I got some feed back from a few older chukar hunters that have spent many years going down south to hunt the different types of quail. For the most part, they all are escaping the cold weather. It seems like the bones chill more easily after the age of 70. It looks like it’s not as simple as just pulling up stakes and having a great hunt in another state.
It seems like no matter what species of quail they are hunting, they are all affected by the amount of moisture. Greg Munther, a great friend of mine, says the more moisture the better. In the 23 years he has hunted in the south, he said this was the most dismal. He cited many other reasons for the decline in numbers this year. One of them is the small home range of the quail. It would be easy to eliminate a covey if you keep hunting them. He also mentioned over grazing as a problem. I think that happens almost everywhere.
I know Greg doesn’t solely hunt quail while he is down there. He is also a very accomplished bow hunter who hunts only with a long bow and arrows he makes. While he is down south he also takes time searching for big game.
So here is my dilemma. I don’t have much of a life. It seems like all I care to do is chase my dogs after birds. The bird of my choice has always been chukars. If I go south, is there enough birds for me to spend every day for a month chasing them or would I be the guy that ruins a good thing? I know there is never a chance of hurting the chukar population with a gun in Idaho. Even on low number of bird years, a man and a gun is no threat on the population. The country is to steep and rough and chukars do not have a home range. They can set their wings and be on a different mountain range in seconds and that range has the same things as the one they just left.
But that’s one of the reasons to head south. I hear the hills aren’t quite as steep and treacherous. Besides getting out of the cold, that sure sounds good. I could stand to not have my body aching after every hunt. I don’t think my dogs would care either way. Which brings up another dilemma.
Would the pups be alright at hunting just a few hours a day or would they drive me crazy sitting around camp? How many covey points make them happy.? Dave from Washington says he is averaging two covey’s a day on New Mexico quail. Today, although it was miserable walking and cold, I had 13 points and all but two were covey’s.
Basically it sounds like my choice is fewer birds but easier hunting in nice weather or more birds but paying a higher price on the body and cold weather. It’s hard to imagine hunting anywhere else. I know eastern Oregon and southwest Idaho very well and have over 100 different places to find birds but not one of them is very kind to old men. Even on low number years, some of those 100 plus spots have birds to chase. Honestly I can somewhat handle the steepness, but when the hill gets covered with snow and ice, I start questioning my sanity.
Any help would be appreciated.
Here’s a few pictures of Greg’s dogs in the nice weather hunting quail. Oakley (4), pointing some Mearns quail.
Oakley, once again while Greg’s partner moves in.
Here’s Greg’s GSP, Lucy. She’s 13 and showing off her trophies.
Those pictures were taken down south on January 22. Looks pretty comfy. Now let’s fast forward to today, Jan.25th in Idaho.
Temperature at beginning of hunt was 17 degrees and 25 degrees when I came off the hill. Sun was shining and creating a nice slick mud on the bare slopes and post holing on the snowy north slopes. Very comfortable walking weather, but each time I’d break through the crust something hurt. But there were plenty of birds and the boys had no problem finding them. Grady,
had a covey pinned behind this rock outcropping and found another single a little later.
But Jake stole the show with this staunch point as I moved below him.
The birds actually gave me time to take the picture and get a double. This second point was a little awkward but the birds didn’t care and held anyhow.
Of course we all love multiple dogs on point. Here’s Jake honoring Grady for a rare moment. Two doubles on the same day.
And then there are those long distance points. Once again, Jake honoring Grady. You have to look hard to find Grady. It took me forever to post hold down the north slope and finally come up underneath the dogs. Sadly, it was only a single but it flew straight up in the air for an easy shot.
It was a very successful day on the hill. Dogs did great and I shot well. But even my fingers hurt as I type this post and my feet keep cramping up. Somehow I got to figure out which is better, easier hunting or more birds.
Side note on the warm south. While hiking today in the white stuff I came across this black widow in one of the game tracks. She was moving slow but what the heck is she doing out there?
