Every chukar season is special. Chukars are the one bird that I know I can't take all the way to bird hunter's retirement, assuming I live to a ripe old age anyway. Hunting them is tough, demanding, and a game for determined athletic types. Thankfully I fit that description, mostly because I love to hunt the little devils and they don't really care whether or not I am up to the task as they peer down from the rimrock.
That being the case, the final days of a season take on personal significance. Among other things, chukar hunting offers isolation from the modern world and true solitude. At least it does where I live. I have gotten to the point where I hunt alone that last day or two. Like I said, it's a personal thing between the mountain, the chukars, my dog Rusty, and myself.
The dilemma, if it could be considered one, is that I obviously want to find chukars on that final day yet the venue is more important than just a spot with birds. This season has been a difficult one for Wyoming chukar enthusiasts. Only one specific mtn. has hosted a large number of birds. It's location is not exactly a well kept secret. The terrain eliminates most hunters after an attempt or two, but the hardcore frequent it often enough. I had thoughts of closing shop there this year, but solitude and quiet reflection of a life spent in remote places likely would have gone out the window. So...what to do?
I do have an area seldom bothered by man in any capacity that some years is teaming with chukars, but not that often. This past spring's weather patterns put a damper on that, but a few coveys were present. It's the kind of place I go when I need to be truly alone. The terrain is brutal in many ways. Traversing it requires crossing the difficult zones. However, the farthest peak had always eluded me. There it towered in the distance, a mystery. I could see bands of cheatgrass from miles distant. I suspected water would be seeping somewhere near its lofty rim, thus the lure of an untapped chukar source plucked at my heart strings. The problem? No roads, at all. Park miles away in flat country; then climb and climb and climb.
The second to final day of season I found a few chukars in a favored spot in the general area, enough to warrant shooting a few, but certainly not a limit. I stared upward at the aforementioned mountain top, miles away. That did it. With birds in hand, the day had not been a bust for the dog or I. Nothing to lose, go for it.
The rocky two track that lead to where flat land turned into canyons and mountain rewarded my efforts with a flat tire. Out came the repair plug kit and compressor. After a short delay the little Ford wobbled the rest of the way to the launching point for a new adventure.
Lacing up my boots tighter, I pondered the irony of taking my long range upland bird gun to a place where chukars, if there were any, had likely never seen a human being. Eyeing the beautiful Lefever 12 bore, I couldn't help wish for the feathery Lefever 16 instead. Surely I was over gunned. After climbing from the flat basin through much habitat that was perfect for chukars but totally devoid of sign I was brewing doubt. However, the views were breathtaking.
Upon arriving where earth pretty much gave way to sky, there was little cause for encouragement. Then suddenly, as Rusty and I rounded a rocky outcropping that tested me just a bit, five chukars erupted. I was unprepared and all thumbs. Three others flared overhead the opposite direction while I missed the five. As I replaced the spent hulls with fresh fodder, five more paid their screeching respects to my effort. Closing the breech I caught the sight of a pair of stragglers. They too sailed an obscene distance on high winds. Nothing like fumbling the ball on the one yard line...twice.
Oh well, I had found birds and had a general direction to follow. While in route to relocate the little demons, a second covey was encountered and the day's limit collected. My nerves had calmed and I was able to make the long shots necessary.
That was the odd part. Both coveys were very wild, extremely skittish. I actually needed that extra full / turkey choke combo. I don't understand it since there likely has never been another bird hunter that far back in, but the end of season isn't supposed to be easy anyway. More importantly, the mystery that had taunted me for so many years had been revealed.
Finding two coveys sealed the deal and Jan 31st (next day) I hiked back in to say farewell to a challenging but wonderful season and the birds I so love. High winds and snow greeted me as elevation increased and I really was wishing for a little sunshine. It came, at about hour three, which was not terribly long after the shooting commenced. The sunshine was very short lived, but welcome. Soon enough Rusty returned my final chukar of the 2017-18 season. A glorious yet somber moment. We stopped for a rare "selfie" with the mountain top as a back drop. The remainder of the journey would require and hour and a half at a determined pace, even though it was all down hill.
It was a good season and I acquired no new holes in my elbow. Looking back, I have no regrets. Looking forward? So begins the wait, the long, long wait.
