Not being able to hunt because of my sprained ankle has afforded me the unwanted leisure of thinking about chukar hunting more than doing it. But I thought I’d share some of the thoughts just because it’s the next best thing to being on the hill with Angus.
Whenever I drive anywhere near hilly terrain I’ve never explored, my first thought these days is always, “I wonder if there are any chukar up there?” Do you chukar fools do that, too? I bet you do. Too many hills, not enough time.
When I look at the hills (often while I should instead be watching the road) I try to imagine what the footing is like on it. If it’s really steep I wonder how traversing the sidehill would be. I wonder if the new boots I got with a slightly narrower sole would work well up there. I wonder if the sub-freezing winter temperatures have turned the ground into cement, making it impossible to get anything resembling a level step, or if the sun has warmed up the dirt and vegetation just enough to make it pliable and more pleasant and safer to cross.
Last year a friend gave me some Asolo TPS hiking boots that he’d gotten for next to nothing at an REI “Garage Sale.” They didn’t fit him but were perfect for me. Heavy-duty leather, Gore-Tex backpacking boots – great stability and support… Those are the boots I sprained my ankle in, so I thought I should consider something with more ankle support for when I’m able to get back up on the hill. We were looking for dress shirts (of all things) at Sierra Trading Post a few days ago and there was one pair of these Asolo “military” boots on the bargain shelf, and it was my size. They fit like a glove, and are not too heavy, have a great Vibram sole, a rubber rock guard the whole way around, and are Gore-Tex. I can’t wait to try them.
Anyone who hunts chukar knows that the better shape you’re in the more fun you’ll have and the more birds you’ll see. There’s nothing worse than seeing your hard-working dog point high above you and dreading the gut-wrenching, time-sensitive climb up to him while worrying the birds will break before you can get there. You have no choice, and the faster you get there the better. If you’re out of shape, you won’t make it and will be treated to a lovely display of chukar aerodynamics and bird dog aggravation.
If you’re out of shape, chukar hunting will get you in shape if you don’t kill yourself first. I like to start the season in the best shape I can be in, and try to make sure my dog is in good shape, too. In the warmer days of late September and October (seems like it’s staying warmer later and later in the season as the years pass), I am usually drenched by the time I reach the first ridgetop, no matter how fit I am. But my lungs work better and my heart and legs are stronger if I’ve been working out a lot during the summer. I trail run and mountain bike in the spring and summer to keep the fat pounds at a minimum and try not to drink too much beer (that’s the hardest part for me during the summer).
Having a bad ankle sprain makes it tough to stay in shape, but right now I ride my bike on a trainer inside and get some good cardio work that way. As I get older and feel more creaks, aches and pains, I’ve found that doing some basic core strength exercises helps my body work better and my mind have more fun when I put it to the test when looking for chukar.
Don’t Forget the Dog
If you’re on the DL and can’t hunt, or it’s that horrible 8-month stretch when you can’t do any real hunting, don’t forget to work and bond with your partner. If you like your dog and appreciate what he or she does for you, make sure you keep that momentum going when you’re not hunting. Your dog is much better at hunting than you are; all you really do is capitalize on the dog’s work. Sure, you feed him and take him to the vet, but he needs a lot of stimulation and exercise to keep his mind sharp and his body fit. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but I have seen more examples of neglected dogs during the non-hunting season than I’d like. Friendship is a two-way street, and we have a responsibility to keep our end of the bargain with our best friend year ’round.