By Tom in Oregon
There are lots reasons to go hunting. Eating fresh, clean, “free range” protein. The exercise you can get from the walks or hikes. Spending time with friends. As usual, the logistics of getting a dozen guys on the same schedule, having everyone taking time off work at the same time proved trying. Only one of our group is retired. One is semi-retired, the rest of us work full time jobs. Out of the 12-15 guys that participate in the yearly sojourn, only seven made it this year. Still, the camaraderie of this group is incredible . . .
In a previous article about pheasant and chukar hunting, I mentioned how varied the weather can be. This year showed us exactly that. The first morning looked like this…
There is about a thousand feet of hill missing in the fog. While we waited for the low clouds to lift, we ran the bottom lands for pheasant. We managed a whole three birds and lost one that was hit hard.
In a couple of hours, the clouds lifted as did our spirits. With no sounds of the crafty birds chuck-chuck-chucking at the lower elevations, we decide to start at the top. So half of the group stayed in the middle of the mountain and the other half drove quads to the top in the hopes of flushing them down to us. Salesman Dave has Isabel, the awesome bird dog scenting the air wanting to get some.
We hear, via the GMRS radio that the group that went to the top split up. Two got into the birds, and two didn’t. Since they pushed the birds over the hill the wrong way, we trek sideways and down in hopes of finding more.
The smell of the sage, the damp earth mixed with the occasional waft of gunpowder is a cleansing elixir. The aches and pains in the hips, knees and ankles are a constant reminder to make the time to stay in shape. The oldest guy in our group is approaching his mid 70’s, but Bob can just about out-hike all of us. His son, Marc plays hockey on a regular basis so his legs have ‘legs’.
As the chukar seemed to have disappeared on us, we switched tactics for a bit while waiting for the top group to make it back down to us. Pilot Mike reaches into his truck for something to do and we just crack up…
Since the weather keeps changing on us from moment to moment, keeping the birds huddled in some avian black hole, we decide to play a few rounds of golf-trap.
This is a very challenging game! I should probably have my finger on the trigger, but a few decades of training are hard to overcome. That little golf ball is fast coming off the head of a Big Bertha!
At the end of the day, we’re all plenty tired. We’ve hiked, rested, hiked some more. Driven to new spots, asked other hunters we come across and have thought up some possible reasons why the chukar populations are down.
- It’s a normal down cycle in the life of the birds.
- The emergence of large quantities of ring necked doves competing for the same grass seeds.
- The absence of insects as another food source for the second year in a row.
In the end, it’s not just about the hunt. Having a limit of birds is icing on the cake (and extra protein on the grill). We get to exercise, train the dogs, enjoy the outdoors, explore miles and miles of incredibly beautiful scenery, and see old friends to reconnect. At the end of the day, it’s good to be a hunter, with all of your best friends.