Category Archives: Hunting

2019-20 Season Wrap Up

Overall we had a good season and got a lot done with the dogs. Our Sage Grouse season remains closed so our hunting began in Wisconsin in October. We found plenty of Grouse but most were still in broods, which was a little odd for this time of year. Our focus was on the youngsters we started the last couple years and they continued to develop nicely. Here’s a pretty poor shot of Feather pointing a Grouse:

Feather on Point
Feather Pointing A Grouse

And Misty with the first Grouse she’s had shot over her:

Lisa with Misty and grouse
Misty’s First Grouse

On this trip Misty developed a unique style when handling birds. When she smells birds she goes straight to them like a laser beam. She crouches and does kind of a fast stalk, very intense, no side to side motion – just straight to the bird. Very positive – no messing around.

OK, we can’t resist a puppy photo. Heather came from Thorn Plum Kennels in NY.  She’s a nice pup we’re hoping makes a good addition to our crew.

Cliff With Heather
Cliff With Heather

In December we headed to southern Idaho and spent a few days in some of our old Hun covers that we hadn’t hit in years. The birds were still there and they were spookier than ever. Small coveys that ran a lot and didn’t put up with any mistakes. A great challenge for the dogs and they were up to it. It was really nice to see the dogs handling tough birds like this even when we didn’t get shots at the flush.

We arrived in Kansas on New Year’s Eve for another Gathering and some Quail hunting. Birds were way down this year but we still managed to get some good hunts in. The Gathering was fun and informative as usual and we had quite a crowd this year.

Lisa With Thistle
Lisa With Thistle
Rick with Abby
Rick Walking In On Abby’s Point

A highlight for us was what we called a “parade”. We got together one morning for kind of a show and tell session before dispersing to hunt. Breeders present broke out their dogs and described the breeding and qualities of each dog. Very informative.

Breeders’ Show And Tell Session

We switched our focus to getting pups started and had fun watching them discover what life is about.

Dusty Pointing
Puppy Point / Dusty (Brook x Coulter)
Heath REsting Up
Heath Enjoying The Fireplace

Since we weren’t finding many birds we headed back to Idaho to finish out the season on Chukars.

Chukar Camp
Chukar Camp

Bird numbers weren’t spectacular but it was good enough to get a lot done with the dogs. Not to mention it’s beautiful country.

Tillie / Piper x Doc
Tillie (Piper x Doc)
Prince On Chukars
Cliff, Thistle and Misty
Cliff With Thistle And Misty
Fog Bank
Fog Bank Spilling Into Valley

We had great weather and lots of good dog work to wrap up our season. Memories that will carry us through until next year.


2018-19 Season Wrap Up

We had a busy summer bringing along our latest batch of pups so we were looking forward to getting out hunting. Unfortunately our Sage Grouse season was cancelled so we missed out on that for the first time in 30 years. A large chunk of prime habitat was burned – kudos to Fish and Game for closing the season. It wasn’t a popular decision.

We took our annual trip to Wisconsin in October despite predictions of low grouse numbers again this year. Numbers of birds were better than last year but still spotty. Unlike last year we shot mostly juveniles, which bodes well for next season. We succeeded in getting our youngsters into a few birds highlighted by Lock showing us our initial impression of his ability was correct. We shot a grouse he didn’t see flush and marked it down, apparently dead. We called Lock over and told him “Dead Bird”.  He looked around and soon headed off away from our mark so we called him back and told him “Dead Bird”. We figured he’s young so he didn’t know to look for the bird where we told him. He again took off, in the same direction, but this time he pointed the bird thirty yards from our mark before we had a chance to call him back. The bird then ran about fifteen yards and hid in a brush pile where he again located and pointed it. The nose knows.

Lisa with Lock and his first Grouse

After our deer and Elk seasons we went to see if Chukar numbers have recovered from the harsh winter of 2016-17. They did. Unfortunately so did numbers of hunters which made them a little spooky/flighty. That isn’t all bad – it makes it a little more challenging for the dogs. Despite the difficulty the pups looked good, following running birds and making a few finds. They didn’t make any solid points but they were learning fast.

