Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Step One: Admitting You Have A Problem

Around Montana, you still see the billboards, both amateurish and commercially-made: Meth-It Only Takes Once. Not sure if that is only a scare tactic or if the toxic mixture is really that addictive.  I haven't tried it and will take their word for it.  

I have taken the chukar drug the past five years and I am pretty much focusing my life around the exciting little devil.  While I am not calling in sick to work or stealing from relatives to take another hunting trip west, I am constantly researching where to look for the sporty partridge next. Oregon? Snake River Canyon? Northern Nevada?  There seems to be plenty of options.

Have I had a banner year thus far, with plenty of shooting and great dog work?  Not really. With the purchase of two separate 3-day nonresident bird licenses, I could barely feed my bowling league team, if I was on one.  In six days, two of them were skunkings; as in no birds seen, no shots fired in 7 hours of hiking. One frustrating day I hunted in fog so thick I couldn't see my close-working dog.  Oh, my beloved 20 gauge that I was given during the Reagan Administration as a gift for my 16th birthday? I fell and busted it. The forearm came down directly on a melon-sized rock and it exploded into four pocket-sized pieces. (If a hunter swears out loud in the sage brush sea and no one hears him, was he swearing?) We had packed a backup shotgun, but that doesn't mean we wanted to use the darn thing. 

The hunting itself can make a masochist out of you.  Unlike pheasants, there isn't any of that private land or fence B.S. to hassle with.  Chukar hunting success is often strictly a case of your team, dogs and humans, and how much effort you want to exert.  That extra effort to stay with the dogs when they are in creep mode separates the Dwayne The Rock Johnsons from the Kid Rocks.  If you are 40 yards from your pointing dog that is currently in POINT MODE and the birds flush 40 yards in front of said dog, then you are strictly observing.  Occasionally they hold forever, often they tease. If that covey glides back down the same dreadful slope that you just sweated through your non-flatbill baseball cap to climb, guess what? Yes, we are doing back down.  And then back up.  Why do you think some crazy SOB runs ultra-marathons, instead of the pedestrian 26.2? The greater the effort and challenge, the greater the reward. And the more your hunting partners snore at night.  

Shooting ain't usually easy. But, this also what makes it rewarding. My feet seem to get tangled up while chukar hunting on rocky sidehills, the birds are usually diving downhill, picking out one target can fluster the most avid birdhunter and they aren't sharptail.  These are smaller targets that get out of Dodge. After these past two trips, I reserve judgement for any other chukar hunters out there.  I don't care if you shoot limits, carry a 10 gauge autoloader or run six pointers at once.  There just isn't an easy way to kill those buggers.  If there was a Babe Ruth of chukar hunting, he or she would be tall and lanky, probably a endurance athlete of some kind, a sporting clays champion, retired, single, and just wealthy enough to keep good tires on the truck.  I guess that leaves Babe Ruth out, for most of the reasons mentioned. The rest of us just have to keep hiking uphill and burning powder.