The last day of our chukar hunt turned out to be miserably cold and windy, so we made getting photos of the young dogs our only goal for the day. After it warmed up a little we went to a somewhat sheltered area to take the pictures. The dogs weren’t particularly interested in posing (they thought we should go hunting instead), but we did manage to get a few shots that show what they look like.
First, the three from the Llewellin cross.
Suzie (Sky x Heath):
This second photo of Suzie is from a different day, right after a hunt. It looks like she is pointing, but she isn’t.
When we were done with the photos (or too cold to take any more) we couldn’t resist taking one last hunt on a nearby hillside that we knew had a covey of chukars living on it.
On the way up the hill. River is the dog who got to go:
Time for a little doggie sports drink:
We had been hoping to get a good video of a point, and everything fell together to get that done on this last hunt. River is untrained except for basic control, and his performance here is typical of what our dogs will do naturally, without training to be staunch on point. He lets Lisa walk by, but when the birds don’t go out right away he wants to move in with the gun. You will see everything better if you view this full screen.
Despite a winter storm warning that chased us home a day early, the final week of our hunting season was great. Lots of chukar and quail contacts, plus very satisfying dog work from young and old. We wish it didn’t have to end.
Suzie and Lizzy’s field work easily made the grade for breeding dogs. We were hoping that Doc and Clip would show something while chukar hunting to help us choose between the two of them but they are still neck and neck in the field, so no decision yet on which one will stay here and which one will be sold as a started dog.
Idaho’s chukar numbers are currently recovering from extreme low counts in 2007 and 2008. Numbers were fair last season, but rain kept us out of almost all of the areas we usually hunt. Access to the high desert is normally limited for at least some of the season by impassably muddy roads, and 2010 was particularly wet. With few birds and muddy roads during their younger years, most of our breeding dogs were chukar neophytes at the beginning of this season. Although the dry conditions this winter made it tricky to figure out where the birds were, we could drive on any of the roads and we eventually located enough coveys to give the dogs the kind of exposure they need. So, not only were we bringing along the four young dogs on this trip, we also got to watch the rest learn to handle our western covey birds.
The incoming storm may put an end to this kind of access if there is significant precipitation. All it takes is one serious storm and the dirt turns into the gooiest mud on the planet. We have had some interesting experiences trying to drive around in it, including one night we thought we would end up leaving our old pop-up camper in the Owyhees for the winter, and a particularly exciting slide down a “good” road in the South Hills.
Driving around looking for new covers to hunt sometimes yields nice surprises. A favorite of ours is the Catholic church in Oreana, a tiny little town between the Owyhee front and the Snake River. Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church
The blog is motivation to be slightly more dedicated about taking photos. Cliff left the gun in the truck and took the camera on a few hunts this week.
A couple shots of Pepper pointing chukars:
Sky is our best dog on quail. A goofy looking point, but she’s got one right under her nose.
About had to step on the bird to get it to fly. Single California quail really sit tight sometimes- very different from trying to pin down a running covey. Hard to believe it’s the same species when they act like this.
Unfortunately, no photos of retrieving. The shooting when the camera was along was what our friend Bill would appropriately describe as “Whoa-fully Inadequate”. Something to work on next year!
More photos and an update on our breeding plans to follow.
Since our last post the chukar hunting has improved for us. Some other hunters we’ve heard from around the state have reported experiences similar to ours this season- the birds are not acting normally and can be difficult to find. Coveys have often been on north slopes, the opposite of the norm, probably because conditions have been exceptionally dry so the sheltered north facing slopes have more of the green grass shoots chukars eat during the winter. This has not been consistent though, and finding birds has been hit and miss. For the last week or so however, they are more often where we expect them to be and we’re getting into a covey or two on most hunts. This is possibly due to a rain storm at the end of December.
The cheatgrass chukars are dependent on responds to winter moisture with new growth. Cheatgrass is an invasive species that is well established all over this area of the West, and there are chukars almost anywhere that has it combined with steep, rocky canyons, water, and not too much snow in the winter. We generally stay away from Idaho’s prime chukar areas because they tend to be fairly crowded (there are a surprising number of hard core chukar fanatics), and they usually have too many dangerous cliffs to keep the dogs away from. Despite hunting lesser areas, in the good years we typically find a covey of chukars or huns for every hour or two of hunting, which is enough to keep us happy. Here is one of the canyons we hunt.
It’s tough hunting, but not as steep or rough as some of the better areas up north along the Snake River canyon. We stay below or far back away from the cliffs.
