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HUNTING — Eastern Washington's pheasant season ended Sunday in a weekend of winds gusting to 70 mph at the top of the 49 Degrees North ski area where they toppled a cell phone tower.
I figured I had a better shot at chukars in the Snake River canyon where I could loop into bowls out of the wind.
Indeed, I found some pleasant hunting interspersed with high-wind exposure as I hiked around basalt bands on the ridges.
But I was surprised that in 4.5 hours of covering a lot of ground, my English setter, Scout, found only two coveys of chukars. The dog locked up solid 80 yards away from the first cover as the strong winds telegraphed their scent to his nose. But the covey flushed wild as I approached, caught the wind, and appeared to be setting wings for a wind-assisted flight to Montana.
The other covey cooperated in making my hunt successful.
But that was it. I covered some great private land where I've hunted with permission numerous times and never have found fewer than three coveys.
So now I'm wondering: Should I have been hunting the highest slopes that were open to the high winds? Is that where the chukars were hanging out?
The hunting season for partridge and quail runs through Jan. 20.
HUNTING — I wrapped up the chukar hunting season today scrambling around the slippery slopes of the Snake River canyon with my buddy Jim Kujala and my trusty English setter, Scout.
The dog was pretty iced up from finding birds in the morning frost with temperatures in the teens, but by noon we found some sun breaking through the fog for a lunch break.
We packed away some chukars for the dinner table and great memories of another season.
Tip of the hat to six-year old bird dogs. They don't get any better than that.
HUNTING — It was cold and dreary Saturday and my friends all had excuses for not going chukar hunting.
But my English setter was more than ready. With temps in the teens, the footing was good and a dusting of snow helped in the search for birds.
It's good to have a friend willing to go any time, any day … especially a friend who runs his butt off finding birds and lets you do all the shooting!
HUNTING — Here's the latest Yakima region hunting update for deer, elk and birds, from Yakima Herald-Republic outdoor writer Scott Sandsberry.
BIRD HUNTING — Looking for a bird-hunting adventure destination this season? Nevada is putting out the word that it has record-high numbers of chukars in some — not all — portions of the state for a season that runs through Feb. 5.
Read on for the report from the Nevada Division of Wildlife.
UPLAND BIRD HUNTING — Hunters chilled at the thought of what the cool, rainy spring was doing to nesting pheasants and quail in June.
Indeed, the hatch isn't anything to crow about, but it's not as bad as hunters may have feared, at least in the Snake River region.
Surveys by Idaho Fish and Game biologists indicate quail and Hungarian partridge had modest reproductive success and pheasants did better than the did last year, although last year's hatch was pitiful.
Idaho partridge populations of both are down slightly from 2010 and long-term averages. Pheasant numbers are up from last year, but still be low the averages.
Read on for details in a story by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:
BIRD HUNTING — The last good barometer Snake River region hunters have had on the hatching success of upland birds has ended. Idaho Fish and Game biologists will no longer conduct aerial chukar surveys, the agency has announced.
The agency has conducted annual chukar surveys since the mid-1980s primarily to provide a ‘forecast’ for the upcoming season. The data was not biological data used to set seasons, officials said in a press release.
Washington ended it's aerial chukar surveys in the 90s, mostly for reasons of expense.
The flights were axed after the officials scrutinized the agency's use of aerial surveys following a fatal helicopter accident last year along the Clearwater River last year that killed two fisheries biologists and the pilot. Several aerila surveys have been eliminated after a review was conducted to assess risk and cost in relation to value of biological information collected
Since 1984, Fish and Game biologists conducted helicopter surveys in late August or early September along a portion of Brownlee and Lucky Peak reservoirs to monitor chukar population trends. The surveys laster expanded to other portions of the Snake and Salmon rivers.
The surveys offered sportsmen useful general trends in the fall population.
Without the surveys, biologists will rely more on collecting wings from harvested birds to obtain an index to production and estimate harvest from annual hunter harvest surveys.
UPLAND BIRD HUNTING — Rain was splattering on the windshield and the wind was blowing so hard up the Snake River canyon on Monday morning it rocked the pickup after I shut down the engine.
That wasn't a good sign for two guys and a dog getting ready to head up the basalt-rock slopes in pursuit of notoriously wild-flushing chukars.
But it was the last day of Washington's 2010-2011 upland bird season, so we gave it our best.
My English setter, Scout, immediately raced up to a ridge and stuck a covey of Huns with a tail-to the-sky point he held for several minutes while we climbed up. The birds flushed fairly wild with the velocity of feathered bottle rockets. Birds 1, hunters 0.
Throughout the rest of the day, Scout performed well, although the strong winds led to a few false points, or at least we thought so. One time we walked down toward a point far below us with our eyes watering like faucets. No birds were there when we arrived but we weren't sure if they'd flushed. “I couldn't see my eyes were watering so bad,” Jim said. And the howling wind would have washed out any sound of flushing wings.
Both of us were nearly blown off our feet a couple of times. We looked down on the Snake River to see the wind sometimes whipping up spouts of water at least 100 feet high.
A waterfall pouring down a basalt cliff from this week's runoff was occasionally reversed into a “waterup” by gusts that shot the stream toward the sky.
In the end, the partridges did not get a shut out on the three of us. But teamed with the wind, they definitely won.
BIRD HUNTING — The temperature was 18 degrees this morning when I started hiking up a ridge toward the top of the Snake River canyon. Somewhere between the river and the rim I expected to find chukar partridges hunkered down and waiting for me to give them a little winter exercise.
I was not disappointed. Scout had six covey-finds while I was with him, and probably several more when I couldn't find him. English setters are like that.
But the ground that was frozen and firm in the morning became greasy in the afternoon sunshine, even though the air temps never got above 24. And there's no such thing as flat ground in chukar country.
I did a mud glissade down a steep slope to flush one covey Scout had pinned. I think I heard them laughing as they locked their wings and glided to the next ridge.
I've climbed mountains from the Cascades to McKinley without finding footing as treacherous as the ice, grass, mud and basalt scree where chukars roam.
I'm signing out for the day and looking for a beer in the refrigerator.
Scout has been watered and fed and praised for a job well done, and now he's buried in his pillow bed, dead to the world, with three of his legs sticking out making it look as though he's being sucked down a drain. He's snoring.
It won't be long before I'll be joining him.