One of the things I most like about chukar hunting is that it provides endless chances for me to set new standards of idiocy, to epitomize increasingly precise definitions of moron, and to share these achievements as perhaps some kind of penance or verbal self-flagellation in the hope that I might one day afford a ticket, third class as it most probably would be, on the Clue Train.
Not that stats matter all that much, but they help illustrate what I’m talking about here. The last six times I’ve sought chukar to shoot I’ve hiked a total of 22.35 miles, ascended 5,715 feet, been in the field about 24 hours, driven about half a million miles, fired all of three shots, and hit one itsy-bitsy chukar chick, which I miraculously recovered in an all-out sprint against a determined Peat (let’s hear it for small victories). After a great opening weekend, this season has stunk for me and it’s mostly because I am an idiot. Here’s why.
Mainly, I choose to hunt when it’s 80 degrees, and then get angry that my dogs can’t find any birds. That’s like hiring a blind person to be a photo editor. A dog needs a few molecules of moisture for its amazing nose to detect with any accuracy birds’ scent. It’s been so dry when I’ve forced Angus to hunt that I swear I hear him squeak when he lopes by, or maybe he’s cursing me under his breath like Popeye did to Brutus. If I’m frustrated, Angus has got to be homicidal. I’ve seen Angus point twice this season. He’s trying, but I’m not letting him run around until it’s so hot that he can’t go two minutes without bee-lining back to me for a drink. I don’t know why I don’t learn better. I wasn’t going to go out again until it cooled down and we got some moisture, but yesterday Peat was driving me crazy while I tried to grade papers and I finally said, about 1:30, “Hey, I have an amazing idea, dogs: let’s go chukar hunting.”
So I drove about 75 minutes in 80 degree aridity on powder-dust, washboard roads and set the mutts loose in some of the bleakest terrain I could find. It was so hot my lightweight, wicking upland pants began fusing with my epidermis. The sun was so high in the sky the only shade anywhere was under my pickup. Even north-facing slopes contained no escape from the sun, and the only few blades of green grass grew scantly at the bases of a few tall bunch grass tufts in a wee tight ravine, at the very bottom of which, unbeknownst to me because of the tall sage and bitterbrush hiding him, Angus pointed three of what were surely the most poorly hydrated chukar on the planet. I learned this only after hitting the shock button on his e-collar by mistake, which no doubt caused Angus to flinch and the birds to bust out of range. Idiot move.
The day before, while on a drive when it was, yep, 80 degrees, I insisted on getting out of the truck with Angus and having Leslie pick us up “at the bottom.” This was Hell’s Canyon, which is pretty big if you haven’t been there; its “bottom” is bigger than Beyonce’s after a bon-bon binge. Anyway, I thought there had to be chukar down there, so I took off with Angus and Leslie drove off. I’d never been to this area, but could see the water way down below. More than two ankle-thrashing hours later, after finding no birds, we hit the road but had zero idea where Leslie was because one of our radios was dead (because, um, I’m an idiot). We walked for about a mile before she found us. She waited politely for Angus and me to get our sweat-soaked bodies situated before telling us that she saw hundreds of chukar along the road, all the way down to the bottom.
This idiot thing isn’t new, either. Four years ago, I did this:
I know what to do. I just don’t do it, and I really can’t explain why. That makes me an idiot. At least.