Category Archives: Hunting

Chukar Hunting

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.

Spice on a Chukar Hunt

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.

Paint Pointing Chukars Living on a More Friendly Hillside

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.

A Fringe Benefit of Looking at the Ground for Chukar Sign. Unfortunately you can't keep artifacts like this from public land- they must be left where you found them.

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.

Tweed Has a Nose Full of Quail Scent in This Draw

One more week of fun, and then it’s back to work.

Fall Hunting Update

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.