Lisa Following Lock
Lisa with Lock Pursuing a Running Covey of Chukars
Lock Roading Chukars
Lock on Point While Roading Chukars. He Still Hadn’t Seen One But Pointed and Followed Instinctively.
Coulter At Sunset
Coulter At Sunset
Cliff With Thistle
Cliff With Thistle

There was snow on the ground which makes climbing hills interesting but it also gives us a huge advantage. We can see where birds have been and we can tell when they’re running ahead of the dog. Without snow it’s much more of a guessing game. Is the dog roading birds or just being overly cautious? With fresh tracks lining out ahead of them it’s obvious what’s going on.

Chukar Tracks
Fresh Chukar Tracks Tell the Story. Lock Followed These Birds to Where They Flushed – Well Out of Sight Ahead of Us.
Sage Grouse Tracks
Just For Kicks – Sage Grouse are Huge.

Couldn’t resist throwing in this short video of Lock’s first Chukar “point”. He still hadn’t seen a Chukar despite having followed a couple coveys that flushed wild so we showed him a freshly shot bird.

We again finished our season in Kansas surrounding the gathering and hunt. It was cold and windy for most of the trip and the roads were in terrible condition, making it impossible to get to some covers. Unfortunately we tried…

Tire Chains and Assorted “Headache” Gear
Of Course It Was Dark When We Had To Chain Up

After limping in to camp around midnight it was nice to have a fenced-in, stress free place to let dogs out.

Bird numbers were up from previous years, at least for us, and we had no trouble finding quail. Coveys were big and we had really good hunting. The pups put it all together and the older dogs continued to get better at locating difficult to smell quail. Several hunts produced nice covey finds and multiple points on singles.

Thistle Followed This Rooster More Than 100 Yards and Pointed It – Her First Wild Bird Point…And Retrieve
Lock Pointing On His First Covey Find
Lisa With Bob Mele And Birds Shot Over Lock On His First Quail Hunt
With Friends At Gathering/Hunt
 Bob Mele, Lynn Dee Galey and Frank Thompson
Lisa, Bob Mele, and Frank Thompson

Season Wrap Up

We started our season as usual on Sage Grouse in Idaho. Sage Grouse are still in trouble here but there were enough birds around to get some good dog work and a couple excellent dinners.

Prince Pointing Dead Sage Grouse
Prince Pointing A Dead Sage Grouse

We then headed to Wisconsin for our annual Grouse and Woodcock fix. We had several young dogs that needed to see some birds so our emphasis was on giving them the opportunity to show us they have what it takes. Grouse numbers were disappointing given the spring drumming counts and most birds we found were spooky and hard to get close to. It seemed like a higher percentage were adults which explains their wariness. We managed to find enough to keep it interesting but overall it wasn’t fantastic hunting and made it difficult to get our youngsters going. One bright spot was a couple coverts with good numbers of woodcock which helped make up for the lack of dog work on Grouse.

Feather Warming Up After Morning Walk In Wisconsin
Violet and Prince in Wisconsin

With poor reports of Chukar numbers in Idaho after last year’s heavy snows we decided to spend the rest of our season chasing quail in Kansas. So right after Christmas we loaded up and drove to Kansas, arriving just in time for sub-zero temps and howling wind. It was too cold to hunt so we spent our first three days scouting.

Think There’s A Covey In This Cover?

January 2-10 was spent at the 2nd Breeders Gathering. Hunting was tough after the weather warmed up as birds we had located seemed to vanish. We spent a lot of time with friends old and new and had a very productive series of discussions about goals for

Walt Lesser, Bob Mele and Lisa
Walt Lesser, Bob Mele and Lisa

First day out was a reunion of sorts. We joined Walt Lesser with October Kade, and Bob Mele with October Lizzie Lee (Bob adopted Lizzie a couple years ago). We miss Lizzie and she reminded us why on this day, making a point on a covey and a single plus retrieving both birds shot over her points.

October Alder Run Kade
October Lizzie Lee

Walt Cottrell and “Rose” joined us for a hunt and Walt got these photos of Gen pointing a dead quail, Rose backing her, and Lisa with her Bobwhite.

