Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chukar Before The Snow

Here are a few pictures of a Chukar hunt I went on a few weeks ago, before Utah got bombarded with snow.

The weather was perfect, we had a stiff wind that made the scenting conditions perfect. All three dogs had lots of points.
This a picture of my buddy Landon's new Brittany, Molly, he got from a friend.

Every time I go on a Chukar hunt I am reminded how grateful I am for youth and good health. This is a picture of Landon's Dad Brent. He is pushing fifty and it showed on this trip. He had some major knee problems by the end of this hunt.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


What would a family pheasant shoot be without offending someone and their dog. Grandpa teaching the nephews the B$#@h word on accident, and the five year olds repeating it (we tried to explain that it means a female dog). Family anything wouldn't be complete without some wrestling. All in all it was a wild success.

It kind of goes against everything I believe in to shoot pen raised birds. But when your family is mostly city slickers and I have the responsibility to get all my nephews addicted to bird hunting I figured the best way to get them hooked is to get them on birds anyway I can. Well I think it worked i've got some brothers, brother-in-laws, and five or six nephews really loving this bird hunting stuff. I bought twenty birds and set them in the hills behind my brother-in-laws house. Then we released the dog.

These are my nephews Jed and Spencer, age 13 and 12, with their first pheasants. I didn't think they would shoot so straight but these guys are shooters. I think the first pheasant is pretty awesome and unforgettable.

The highlight of the the hunt didn't even include a gun. We had four boys that were too young to carry guns but they proved to be great bird dogs. Jake is nine with dark red hair, we don't really no where that came from since no one in his family on either side has red hair. The last pheasant that went down hit the ground running and Jake chased that bird a hundred yards or so before diving on top of it and wrestling it to death. Everyone was screaming "Get it Jake" "Dive on it!". I've never seen a kid smile so big in my life.

By the looks of the smiles in this picture I think a new family tradition was born.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mother Chukar

Who said the weather couldn't be too nice? My best friend Landon, our three dogs, and I went on a Saturday afternoon Chukar hunt. The weather was gorgeous, fifty degrees and the ground was moist. We had just one problem absolutely no wind. There were birds everywhere and they held really tight, so tight we had to step within yards to make them fly. We could hear them clucking, but the dogs couldn't pick them up because the air was shockingly calm. This hunt had one point. But two great retrieves.

Lady with a great retrieve.

The valley in the background is where we parked and then we climbed. Luckily I watched the new James Bond friday night. I figured if Bond can run for that long chasing a villain I could definitely climb a mountain chasing those Mother Chukar. They are lucky I only call them Mother Chukars and not something else after that hike.

Five hours of climbing, scrambling, and running we got two Chukars, one each. But hey the weather was gorgeous!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A South Dakota Blizzard of Birds!

My dad only hunts once a year and it is our annual pheasant hunt in South Dakota. He lives for it. This year we went with some neighbors, my Uncle Dan and My cousin Jordan from Oklahoma. It was quite the occasion. Here are some pictures.

Day one was 28 degrees with snow and sixty mile an hour winds. The birds held like a puckered up butt hole. It was great the dogs had some great points.

Day two was 28 degrees snow and thirty mile an hour winds.

Day three was 24 degrees, breezy, with deep drifts.

We got lots of pheasants and even shot a handful of Sharpies. I even shot my first Prairie Chicken.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Best $100 Mutt

At fifteen one hundred dollars is a lot of cash. I never batted an eye though when I went to pick up my puppy Lady. My parents were very opposed to me getting a dog. But somehow I convinced them that a boy needs a dog. I think when I told my dad the pups were half Brittany Spaniel his heart melted. He had a Brittany when he was a boy and he always told us stories about the adventures he and his Brittany would go on.
I lied to my parents and told them that the pups were being sold for Fifty Dollars. In my fifteen-year-old head they would never allow me to spend my whole one hundred dollars on a dog.
The mother of the pups was my best friend Landon’s German Shorthair Pointer, Mattie. I had been hunting behind Mattie for two years and I knew she was a good dog. Story has it that down the street from Landon lived a proud Male Brittany Spaniel that often strutted around the neighborhood. One day they came out to feed Mattie and the Prideful Neighborhood Brittany had somehow snuck into Mattie’s Kennel. I guess that is where they get the term puppy love.
Landon gave me first pick and told me he was giving me a deal at one hundred dollars because well I was his best friend. I was ecstatic. Later I discovered, they couldn’t sell the pups very easily because they weren’t purebred they were mutts. They ended up giving most of them away. I guess I didn’t get the best friend deal I thought I was getting. But I’m positive seven years later when Landon hunts behind Lady he would gladly pay a hundred dollars to get her back.
I picked the bigger female of the bunch and gave Landon my one hundred dollars. I named her Lady and we walked home that afternoon. As far as I am concerned there has never been a happier fifteen-year-old. Lady and I were instantly best friends. We spent all our time together, accept for when I had to be in school. I was a little anxious to get her hunting and I might have jumped the gun by taking her hunting at three months. Bad idea, the gun-shots scared her to death and she ran all the way home, she was gun shy. “Shit” is all I could think. I invested in a cap gun, caught some pigeons, cut the feathers on their wings off, and let Lady chase pigeons all over the yard. Just when she would get one in her mouth I would start shooting that cap gun like a drunken Indian warrior. She was quickly over the whole gun-shy thing and had become a dog with a purpose, to hunt for birds.
We had a lot of trails in the early years. She often times would forget she was hunting for me and she would get on the scent of a running rooster pheasant and disappear. Or she would catch a whiff of a rabbit and forget we were hunting birds. The worst was when she found her first deer and chased the damn thing for what seemed hours, she eventually came home. Oh and don’t forget the time she ended up in the dog pound. Luckily I had the cash to bail her out.
Seven years later she is in her prime and everyone we hunt with wants to hunt behind her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big Sky Country and Von's Last Rooster

