Wife Dies on Chukar Hunt

I’m nervous about this, but there is a point. Let me get to it. First, neither my wife nor anyone else’s wife — as far as I know — has died on a chukar hunt.

This whole thing started because some of my students learned I was a “YouTube” star (I disagree); for them, stardom meant having more than 100 subscribers to my channel (I have 3,000+), and a video with over 1,000 views (my video with the most views has over 1 million). They told me I should be getting paid for my videos, which I didn’t believe. But one of them showed me how to “monetize” them, and I’ve received a couple checks now from Google; I gave the kid $20.

“You have to make click-bait videos! ‘Wife Dies on Chukar Hunt’!” We had a good laugh about their idea, and moved on to the riveting world of participial phrases. But they kept bugging me about it, so I started thinking it might be fun, just about the time I decided I’d had it with Instagram (I deleted my account last summer). So I never did anything about it. The season came, and I sort of forgot about it.

Until today: looking through some of the photos of our hunts so far this season, feeling kind of ho-hum about the lack of moisture and the dry conditions and difficulty finding birds, I came across a 12-second video we staged with Leslie saying something about “dying” from hiking up a steep slope. So I took a few minutes and made a quick video, titled “Wife Dies on Chukar Hunt,” posted it on YouTube, and am now waiting to see what happens.

I wouldn’t even have tried this if I weren’t concerned about the impact of social media on our world. My students’ lives seem to revolve nearly entirely around it. They all have smartphones, even the poorest of them, and — before we decided to ban smartphones at school — would be on them all day long. As cross country coach, I had to make very specific and precise rules about when and where my runners were allowed to use their phones.

Social media has also invaded my little insulated chukartopia: before being persuaded to join Instagram (a cooperative effort by my students and wife, each with a different yet equally futile objective: students so they could stalk me, and wife to help promote this blog and its hat and shirt sales), I operated under the contented delusion that there weren’t many chukar hunters out there. But not long after joining Instagram, and a couple chukar hunting groups on Facebook, I quickly realized that, even during the off-season, the “pile of chukar on my pickup’s tailgate” photo was as common (to others; not me) as fake is to news these days. I felt naïve, and a little disturbed, both by my naïveté and by the existence of a genre of unselfconscious slaughter photos. This blog has featured its share of dead bird photos and videos, so I have no right to criticize anyone for sharing their accomplishment; chukar hunting is badass, and getting a limit is definitely an accomplishment.

But it does bother me, I’ll admit. Part of it might be envy: I’ve only limited one time in the 18 years I’ve been doing this, and I did post a photo of it on the blog (it was a long time ago); I’m not a good enough shot, and not fit enough to hike long enough to find enough birds to shoot limits more than I have. But the other part of it, the part I think social media encourages (especially Instagram, with its ridiculous algorithms of self-aggrandizement), is definitely not something that even remotely represents what I find amazing about this pursuit. If anything, it highlights the thing I like least about it: killing. If there’s a trend in social media representations of chukar hunting, it’s that it’s more about that awful, disingenuous euphemism “harvesting” and not so much about the hunting, or the dogs. And I’m not here to say my way’s the right way — to each his or her own (although, this is my blog). I’m just saying that I find much more intriguing things in any given chukar hunt than the carcasses I can pose for a tailgate hero shot.

The other thing I found extremely disingenuous about Instagram in particular, which led me to delete my account, was that it was a forum for false praise and very limited tolerance for honest exchange of ideas. Granted, it’s a photo app, but the comments on photos — unless the topic or caption was “edgy” — were unreflectively encouraging of slaughter as the primary objective of bird hunting. As long as the photos had some dead birds in them, they got lots of “Great job” and “Go get ’em, dude!” comments. I posted a photo of a private stream (the kind with water and trout in it) in England and linked it to the GOP assault on public lands in the U.S., and got no end of shit for it, which surprised me because — hello? — chukar hunting is a public land game. I mistakenly assumed my chukar hunting followers were down with protecting public land access. Apparently not. Partisan politics is alive and well, even in chukardom. Useful to get that learned.