Rose Backing Gen
Gen Pointing Dead Quail
Lisa with Bobwhite Quail

After saying our good byes we got serious about locating birds for our young dogs. This is only the second year we’ve hunted Bobwhite Quail so it’s as much a learning experience for us as for the dogs. A light snow fall helped by allowing us to locate/track birds and we altered our hunting style as well as the habitat covered to maximize our chances of finding birds. It paid off. These birds tend to sit tight which makes them pretty easy for the dogs to handle. However they don’t put off much scent so, combined with their tendency to hide rather than run (we did find coveys that ran), they are surprisingly difficult to locate. The dogs had to figure this out and cover ground more thoroughly and we had to learn to hit areas we had previously passed by. We finished the hunt with dogs making points on the last 7 coveys we found.

October Mountain Heath in Kansas / 2018

Two highlights of that last week occurred on the same day. Buck has had very limited experience despite being two years old (thanks in part to Lisa injuring her knee and foot our second day in WI and being unable to hunt the rest of the trip). He found a couple singles last year (pretty tough for a young dog) but hadn’t really had much chance otherwise. We were hunting a cover we knew held some birds and he hunted very well, covering likely areas as he should. We passed through an area where he slowed down and scoured it thoroughly. We noticed scattered droppings and Buck moved out and sped up when we got away from the sign. So we went back towards where we’d seen the droppings and he immediately slowed down and worked the area over and over. Eventually he located a good sized covey and pointed them, sitting tightly within a few feet of his nose. He clearly knew those birds were there and searched until he found them. Later that day we hunted Coulter. He’d made points on a couple coveys before but this one showed he’s got it figured out. In a brushy draw He and Candy got birdy and we again noticed scatted fresh droppings so we knew there were birds around. They both made several short points while moving up the draw, following the birds as they ran ahead of them. About 100 yards up the draw and in the last patch of brush Coulter pointed the covey and held until we arrived. A very nice piece of dog work.

Our last day of hunting capped off the trip nicely. We’d been running Piper every day and she’d seen a couple singles flush but had no other contacts. This day she got out ahead of us and pointed for a while. It was windy and we never heard the flush but she had a covey pointed and was back where they flushed checking it out, making several short points and eventually locating a single straggler from the covey.

Piper in Kansas 2018
Piper in Kansas 2018

In the end we’re really happy with the development of our youngsters and got to enjoy some quality hunts with our older dogs. Now it’s puppy season (we’re babysitting Brook’s litter right now) which will keep us busy for the next few weeks.

2016 Grouse and Woodcock Hunt

We are recently home from our annual Wisconsin Grouse and Woodcock hunt.

Woodcock Moon? Stopped for the night in North Dakota
Woodcock Moon? Stopped for the night on the way in North Dakota.

Grouse numbers were still spotty in the region we hunt, but up a little from last year and maybe a bit more consistent. Not so many covers where you didn’t see any or maybe only saw a couple, and we had some very good hunts once we figured out which areas were better. Woodcock were somewhat scarce compared to what we’re used to. We mainly targeted grouse though, so didn’t spend a lot of time in the  young regrowth and alders that are best for Woodcock.

River has 2 grouse in this point, but the went out from the wrong side of the road!
River has 2 grouse, but they went out from behind- both of them on the wrong side of the road! No shots fired.

This year we are having some of the “Terrible Twos” with the younger dogs. Some good performances, but also some hunts with teenagers who are a little too full of themselves. One minute it’s a nice point on a grouse, the next it’s too much excitement and a bumped bird. It’s typical for a dog that was impressing everyone at 8 months with amazing abilities to find and point birds to turn into something of a handful at two years of age. You can either wait it out, knowing that maturity will come, or you can give in and work more on training. They are showing good talent though, and we’re happy with how they are progressing.

Blaze in camp- one of the "Terrible Twos".
Blaze in camp- one of the “Terrible Twos”.

As usual we were very bad about taking photos of hunts, but did manage to take the camera out a little near the end of the trip. Hard to leave the gun behind!

Lisa and River

We had a funny, pseudo scary thing happen on the last hunt with River, at least it was scary for River. He crossed a brook coming back to us in kind of a deep spot that had a steep bank below a hill we were on. He couldn’t get up the bank and panicked. All River had to do to get out of it was turn upstream and walk out in shallow water a couple feet away, but he wanted to come straight to us. Took one of us walking down there for him to figure it out. Wish we had a video of that, but we were too busy laughing at the big, supposedly macho boy crying like a baby. BIG relief when he saw the way out.

