Posts Tagged ‘chukar’

Mine? Beyond my wildest expectations. That was our chukar and valley quail opening weekend. Our annual “Boy’s Weekend” at 1) our usual camp spot (unoccupied); 2) weather threatened but skies brightened; 3) a gigantic quail covey not 50 yards from camp – woohoo!

Highlights: Buddy worked hard, finding down birds when nobody else could. Dave’s pup Buster joining the fraternity of bird dogs – the light went on when he understood what retrieving was all about. Manny’s elegant point on that big covey – where’s a camera when you need one?

Buddy hunted along the stream with Dave and Mike while I got Manny out of the truck, and I don’t know if there’s a more gratifying feeling than watching your dog help someone else by pointing, then retrieving chukars. Now, if only our shooting matched the dog work!

And only at Fields Station in southeast Oregon can you run into old friends from New Jersey!

Finally, after passing by for decades, we stopped to hunt a new canyon: steeper than everything nearby, the toughest climbing up and down dangerous scree slopes … but all was forgotten when the fourth, fifth, and sixth coveys of chukars thundered aloft.

This is the place.

You'd be tired, too, if you retrieved so many birds!

When we started hunting this patch, it was a whole, dead cow.

Good boy!

Maiden voyage for the Aliner Expedition ... sweet!

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I had high hopes on our return to Flying Double F ranch near Vale, Oregon, the next location for Wingshooting USA. And ultimately, we were rewarded. We redefined run-and-gun, covering miles of ranch property to hunt honey holes ranging from standing corn to streambeds, sagebrush slopes to CRP. 

A week of rest for one little cut? Okay boss, if you insist.

We alternated host Jim Farmer’s pointers with Manny and Buddy in tandem, until the pup yelped and I scrambled down a ditch bank to unhook him from the barbed wire fence. A quick glance, no damage and back to the pheasants. Or so I thought.

Manny and Buddy tracked ringnecks up and down the ditch, through the fields, and into a cattail swamp where the one close bird snuck out and under a gigantic irrigation pipe. 

We trekked up a steep, crumbly desert slope, huffing and puffing after a covey of chukars that flushed wild. Around the ridge and down a draw and there they were! Jim’s son James put the hurt on one, brought to hand by Buddy. The leavings doubled back, and on our return trip James flushed them, dropped one of the gray rockets while I did an artful pirouette and brought down another.

Sometimes on hands and knees, we snuck through the hardwoods and dog-hair-thick willows along Bully Creek. Valley quail escaped well in front of us until James called a covey milling nervously, pittt-pitting under a tall cottonwood. They broke left and jinked right, squirting through the leaves and over the creekbanks on both sides. One finally dropped to my shot.

Another sneak up a lava-bed slope and a big covey of valley quail ran like track stars, then flushed wild but in gun range. James doubled left and right and guess what? So did I.  

Back at the ranch I had a closer look at Manny’s thigh. Yuck. Three inches of wide-open gash, loaded with weed seeds. No blood, but the slice went to muscle. Cleaned and slathered with antibiotics, and the Monday morning quarterbacking started. Why hadn’t I seen it when I picked him off the fence?

One sleepless night later, I decided consulting a nearby veterinarian was worth stopping our shoot. Manny was a trooper as he got his first stitches, with an audience in attendance, no less. The vet recommended a week of rest … like that was gonna happen. The Awesome Upland Road Trip was just getting into high gear.

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So, what does a guy who makes TV shows about bird hunting do in his free time? Goes bird hunting, of course.

I had a hall pass for the day, not enough time to head for my usual haunts. It forced me to visit some trout fishing country that was closer and pioneer some new country, ostensibly for chukars. Some bonuses: saw the truck of a training partner, avoided the frozen fog that was plaguing higher elevations and ran into another giant covey of valley quail (the topknot gods have smiled on me in recent weeks). And while the chukars hadn’t gotten the memo, it was not a total bust, as you’ll see.

For those who haven’t been on a chukar hunt, here is a typical afternoon, boiled down to a couple minutes by an executive producer (me), not an editor (like Wingshooting USA’s Tad Newberry). Tighten your bootlaces, hydrate well and enjoy!

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OVERLOOKING LAWYER’S CREEK, IDAHO: It was warming already, “it” being 6:40 a.m. in the wheat stubble west of the Clearwater River near Kamiah, Idaho. Flying B Ranch head guide Rich Coe pre-wet his pointer and shorthair, so I did the same with Buddy and we were off on a quest for chukar partridge.

A fence corner and rock pile produced the first point, but the long-tailed dog broke off and trotted toward us. Buddy locked up in the same vicinity and a bird flew wild. Minutes later, a solid point by the shorthair and the first bird was brought to bag as we gazed downward, panting, a thousand feet into the canyon that holds the Flying B.

TV SHOW LAUNCH UPDATE: Wingshooting USA debuts Sept. 30! Go here for more details.

