Upland Hunting in Snowshoes

If it weren’t 5 degrees, this would be sand

Just a little report on the past couple of hunts, which I did in snowshoes because I didn’t feel post-holing was the way to go. Yes, we have that much snow.

Shallow snow on the road; deeper off-road.
Shallow snow on the road; deeper off-road.

Snowshoe Pros:

  • With a good pair of snowshoes (I have an old set of steel Atlas snowshoes; they have even lighter ones nowadays), you can hunt in any depth of snow.
  • Snowshoes don’t keep you from sinking in the snow, but you don’t sink as far as if you just had boots on.
  • Snowshoes make your foot placement much easier, and you can pretty much go over anything without worrying too much about your route.
  • Snowshoes probably mean you won’t see a lot of other people where you go (although that’s true for most of us regardless of where and when we search for chukar).
Me in the middle, after busting about 2.5 million birds from 80 yards away
Me in the middle, after busting about 2.5 million birds from 80 yards away

Snowshoe Cons:

  • Unless the snow is super soft and powdery, snowshoes make a lot of noise because they impact a much bigger footprint than just your foot; lots of noise means the birds can hear your ambulatory crunching from a long way away, which means they’ll most likely bust, even if your dog is great at holding birds, before you can get in range. I saw this happen every single time we got close to birds the past couple of days.
  • If the snow is deep enough, and you’re in snowshoes, your dogs will have a tough time getting through the snow, which means they’ll often come up behind you to coast in your wake, often stepping on the rear of your snowshoes, causing you to take an involuntary snow sample with your face.
  • Snowshoes are just another piece of gear to haul along, sometimes are hard to put on (especially with gloves), and — mainly because of the noise they make — not worth the trouble if your objective is to kill birds.
Chukar or Hun wing pattern from liftoff
Chukar or Hun wing pattern from liftoff

I managed one Hun each day, and hiked between 2 and 2-1/2 miles each time. I enjoyed being out — stunning scenery, very quiet (aside from the crunching of each step), and the dogs had a blast. I saw lots of interesting wildlife, including a porcupine lodged in a bitterbrush (a first), bald eagles, an elk calf lounging around with a herd of cattle, about a million rooster pheasants (also lounging with the cows), and a peregrine falcon dive-bomb a covey of Huns along the road (less successful than I was). Clearly, I’m in denial that the season looks about over unless we get some sunshine and burn-off up in here. But that’s okay. It’s been a great season. Maybe we’ll get some days in January, but who knows. Here are some more images…

Porcupine in bitterbrush; it didn't want to show its face, and I'm glad I was able to keep Peat from this thing.
Porcupine in bitterbrush; it didn’t want to show its face, and I’m glad I was able to keep Peat from this thing.
Calf elk with cows.
Calf elk with cows.

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11 Replies to “Upland Hunting in Snowshoes”

  1. Thanks again Bob
    I haven’t used snow shoes but thought about it while slogging thru knee high snow. Dont think I can get past the cons to actually try them on a hunt. I do use adjustable hiking sticks to hunt with. Wear them on my wrist and just let hang when shooting. They do impede on accuracy as you can imagine but do add safety to a difficult terrain. Feels like you get another gear when climbing. Mine are telescopic and I hang them off the back of my vest on d-ring with a carabiner . Just one more thing to pack! Thinking of packing a kitchen sink see if that will get me in to more birds. Lol

    1. I applaud your thoughtfulness about the hiking sticks, Dennis, but I can’t imagine using them myself. I’m sure my sling would get caught up in them, or I’d manage to trip myself with them! Be careful out there, and the kitchen sink might not be a bad idea especially since you could clean the birds in it much sooner. 🙂

  2. Hi Bob,
    I’ve used cross-country skis to harvest forest grouse. You can cover a lot of country and look for the best spots–spruce or pine groves next to more open brush–south facing habitats that warm up in the sun. Never tried to cross-country ski while chukar hunting in their preferred habitat. I may be suicidal enough to hunt them in canyon country in snow without aide of skis, but with skis my death wish would be too obvious.

  3. Iron man chukar hunting. Once again, the brilliance of a chukar hunting is coming out. Bob, I remember my brittanies use to get ice balls on their hind flanks in the snow. We called them clackers.

    1. “Clackers” makes sense! Before we trimmed his feathers, Angus would get grapefruit-sized clackers. Peat’s young coat, thankfully, doesn’t appear to pick up much of anything yet. Anyhow, I’m losing interest as the snow deepens. I hope you’re finding some minute bare ground to hunt, Larry.

  4. Great stuff. New joined here. I’m in the process of moving to McCall Idaho (from a place that gets no snow), so I just picked up a set of snowshoes myself last week. I went out last couple days and ended up finding spots/faces that didn’t have much snow…but I did strap on my crampons with “short” 3/4″ spikes for the first time. To my surprise, they were quite easy to use and more stable and helpful than I expected. They were critical at times when downhilling (to keep from slipping ang breaking my bum), and they allowed me to transfer more power without slipping on the ascent. However, they did make significant noise when contacting rocks above and underneath the snow. Fortunately, the birds were not apt to fly and let me get close regardless. Thanks again!

    1. Crampons, huh? Never thought of that, although with the plentiful rocks where I hunt I don’t think I’d try that method. Enjoy McCall – you must be retiring (or have a remote-able job?). We spend a lot of time up there. Great place.

      1. Yeah, only time I’ve been really injured chukar hunting, I was in Hells Canyon and it started snowing after I gained elevation. With the 1″ of snow on top of the slick grass, I literally couldn’t get down without falling continousl no matter how carefully I stepped, and I’m part Billy Goat. So I bought crampons knowing the day would again come where they’d be needes to get me down safely.

        Unfortunately, I’m too young…20-25 years to go on the retirement front…remote-able job!

  5. This is the time of year to road hunt! Much easiier to ground sluice the birds along the road than to tromp through deep snoe

Chirp away

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