Which brings me back to “Wife Dies on Chukar Hunt.” In one sense, it’s a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” thing. In another, it’s a (probably ineffective) parody of social media and the fact that even as noble and rarified an activity as chukar hunting is not immune to the depravity of our social-media-obsessed world. Enjoy, or don’t. I really don’t care. Really. And if you feel the urge to comment solely with an emoji (as someone did on a recent post), do yourself a favor and unsubscribe.

 

 

27 Replies to “Wife Dies on Chukar Hunt”

  1. As always, great perspective in the ever changing world we live in today. Thank you for putting a smile on my face Bob. Cheers. Ryan

  2. Bob,

    As usual, great post! I believe I found your blog about 6-8 years ago. We’re of a similar age . I’ve enjoyed every one of your blog posts .I admit, I didn’t think to look for you on YouTube though.

    I enjoy your writing . Love the photos (though the quality did shift when your bride took up the gun😁) and of course, the journey with Angus and Peat (sp?) .
    I think this might be the first post lacking photos?

    Love your output and look forward to Future posts!

    1. Thanks, Jim. Love your comments, especially the honesty (I’m working on my photos, and just got the latest GoPro, which has much better video quality than the earlier ones. We’ll see… Nothing beats Leslie’s photos and video, though. You’re certainly right about that.

  3. Amen Brother! I wasn’t aware of the Public Land comments, but Chukar hunting is the epitome of public land use in this great Western states. If you don’t like the fact that a lawyer and dentist can hunt along side a cement finisher and or public school teacher then you should go to England and hunt the kings land. The satisfying part is that the Chukar hunting tradition will not be written by “Hunting Hipsters” who had an epic day with their Bro’s, but by men who have a passion, love and respect for the game they chase and do it with the upmost respect. You are like my dad. He doesn’t kill many limits but he know the meaning of Chukar hunting. He knows the meaning of always having to know what is over one more ridge and how to love and hunt a backyard bred dog with no Sire or Dame in their name, but are all heart and thick pads.

    You keep writing about your passion and enjoying it and the true bird hunters will continue to follow. If the birds get thin and hunters thick in Idaho come down and see your Great Basin Neighbors in Nevada. We would be glad to have you.

    Cheers,

    Michael

    Hunt Chukar,
    Live Longer

  4. Great post. It makes one reflect on the meaning of hunting, and social media. Younger days, it was pursuit of limits and testing my inshapeness, and pocket cameras. Now it’s about the dog, friendships, kids, and limits are a bonus if they happen. Also, I still test my inshapeness. And technology has stuck it’s big toe right in the middle of all of this. Your article is thought provoking. Thank you.

    Politically, we need to make a statement about public lands. It’s a game changer for the Idaho governor race as GOP is the same old stuff different day. Myself and other hunting friends are voting not the idaho GOP, for this reason, And to possibly pressure the trespassing law to be adjusted. Fiscal Repub, voting Idaho dem in 18.

    1. Mark, I appreciate your candor and feedback, as always. I also appreciate the acknowledgment that the public land issue is a fulcrum issue, despite the sad fact of its partisanship. Some things are bigger than that, and I’m glad some recognize that.

  5. Bob – I love your posts, and this one is great. It’s about the world, not “harvest” and not “go get ’em dude” and that rubbish. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher, and I’m one of them.

  6. Bob,

    Very well stated. I appreciate your blog and especially your ability to write well with proper grammar and punctuation. This day and age it’s so exhausting trying to weed through the slapstick shorthand social media speak that everybody uses regardless if they’re on a computer or smartphone or in person. I personally feel all the electronics and social media addiction is the death of great relationships as we once knew them. I don’t have the patience for any of it. I will never understand why everything people do in our “modern time” they consider worthy to document in picture and text to show the world. Whatever happened to just having an enjoyable experience and keeping it in your heart and mind? Maybe even a story to share with the future generation at the dinner table?

    Your comments here are spot-on. For me the experience of chasing chukar on public ground is an entire experience that does not hinge on killing anything. I have been blessed to bring home plenty of table fare over the years as opportunities arise and I can connect, however, there are far more birdless miles logged with great dogs, beautiful guns and the therapy that only high-elevation clean air with breathtaking scenery can give.