Iris with a grouse she retrieved out of a swamp.
Iris with a grouse she retrieved out of a swamp.Iris is a little less afflicted with the Terrible Twos than some of the others- she went through it more last year.

Last hunt of the trip was with Doc in a cover that produced both Grouse and Woodcock a few days earlier.  This time it was all Woodcock except for one wild flush from a Grouse, and we had some fun with videos.

Pointing a Woodcock

It is not unusual for dogs to perform differently on Woodcock than they do on other birds. Pointing or working with a lower head, or hunting more slowly are common. With Doc it’s a lower tail on point, and sometimes a crouching point.

Doc is an example of just waiting out the teenage problems. He had some obedience training, but like most of our dogs that’s about it. His performance developed naturally. In this video Lisa walks in to the front of Doc’s point, and when no bird goes out she moves ahead in case it’s a Grouse. Doc decides to relocate, and re-establishes point closer to the bird. A dog that can re-establish without losing control or bumping the bird is especially valuable on running birds. In this case, with an easy bird like a tight sitting Woodcock, it’s just Doc showing Lisa she’s going the wrong way:-) Of course for the camera it’s a miss. Good excuse though- was a hard spot to get in and flush the bird.

This time a hit!

Doc eventually did retrieve the bird- he’s a little slow to pick up a Woodcock sometimes, but not before the camera battery died. Figures. We finally got a bird falling over a point in a video- something else was bound to go wrong. Maybe next time we’ll get the whole thing.

No Muskies this year to fill in on rainy days, but this pike decided to take the fly.
No Muskies to fill in on rainy days this year, but this pike decided to take the fly.

All in all a great trip that we wish could last a lot longer. Looking forward to Chukars next, and then Kansas Bobwhites.

The Value of Retrieving

We’ve always considered retrieving an important part of a hunting dog’s job.  Aside from being a nice addition to the enjoyment of the hunt, a good retriever knows how to search for and locate crippled birds that run off after hitting the ground, giving you a chance to recover birds you have little or no chance of finding without a dog.  A couple incidents on our recent trip to Wisconsin served as a nice reminder just how important it is.

One morning I took Iris out and,towards the end of the hunt, we flushed a Grouse that fell at my shot.  I marked it well but knew it wasn’t dead so I got to the spot as fast as I could.  Iris quickly found a single feather on the ground and searched the immediate area for the bird.  There was a lot of blood on the ground and a small spot of fresh grouse droppings so I knew I was in the right place.  Iris acted like she smelled the bird a short distance away but we were unable to find it so I gave up and headed back to the truck.  Having only had a handful of birds shot over her Iris just didn’t have the experience to know how to find a running cripple despite searching hard for the bird.

Since it was only a quarter mile or so from the truck we decided to take an experienced dog back to the area to search for the crippled Grouse.  River is very good at hunting dead so he got the call and we took Violet along for the experience.  Upon reaching the site both dogs quickly located the scent where the bird hit the ground and started searching for it.  River began working in circles around where he first smelled the bird and soon located the same spot where Iris got birdy about ten yards away.  He knew what that meant and started searching in a line beyond this second location.  Twenty yards further on he pointed and there was the Grouse, still very much alive, hiding under a log.

P1050497He soon grabbed for it and caught it after a short chase, turning my mood from disappointed to elated.

P1050505A few days later I had Lizzie out and a Grouse flushed from over a small hill ahead of me.  I threw a quick shot at it but lost site of it as I shot so I didn’t know whether I’d hit it.  Two more Grouse flushed so I hurried over to give Lizzie a chance to point any remaining birds.  She locked up so I snapped a few photos then walked in to flush.

P1050523When nothing happened my first thought was she’s pointing where one of the birds had been.  Then I remembered I’d shot so I looked on the ground and soon saw the bird hiding where it fell.  Very nice.