22 thoughts on “Weighing options”
Hunted az many years now. There is a lot of open country that never gets touched. You would love it. Weather is perfect for three months. Not chucks but not cold. Dogs have it good. Always birds somewhere. Rarely see other hunters.
Steve, that’s more like I am hoping. I love being able to take off and go as long as the legs will carry me. Don’t always have to find birds but knowing there is always that possibility makes the hike more enjoyable for both me and the dogs.
You find a lot of Chukar that’s for sure. Way more than I find. It would be a harder choice for me if I were as successful as you. I put Chukar hunting at the top of the bird hunting chart. I enjoy quail hunting too and I have shot a lot more shells at quail than Chukar the past 3 or 4 years. Terrain is usually less demanding for quail but the last couple hunts have been on rough rocky ground that isn’t easy to walk on.
You find a lot of Chukar that’s for sure. Way more than I find! It would be a harder choice for me if I were as successful as you are. I put Chukar hunting at the top of the bird hunting chart. I enjoy quail hunting too and I have shot a lot more shells at quail than Chukar the past 3 or 4 years. Terrain is generally easier quail hunting but still has its challenges. Not much snow and ice, which is nice.
Larry, I have been very fortunate when it comes to chukar hunting. But especially when the rough weather comes it’s getting harder and at times I wonder when the big fall is going to come. But I do love being on those mountains.
Larry, How many days a week do you hunt quail and how many miles covered if you don’t mind me asking?
A little more clarity to the equation. My reference to very small home ranges and overshooting coveys pertains only to Mearns quail.
Both Scaled Quail and Gambels Quail are runners and likely rarely overshot. Gambels are widespread across most of AZ and there is plenty of coveys that rarely if ever see a hunter. Scaled quail are more localized to SE AZ but are known to cover miles in their home range and likely rarely hunted too hard.
All three populations are dependent on rainfall during specific times. Their populations can swing widely from year to year.
Larry, my gut feeling is that you would be tortured by going south to hunt quail. Every day you would be thinking about any one of those 100+ chukar places and what the chuks would be doing. Stay in Idaho as long as you can physically climb the mountains!! Maybe its just a matter of accepting your limitations and adjusting to better terrain.
I relate to your concerns. There are good chukar places that I will never be able to hunt again and I have to sit out if the weather is poor, but maybe I enjoy when and where I can get after them a little more. And I may be selfish, in that I want to still read your chukar reports for years to come.
Thanks Greg, Gambels sound a lot more like our chukars.
Crexrode, thanks for the input and kind compliment.
It’s 16 degrees right now and inversion type clouds. Even the dogs are hiding under the covers.
Larry. I agree with Crexrode.You have it very good in Idaho. Nevada has been poor Chukar hunting this year and the drought will need to end in Arizona before I will return. Also your dogs will need to learn cactus and boots.
Polecat. I have wondered about that and any other different hazards we don’t run into here. In all my years of chasing upland birds I’ve never had a dog have to wear boots.
I appreciate all of the information and I’m sure others do also. Keep it coming. I’d never try and sway anyone away from hunting what I feel is the greatest bird for dogs in the world. As long as Idaho has public land and hunters practice conservation, I believe chukar hunting will go on forever. As far as the public land, us chukar hunters are pretty lucky. Most good chukar habitat, nobody wants.
But giving people more options helps keep bird hunters spread out and different thoughts as the body needs to adapt.
There are many areas that don’t have the nasty cactus, just need some elevation. Something will stick you though. Fifty degree January mornings on miles of state trust land. Drive around on dirt roads, stop, call, go. Gambel quail are very worthy birds. Hunt the dirt southwest of Prescott, lots of big country for dogs.
Larry, you should go chase quail a few times just for the comparison. The dogs learn cactus boots and routine pretty quickly. I just had to turn down a trip due to the Omicron cover issues for my wife . Do it while you can.
So far this year I’ve hunted 9 times in 11 days. Most hunts are about 4 or so hours and I average about 5 miles. Longest was 7.5. The last two years I hunted 16 times each in just about three weeks.
