I just happened on a youtube video of Rock Partridge in Greece, and it’s one of the most captivating films on partridge that I’ve seen. Some of the terrain (which I assume is in Greece) is strikingly similar to the Hell’s Canyon hills I hunt. These birds look and sound like alectoris chukar, but apparently differ a bit. Anyway, check it out…
So I’m playing my bagpipes at the Tilted Kilt the other night, and it’s nutty and people are shoving $1 bills in my arm garter, and this fetching woman comes up and puts some cash in there, looks me in the eye and says, “I prefer metric shot.”
There’s only one other person on earth who’s ever uttered that sentence, and it was my friend Greg in our “Stuff Bird Hunters Say” video. The impact of his impromptu line clearly exceeded our expectations.
“Who sent you,” I asked, feeling pretty freaked out, kind of like Fox Mulder in pretty much every X-Files episode.
Talk about random coincidences. She and her husband are from Nebraska. They watch the video. They hunt birds. They’re moving soon to Boise, and just happened to be here for the weekend and just happened to decide to check out the new Tilted Kilt joint, and just happened to connect the video with me. I made another video once that was partly about my inability to construct a rational connection between my passions for bagpiping and bird hunting. I concluded that there isn’t a connection aside from me: it’s not natural, it’s human. This is another reminder.
So if you want to join the rapidly expanding “I Prefer Metric Shot” subculture, consider picking up one of our new t-shirts…
What an ungodly time to post anything about chukar. Right now, all here is mud. Now is the time to focus on the losing battles of keeping your house as clean as you in no way can. Now is the time to ignore dirt drying on carpet if at all possible. Now is the time to look at pictures of the fall in a silly, futile effort to pretend things are drier and cleaner.
I just happened across this photo from last December. It appears to me now as some sort of miracle. Taken by my wife in a fraction of a second, one frozen moment of my 51-plus years here, followed by two boys a fraction of my age, traversing velvety-beige glowing, basalt-infested undulating slopes of cheatgrass choked earthfolds, its surrealness starts tears. How does this happen? What things had to align themselves for this one moment, regardless of whether – but only because – it was photographed? It is uncanny. And then you realize that every photograph says this much and more.
Thank god. Thank god for life and memory. We do what we do, and – as long as we can – we remember.
Last Saturday’s hunt brought clarity to me on the real reason why I enjoy chukar hunting. I was a bit under the weather but didn’t want to miss a chance to go down into Hell’s Canyon with Bob and our visiting friend Greg and his dog Ava. We picked up “the kid” and his older brother along the way. It was the older brother’s first time chukar hunting. We also met our other friend Sam and his dog Hannah down at the bottom of the canyon at the designated meeting place. We set out walking slowly together on a gradual uphill road for about a mile before splitting up into three groups heading into different directions. It’s big country down there in the canyon; you can hunt for hours before running into your hunting partner or partners.
Our group of four and Angus headed uphill. We went up and down, the kid and his older brother following Bob closely. Angus, nose to the ground, was having a hard time pin-pointing the bird scent in the changing winds at the top. Angus did manage to point a couple of coveys, but the shooters missed after busting them. You never know where they’ll come up. “Pointing” is a relative term.
We chased Angus around, back and forth, and then back again like he was leading a parade. Tired at the top, we found a couple of nice spots blocked from the wind to take a break.
This is where the clarity part comes in. Admiring the view from the top, spending time with super nice people, recounting all our own hunting experiences afterwards, and sharing some good laughs watching Sam feed the dogs vienna sausage with a spoon to thank them for a good hunt. That’s what it’s all about.
After the last couple of goofy posts, I’m not sure I should post anything for a while. But today’s outing was such a great way to end the year (not the season; still another month!) that I can’t help it. The good news, and much of the reason for today’s goodness, is that I saw lots of chukar. It was like 2012 instead of 2013. Chukar were where they were supposed to be. Chukar guano littered the hillsides. Angus false pointed more than normal I think because of the plethora of poop and scads of scent. In fact, his first two points were falsies, probably because he wasn’t used to smelling such rich scent trails. Once he recalibrated his olfactory office he dialed in numerous coveys and singles. The cover and overall habitat was of such quality, too, that the birds held instead of busting long before we got to them.
