Like usual the hunt started with a fairly steep incline hoping to find some chukars before we gained too much elevation. As usual we did find a few but they were either running up the steep grade or flying wild, looking like they were headed down but were actually as swinging around the ridge and landing about the same elevation and running up from there.
A scenario we’ve all seen several times and I knew that sooner or later we’d hit that sweet spot and some of the birds would hold. It finally happened but not before we had gained almost 1000 feet in elevation. Both dogs were locked in on the ridge with the wind into their face. I moved in below the two and to the right. I knew if the birds were chukars there was a good chance they’d fly down and to the right which was my preferred shot. Everything worked as planned and at the shot, the bird I fired at kept flying, untouched, but a bird behind it took a pellet or two and set it’s wings for the other slope.
200 yards down the hill and on the next ridge the chukar hit the ground. It’s okay though because Grady saw him go down and is in hot pursuit. Jakes looking for a dead bird close by because he has faith in me. Not smart. When Grady gets to the spot where the bird hit the ground he followed his nose over the next ridge. Yep, we had a runner. I waited a while as Jake kept looking for the non existing kill, for Grady to come back with a crippled bird. Two minutes later my Alpha says Grady is on point.
Understand, when I talk about two hundred yards, that means as the crow flies or a straight line, It has nothing to do with angles. Grady’s point was 407 yards away so with the angles and ups and downs it was more like 650 yards. I figured Grady had the crippled bird on point, so with a disgruntled Jake with me we head to the next ridge hoping for the best.
I got to the ridge where I watched Grady follow his nose over and suddenly there he was. A smart hunter would have turned around and went back to hunting without a word but not me. I asked Grady “where’s the dead bird, go get the bird”. He turned and headed straight down the hill to a big rock outcropping. It looked as steep as Hoover dam and way down below Grady finally stood on the outcropping and looked down in the cracks. I’m talking way down there. Luckily the ground was loose for good footing and I started slipping my way down. About half way down Jake hit the trail and ended up on the rocks giving Grady the freedom to run off in pursuit of more birds.
Jake was hell bent on getting the bird but couldn’t get his head far enough down the crack. Did I mention how steep it was and how far down they were. It took no less then 20 minutes to slide down the hill and sure enough as I peered down through the rocks I could see some color.
Ol Chuckie was alive and doing his best to stay that way. I moved the rocks around the best as I could until I could reach down and grab the bird.
I had obviously just broke the end of the wing and there was plenty of life left in Chuckie. Have you ever been clawed by a chukar. They can scratch quickly and it hurts like hell. It almost didn’t hurt my feelings to finish him off.
Bird in the vest, I look to see where Grady has traveled to and wasn’t surprised to see him straight above me on the ridge looking down at Jake and I. At one point I thought I saw him waving his front leg at me to come on up. I knew there were birds up there. I had seen them and even more higher than those. I had a choice to make. I could somehow hike straight back up that mountain and get into more birds and head back down the other side to the truck or I could stay at this elevation and travel through two canyons back to the truck. There probably wouldn’t be as many birds on option two.
It was an easy choice. Jake and I started walking away from the energetic pup who finally came running down the hill in fear of being left. Although the boys tried, I was right. there weren’t many birds down at that elevation. In fact there were none.
Four and a half hours on the hill and one bird to show and only one spent shell. I wasn’t even shooting at that bird. Why couldn’t it keep on flying.
3 thoughts on “Crippled bird”
Chasing long cripples creates the most memorable and rewarding hunting experiences.
Great story Larry. It sounds like a character building experience. Glad you found the bird in the end after all that work.
You’re both right. It’s amazing how a story like that will stick with you much longer than the times everything went the way it is supposed to.