We then followed up the other two birds and Lizzie pointed the first in young Aspens overlooking a wet area.  The bird flushed out over the alders and I shot it.  Lizzie beat me there and was searching excitedly about fifteen feet from where I marked it.  She didn’t locate it so I called her over to where I marked its fall.  She got birdy right away and searched hard in circles around my mark, repeatedly sniffing under clumps of grass and willow trying to locate the bird she could clearly smell.  She then headed over to where she’d first smelled the bird and continued hunting on that line, quartering narrowly and several times sniffing the ground.  I followed and she pointed the Grouse about forty yards ahead.  Again it was hiding under a log and she quickly caught it.  Needless to say she made my day.  A point on the third Grouse, this time with a clean kill, added the icing to my cake.

P1050528-eAlthough there is disagreement about the value or necessity of retrieving, some even claiming it is a negative (the desire to catch the bird makes the dog less likely to hold point), for me there is nothing to discuss.  We have an ethical obligation to do whatever it takes to recover game after the shot and a good retriever simply can’t be beat when it comes to locating downed birds.


A Morning Of Firsts

We are having an unusually good year on Sharptails locally here in E. Idaho. My last morning chasing them was in an area that was pretty good for Sage Hens back in September. I hadn’t been seeing many of them recently though- one here and there is all, and no coveys. Our Sage Hens are migratory. They winter and lek in the valley, come up here for nesting and raising chicks, and then leave again some time during October. So, I had been wondering if they were already headed for the wintering grounds a little on the early side.

First dog out for the morning was a 16 month old female named Blaze. Pretty quick into the hunt she went on point at the base of a hill, moved a little, and then went solid. I walked in, expecting sharptails, and to my surprise the whole hillside got up. There were at least 80, maybe 100 Sage Hens. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen that happen. 20-30 years ago it wasn’t too uncommon to see groups like this, but the population has declined since and such large groups, at least during hunting season, have been non-existent. The coveys from September have probably just grouped together in preparation for migrating, but it was still nice to see so many. Hopefully the recent conservation efforts will make a better future for these iconic western birds.

Blaze of course was quite excited about the big flush and proceeded to chase them over the hill, and then race all around looking for more. While I was waiting for her to get over that a couple of Sharptails flushed wild off to the downwind side of the area. Then some more. And more. Probably 50 of them got up in waves and flew over the horizon. Apparently this was the place to be. When Blaze was finally convinced there were no more Sage hens to be had I took her for a swing through the area the Sharptails flushed from. I didn’t have much hope there would be any stragglers but it’s always worth a try. As luck would have it, Blaze got to point and retrieve her first Sharptail! My morning was made.

Blaze admiring her first Sharp-tailed Grouse
Blaze admiring her first Sharp-tailed Grouse

On the way home I stopped at a grouse cover for a short hunt with another young dog, Prince, where he got to point and retrieve his first Ruffed grouse. Well, he pointed until he saw the grouse:-) These Idaho grouse are not the best for young dogs- sometimes they are reluctant to flush and they don’t hide. We don’t put young dogs on them much until after they’ve seen real grouse because of this. Prince thought it was pretty cool though. This was a case that shows how important having a dog can be, even an inexperienced one. I was fairly sure I hit the bird but it flew off, and I didn’t have a great line on it. I followed and didn’t go too far before Prince pointed about 20 yards to the side. I walked in watching for a cripple, and the grouse was laying dead in a depression where I never would have found it on my own.

Back at the car Prince refused to pose for photos with the grouse, so this is the best I got. Happy dog.

Prince's first grousePrince's first Ruffed grouse
Time for woodcock and real grouse in WI.


Chukar Hunting Trip Report

camp2We just finished our Chukar season in western Idaho.  With bird numbers still low and  weather (fog) and road (mud – at one point we lost control of the truck at 10 mph in low gear and 4WD) conditions conspiring to keep us away from most areas it was really tough to find birds.

Visibility at times was under fifty yards
Visibility at times was under fifty yards


Ten minutes after this photo was taken the fog rolled up out of the valley and engulfed us (again!), forcing us to bail on hunting this hillside.
Ten minutes after this photo was taken the fog rolled up out of the valley and engulfed us (again!), forcing us to bail on hunting this hillside.

By the end of the season it felt like spring.  Temps in the 50s, Huns were paired up, grasshoppers were out and flowers were blooming.

