they were beat. I had to reach into my pack of tricks that Greg had showed me. He always packed some applesauce packages for his girls. I had two for each dog and squirted one into their mouths and headed back toward the rig with an unloaded gun. At one point we walked into a covey of huns which excited the boys but I made them come back and heal for a bit. Half way back to the truck I gave them the second packet of applesauce to carry them the rest of the way.
Back at the truck I had several water bottles in a cooler and the dogs drank them all and were happy to rest in the shade until Greg and his girls got off the hill. When we left the temperature was 64 degrees, which doesn’t seem that hot, unless you are a dog sucking up all that air and filling your mouth with a bunch of dry feathers. Greg’s dogs were beat also.
For once I used the only smart cells in my small chukar brain. I didn’t keep looking for that limit of birds. Those dogs are way to important. I realized how different that country can be from the areas I usually hunt. I was sure there would be plenty of water and didn’t go prepared. The dogs paid for my judgement but luckily it all came out fine. For your dogs sake don’t assume.