Well, depending on your perspective…
The Kid and I set out to bag his first chukar. This is the fourth season he’s come along. He has never complained. He’s always been right there. If I ask his opinion on route options, he’s always up for even the hardest one. And when the hunt’s over and our bags are empty there’s not a shred of disappointment in his aspect, while I try my best to hide mine. I joke with him and his folks and grandparents about my being the World’s Worst Chukar Guide, and I actually get a little more nervous each time I bring him back without a bird. It’s starting to become less amusing. At least to me. He still says he wants to keep trying, and I’m grateful for that.
On opening day we hiked 7.5 miles and climbed 2100′, my longest hunt ever. The dogs got birdy a few times and actually pointed twice. But the wind was fierce and the points were off. Near the end of the hike, down near the creek, the dogs ran into and scattered the biggest super-covey I’ve seen. We got to watch, from a slightly sad distance, nearly a hundred chukar run and scatter up a long scree slope. Despite bumping them a couple more times, separated by brush far too dense to traverse, we never got another chance. As I drove the curvy road home, while he ate his peanut butter sandwich (which might have contained Cheetos), he said he’d get one the next time. I’ve gotten to know this fairly quiet kid fairly well by now; he doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean.
He couldn’t come with me the next day, which – history will tell us – means I’ll be in some chukar. We saw plenty, and had a few good points and got a few birds. Don’t say “jinx.” It’s not funny anymore. I’m trying not to have this complex, and don’t want him to develop one (unlikely), but it’s going beyond whatever. You know?
Anyway, we had a typically hot and – atypically – humid second day. We took the boat and went to a favorite spot which, we learned – not too surprisingly – soon after disembarking that several folks had been there earlier that morning and probably the day before as well. But I’d always found birds there so we moseyed along, albeit with slightly lowered expectations.
For once, though, my guess or reasoning or instincts or whatever you want to call it was right and the birds (at least the ones we found) were quite close to the water. Angus was well above me, though, accompanying my friend and Leslie, and busted a decent covey which I only saw as they sailed past me, several in range. Lucky. They could have gone anywhere. I hit one. Peat scurried to it, and brought it right back, no questions asked. Last year, he ate the first six chukar he got close to. Lucky again.
A while later, both dogs pointed solidly at the edge of a cliff near the water. I managed a double, but Angus could only find one bird. The second was a long shot and, although I couldn’t see where it landed, I thought it might have made it to the water even though it was a ways away. We looked and looked with both dogs. Peat suddenly headed straight down a steep rocky slope to the water. I thought he would find the bird, but he kept on going, swimming straight out into the wide river, leaving a trail of broken surface algae blooms in his wake. Yes, it was hot. After a good 20 or 30 minutes we gave up looking.
Back at the boat, we decided to cruise past the cliffs to see if the second bird had made it to the water. More luck: we spied it on its back on a ledge of the cliff just above the water. Wanting to spare the tired dogs, and me, some effort, Cam generously made the retrieve, demonstrating his rock-climbing prowess. After his unprecedented retrieve we discovered that Angus had taken advantage of our collective distraction and eaten Cam’s roast beef sandwich on Oat Nut bread (his favorite).
So my dogs and I, and our mutual friends, survived a long opening weekend in great form, and we’re eager to head back out in a few days.
Oh, and a warning: we saw two big rattlesnakes. Look into the rattlesnake shot you can get your dogs, and make sure you carry Benadryl and plenty of water in case of a bite. Luckily, Angus and Peat missed both reptiles, but it makes you think.
Enjoy the wee video.