A Good Opening

Well, depending on your perspective…

Breaking before the climb

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.

Sidehilling Splendor

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.

The little white speck heading out to sea is Peat.

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).

Maybe Angus should have eaten the wrapper, too.

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.

15 Replies to “A Good Opening”

  1. Looks like a great weekend. I think it’s pretty awesome of you to introduce youth to the upland experience. It took me dang near 4yrs to bag my first chukar (as a grown man mind you ). That young man is going to appreciate his first chukar even more so after having earned it, instead of just bagging one on the 1st or 14th outing.

  2. Great opener. 7 1/2 miles in this warm weather is a butt kicker. I’ll have to see if I can borrow Cam some time. I’ve had a few chukars drop into almost impossible places to retrieve and a good rock climber could do the job. I’m looking forwards to “the kid’s” reaction when he get’s that first bird.

    1. Coming from you, Larry, I’ll take that as a compliment of the highest order! And sorry, Cam’s all mine. He’s a good influence: does yoga during the hike, brings sandwiches for my dogs. I hope to share a “first chukar story” soon.

  3. What a great weekend experience with kid and I am so surprised that he wants to continue coming back, undoubtedly he will be a chukar hunter forever thanks to you.

  4. Looking at the water in your picture, my past experience with blue green algae, and talking to the local game warden for the brownlee area, and a resident of mt man lodge, in the past few days, we all mentioned and discussed that deadly issue in brownlee today, blue green algae bacteria. It looks like Peat was swimming through potentially that type of bloom painted on the surface.

    I hope the dogs are ok today as that floating menace is highly toxic. We lost a dog years ago in brownlee and it could have been prevented with knowledge and understanding of this bloom. Please look at pictures of BG algae and become familiar with it. I saw it in late August in hells canyon, oxbow and brownlee while scouting chukar. I know it is still in brownlee until we get rain and cooler weather to knock it back.

    I hunted high towards the trees opening weekend and found plenty of birds near springs and out on the grassy slopes chasing hoppers and eating seeds, and our group of dogs were out of harms way. And no snakes.

    Great job with the kid. It took me 3-4 years to get my first rooster, chukar, quail ect. But it wasn’t for lack of throwing lead as a youngster. My boy was 1-10 opening day saturday, a professional shooting friend gave him a quick lesson that afternoon at the truck, a quick gun fit, eye test (he’s both eye dominant) which is a bit rare, and he shot like a pro the next day, taking 6 birds and his smile was ear to ear as his dog brought back the prizes. His Best shooting day ever.

    1. Mark, thanks for the comments. I was super concerned when I realized what Peat was swimming through, particularly since he drinks as he swims. Angus also drank a little. Two days later I see no signs of illness in the dogs, although Angus is coughing a little. Information I found on poisoning from blue-green algae indicated that signs of infection come in as little as 30 minutes, so I’m hoping they’re okay (it’s 2 days later now). I’m glad to hear you found birds up high. I wasn’t smart enough to scout for springs! And what a thrill to hear about your boy’s shooting improvement in such a short time span. I’m sure I could benefit from some expert instruction. Or at least some practice.

  5. Kudos to you for taking him hunting. While it may seem like a hijinx, keep at it. He wants to keep going and so you should take him. If he’s ok with just being out there he’s already years ahead of many of us who started a bit blood thirsty. You’re doing the next generation right by including him, he’ll get one eventually and will be even more hooked.

    Also, glad to hear the dogs seem OK. That blue green algae stuff is nasty business.

    1. Thanks, Michael. I consider it a privilege to share this pseudo-insanity with The Kid. And yeah, this time of year on the reservoir is always a bit stressful with the algae and hot dogs.

  6. Bob, Great story as always. The diligence “the kid” is showing is awesome. I hope he gets his bird soon. I hunted chukars on and off for a years before bagging my first bird. The kid is not alone on getting his first bird over years. It will be all the sweeter when he does.

    1. Thanks, David. I hope to get him out again soon, but he’s busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. He’s the Jr. High QB, a ranch kid, a straight-A student, and an avid big game hunter. I’m lucky to get a day once a month with him. 🙂

  7. Thanks Bob for taking a youth hunting. Did the same grouse hunting this weekend. We got shots but never connected.
    Got a good laugh out of the retereive story. Angus says ” I don’t always lose a bird but when I do I have roast beef on oat”. He been planing that move all offseason. Lol.

  8. The Kid has this hunting thing figured out better than most of us. Its all about enjoying the pursuit. I hope he gets one soon. Extremely impressed that he keeps working at it and keeps a positive attitude. I think all your readers should pitch in 10 bucks to get his first bird mounted for him.

    Good Read

  9. The rattle snake thing always makes me wonder. I did rattle snake avoidance training for my pup a few years back but haven’t gotten a re-check because the training company that I used went out of business between then and now. I was going to get him checked before the opener (with a different company) but when I checked the schedules all the seminars had already passed for the season. Regarding the training, he was running from snakes by the end of it but I don’t have a lot of confidence that it’s ingrained in his brain and I’m not seeking a real world situation to prove it either!

    For this reason I usually wait a few weeks into the season for the weather to cool down before hunting upland so the chance of rattlers being active is lower. I’d like to get him rechecked just to see how well the training was retrained and then maybe decide to hunt the hotter days too if I’m confident he knows snakes are bad news, but for now I think I’ll air on the side of caution and wait for some lower temperatures.

Chirp away

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