Pink Campion
Pink Campion

Roads dried out enough so we could get around better the last 4-5 days of the season and we found a few more birds. We had to work REALLY hard to get our young dogs into birds.  Like 4-5 hours a day climbing hills like this:
lisa in canyonWe had six 8 & 10 month old pups with us that had never seen wild birds.  We worked them a few times on training quail and got them shot over in October and they looked really good so our expectations were high.  But the proof is in how they handle wild birds so we were intent on seeing how they would do.  They not only met our expectations, they exceeded them, and they’re easily the best batch of young dogs we’ve had.  3 out of 6 (Prince, Blaze, and Iris) made points on the first wild birds they found and Brook was pointing Chukars by the end of the first hunt on which she saw birds.  We even managed to shoot a couple over those first points.  We weren’t fast enough to get photos of them pointing but here are some videos of retrieves:
Iris (River x Spice) retrieving the first Hun she found, and pointed:

Brook (Doc x Camas) retrieving the first Chukar she pointed – this is actually the third time she brought it to me:

Here’s Gen (Heath x Pepper) on the first bird we shot for her.  She wasn’t quite sure what to do with it at first but the early play retrieving lessons paid off and she recognized the fetch command:

And this is Violet (River x Paint) retrieving a Hun:

We had one hunt that’s good for a laugh.  Every day we see a different truck parked in the same spot and we always hear shooting there.  We’ve never hunted it but we decided to give it a try.  So we climbed up and crossed a ridge over to a big canyon that’s hard to reach from other places so we thought we were on to something.  It was very steep dropping into the canyon so we were walking very slow when Lisa says “there goes a covey of Chukars”.  It took me a while to find them – hopping up a huge cliff 100 yards ahead of us in short steps all the way to the top.  They’d obviously played the game before and there was no hope of getting them.  This is the spot:
lisa in canyon2It was like one of those old cartoons and we were Elmer Fudd.  It did make us notice this Golden Eagle nest though:

 Golden Eagle nest - the pair was courting nearby

Golden Eagle nest – the pair was courting nearby

All in all we had a good time and were especially happy with the performance of our youngsters.  Seeing them put it all together under such trying conditions with only a few bird contacts was very gratifying.  Since we took more photos we’ll just put them in here for fun.  Hope you enjoy them.

Lisa with Prince (Heath x Pepper)
Lisa with Prince (Heath x Pepper)
Cliff with Violet (River x Paint)
Cliff with Violet (River x Paint)
Close up of Violet's Head
Ruby (Doc x Suzie)
Ruby (Doc x Suzie)
Cliff's Bernardelli
Cliff’s Bernardelli
Candy (River x Spice)
Candy (River x Spice)

dogs in truckcliff fog

Brook (Doc x Camas) with Chukar
Brook (Doc x Camas) with Chukar

2013-2014 Season Wrap-Up

Lisa and Rocky

Seems like bird numbers were down this year for a lot of people, in a lot of areas. Very good numbers of our local Ruffed grouse were a happy exception, and there were plenty of Sage Hens and Sharptails around to make for some good early season hunts.

Wisconsin and Chukars were a different story. The grouse cycle in the Midwest is currently on the down swing after the peak in 2011, with the bottom of the cycle probably still to come. We have weathered these cycles before so know what to expect. Even with less than great bird numbers there is nothing like hunting grouse and woodcock in the North Woods.

While we were there we concentrated on giving some of the younger dogs more experience. Here is Lizzie with a grouse she made a spectacular find and point on.  No camera with us in the woods unfortunately, but still nice to have a photo of this beautiful brown phase bird and the memory of Lizzie on point.

DSCN0015-eWoodcock migrating from the north were late coming through in the area we hunt, but toward the end of our stay we had some good flights that helped make up for the low grouse. Here are a couple of woodcock points on a great hunt with River and friends.

DSCN0006-eDSCN0007-eAlways interesting to see what the grouse are eating. Sometimes gives you clues about where to hunt.

DSCN0023-eBack home, Chukar numbers were down this year throughout most of the prime areas of the West due to a very dry spring. Chukars are similar in some ways to Bobwhite quail- chick survival depends on green growth that produces good insect populations. Young chicks have poor survival if the spring is too cold and wet, but without good rains to green everything up there aren’t enough insects, particularly grasshoppers, for their protein needs. Drought years tend to translate to easy winters and good survival for the adults, but lower numbers overall because of this.

damEarly reports were grim. In the Owyhees where we normally spend most of our time Chukars proved to be few and far between. Later in the season the birds were more concentrated in certain areas and easier to find, but it doesn’t seem right to keep working the same coveys so we decided to explore some new country and concentrate on developing young pups. Found a few promising areas and had a good time checking out new hills.