Thanks Steve. Hunting is never perfect when it comes to terrain. I’ve pulled porcupine quills, put up with skunk smelled dogs, broken toe nails, and such, but just don’t want it to be constantly doctoring a dog.
Thanks Larry. Sounds about how much time I would like to be putting out.
Joe, it looks like Barb and I are going to head down south somewhere next year unless they forecast a very terrible year. Since the death of our daughter we have been gearing up to do some traveling and I can’t think of no place better than a place to exercise my dogs and legs.
Now I just have to start doing some research to where I can pull my camper and enjoy some fine quail hunting.
I’m going to take a ride now and hope we can get above this inversion fog. It’s 16 degrees outside again and very gloomy here. Some of that southern sunshine would sure be nice right now.
As for location to land Larry it might be best to see where and when the rains land here in AZ (and NM). Scalies and gambels are dependent on winter/early spring rains while Mearns are dependent on summer monsoon season July thru Sept. Since populations are not great now, an area without the right rains could be slim pickins next year.
Thanks Greg. You can be sure I’ll be reaching out to you next year. I tried to get out today but it was just too bone chilling. Almost as bad as 2017. Cold enough to chase almost any outdoor enthusiast south.
I’ll give you my opinions on me, and then I’ll ask you not to weigh them too heavily. The thing is, while I love this blog, and have a sense that I know you through it, and to a degree I do, I don’t know you well. In the end, we must all make such decisions ourselves.
I’ll start with this quote from your text: “So here is my dilemma. I don’t have much of a life. It seems like all I care to do is chase my dogs after birds.”
I’m a lifelong resident of the state to your east. I grew up here, I’ve lived here my entire life except for brief stints here and there, in which I always knew I’d be coming back. I’ve sacrificed a lot to keep living here. I’m reminded, sometimes, in relationship to people like me of the quote from Dr. Zhivago in which the Lara character says about him, “he’ll never leave Russia”, implying that there was such a deep connection that the separation was impossible. I can’t imagine myself ever leaving here, and if I did, it wouldn’t be to go south, but north, perhaps very much north.
I have too much of a life, in a way. My efforts to stay here have occupationally bound me to something that while I’m now in my late 50s I find myself extremely busy, and work six days out of seven. I’m sure there’s more you care to do than chase your dogs and go after birds, but that’s a significant aspect of your life for a reason. I dream of a day when from early fall to very early spring all I’d do is hunt, most of that behind a dog.
One of the things about being a lifelong resident of where I am has to been to watch slow changes. It’s not true that the state has filled up, like some claim, but at my age I’m tired of the “I just moved here from” comments. If I ever moved, it would be to a place sufficiently remote that my introduction into it wouldn’t be impacted by my arrival. For those of us who stayed and struggled, it’s hard to grasp the people who opted for an easier life elsewhere and then now arrive with the fruits of their foreign, so to speak, labor, and change things.
So, advice here? Nope. I’m not yet 70, I’m 58. I don’t know what I’ll think at 70 and if I’ll be lucky enough to even retire. If I do, will I take to it well and will I really spend my days out in the sticks, like I’ve always wanted to do, and very much did when I was young? Will I even be healthy enough to do so. I don’t know, but assuming the answer to the latter question is yet, I’ll be here, unless I’m chased out by the arrivals who seem to flood in as apparently they like the horrible winter weather, constant wind, and lack of services.
And if I were you, I’d pretty much disregard everything in this comment.
I’d also note that relocating is one thing, a trip, maybe with a trailer, to new country with the intent to return, quite another.
Again, a comment that applies, really, only to me.
Pat, I appreciate what you have written. What I was getting at was exactly what you mentioned. A short trip to another state when the weather get’s so bad I can’t get out like I want. I will never leave this place. I’ve been here for all my life. Your comments don’t only apply to you. There are many like us. But you did Plant the thought that maybe I ought to introduce myself a little better. Thanks.
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Pat, you mentioned another blog I might enjoy but I didn’t get who it was. I’m always interested in other blogs.
I did, and now I’m trying to remember which it was. I read a variety of them. It’ll come to me, and I’ll post back.