I finally took that hunting trip with my bride that I’ve been wanting to do for years. We took off towards Brownlee reservoir where we planned on hunting for two days and then travel to a new spot. We had planned on being gone for two weeks with no planned destinations, except for somewhere that looked like chukar habitat and hopefully not so steep habitat. I already knew there was no such place, but this trip reaffirmed my thoughts.
I usually don’t mention areas but without being specific everyone knows these areas and they are vast.
We started at the Cecil Andrus wildlife area and got a key to one of the gated roads. Barb got up early and drove the dogs and me to the top. As you can tell by my clothes it was very brisk and windy and the cover was very heavy.
It didn’t take long to realize that we were in the wrong location. Half the time I couldn’t even see the dogs through the thick grass and no self respecting chukar would reside in that stuff. This area had burned two years ago and wow did it come back strong. My two hour rule once again came through for me. It was 2 hours and 13 minutes before we found our first covey. As has been pretty normal for the year the twenty or so birds were on a steep slope with cover only about ankle deep. The dogs and I perked up and soon were on the second covey. I didn’t realize it but this covey defined how the rest of my trip was going to be. Both good and bad.
It started out with a point and honor on a steep and rocky slope. I was already committed to come in below the dogs and to the left. I usually like to come in on the right. As I moved out front of the dogs a bird flushed behind me. As I spun to try a shot a rock slipped out from under me sending me to the ground. Like I said it was a steep slope and I started cart wheeling down the hill. I let go of the gun hoping to get my self stopped before I gained any more momentum. About thirty yards down the hill I finally got stopped. My ankle hurt but somehow I had missed all the rocks with my head and if my gun was okay I was good to go. Shockingly, the dogs were still locked tight. I had to go back up the hill and retrieve my shotgun. Outside of a few new dings and mud filled barrels everything seemed just fine. That was the bad but the good was the dogs. I returned to the point and shot one bird from the covey. I didn’t dare fire a second shot. After the retrieve I realized the pain in my ankle was actually my achilles tendon. I hadn’t torn it but it sure was tight and sore.
At this point it didn’t make any difference. I had to get down the mountain no matter what and there was lots of country to hunt back to camp. It was steep and rocky but it was what the chukars liked and although I looked like a wounded warrior, thanks to some good dog work, we did pretty darn good.
Day one ended up being my best day as far as bird count for the trip. Day two was my only bust day. I got a key to a different gate and went to the top of the hill. With a sore leg and back I decided to hunt a more rolling area that I had found chukars and huns over the past. The only covey we found drew a big goose egg with both barrels. Strange thing is that this area wasn’t affected by the burn two years ago. Also, I left Jake at camp on this hunt. The ten year old had gone 17 miles on our first hunt and he was tired.
Day three had me sore, as well as Grady, so we traveled to the other side of the pond to hunt Oregon. It doesn’t make sense, but the cover didn’t seem as heavy. The good news was there was plenty of cover to conceal chukars but not their scent. Multiple points produced some fun shooting and we were having fun again on day four.
Day five had us on the steep stuff once again. My achilles tendon was not loosening up any and coupled with my back it was slow going for me, but the boys seemed to adjust and once again we had a very productive day and I was glad to get my butt situated in the truck.
I have to be the luckiest chukar hunter in the world. I get back to camp and Barb has dinner ready and a bed for the boys. I get to my lounge chair and tell her how hard my day has been.
Day six is traveling day and we head for Malheur county in Oregon. I haven’t hunted that area for at least five years and was hoping it was as good as it had been in the past. A good day of rest and stretching was on the agenda and I’d be ready for day seven.
Once again, like on day one, the boys and I were disappointed over the first two hours. One covey had got up wild. The cover was a little heavier than I had remembered so we moved to the steep southern slopes and sure enough it wasn’t long before we were once again in the birds. Jake surprised me on the first covey. I dropped a bird on my first shot and thought I had missed with the second barrel. Grady retrieved the downed bird and Jake had dropped out of sight but shortly came back with a bird in his mouth. By the time we got to the truck we had our birds and once again the truck seat fit me just right.
On day eight I decided to hunt a more northerly slope. We found a fair number of birds but not like the day before. The plus was that even though the covey’s were smaller, they held like they were stuck to the ground. One time, I walked up on Jake’s point and could see the chukar sitting a yard in front of him. I could tell he couldn’t see him and when the bird flushed there were actually three birds. I had two other points similar to that. It makes shooting a little easier when you can get that prepared.
