Thanksgiving Turkey Chukar Dilemma

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Sugar:  Did you say turkey? Opps, my bad

Happy Hunting Thanksgiving Style


Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: on Nov 25, 2011

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: on Nov 7, 2011

Funny how the mind works, and what things trigger it into the direction it takes.  But no matter where you go, it always goes with you. Ok, sometimes when high on a cliff side hunting chukar it might seem like you have lost your mind. Especially when you choose to take the more dangerous route rock climbing with all fours to save time, as opposed to the safer, but longer back-tracking route, does craziness begin to register.

But the other day when I was out in the middle of nowhere hunting chukars, I saw a huge spire that had always been visible from the river, but I had never seen before. At least, not until I saw it from a different angle and high advantage  on an opposing hill where it became much more noticeable.  It added to the feeling that I had entered some mysterious fantasy world, where it might even be possible there could exist some sort of  chukar hobbits.. I was inspired. OK, oxygen depleted.

In addition, it added to the wonderful feeling of being far away from civilization where one can still appreciate the value og undiluted purity of air, where it actually pleases the lungs to fill at full capacity. What a great place to escape the woes of our more populous industrial pollutions of the  world.  Or so it seems.

This isolated feeling triggered my mind to go back to a long ago memory of a similar time in another remote region of neighboring canyon country. I was guiding for Grand Canyon Dories, and it was my turn to kick back, while other guides took guests on a hike in Hells Canyon. I chose to enjoy my brief reprieve sitting in my dory boat floating around in a large eddy above Granite Rapids.  It was so cool. Every view was awesome, and bobbing around in the dory made me feel like a much closer part of the river.

Having always been active in fighting for various fish/wildlife/land and water issues over the years had been taking a toll on me. I always thought back about what Aldo Leopold (father of wildlife management) said about biologists (which I had trained to be): “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make-believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

Everywhere around me I had seen that as human numbers increased, habitats for fish and wildlife were diminished. Subdivisions subdued winter ranges, industrial smoke stacks dim visibility, hamper breathing,  and on and on.  I was tired of being like an ecological doctor and so had checked out mentally of paying attention to the politics of the day. I did not watch tv or  read newspapers for over two months time,  and tried to avoid encountering anything negative caused by humans by escaping to the natural world. So, sitting in that eddy, alone, in my dory, I had found paradisiacal freedom.

But, then I had a semi-epiphany. What if I continued on to  live in my dream world, not paying attention to what the outside world was doing? What could be the harm in that? Well, people could be making decisions that could lead to damming the river I was on, then my paradise would come crumbling down.  Could I make a difference? How could only one person make a difference?  Then I thought about the impacts of Rachael Carson and her book Silent Spring.  She alone helped birds of prey by fighting the pesticide industry through her words and action. Every persons vote counts, because ultimately, it only takes one vote to break equilibrium.

So, it was time for me to start paying attention again, to the politics of people and our effects on the natural world.  Thus is the medicinal value that wild places bring to peace of mind. We need these places to at least temporarily escape the harshness of the everyday routine of scurrying around trying to make a living.  And to think, all this cerebral rambling inspired by one spooky spire on the slopes of the Salmon River.  From chukar hunting to river running, my convoluted thoughts continue to swim in the eddies of my mind. No matter where I go, the center of my circle is everywhere. Once I get my medicine I can go anywhere to be everywhere, and somewhere to be nowhere.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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Stone Face, Eastern Islands-ish, on Idaho’s Salmon River Breaks

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Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: on Oct 29, 2011

Like being in some foreign lands far-away, so what?  Well, it is yet another example of why I like chukar hunting along the precipitous Salmon River Breaks.  There are so many cool things to see while hunting in far out terrain, and hard to get places.  The rewards of discovery await those willing to cover the ground less traveled.

Just the other day, I found an interesting Hoodoo, that gave the strange feeling I was either being watched by non-human landmarks, or had entered a fantasy world akin to tramping through Easter Island.  Maybe too much blood to my head getting to higher elevations, make my mind run rampant??