The young dogs are coming along nicely. Suzie’s progress is a good example of how we expect them to develop. She showed promise her first fall as a pup, making some nice points on grouse. Her exposure to chukars later that year was stymied by low numbers of birds and muddy roads that kept us out of most of our covers. This year she came into heat during the WI hunt, so recent chukar hunting has been her first real chance to put things together. Suzie’s first bird contact this trip was on a covey of huns that flushed wild, but she pointed them on the re-flush. Next was a covey of chukars on the same hunt. Suzie was working them- pointing and moving, but they had run uphill and flushed wild before she figured out where they were. On follow-up the covey flushed out of sight. When Suzie realized they were not there any more she did something we really like to see- she worked cross wind, off to the side before working forward, to try to locate them. A dog that does this is trying to point rather than flush the birds, and is also showing good intelligence in using the wind. On the next hunt Suzie handled birds like an experienced dog. She looked in the right places, was cautious around birds, and used the wind well. She led Cliff 100 yards uphill to a covey he never would have seen without her, and he shot a chukar over her point. This is what it’s all about. You see the potential in a young dog but it’s always thrilling to watch them put it all together. Sometimes this transition can happen in one hunt if there are enough birds. Suzie did it in two hunts, with relatively few contacts. She’s a keeper. We’ll try to get a good picture of her before our next post.
An experience unique to certain areas of the West, in this case the Owyhee front, is running into wild horses when hunting. They’re pretty cool, but can act aggressive toward the dogs so we generally give them a wide berth.
Last weekend we had a few visitors to our camp. We had a great time with Allan and Theresa, who tagged along on a hunt with River and Heath. Here is a link to Allan’s photo album from the hunt. OctoberSetters
We also hunted a little with Craig Kulchak (the breeder of our male Rocky) and Rocky’s brother Tweed.
Well, we obviously aren’t great about keeping up with this blog thing. There is much updating to do since our last post.
Our Wisconsin grouse and woodcock hunt back in October went well. Grouse were very spotty- some covers had lots of birds, others that should have been just as good had almost none. Despite the reported high drumming counts this spring it seems like the peak was probably two years ago, at least where we hunt. We did hit the woodcock flights very well and overall it was a good hunt.
We find it difficult to put the guns down and carry a camera instead, but here is a shot Cliff managed to get of Camas pointing a woodcock.
The highlight of our WI trip was bringing the younger dogs in the kennel along. We have two males and a female from our 2010 breeding of Smoke to the Llewellin male Houdini’s Man O’War, and another female out of the Sky x Heath litter from the same year. They are having their first serious hunts this year and they pointed and handled grouse well. We were happy with the performance of all four, but the two Llewellin crossed males, Clip and Doc, were phenomenal. They both acted like puppies until they realized there were birds to be had, and then they put on quite a show. Both pointed almost all the birds in the covers once they figured out what was going on. The hunt that Clip turned on was particularly impressive. He went from puppy to slamming points one after another. We came out of that cover awestruck- the best performance we’ve seen from a young inexperienced dog. We only intend to keep one of the males, and it’s looking like it will be a difficult choice.
This is a photo of Lisa and Doc coming out of the cover a few minutes after a big bear crossed the road in front of them. If Cliff wasn’t at the car at the time we would never have known we were chasing a bear.
Seeing friends from around the country is also a large part of the trip. The next photo is of grouse dinner at the hunting camp. On the left are our hosts Julian and Terresa, owners of the “Sweat Shack” we congregate in. To their left in the back are Lisa, Frank Thompson of Classic Setters, and friends Bill and Zeke from MA. In the front are veterinarians (and long time Ryman type owners) Walt and Mac.
We spent the month of November at home putting some venison in the freezer, and are currently camped in Idaho’s Owyhee mountains hunting chukars, huns, and the occasional covey of quail. It’s extremely dry this year and the chukars are not hanging out on the usual south facing slopes, but we are finding enough to make the hunting interesting. Clip and Doc’s sister Lizzy is looking like she will be the equal of her brothers. She pointed the first covey of huns she has ever seen, and also the first covey of quail. Hopefully by the end of the season we will know whether the three of them, plus Sky’s daughter Suzie, are going to make the grade as breeding dogs. Their performance in the field is looking good at this point, but they also have their final health clearances to get through in the spring.
More on chukar hunting later….
Hope everyone is having a great Holiday season.
Breeders of Classic foot hunting English Setters from Ryman and other close working bloodlines.