Spontaneous… is there any other way to live? We left my house in Utah at six PM and arrived in the pheasant fields of Montana nine pee stops and fourteen hours later. Just in time to buy breakfast, a license, and start shooting.
My hunting companions were mostly friends I regularly hunt with, but there was one addition, Von. And Von is old. I have lots of patience and mercy for old hunters though. I know one day I will be old and I am a firm believer in karma.
Von hadn’t killed a pheasant in twenty years and when he heard we were going pheasant hunting he just had to come and shoot one last pheasant. He is pretty ill, he had a heart attack earlier this year, and doesn’t have a lot of energy. Von also has to pee about every hundred miles or so. We figured he could block and get plenty of shooting.
It was an all night drive. I can handle that, I’m a college student and that occasionally happens in my routine, (hell what routine?). But for Von it is a hair more taxing.
We released the dogs in a great looking CRP field. Lady went on point within one minute. I thought to myself “a great introduction to hunting Montana”. It ended up being a damn porcupine. Luckily I got Lady off, but my friends had a new Brittney Mollie and she dove in mouth open.
Needless to say we went from hunting mode to surgen mode real fast. I pried her mouth open while Brent and Landon used pliers to pull quills out of her mouth and tongue. Talk about a learning the hard way. That was the first porcupine of the trip, but it wouldn’t be the last.
After fifteen minutes or so of surgery we set out on the CRP field, five guys and three dogs. Lady immediately got birdy and went on point. This time it was a covey of Sharpies, they were pretty far out but I got lucky and dropped one.
We saw a lot of Sharpies in that field and Landon knocked one down too. Lady finally pinned a rooster down on the way back to the truck. He flew right into a head wind and I had a slow flying rooster and I got him.
We heard lots of stories from Brent about the mass numbers of birds he saw last year in that same field, but this year they were no where to be found. The birds in that part of the Montana were definitely down from last year. Most of the roosters were big, old, and had long tail feathers. Or they were so young they weren’t all the way feathered out yet.
Von blocked all day, and still hadn’t got a rooster. The only way we ever got a rooster that day was chasing the dogs. These birds were way to smart to be pushed and blocked. The either held or flew way out of range.

The second day was great. We got creative, hunted hard and got into birds. Von didn’t feel very well and he stayed at the hotel that day.
The third and final day Von was feeling well enough to get out. The day before we had scouted some areas and had some spots we thought would definitely produce some roosters for Von. Oh and they did. We saw as many birds this day as we had the other two days combined. Von got lots of shots but kept missing. The day was getting late and I was starting to stress if Von would get his rooster. Finally we had Von blocking and a rooster came flying overhead and he connected with his second shot and sent the rooster straight into a pond. Lady dove in and made a stylish retrieve. Von finally killed his rooster and we all felt our stress levels diminish. He smiled like a little boy with his first rooster. Hunting is definitely good for mans health. I saw it that day in Von’s eyes.
Lady is in her prime, seven years old, and everyone without a dog wants to hunt near her. She doesn’t bust birds and she never slows down. They all loved her on this trip. Her mother Mattie was on this trip with us too. She is ten and showing her age. It makes me sober to think Lady will one day slow down and show her age. Till then I have a lot more bird hunting outings to go on.
Montana was fantastic. We hunted hard, got Von his rooster, watched awesome dog work, saw gorgeous prairie sunsets, and watched great cloud shows the kind you only see in the big sky country of Montana. No wonder I love this stuff so much

Some great CRP.
Big sky sunset on the prairie.

We got into a few sharpies that didn't fly too soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chukar What?

These pictures are from a few weeks ago on the opener of the Utah Chukar hunt.  We hunted an area that used to be chuck full of chukar and huns, but the past few years it hasn't produced much.  But it is close to home and a good ride for the horses and a good run for the dog.

Happy pup hu?
We didn't ride the whole time.  Lady had a false point and we got really excited jumped off and hiked for awhile.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Montana on the mind!

"Damn it Eric! Hunting again?"  Those were my mothers exact words when I told her I was going on another hunting trip.  It is a little bit easier to tell her I am going hunting again, over the phone.  It was a lot more difficult in person, because in person she can give me the look!  She seems to think college students should attend class.  She still worries like you wouldn't believe.  You have to love mothers, they are great!  What would life be without someone to worry about us hunters?

