As promised, I got out chasing chukars yesterday. The dogs were excited but with the inversion type clouds covering the country, I was a little skeptic about being on the mountain. It was 23 degrees when we left the rig and 33 when we got back. Normally, even with these temps, the steep hills would be melting off from the sun and I would have no problem keeping warm but these conditions are different.
As usual, after the collars were put on the dogs, they were off looking for chukars. It wasn’t long before we had a find.
I post holed my way up to Jake, snapped a picture and than proceeded to miss the two chukars as they took flight behind me. My feet were stuck in the crusted snow and I couldn’t get a proper swing. A new excuse to add to my list and it ended up I used it quite often on this hunt.
Most hunts, I gain around 1500 feet of elevation, but it didn’t take me long to know that would not be the case on this day. I got a little over 800 feet and was as tired as I’ve ever been on a chukar hunt when I returned to the truck. I had the camera strapped on my chest, hoping for some good photos.
Moving around and trying to get the right angle for the picture was causing me chances at decent shots, another excuse, so after this picture of Grady’s point
and Jake’s retrieve
I decided to put the camera in the back of the vest.
I don’t know if that was the right idea because I would have gotten a lot more pictures of points than I did birds.
I found myself looking for burnt off areas in order to get higher on the mountain to those burnt off slopes but they were always intercepted by a long patch of ankle to knee deep snow that couldn’t hold this fat man’s weight. Even the dogs would break through now and then. There were plenty of tracks on the snow that let me know the chukars were there some where. At one point I could see three chukars standing on the rocks high above and calling for us. Grady wanted to go get them but I told him that if he went up there and pointed them, I was going to leave him. It was more than I was willing to do for a shot at a chukar.
The birds were scattered every where. Not only on the open slopes but some times in the deep crusted snow. One point by Grady with Jake honoring was on a northern slope with probably two feet of crusted snow. It was one of those areas with the huge boulders that would normally hold some chukars when the snow was absent but everything was covered with snow and not a track anywhere. The boys weren’t moving at all but I couldn’t imagine any chukar being there. I moved in as close as I dared, fearing to fall into one of those areas between the rocks that was hidden by the snow, and looked back at the frozen still dogs. Suddenly, from about five yards away, a covey of 15 to 20 chukars busted from down in the rocks. I proceeded to empty both barrels into the gray sky without nearly a feather falling.
Afterwards I realized that I had missed on purpose. Had I have hit one of the birds, it would have dropped into the rocks and one of the dogs could have gotten hurt trying to retrieve it. Excuse number 753.
All in all it was a dismal hunt. In five hours I only covered 3 1/2 miles with Jake getting 10 and Grady 16. On a normal day we would have gotten almost twice that much as well as twice the elevation gain. And than we would be ready to go out again the next day. We’re all sitting by the fireplace today licking our wounds. Grady isn’t even showing any interest on the quail in the front yard.
We did manage to take five birds off the hill but with the weather looking the same for the next five days, I’m finding it hard to make the long drive to get whipped by the mountain again.
A few good things came out of this trip. One is by the number of birds we saw, it is obvious our hunting pressure hasn’t hurt the chukar population much. Another is that I’m going to either have to chuk up or head south this time of the year in the future. Also, I’m going to enjoy Spring hiking and training in chukar country more than ever this year.
7 days. Make the best of them.