Inevitably it always does arrive, that fatal last day. The last day of any season, but in this case chukar season. It is almost a love/hate affair. That is, I love to hunt chukars. But, towards the end of the season, after grueling climbs up the extreme slopes of the Salmon River canyon, it gets very difficult to push myself for yet another uphill battle. A battle my heart and lungs take on with the landscape.
So with mixed emotions my last day with both dogs on the hill was more of the same. Good and bad. Hard, yet rewarding. Dogs not minding as well as think they should, yet making wonderful tandem points, and stupendously long retrieves when birds sail way too far down the slopes. You know, those slopes I keep complaining about. Ones that seem like 45 degrees, and at times really are. And those are the easier ones. Did I mention bony ridgelines, vertical cliffs, and a variety of ugliness that us chukar hunters often find ourselves engaged with?
No wonder people who know nothing about chukar hunting think chukar hunters are so crazy. Heck, even chukar hunters wonder that sometimes. But once fessing-up to knowing you are crazy means you don’t have to worry about it any more. Just keep pushing those birds, don’t look back, or more precisely down, in most cases. Focus. That is the name of the game.
My last day was a typical one, but favored the chukar, and they indeed seemed to get the last laugh. Like when a group came flying straight off the slopes high above, helter-skelter, and my swing, which was more of an over-the-head-and-turn gymnastics maneuver, was the perfect recipe for poor shooting success. After the boom of gun and frustrations of watching birds untouched, I’m sure I could hear some chuckles of happy-to-be-alive birds entertained by my contorted antics on the hill.
But, their entertainment is also mine. Just seeing the type of flying they can do, like some kind of animated jet plane in a dog fight, is reward enough. Although, I do sometimes luck out and manage to down one of those feathered Mig like fighters. Yet, a big part of chukar hunting is all of those ancillary shows that always accompany the chase: from large bucks, elk herds, fox trots, coyote yipping, wolf tracks, bobcat scat, otter antics, and soaring eagles, to just mention a few. And most remarkable is that all this theater takes place in a theater itself that is a good part of the outstanding entertainment.
(Whoa – Holy “chukar feathers” – how did we get so far up?)
Viewscapes afforded by one of the deepest gorges in North America are utterly breath-taking, yet considerably confounding. So expansive and rugged is the terrain, that its bigness makes one feel ever more so small. A dwarf in the cosmos. It is a vastness of unfathomable comprehension that words never adequately can explain. So, rather, I just simply enjoy it and appreciate it for what it is. Though we humans like to share our pleasures with others, often it has to suffice just to appreciate those things that are truly unexplainable. To just “know” is enough. Thank you chukars. You are safe from my gun and nuisance of dogs for another year now. But, be forewarned: we will be back.