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…

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