It should be great.  Last Saturday my best friend Landon invited me to go on a pheasant hunting trip to Montana with his dad, him, and an old neighbor of ours.  Should be great.  I have never been to Montana bird hunting, I've just read about it in magazines and blogs.  Kind of a dream come true for me.

I bought a couple boxes of shells and got a new center bead put on my shotgun so I should be all ready.  My GSP/ Brittany mutt Lady is really excited too.  Landon's GSP is my dog Lady's mother.  So This is kind of a family outing.  If I can i'll try to keep everyone posted, with pictures and stories of the happenings during the expedition as they unfold (if the motels have wireless) .  We should be hunting Thursday morning.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Start of My Addiction

At the butt crack of dawn I was drug out of bed, at the prepubescent age of thirteen. We were heading out on my first wild Chukar hunt in the West Desert of Utah. This would be the day that would change my future passions forever.
The new kid in the neighborhood invited me to go on a chukar hunt with his dad and him. I replied “Chukar what?” He then proceeded to tell me that a chukar is a bird you hunt just like pheasants and grouse. I loved hunting pheasants and grouse so I quickly agreed to the invitation.
I slipped out the door with unlaced boots and shotgun in hand. It was a late December Saturday. The ground was dusted with a hint of dry Utah powder. I slid into position in the little, rusty, beat up pickup. The pickup was so small and full of guns that I only had one position and that was squished. I didn’t mind though I was thirteen and going to hopefully kill something.
“Birds really live out here?” I asked. I thought for sure we would drive over the next hill into a valley of grain fields, irrigation canals, tree lines, and in the middle of it all would be a big red barn. That is the type of terrain I had hunted pheasants in. I couldn’t imagine anything living where we were going. As we drove the ground kept getting more barren and naked, but we just kept following that two-track dirt road as we slowly approached the rocky desert peaks on the horizon.
When I saw the Utah West Desert for the first time I must have felt as the pioneers did when they first saw the barren Salt Lake Valley. I saw complete desolation and I felt very unenthused. The only difference being I knew I was going home at the end of the day. The pioneers were in the desert for the long haul.
The engine stopped and all I saw was my version of hell. Hell included a steep mountain, scattered with juniper trees, sagebrush, cactus, and all kinds of nasty cliff outcroppings.
That’s when we let the dogs out, a big German Shorthair, and the other a little Brittney Spaniel we called Boss Hog the Wonder Dog.
That’s when my head really started spinning. My new friends were heading straight into the thick of it. We were hoofing it up, and I mean up, the mountain. If I had learned anything in my few years of hunting it was to keep my mouth shut and just follow the guy who knows what he is doing. I bit my tongue and followed.
About one minute into the whole mountain climbing expedition I thought my lungs would burst. I kept thinking ‘I should have lived at base camp for a few weeks to get used to the elevation,’ but then I remembered that only happens when you are preparing to climb Mount Everest. It didn’t matter that it was a cold Utah day my coat was too damn hot. As we climbed the snow got a little less patchy and a bit deeper. Deep enough we could spot chukar tracks heading up hill ahead of us.
Boss Hog the Wonder Dog got birdy first and the big German Shorthair was only a second later. My hunting buddies started running straight up the mountain after the dogs. My friend’s dad kept saying, “Hurry! They’ll be birds at the top of this ridge, we got to hurry though.” We scrambled faster then anyone ever could have up that mountain. Any normal person would have thought there was gold at the top.
When we reached the top I witnessed the most beautiful sight. Both dogs looked as though they had been struck by lightening and cast into stone. That was the first I ever saw a dog on point, and it won’t be soon forgotten. It has been burned into my memory as something perfect.
As we sucked for breath, a chukar covey took to the air. I fired three shots from my Browning shotgun at the feathery torpedoes. Not a single feather drifted to the earth. I didn’t feel like to big of a rookie though my pals didn’t draw any blood either.

We spent all day, on what seemed to be the top of the world, chasing chukars. The chukar Gods must have known I needed to see lots of birds on my first hunt to get me addicted. That first hunt we say covey after covey and point after point. I finally did connect with one of the little chukar torpedoes. It could have been running on the ground, I can’t remember. After all how sporting does a thirteen year old have to be.
I remember driving home from that first chukar hunt late in the evening. My legs felt twisted, jumbled, and just plain pooped. I had never run and up and down hill so much in one day. I think I smiled the whole way home. In fact I think I smiled all night because I had dreams of dogs on point. When I woke up I was still smiling.
Since my first chukar chasing experience I have been chasing my passion of bird hunting with good bird dogs every since. I continually have a yearning in the pit of my stomach to see a dog on point. A year or so after that first trip I brought home my own bird dog a Brittney Spaniel/ German Shorthair mutt. That’s another story for another day. I will say that I have honed my shooting skills and I only miss most of the chukars I shoot at, not all of them. Thank goodness for pioneers of every kind.