Monday, October 31, 2011

THE NEVADA CHUKAR HUNT Part 1

Now I can check something off my “Bucket List”. I’ve always wanted to do a guided bird hunt so last winter I began exploring the possibilities. And although Nellie has never been better as far as her bird savvy goes, she is 8 years old and declining a little physically – not to mention her boss. As chukars are my favorite bird to hunt that was my choice. I also wanted to choose a state I had not hunted so I found a wild chukar guided hunt in NV. It was a three day hunt and the most favorable rate was for three persons so I persuaded my hunting partner, Ken, and he in turn recruited one of his old Air Force buddies and avid hunter, Bob, who lives in Twin Falls.
Ken and I headed out Thursday, Oct 20th for the seven hour drive to Twin Falls. Bob and Marsha were gracious hosts as we spent the night there. We departed the next morning in Bob’s truck for the JD Ranch which is in the middle of nowhere between Carlin and Eureka, NV. Ken’s German Shorthair had recently died of cancer and Bob’s Brittany had an injured foot so we had just Nellie. [Bob is an avid sheep hunter and has hunted big game all over the world. The pictures are from his trophy room which has more than 60 displays]
We arrived at the ranch (really a dumpy three room cabin in the desert) about 2:30 p.m. Ken and I had a three day permit but Bob had a full license because he buys one every year so he can participate in sheep draws. That being the case the guide, Brian, was up for taking Bob out that afternoon and Ken and I tagged along.
We drove for over an hour over the worst imaginable roads before we got to the area he chose. Brian had a 6 year old little 35 pound Llewellyn Setter, Liz, and a 2 year old English Pointer, Rocky. He was very proud of his dogs, especially the Setter. However, Nellie gave them a lesson and Bob was superb too. In two hours Bob got two doubles and a single, all pointed by Nellie. And on the doubles she made double retrieves, bringing both birds back at once. After finding the first bird she would take it to the second one and then carefully position both birds in her mouth at the same time and make the retrieve. After our 3 day hunt Bob commented that Nellie was about 20 times better than Brian’s dogs. I beamed like a proud Papa.
We got back to the ranch well after dark and cleaned the birds while Brian, prepared supper. The meals he served were excellent. All were cooked on a grill out on the porch.
We left the ranch about 8:00 the next morning and I was really excited especially after Bob had done so well the previous afternoon. It was cold in the morning but got plenty warm as the day progressed. The ranch was at 5,600 hundred feet elevation and most of our hunting was above 7,500 feet. Unfortunately Ken caught his foot on something getting out of the truck and wrenched his back. He was in pain for the duration of our hunts. He kept hunting aided somewhat by my daily massages and copious doses of aspirin.
We took both trucks this morning so we could leave Bob’s at a lower elevation and use it to get back to the higher starting point. I chose to hunt alone and leave Brian and his dogs for Ken and Bob. His Setter would not retrieve and was big on pointing chipmunks. The Pointer would retrieve most of the time but would occasionally bust (flush unintentionally or otherwise) birds. We split up with the plan (I thought) of meeting back down at Bob’s truck.
I had gone only a little ways when I heard shooting from the other group. This was somewhat encouraging although I felt a little left out. I had hiked up to a ridge top and was following it in the general direction of Bob’s truck. Nellie made several points on sage grouse which are illegal for non-residents to shoot. Finally, after about an hour of hunting Nellie make a point from the top of the ridge facing down the other side. As I approached her a covey of chukars got up at long range. I got off one shot and got feathers but the bird didn’t drop. Discouraged, I descended the ridge toward the next ridge where I thought the covey had flown. Eventually we got the covey up again with the exact same results. Near the saddle between the ridges Nellie hit a hard point on a big bush. Like a dummy I threw a rock in the bush from behind Nellie rather than from the side. A Hungarian partridge (Huns to us) came blasting out low on the opposite side and sailed down the mountain. I never even saw it much less got a shot and I only know it was a Hun by the chirp they make.
By this time I was getting pretty dejected. Nellie went on point at a very promising spot on the top of the next ridge and I was determined to nail one this time. To my chagrin a covey of about a dozen big sage grouse got up and all I could do was watch. I had gone just a little ways when Nellie again went on point down the side of the ridge. About three chukars got up within range and launched down the hill as is their habit but just as I pulled the trigger the one I was on took a right turn and I never touched a feather. Just a little further along the ridge Nellie repeated her performance and this time the three chukars gave me a crossing shot and I finally bagged one with Nellie making the retrieve.
The morning had become very warm and I had to strip down to just a long sleeve undershirt. I was carrying a hydration pack and two 24 ounce bike bottles of water mainly for Nellie and I was using it liberally. To our surprise there was quite a bit of water in this desert country with several small streams or at least springs.
By now it was about 11:00 a.m. and I was getting tired. I should have eaten something earlier. I trudged up another steep slope where I had heard some chukars but we didn’t find any. About that time Ken called me on the radio wanting to know where I was. I told him I was 1- 1/8th miles south of Bob’s truck but that it would take me a while to get back. After descending the hill I had just climbed and crossing a small steam I began climbing one of the long hills to get to Bob’s truck. Not too far up the hill Nellie hits a hard point at a tall clump of glass. We both slowly crept in at 90 degree angles until I finally kicked the clump and Nellie dove in. She found a dead chukar which was apparently one that I had hit on one of the first two flushes. She went a little farther and made another point down the hill. A single chukar blasted out and I dropped him cleanly and Nellie quickly retrieved it.
I slowly drug my tired body up and down a couple of ridges and down to the road where we had left Bob’s truck. However, there was no truck. I had my GPS so I knew I wasn’t lost. I tried in vain to get Ken on the radio but I must have been too low for him to pick up the transmission. I was not a happy camper! Nellie and I were both exhausted. We both lay down in the shade of some aspens and rested for half an hour hoping that they would return to pick us up. My GPS indicated I was 2.4 miles from Brian’s truck by road but less than ¾ mile cross country which of course meant up and over a mountain. I knew it would take quite a while by road which was also up hill so after taking the road a short distance I diverted to the more direct route. Just before I got to the ridge top I got a call on the radio that they were now back from where I had come. They had thought that I was to come back to Brian’s truck rather than Bob’s which they had moved. I was almost back to where Brian’s truck had been so Bob came back up the road to pick me up. It’s been a while since I was that tired. The altitude could have had something to do with it.
As it turned out, although Bob and Ken had gotten a little shooting they had only one bird apiece. Brian took us to another spot with a little less climbing where we hunted the rest of the day but saw nothing except more sage grouse.
We returned to the ranch with only 5 birds to clean which we did while Brian grilled some pork loin. After a late supper the routine was to sit around and talk hunting and drink a few beers (except for me). There was another young guide there during our stay who spent his days scouting for deer. It was a congenial group in spite of our mediocre success. I slept well that night. [To be continued] M/W