In addition to land forms, other discoveries also often await the curious eye.  Shed antlers, deer, elk, or bighorn sheep come to mind. I have found all, at various times over the years. Often they get carted home as a gift for my wife, and an incentive for her to keep on encouraging me to head out to the chukar slopes.

Another fun thing about hunting chukars is that it allows me to put my foot down in places very few people,  if any,  ever travel to.  Think about it. This can allow a person to feel like number one. Hero worship is all about following that elusive number. Ever watch football? Who doesn’t want to be on the winning side? It seems our entire culture (and perhaps human nature in general) is obsessed about winning, as is categorized by such words as best, biggest, or most, we so often use.

While your chance of being number one is quite limited in today’s world, these is a way to increase those odds. it just requires some effort. Like in, putting one foot in front of the other and pointing yourself in the direction less pursued.   Chukar world holds all these opportunities, so I take them whenever I can. So can you.

Traversing some remote bowl, tucked away in secluded terrain, invigorates more than just a person’s heart rate. It liberates the soul and inspires true personal freedom.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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Chukars Guide for Refuge from Hunters

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Note:  this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog:  on Oct 28, 2011

Pay attention, youngsters. If you wish to see the green grass and feisty hoppers of yet another day on the slopes, heed these suggestions. Sure, four legged and winged predataors loom ever large.  That is a constant, 365 days a year.  However, for the fall, another predator of the two legged kind, hits the slopes. Not to worry,  that is, if you pay close attention and be ever wary.

Although these two-legged types carry a critter called a shot-gun, don’t  panic yet. These cold barreled fire-sticks sling a lot of pellets, but are relatively easy to avoid.  Despite the fact that these shoulder-kicking irons can extend the lethal reach of the human “hunter,” (as they call themselves) you have good options. You can duck behind a rock, dive off the edge, or get the hell out of Chukartown,  to pull off your timely escape in a hurry.

Fortunately, these type of predators are not quite as savvy as the “non-human” kind. They normally make plenty of noise and advertise their presence much more often. If they are not yelling at their dog, (coyotes brother), they holler a lot at their fellow hunters.  Thus, letting you know quite precisely where they are. Hunker down and remain calm.  If their dogs have not caught your scent yet, you are still safe.

Caution! Sometimes they use talking boxes, (walkie-talkies, as they like to call them) so they can use even more talk on the hill when they get tired  of long-range shouting.  This is your chance to hold tight, hit the air, or run uphill. The uphill part discourages even the more adventurous hunter, at some point or another. Note: the human being gets tired because they often feed on bowls of popcorn in front of their tv sets, thereby culturing more winter fat, than hard muscle needed to climb steep terrain.

And when they see you fly across to the next canyon it can really defeat their resolve and  discourage them more from following you. Often this little trick will also increase their desire to go back to their rigs, or at least remain on the same easy contour. They don’t like to do the yo-yo thing anymore than they have to. Knowing their habits is crucial to avoiding an encounter with them and chance to ruin your day.

The older mature ones often have knee problems or poor cardio, so they are easier to keep at a safer, far-off distance.  Note: the younger ones may be much more capable of negotiating rough topography, and sometimes don’t quit walking soon enough. They are more susceptible to getting cliffed-out and doing a lot of back-tracking. Wisdom comes with age, and not many short cuts. Note: it takes a human a long time to gain wisdom.

So, pay attention. Be ever skeptical and suspicious. That is the name of chukar survival. Lastly, if it walks like a human and talks like a human, it is probably a human.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
 For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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Guides Guide for Guides Guiding Chukar Hunters

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Note:  this post was first published on my River’s Apprentice blog:  on Oct 26, 2011

For those of you who find yourself trying to organize a chukar hunt, professionally or not, following are a few tricks that have helped me over the years when guiding wing chasers.

As a river guide, with the advantage of floating into remote country to access hunting areas with a little more elbow room, I have ample opportunity to size up guests whom want to chukar hunt. This is especially important for evaluating first time chukar hunters.

They often, despite ample warnings, have no real idea about the consequences of pursuing birds in seriously challenging canyon country.

