Our annual Christmas Day hunt this year was spectacular. Last year pissing rain forced us to abandon our Hells Canyon hunt and sully ourselves with a silly quail jaunt: it was a 5-minute hunt because I brought 3 shells, which I spent in the first two minutes and hit nothing. Peat was so disappointed that, after I was ammo-less, he pointed and then — as if to demonstrate the sheer ridiculousness of the affair — nabbed a solo unsuspecting quail. Not this year.
A thin blanket of day-old fresh snow. Bluebird sky punctuated by running veils of wispy clouds politely skirting the sun. 50 head of strangely calm elk. We went high and found some grouse hawthorned along a tightening draw where we’d busted a bunch of chukar the week before. No partridges in those trees. We climbed higher but it was not until we’d erased half the elevation that the dogs pointed, and it wasn’t until we’d gotten back to within a mile of the truck that we got into numbers. Until then, mostly one or two chukar in random places, in the wind, in the frigid shade, in the creek bottoms. But, even closer to the truck, a big covey busted wild, and we followed, which ended up doubling our outing.
I shot deplorably. 2-for-12. Leslie fared better at 1-for-3. But it’s hunting, and was tremendously fun to see so many birds and try to catch up to them in thick cover. The birds we bagged were hard-earned and highly appreciated. Peat stuck with me as usual, and gifted me with some gorgeous points and two stellar retrieves. Angus the aged warrior managed, with some coaching from Leslie, to track down her lightly winged chukar that had run across the trail and into the creek; I watched her nifty shot while high above on a hill. Another gift.
Whenever you go out you have no idea what awaits, and it’s only afterward that you’re aware of that, yet — at least for me — it’s probably the most magnetic thing about chukar hunting. Any hunting, really, if it is hunting. That’s really the gift, life in compressed form in a setting you choose with the creatures who mean most. Every hunt is like Christmas. On Christmas, it’s even better.