This area is a little too high in elevation to be great Chukar country- more brush, and most years too much snow compared to the lower desert areas. Not ideal but there were Chukars here. Huns too.
Found Chukars on this hill. The truck is in the valley just to the right of the top of that dead bush Blue is near- in sight but too far away to see in the photo. Typical climb hunting Chukars.

We camped here before heading home, but one great thing about this particular area is that it’s just close enough for day trips (if we get up early!). This gave us a chance to extend our season a bit after we had to be home for work in January.

dogs at truck
Took a few late season day trips to give the young dogs some experience.

We currently have three young dogs who just had their first hunting season.  Watching pups learn where and how to find birds is always one of the highlights of our year.  Ruby’s first Chukar find was a real treat to witness.  She turned into the wind with her nose high in the air and wandered at least 50 yards off to the side before flushing a big covey.  Performances like this never cease to thrill us.

Ruby is fired up after finding her first covey of Chukars

Heavy snows held off until the end of the season, but the weather has turned back to a more normal winter. We are home and the snow is doing some serious piling up. Hopefully this will be a better year for the birds.

Chukar Hunting in the Arctic

Lizzy on a snowy chukar point.

The word that best describes this season’s chukar hunt for us is- COLD!!  Cold and snowy.  It’s common to have some cold periods during the month or so we can camp over there, usually a few days or maybe a week of lows in the teens and highs in the twenties or thirties.  This time it was colder than that for the whole trip.  The warmest days had highs only in the mid twenties, and it was down in the single digits all but a few nights.  There was also a significant amount of snow to deal with.  All of this made for tough hunting conditions for us and the dogs.

Pepper on a welcome bare slope.

The only good thing about the snow is that it helps to concentrate the birds.  Steep, south facing slops often melt off if there is any sun, despite the cold air temps, and when they do there will almost instantly be new cheat grass shoots in response to the moisture.  Some of our favorite hillsides were a foot deep, but others were lush with new growth, and had plenty of birds.

A melted off slope like this will be lush with new cheatgrass shoots, the main winter food source for chukars.
Camas pointing in a low elevation area where all the south facing slopes were largely melted off. No birds on the north face over the hill to the right, where the snow was still several inches deep.

Our basic strategy most days was to sit in camp with heaters running until mid day, and then get one hunt in during the warmest part of the afternoon.  Some days it took quite a bit of debating to drum up the courage to actually get out of the truck.  High teens, along with not too much wind, seemed to usually be the cutoff for whether we thought we could hack it or not.

Don't be fooled by how pleasant this scene looks. Note that Lisa has her ear flaps down, a rarity.

Fortunately all of our current dogs have already proved themselves on wild birds, so we could just go enjoy the best part of the day without feeling pressure to be out when it was too miserable.  Still, by the time a good 2 or 3 hour hunt was over we would typically be hurrying off the mountain to get back to the truck as the evening temperature dropped, with dogs in tow who wished they didn’t have snowballs between their toes.

Another great point from Pepper.

Always nice to be out camping and hunting with the dogs, even if it is 5 degrees.  At least it wasn’t minus 20 like it was at home while we were gone.  Eventually the season is over though, and it’s time to get back to work.  Also had to get home so Paint could whelp a new litter…


One of the things people most want to know about our dogs is how far they range and how fast they are in the field.  How a dog runs is difficult to describe, as words like “slow”, “fast”, “close”, or “wide” don’t always mean the same thing to each person.  So, here are two video examples that demonstrate range and speed in hunting situations.  To see the dogs they need to be viewed full screen.

Paint is currently our slowest and closest working dog.  Like all our dogs she will go further if she smells birds.

Pepper is a step up in range.  Her range and speed are middle of the road, and typical of what we expect to produce.

Our widest dogs are another similar step up in range, but they aren’t necessarily faster.  Some of our slower working dogs cover more ground than some of our faster dogs- speed and range are not tied together.