First of all, chukar hunting is not for everyone. Like in elk hunting, you have to go where the elk are. Well, I consider chukars the elk of the bird world. While often one must go into some deep, ugly canyon hole, to get an elk, one must climb high, rugged terrain to find chukars.  Boiled down, this spells good health and being in reasonable shape, or better.

If birds are at the 4000 foot level, and you can only climb to the 3000 foot level, guess what? You won’t be eating much chukar stew.

Like reading water to negotiate the river, reading people helps when planning a chukar hunt. The old saying: “You can’t judge a book by its cover” has always been highly questionable to me.  A persons physical stature is like the title of a book. It reveals a lot of what might be inside. ( an over – taxed heart, or a great engine) and is an important indicator of what to expect and how to deal with it.

As a long time observer of many things in nature, with well over 50 years of experience doing so, I believe everything your eyes see, will tell you something. So I pay close attention to every guest when I first meet them. Their body size, clothing, how they move, their agility getting in and out of my boat, what comes out of their mouth, attitudes, everything.

After considering all these factors collectively for all whom wish to make the hunt, and not remain at the boat to fish, I plan our initial attack.  Of course, choices are sometimes quite limited by terrain, so options very with each area. If I have people in questionable shape, I will try to go to areas (if available) where I know trails exist to make climbing easier. It is more like using a ramp rather than stairs which require higher foot lifting each step.  Cross country climbing always involves more resistance due to vegetation or negotiating obstacles, thus increasing energy drain more significantly than a trail walk.

Of course gun safety is priority one, before we get out of the boat. Muzzle awareness is critical all day long, From every time a gun is grabbed, rather it is to get in or out of the boat with,  or engage the hill, is of utmost importance to maintain.  Not only for people, but for any dogs helping us find birds.

The first mistake most people make, is wearing too many clothes when they start out. Sure, the morning might be cold in the early hour, but once the climbing begins, that changes fast. In the boat blood is idle, on the hill it percolates and warms body parts. Unless you like to carry heavier shed clothes most of the day, leave warmer stuff at the boat for later. Your body temp will soon  acclimate to the exertion on the hunt.  It is better to carry more water, (for yourself and dog) than extraneous clothes.

As any experienced chukar hunter knows, you seldom get birds hunting them uphill. Unlike most upland game birds, that seek cover for refuge, chukars like to find open rocks or terrain where they can see danger coming. That way, they can run like hell up hill, or dive off the edge and fly like a bullet to safety far below, or across to the next canyon.

My normal game plan is to hike everyone in a group at first, all going straight up, or zigzagging when we can, to gain altitude. Then, depending on each hunter’s physical shape, and/or desires, each one will stop at a designated elevation, until we are all evenly spaced along the slope.  Then the top person will be the lead hunter and key to the intended hunt.

Did I mention the use of radios? I like for each hunter to have one, as it is so much easier to keep track of everyone. It helps to direct people when they get “cliffed out” or terrain challenged, and need eyes from afar to help determine their next move.  Sometimes even quick radio talk can alert hunters for potential action when dogs are getting birdie or on point. Increased anticipation adds more excitement and sometimes more success to the hunt.


Once the line is established, and the top hunter (usually the guide, but not always) begins walking, then the next guy in line below, will follow. But, most importantly, each successional hunter down the line should always be behind the hunter directly above, by about 50 yards or so. This allows a broader radius to swing a gun when following a bird for the hunter above, and better safety zone for the hunter below.  Basically, a long diagonal line will be maintained as each person contours around the hill, hoping to slip up on some unsuspecting chukars. Often, more than one gunner gets shooting as birds fly wildly around the hillside in and out of range for various positions on the line.

Because birds often fly back around to the same area we just hunted, we can turn around at the end of our predetermined area boundary, and hunt back through the same area already traversed.  So it pays to observe where birds land once flushed. Other times, hunters continue in a downriver direction to an agreed upon meeting spot, while I go back to the boat and float it down to pick them up.

Once back to the boat, fishing sounds like a great idea. Did I mention thirsty, tired, foot- draggers ready to rest? Or that the next chukar chasing opportunity suggested by the guide is often referred to as a revenge hunt?


Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers. For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor Facebook page:

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