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.

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