8 comments:

Leah said...

It was absolutely the altitude (your loss of energy). Never underestimate what a change in elevation does to your body. I've been to Colorado often enough to have 1st hand experience.

Your memory of each bird & each hike up and down a hill is superb. Maybe your secret is that you take notes as you go along!

The trophies in Bob's house remind me of a scene in "The Bachelor" TV show several years ago. A young woman took the prospective groom home to meet her parents. The young man met her father in a room with wall to wall trophies of animal heads. It was rather intimidating to the young man and a funny scene. What was left unspoken and very obvious was that the father had guns & was his daughter's protector.

Richard V. Shields III said...

Now that's what I call a "play by play". Great job! Sometimes the vivid recollection is as good (or better) than the live event. Regardless, I look forward to the next installment.

Kathy said...

Mike has his skills, and remembering the hunt in detail is one of them. Unfortunately, this memory does not translate to household issues.

I've had trials with the elevation in Colorado, too. We stayed at Breckenridge one year, an experience I didn't enjoy.

Leah said...

Mike's memory is directed toward his interest (no news, right). I think that when Mike goes on a hunting trip & is traversing unknown territory, his brain is working at capacity to protect him. That's why he can always find his way home & remembers, in detail, each step of his journey. Everyone's brain works that way. When he's home, his brain knows it can run on autopilot!

Chris said...

Kudos to Nellie's family for training her so well!! I can well imagine your pride. :-) (Maybe Mike's chest was so expanded with pride it affected his stamina?? LOL)

Hallie said...

Quite an adventure! You should have Bob up to help get a deer. Looks like he doesn't have any trouble getting sheep!

Mike said...

Good idea, Hallie, except Bob is busy getting more sheep.

I'm afraid, Leah, that I can always find my way back because of my GPS, not my brain. I didn't inherit my dad's superior sense of direction.

Leah said...

Mike, you may use your GPS to maneuver in the wild, but your brain (or your notes) remember your hunting events shot by shot (pun intended).