Another thing that made this day really good is that the reprehensible miasma of spastic shooting I’ve displayed over the past, well, season somehow got spiffed up. Maybe this season’s one practice session I had a few days ago (accompanied by an outraged, shrieking Angus attempting to claw his way from the inside of the truck to see what all the fuss was about and maybe see if I managed to hit something for once in his life) had something to do with it. If so, yesterday’s disastrous shooting should have been better. But today I couldn’t miss. And, unlike some scenarios when Angus, who’s not even remotely steady to wing, watches the rising birds and misses the one I knock down, resulting in a panicky bird recovery operation, he saw every bird fall today, went right to it, and brought it right back to me. It was like the Chukar Edition of the Twilight Zone.
For more intrepid, experienced chukar hunters who are – naturally – much better shooters than I, today’s hunt might have sucked because I didn’t limit (and, actually, I did miss once). But in terms of birds sighted per hour and shooting percentage it was the best day I’ve had all season. Yippee!
One drawback to today’s fun was that my wife wasn’t there (she has a real job). But I did have the pleasure of taking a friend on her first chukar hunt, and she did great. I think she’ll go again.
I also tallied some of the data from the GPS for this season, which gave me pause because the numbers spoke loudly to me just how fortunate I have been to get out as much as I have this season. My body’s held up, my feet don’t hurt (despite the 102+ miles and just shy of an ascent of Everest they’ve carried me since September 21; 30% more than all of last season). And Angus, bless his soul and knock on wood, has held up marvelously. His feet were tender today because of the 3+ hours he ran through crusty, icy snow yesterday, which made it doubly tough to discover that we’d parked in a literal field of puncture weed (we call them “goat heads”). Before we even began today, I pulled at least 30 of those thorns from his paws. Once we were off the road and up the hill, though, he was fine. But he’s dreaming now as I write this. I’m glad I could end the year by giving him the opportunity to put a bunch of birds in his mouth. After they’ve aged a bit, I look forward to putting them in mine.
Happy New Year!
Feeling the need to demonstrate some of the nobler parlance of this demonic activity, we put together this instructional video to help those stragglers, wannabees, and those otherwise unconvinced of the supremacy of chukar hunting. Prepare to be enlightened.
In every chukar hunter’s life there comes a time when he (or she) thinks those devil birds are out to get him (or her). For me, yesterday was that day. Angus pointed, birds rose, and rarely did any fall (just once, to be exact). I can’t say how Angus felt, but I imagined myself one of those magnetic player pieces being pulled across a cheap tin playing field from beneath by a stick with the other half of the magnet. Back and forth. Up and down. Except I had to supply the juice to mobilize across the frozen terrain. Chukar have a call when fleeing closely resembling sardonic laughter.
Angus found us lots of birds. What a treat, and what a nice change from earlier in the season when we’d search for four hours and find one covey. But it was a day of truth. The truth is that chukar like places a human can’t stand with much balance or coordination. Moreover, human movement over this terrain is fraught with peril. Going up is not so bad because if you slip you can just accept the mud facial and dirty pants. But going down – the direction I find myself most often looking when Angus is pointing – is just obscene. I destroyed my left ankle a few years ago in such a scenario. Word to the wise.
Yesterday, I avoided the 5-foot leap off a rock but succumbed to peanut butter mud sliding at the exact instant I busted the covey. I had the dubious opportunity of shooting from one knee while sliding downhill and trying to pick a bird to bead while honoring the visual margin of safety to prevent me from shooting Angus. No dead bird on that one, but no wounded Brittany, either. It’s the small successes that keep me coming back.
In times like these, great times, times which reinforce for me what I love so much about sharing this pursuit with my precious dog (and my wife), I find myself involuntarily canting “fair chase” over and over in my head. My shitty shooting notwithstanding, this game, this chukar war, seems the fairest of fair chases. I look at others’ blogs or accounts displaying tailgates lined with limits of chukar and wonder how that’s even possible. Maybe it really is only my crappy gunmanship that accounts for my typically light weight bird bag. I think I’ve limited once, back when Idaho’s limit was 6. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to replicate on the undulations of our bromusy batholith the catch-and-release ethic I learned from childhood on Henry’s Fork.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a competition. For the effort, it’s a weight loss program even if you limited every time and ate every ounce of every bird yourself. It’s a war, the best war there is. I’m both sad and glad that more people don’t enlist.