The Golden Moment

Forecasts for lots of birds this season are, in my experience so far, true. Covey sizes have also been relatively (or extremely) large, and locations have been all over the place: high, low, sage, open, rocks. Last weekend we hunted what was for us a new area, one I’d bet doesn’t get much pressure as it’s rather a pain in the ass to get to. I eclipsed my single day elevation gain and saw chukar everywhere. One area contained, conservatively, more than 150 birds.

Spring in the Fall

We found it tough, though, to get close to any of them. For the most part, all bigger coveys busted quite wildly. Boots crunching bone-dry arrowleaf telegraphed our presence on the open slopes, and satellite chukar moving along the ground made it tough for the dogs to point anything. Once the huge groups busted, Angus and Peat made some good points, some of which I got to, but – after shooting pretty well the first couple of weeks – I shot crapulously. Lucky chukar.

Dogs have been hot so far this season.

The wild-busting chukar got me thinking about my dogs, worrying actually. Why weren’t they more cautious? Were the birds moving more than normal? Were the dry conditions making it harder for them to pinpoint scent? Were the myriad partridges exciting the dogs too much for them to be more cautious? Was it just an example of early-season pointing rustiness? I admit to feeling exasperated as I watched dogs busting coveys from 100 or 200 yards away, but then they’d “redeem” themselves a few minutes later with a solid, classic point. Ah, the mysteries of chukar hunting; I think if I ever completely understand everything that goes on whenever we go out there I’ll be bored and quit.

9 Replies to “Wildly”

  1. I’m having the same problem with Jake on the busting birds. Looking back at past notes seem to show I’ve always had that problem early in the season and than suddenly the busting birds becomes fewer. As you said, mystery.

    1. Thanks, Larry. It’s reassuring to know that you’re seeing this, too. It’s weird how quick I can be to distrust or second-guess or question my dog’s vast superiority to mine in finding and procuring birds. Maybe it’s that I’m so in awe of what they’re able to do instinctually that I’m always looking for signs that they’ve lost that amazing ability. Maybe that means I really am a glass-half-empty guy?

  2. Nice write-up Bob. My son and I were up on Sunday…maybe in your “general area”. We jumped 20 birds walking in that we’re coming off water about 9:30 and then ran into another group of six, 30 min later. That was it until we quit at 1:30. I’m writing to say that my shorthair did well but for her it’s all about the wind. I’ve seen the scenario you described with your dogs happen on occasion and it’s always with no wind on her nose. It was a beautiful weekend!

  3. I experience a short period of time at the start of the season when dogs bump birds as well. On quail that is. I don’t think they really lose their ability in the off season, but rather have to brush up on it a bit. “Just how close can I get before they have had too much?” And even if we try to keep our dogs in some kinda shape during the off season, we can’t keep em’ in hunting shape. I think part of the bumping birds equation is the fact that the dogs are sucking wind worse at the start of the season. It makes it harder for them to use their nose as efficiently as they can, ..say mid season. I would estimate that somewhere around the 3rd or 4th outing, into decent bird numbers, the dogs will start really shining. I think most of our dogs fit this pattern.

  4. Bob, Larry and Jake,

    I am glad I am not alone. 2 of my first three hunts I have seen a lot of birds. Yesterday. I have, never seen the chukars and huns so jumpy. I saw a lot of birds, but they were jumping up at 100 to 200 yards. Sometimes without the dogs even close. Sometimes after a couple minute point. What it seems like to me is my dog is having a hard time judging the distance of the covey in these dry conditions.

    Love both of your blogs.


  5. Bob,

    I was in the area on October 4 and noticed the larger coveys were jumpy also. There were two golden eagles hunting the same birds which made it tough and easy at the same time. Once the big groups were flushed, the small clusters and singles held for the dogs. It’s good to see all the birds doing so well. I expect the dog work to improve with time and colder, wet weather. Your two bird dogs sure look like real fine chukar dogs!

    1. Thanks, Ron. I gotta admit, I am looking forward to some precip and cooler temps. Looks like this week might do the trick! Golden eagles hunting chukar!? I’d love to see that!

  6. Bob,
    I’ve subscribed to your blog for two or three years and have always been intrigued. I’m a foot hunter with two Brittanys, the third, Troy girl died three months ago. She was the best hunter I ever had–a dream dog who was part guided missle and a heart as sweet as they come. I grew up south of Twin Falls on a dairy, went to The College of Idaho in philosophy and went to graduate school at Harvard. I now live in Bellevue, Washington where grouse hunting is relatively close by. Every year I return to my old stomping grounds along with one son and a good friend to hunt Huns, pheasant and quail in the Magic Valley. Long ago I hunted chukar with my high school buddies in the high canyons and rim rock north of King Hill.
    I said I was intrigued but didn’t say why. The first thing that intrigues me is your wife. She must be an amazing companion to film most if not all of your chukar hunting adventures. Secondly, there’s your degrees and you landed in Cambridge–not Massachusetts but Cambridge, Idaho. Thirdly, I’m intrigued by your commitment to teach–writing and videography to young men (I assume young women factor in somehow as well) getting them to reflect on hunting–something I’ve been thinking about and writing about for forty-five years. Fourthly, I’m intrigued by the way you write about your dogs, like I’m right there with them and you and the camera. So here’s the thing. My hunting buddies and I are arriving in Twin this Sunday. We’d like to head up to Cambridge and hunt chukar instead of the chukar poor hunting grounds of the Magic Valley. We’d like to take you to dinner, possibly Tuesday night, and swap war stories about hunting, some of them true and all filled with truth. Might you be available along with your wife? If not, I understand, but for us it would be pure privilege.
    Yours fellow Idahoan by heart and crazy enough to adore Brittanys.
    Mark Smutny

Chirp away

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