In October 2013, when he was in 4th grade, The Kid went chukar hunting with me, and it was his first time looking for galliformes to shoot in the hills his family’s run cattle on for generations. We hunted a bunch of times that season, but I never managed to get him in position to get a good shot at a chukar. He never lost hope, though. He always wanted to go again.
The next season, 2014-15, was a bad bird year, and we got out together a few times, once doing an epic climb in hot weather off of Brownlee. But still no chukar.
2015-16 was a weird year for birds, and for us with Peat. The Kid joined us a few times, doing another couple brutal climbs. He did get close toward the end of the season, managing to catch up to a solid point by Peat and missing on the rise, probably because of the shock of seeing 20 birds take off and not being able to pick out just one.
So three complete seasons, no chukar. The jokes about me being the World’s Worst Chukar Guide had worn out a while ago. And then early this season, he texted me, “The curse is broken!” I got excited, and honestly felt a little jealous it wasn’t with me, and then I learned it was a Hun he’d shot. I told him, “The curse ain’t broken ’til you bag a chukar!” (Just to be clear: I have nothing against Hungarian partridge.)
So we went out on Saturday. I had mixed hopes; we were headed to a place I’ve been seeing loads of birds, but they move around a lot in a big area so sometimes it’s a bunch of hiking and not much action. And even if we did run into lots of birds, in the past it’s been hard to get him into position for a good shot.
40 minutes into the hike, and no birds. The Kid walked the ridgetop while I paralleled a ways below. Angus and Peat were up there with him. I looked up and saw him moving quickly toward what must have been pointing dogs. A covey of chukar burst, two shots, and then, “I got one!”
The curse, for real, was over. Before the end of the day, The Kid had three chukar, and got to experience numerous points, long relocation creeps, some incredible retrieves, and the complete experience of chukar hunting, along with the satisfaction of knowing it is possible, that all the work and effort and patience is worth it.
I feel obliged, though, to add a kind of caveat here, with the talk of “the curse,” and the focus on killing a chukar as somehow essential to enjoying chukar hunting or being a “real” chukar hunter. I know many of you who read this blog would agree that it’s not so much about how many birds we get as what we get to experience along the way. Some of my most enjoyable little things have come on chukar hunts in which I came home empty-bagged. Still, it’s important to recognize that the objective is to kill birds, and that until you achieve the objective at least the first time you can’t know whatever that feeling is — and it’s different for all of us — that distinguishes hunting (of any kind) from hiking or sightseeing. Call it a right of passage or whatever, but that first kill does matter. There’s also something about challenging activities, and hard work toward a goal, and the satisfaction of achieving that goal; chukar hunting is one of the most challenging things I’ve tried, and I know The Kid, with his three-plus years of not-giving-up-ness, understands that satisfaction now. I’m honored to have been a part of it. Today, his mom texted me, “You’ve created a bird monster.”
Oh well. There are worse things in the world, right?
Here are some photos of hunts we’ve done together over the years (most taken by Leslie McMichael).