    Keep doing what you’re doing please. Always enjoy reading your blog.

    Regards, Kye

    1. “there are far more birdless miles logged with great dogs, beautiful guns and the therapy that only high-elevation clean air with breathtaking scenery can give.”

      After a weekend of chasing partridge there really is no better feeling and you nailed it! My Mondays at work are always better after a weekend out. I feel lighter, more limber, and more alive even after all the foot, ankle, knee, and back pain endured over the weekend. It’s amazing how that works!

  7. Thanks you for this! I too think it is crazy the way we all (self included) spend way to much time on our devices. Most of that time in our own private corners where we can’t see the forest for the trees. I believe this is the root of our current state of politics. In a time where we desperately need “reasonable” people reperesenting our interests the choices we are given are both extreme and nothing gets done “for the people”.
    Rant , Rant, Rant, Old guy Rant! Anyhow you will more than likely get a lot of hits and get paid. Sadly.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dave. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll gladly take Google’s cash, and I do like making and posting videos, and love that a few people watch them. But those experiences (edited, of course) virtually represent some things I like about the reality of chukar hunting. I guess my intention is to show that there’s more to bird hunting than killing. For me, it’s the beauty of all the things that come together on a hunt: dogs, landscape, weather, friendship, pain, mystery, adrenaline. I hope some of that comes through in the videos and in these posts.

  8. Bob,

    I’ve followed your images and writing for some time. Thank you both for that. My thoughts on killing; if one does not feel a combination of joy, sorrow and empathy for the critter that gave it’s life for your protein there is likely something wrong with that individual.

    Social media is such a weird thing. Imagine if you sat on a bar stool and told some person back in the 1940’s that they would be sharing birthdays, political affiliation, vacations, hunting and fishing success and what they had for breakfast all with people they potentially may or may not know. They would think you had been smoking something! I believe it’s a powerful thing of good, but also a factor contributing to the erosion of community, growth of tribalism and an increase in us vs. they mentality.

    Public lands need to stay in public hands. They were never created and envisioned as a cash cow. Multi-use management is difficult, and I cannot see the state or county as being capable of taking on the job. KEEP IT PUBLIC! Stepping off the soapbox…

    Additionally, please keep on creating great prose and imagery. Thank you, and may our paths cross one day to share a tailgate beer.

    1. Derek, I appreciate your comment and support. I must admit, when I get comments I’m always a little scared I’ll be raked over the coals by someone over this or that. It’s nice when people agree with me, but sometimes it’s even nicer when someone disagrees but keeps it civil, maybe because that’s much rarer, especially today, as you note. Still, I’m heartened by the number of readers who take the time to share their ideas about public land which mesh with mine. Maybe there’s hope even greater than the hope that someone will figure out how to get rid of medusahead rye! Tailgate beers are always icing on the chukar hunt cake.

  9. Bob, we are incredibly fortunate to have large tracts of public lands to recreate on and hopefully future generations will too. After rereading this blog I became aware of a less than desirable habit I have displayed for much of my adult life, the harvest photos. In reality, the landscapes,wildlife, exercise and dog work as well as sharing my love of the outdoors with others has been the “passion”. In hindsight I wish I would have portrayed this more and avoided redundant kill photos. The ultra competetive side of me was responsible, thank god that poor behavior is fading!
    Thank you for continuing to write about and share your thoughts and experiences with all of us who are interested.
    Safe travels and we hope you have many beautiful days in the chukar hills.
    Rich & Yoyo

    1. Rich, thanks for your comment. As I said, I’m as guilty as anyone regarding harvest photos; they’re easy to focus on since bagging birds is the ostensible goal of each outing, and they represent a certain measure of success, I think. But the other things you mentioned, certainly, are really why most of us continue the pursuit. Hopefully the recent elections bolster the hope of public land fans that they’ll be here a while longer (or until medusahead rye buries it all). Happy trails to you and Yoyo!

Chirp away

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