That first productive point prompted Rich’s question, which I’d hoped would never come on this three-dog hunt: “does your dog back?” The answer of course, is not really, but with some verbal encouragement from his owner and a lot of self-discipline, Buddy began honing his honoring skills. He had plenty of opportunities to practice in the target-rich environment that was the breaks between canyon and cropland. (more…)

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So, where to this season Buddy?

So, where to this season Buddy?

As the movie trailer says, it’s baaaaack!

The Awesome Upland Road Trip, version 2.0, is on the books and in the calendar. And this year, it’s a radio and TV venture. My crew and I will venture east from Central Oregon a number of times, in pursuit of everything from Huns to chukars, ringnecks to sharpies. The results – good, bad, and ugly – will find a home on radio broadcasts this season, and on my television series Wingshooting USA next fall.

Here’s where you come in: there are a few holes in the schedule and I could use your suggestions. Much as I hate to say it, tell me where to go. Anywhere west of the Mississippi is fair game, so start your thinking. Maybe it’s a place you’ve always wanted to hunt … we could do the field research. Or, it’s a honey hole you think everyone should hunt once before they die … go ahead and share it. Do you have memories of a friendly town, helpful lodge owner, or must-see stopover?

Whatever the idea, wherever the place, I’m open. And it won’t be without reward. Thanks to sponsor Irish Setter boots, one reader will be drawn at random from all the comments/suggestions and I’ll send you a free pair of hunting boots.

We start in September. When we’ll end is anybody’s guess … maybe yours? Win your boots below.

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Windy? Sure, but it beats working.

Windy? Sure, but it beats working.

I don’t know about you, but here in Oregon we’ve had one of the windiest springs on record. I’ve been chasing hats across parking lots way too often.

Drilling for Buddy’s NAVHDA Utility test (and a segment on the new TV series Wingshooting USA), we braved gale-force winds yesterday at a local preserve. Mother Nature had her own ideas about our practice session, though. What do you make of this?

Buddy would lock up staunchly, I’d walk in, and about the time I would get in front of him he’d move. Sometimes, a creep, point, creep. More often, he’d move a lot, circling wide, heading far upwind of where I thought the bird was. I’d kick around, searching, but there was never a bird where it should have been.

According to the local TV weather guesser, the wind was screaming 30, 40 m.p.h. so I think I’ve got an idea: wind-diffused scent from dozens to hundreds of yards off sometimes hit his nose, other times a gust moved it out of his reach. When it went blank, he was off in search of it again.

What I’m most curious about is the circling. It was always to the right, swinging wide 50-60 yards in a counter-clockwise circle ending up about where he started. He’d hunt on from there, sometimes whiffing scent again, sometimes not. Any ideas?

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Okay, we’ve all been on a BAD lodge/preserve hunt: Dogs that won’t hold or retrieve, pool table smooth “cover,” birds that couldn’t fly themselves out of a paper bag.

Uh oh ... nothing good can come of this. For the chukar.

Uh oh ... nothing good can come of this. For the chukar, that is. Preserve or wild, who cares?

But what’s wrong with a GOOD preserve hunt? It offers much to the dog owning hunter: more plentiful birds, convenient location, a chance at that rare commodity camaraderie, and at least a taste of the natural world, even if it’s been crafted by the hands of man.

And that’s not even weighing the value of your time, driving hours (or days) to knock on locked doors and not get permission to hunt non-existent wild birds on beat-up property that was hunted by every third cousin of the landowner’s last weekend. So “paying” for birds becomes moot, unless the value of your time is zero dollars.

I just had a pretty good preserve hunt. My friend Rob and I enjoyed every minute of it, from the dog work, to the weather, to the unlittered fields we had all to ourselves. And while a true wild bird hunt offers a philosophical and possibly emotional charge I won’t get at the local lodge, it was better than nothing. Way better. And according to Buddy, pretty darn gratifying.

Caveat: don’t get on my case about the nightmares that occur at many preserves. I already know, and have lived through, them. That’s not my purpose here (maybe in another post). But consider:

Fly anglers are pretty much over the planted trout issue, except in the rarest of cases. Many of our best “wild” trout streams were barren until someone put fish in them. Even put-and-take fisheries redeem themselves with most anglers if the fish “act wild.” Clipped fins, brookies in the West, McCloud River rainbows in New Zealand … who cares if the package is good?

Hmmm. Tastes just like chukar to me.

Hmmm. Buddy sez: tastes just like chukar to me.

Let’s not forget our favorite winged quarry were planted, albeit 40, 50 years ago. What makes them better than a hard-flying, skittish, human-and-dog-averse Hun, chukar or ringneck “liberated” 40, 50 hours ago? Or last season, or this morning, for that matter? 

So, back to the question: notwithstanding the philosophical differences, for you, your friends and family and your dog … what would make a lodge/preserve hunt as good as a “wild” bird hunt?

Subjective answers in the comments section, please. And spare us the Ortega y Gassett quotes.

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