My grandson showed me how to use my t.v. and watch you tube video’s this weekend. I’m sure everyone in the world knew how to do that but me. I soon learned that I could watch others chukar hunt and immediately became a critic. But before I show how smart I am, I’ll pass on some more good reports from last week.
First off, Steve finally found some chukars and said they were definitely first hatch birds. He also said a friend of his that travels the valleys quite a bit is seeing more quail and pheasant broods than he has seen for many years. All great news.
Also, Mark found a lot more chukars and and simply said “let’s just say, I was smiling a lot”.
One bad report comes from me. I took the boys to a favorite Blue grouse area and although I saw some adult birds, I never saw any chicks. The grouse hatch might have taken it in the shorts this year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they might all of the sudden show up like the chukars have.
Back to the movies. I have to say I enjoyed watching all of that chukar hunting. Especially seeing cooler weather hunting. I’m getting real tired of the heat. It was interesting to watch how many different styles of chukar hunting there are. Even at that, the birds still inhabited the same type area. Steep and miserable high desert mountains. I watched guys hunting without dogs and hunters hunting with every style of dogs imaginable. Even herding dogs. The main thing they all had in common was the thrill of chasing the chukar bird, and also the dismal results usually.
There is no style that is better than another. If it suits you then it is the right style. I know what works for me, but it doesn’t mean it’s the right way for others. Here’s some of the notes I took and the reasons why I may do it differently. I’m sure there is a rebuttal for everything I have to say so I can only say “it works for me”.
First off, I like hunting alone. Almost all of the videos were group hunters with lots of shooting. They were having tons of fun but usually shooting at birds that were wild. I may be wrong, but I believe all the chatter between the hunters might have created the birds to be a little wilder than normal. I don’t know a wild animal of any kind that likes hearing human voices.
Another reason for hunting alone is you can set your own pace. One video had two guys hustling up on the pointed dogs while poor ol’ Charlie with the bad leg wasn’t getting in on the shooting. It looked to me, like if Charlie had his own dog he might have been able to move in on the point at his own pace and get some decent shooting.
Shooting percentage seemed to be down with the group hunters also. There is no way that you can hunt chukars like pheasants. You can’t stay in a line and move in on the birds. At the flush a shooter has to be also aware of the other hunters as well as the dogs which compromises concentration. The hills aren’t flat so it doesn’t simply become the idea of if the bird is high enough you’ll shoot over the other hunters. There were several videos of single chukar hunters and although I didn’t count it seemed that the shooting percentage for them was a lot better.
Different dogs for different hunters and also different approaches on the dogs for different hunters. Some hunters raced up to the point while others took the slow approach. Many hunter walked right up behind the dogs while some approached from the side. Others tried to be below the dogs and some came from above. Most were just however it worked at the time. When possible, I like to move to the right of the dogs and get below the dogs. If I can create a left to right passing shot I believe my odds increase some. That’s the shot I seem to hit the most for me.
The two guys that seemed to always hunt by themselves seemed to be real calm at their approaches and always came in from one side or the other. I believe a slow approach keeps the birds a little calmer than moving in quickly. I also think it helps to keep the dogs calm.
The one thing I can say. I saw a lot of hunters that were trying to give dogs commands. There should be one handler giving commands so as not to confuse the dog. If the dog insists on taking the bird back to the handler, let it do it. That’s what it was trained to do. There is always time to get the bird back to the shooter. Besides it creates a lot of unneeded chatter on the hill.
And there were those that used the ATV’s. I sometimes use mine to get to that magical spot but than spend the next 4 to 6 hours following my dogs to where they think the birds are. But I only hunt two dogs. Most of the hunts I saw that used the 4 wheelers more were those that hunt multiple dogs. The vehicles helped them move the next set of dogs to a new location. It wouldn’t be fair to hunt the new dogs right behind where the old ones just came off the hill. Not to mention how hard it would be on the hunter to try and walk behind two or three different set of dogs. I have to tip my hat to those guys. That’s dedication to the pups.
I also tip my hat to the hunter that kept after them with the 28 gauge. I’m just not that good of a shot. One of the two birds he got rolled and flopped no less than 300 yards down the steep slope. He was rightfully pleased with the great retrieve but I fear with my shooting my dogs would give up on me if I had many birds travel that far down a steep slope. I won’t be the judge because I’ve never shot a 28.
I had a lot of fun watching all of those videos. There were some very professional videos and a few like my short ones. Not too good. But in the end they showed what they were meant to. Chukar hunting and the country. Pretty impressive. Several of them were hunts that I could place myself in.
The perfect hunt for me could be described this way. Hiking some of the most beautiful but rugged country the high desert has to offer. The only sounds heard are those of the animals that inhabit those same mountains. The only words from my mouth are words of praise for the dogs. When I move in on a point I am confident that I will be getting a clear shot and I have created a safe situation. Yes, I’ll be cussing some of the poor shooting I’ll exhibit and the wrong turns I’ll take, but I never want to have successfully taking of a chukar be so important that I put doing the right thing on the back burner.
I’m sure I’ll be much slower on the mountain this year, as well as a little clumsier. With that there will probably be fewer birds in the bag. But it won’t matter. I’ll be doing it with the same love and respect of the mountain and the birds. I’ll be doing it with the same love and respect for my dogs. I’ll be hunting with a limit of birds as my quest but knowing it won’t often come. When it doesn’t happen I won’t be using that self imposed limit excuse. Hunters don’t have handicaps. I’ll be doing it the way that I love. When I lose that it will be time to place my shotgun above the fireplace to look at.
I hope all those who hunt Idaho chukars do it with the same excitement that those who made those videos had. That is the one thing we all have in common.