I read an article this morning about cabin fever. Of course, it was associated with the winter months and being stuck inside. The only time I get any hint of cabin fever is in the hot summer time. When it is too hot to get our and hike the hills. Luckily, there is always a high mountain in the timber that the dogs and I can curb that sickness.
Chukar hunters don’t get cabin fever in the winter months. The dogs won’t let them. I know because even when the body is letting me down, I find a way and a place to take the boys for some chukar exercise. The number of birds I see or take may not be that great but the excitement for the dogs is.
Yesterday was my 41st chukar hunt this season. I’m quite a bit down from my average of 61 trips per year. With 19 days left in the season, I’ll be lucky to get 5 more trips and the quality for me won’t be that great, but outside of getting birds in the mouth, it will be for the boys.
Yesterday was a beautiful bluebird day for hunting. January 11th, fifty degrees, slight breeze, and lot’s of bare ground to hunt. I’d guess 90% of the hiking was done on bare ground. It started out good for me as I hiked a game trail upwards. But it wasn’t long before my back was giving me a bad time. But, since I was walking much slower, I did more watching the dogs than my Alpha. I learned an even greater respect for those boys.
Usually I know in the general direction they have headed, but depend on the Alpha to tell me what they are doing. I was shocked to see how often they checked on me from a distance and up close to see which way to go. I always figured Grady as running all over the mountain looking for birds and not paying much attention to me. At times it seemed like he was quartering like you would train a pheasant dog. At my slower pace, he and Jake were covering all country around me and finding birds.
I watched both dogs accidently bust birds and at times they would flush in my direction. Jake would yelp and let me know, while Grady would give a short chase in case they didn’t fly far. If they didn’t, he’d run that way and point them. Most of the time they would go to a place I couldn’t get to. In the past there weren’t too many of those places, but this year there have been a lot of them.
Throughout the 4 1/2 hour hunt, Jake got 14+ miles in and Grady24+ miles. It was all I could do to get 3 1/2 and around 1000 feet of elevation. I really realized how much the dogs and I work together as a team. Even though I am having a hard time doing my part, they seemed to figure out ways to get me action. I really believe that Grady was trying to push birds down to me now and then. I’m just not much good at passing shots. I even tried a few unsuccessfully.
But more than anything else yesterday, I was amazed at how well they found birds. They know where the chukars are more likely to be and seem to try and approach those areas with the wind in their face. I watched it happen so many times that it isn’t an accident. I’m sure I saw as many chukars yesterday as any January day in the past. And were they ever talking. Another thing the dogs were tuning in on.
It’s obvious that these great predators are the best part of the team. I just have to let them do what they are so great at and then get to them. If I could do that, there is almost always a limit of good shooting to be had and usually some pretty quality shots. But I’ve had to settle for these fewer harvested bird days. It’s much better than cabin fever and better for me than sitting at home watching the news.
My last two trips ended up with three birds each trip. I don’t know when I’ve appreciated the birds more. And I don’t know when I’ve appreciated the dogs more. They work their butts off for me.
So, if I don’t get any exciting post out there for the rest of the season, it’s not that we aren’t trying. And it’s not because the birds aren’t out there. They are and in numbers that I haven’t seen since 2015. We’re going to have a good brood crop and Jake and Grady will be out there keeping them educated so they are just as hard to get next year.
I love these dogs.