Our next stop was going to be in the Owyhee’s down towards Jordan Valley, but the weather was moving in and calling for snow. The place I normally camp is over 5000 feet and usually gets down to the teens this time of the year so we nixed that idea and decided to hunt an area I hadn’t hunted for many years. I didn’t realize how long it had been, but there was a new geothermal power plant in the area and when I stopped and asked how long it had been there they said they broke ground in 2008.
Once again, we found birds. The weather was snowy and windy and made hunting tough. Low clouds made conditions even worse. Visibility made shooting tough and often had to not take unsafe shots. The one thing I did hear on my last day in this area was another hunter shooting. The day was clear but very windy and I never saw the other hunter. In eight days on the mountains that was the only other bird hunter I heard or saw. I did see another chukar hunter, Geoff, while driving back to camp on the Oregon side of Brownlee but didn’t realize it was him until he text me that I drove past him earlier.
My findings. There are lot’s of chukar mountains out there. They seem to be unoccupied by chukar hunters. There are some really good steep mountains with good numbers of chukars on them. For the most part weather is perfect for chasing birds. The need for water for the dogs has been cut in half. The birds in Oregon are just as tough to get as in Idaho. Chukar hunting is a lot more fun when you don’t hurt. There’s nothing better than following good dogs unless it’s coming back to camp to the woman you love. This chukar hunter is a lucky man.
Happy hunting. They are out there.
8 thoughts on “Chukars have a mind of their own.”
Sounds like a great trip. Lucky you didn’t get hurt worse. Can’t wait till we get down there later this week. Your dogs and your honey with you sounds like bliss
Thanks Wick. It was bliss. With this weather moving through this week hunting should be great. Good luck.
Glad you are finding birds and that you weren’t badly injured in your fall! I am always amazed at your hunting success! I’m pretty sure I do not walk as far as you do.
We have been hunting 7 times. Skunked once and found lots of birds one hunt. The rest were a covey or two. We are having a good time and hope to find some more birds in the next 10 days or so. Hanna is doing well and improving after a couple of nice points over 150 yards from me. She is getting confidence that I will show up if she is patient and the birds hold. Annie hasn’t hunted yet due to surgery for an abscess two weeks ago. I removed the 19 stitches this morning and she is quite happy to have the cone off her head! I may take her on a short quail hunt tomorrow.
Larry, I think you walk further than me. I read about some of your ptarmigan hunts. If I remember right they were 12 or 13 miles. I’m lucky to get 6 miles and about 1500 feet of elevation these days. Good deal with Hanna and hope Annie recovers quickly. Doctors tomorrow and one more day off Wednesday and we’re hoping to back on a mountain Thursday. If you get over west of here or in the Brownlee area let me know and maybe we can get together.
Glad to hear you and the dogs are seeing enough birds to make it interesting. Got back from our annual trip to Idaho a few days ago. When we got there on Oct 12 the heat wore us and the dogs down and bird finding was poor for the next nine days. After the weather got cooler, like magic, birds of all species suddenly appeared. Best grass we’ve ever seen in over 3 decades. Hopefully with a mild winter the bountiful cover will produce even better numbers of birds for next year. Good luck the rest of the season and may your new vest be severely coated with chukar feathers.
Well me and Mark did honk at you and attempted to pay you a visit….couldn’t find a way to get over to you. We made our way to a new hole, found nice sized coveys, but were ran out due to the same weather. Went to another spot headed back East…the range was not in great condition although we did find fair numbers but smaller coveys. Weathered out again the next morning and headed home. I didn’t have any falls, but we were worn out just as well. Planning on a reattack first of next week.
Anonymous, Glad you got over to Idaho to chase some of the birds. The weather was really tough most of October. Rough on both dogs and hunters. Glad you were here long enough to finally get in some good hunting. The weather is what makes making a trip from out of state hard. 12 days of hot weather before the weather came in can be depressing. It’s now turned the opposite. We’re getting early snow and the weather is supposed to turn cold. I’m heading out on a day trip tomorrow and the temperature where I’m heading is supposed to be 15 degrees in the early morning. I’m lucky to live within 2 hours of some wonderful chukar habitat which makes it easier to decide which days I’m going to hunt. No matter what, ain’t it good to be out with good friends and dogs.
Steve, we’re going to make it work someday. It seems like you, Mark and I get close but never seem to get to share a mountain. That’s one more thing about chukars. It doesn’t take a bunch of them to wear a person out. I’m heading out with Greg tomorrow on a day hunt and by the looks of it we will be in snow and the temperature is supposed to be 15 degrees in the morning where we’re going. I’ll let you know how we fare.