If you look at the first photo you can see the flat country below. The edge of it is where I parked. The peak in background of the 4th photo is the same one I am standing in front of in the previous photo. Hopefully this gives some impression of scale and distance.
_________________ Only catch snowflakes on your tongue AFTER the birds fly south for the winter...
Some more pics of Rusty doing what he loves most. And one to show how hard the wind was sticking snow to the trees.
Conditions were a tad unpleasant for a while Wednesday morning. It was rather cold. When I made it back to the truck at 4 pm, snow was melting in the low country; but that's what 1900' of elevation change can do to the weather. All part of the adventure. I'm going to miss it.
Joined: 06 Nov 2009
Location: West Coast of WI
Beautiful pictures as always. (coming from the world's worst hunt photographer)
Pretty special dog too.
Just curious, and I don't want specifics, but what part of the state is that? For example, southwest, etc. We have a niece who ranches in the general Pinedale area (Daniels) and I know they have some sharptails and prairie chickens (I think).
Joined: 06 Aug 2004
Location: Kansas High Plains
Beautifully written and photographed. Thanks for sharing it with us.
_________________ I feel a warm spot in my heart when I meet a man whiling away an afternoon...and stopping to chat with him, hear the sleek lines of his double gun whisper "Sixteen." - Gene Hill, Shotgunner's Notebook
Awesome looking country and very well written narrative. I commend you on your willingness to challenge that mountain to hunt your chukars. At age 76 I doubt I'll ever attempt such country, but luckily, my Idaho rancher buddy has plenty of chukar on less challenging hills on the upper reaches of his ranch. I have my memories of hunting the Owyhee River canyon in western Idaho for chukar and Huns in my younger days, but doubt I'll ever hunt that hellhole again.
_________________ An elderly gentleman, his faithful dogs, and a 16 ga SXS. All is right with the world.
Great read and pictures!! Tell me about that Lefever you are shooting--obviously a custom stock from what little i can see. I have a nice G grade 16 Lefever damascus which may soon be joined by a G 12 ga damascus.
I read with intersest your previous escapades in Kansas. I hunted NW Kaansas the third week in January--a tuff but satisfying hunt. Never been there before, no guide, just the WIHA maps, and a pair of strong legs. Brutal cold, strong winds, and birds spookier as all get out. Worked very hard for every shot--I dont mind that. Always thought I'd like chukar hunting, I'm no stranger to steep terrain--not much flat grouse cover here in West Virginia.
Keep your stories coming--seasons are over here also.
Joined: 30 Nov 2011
Being a Minnesota flatlander, its hard to imagine what it takes physically to do a trip like that. It sure looks like a long way down to where you say your truck is parked. You should wear a pedometer. Uffda. Rusty sure epidomizes the term "versatile" hunting dog.Thanks for sharing.
_________________ Great dog, Great friends,Great guns
Dave, I live in west central Wyoming. Pinedale is a good drive over the mtns. though. No sharpies or prairie chickens over there but lots of sage grouse.
I see I used one pic twice. Oops. The thumbnail images are so tiny that I clicked the wrong one. Oh well, Rusty doesn't mind.
The Lefever is DS that someone sent to Germany at some point in history. Engraving and carving by Gerhardt and Albert Riech. It eventually ended up with some serious internal woes due to mismatched parts. They were all hand built guns so parts don't swap well. As a result, I was able to acquire it pretty cheap. About four hours of delicate handwork resolved it's problems and enabled me to own a gun I otherwise would never be able to afford.
The physical demands of such a trip? Yeah, it's a case of burning a tremendous amount of calories. Good North Face boots sure help too. They seem to grasp the concept that if you slip, you may plummet to your death. Their Wintergrip soles actually work, unlike everything else on the market.
Glad people are enjoying this. Seasons being over most places, this is when I prefer to provide the better material.
Last edited by WyoChukar on Sat Feb 03, 2018 10:42 pm; edited 1 time in total _________________ Only catch snowflakes on your tongue AFTER the birds fly south for the winter...
Well, you have a unique and beautiful gun! I had never seen an engraving pattern like that on a Lefever, and figured it was custom( and well done). I have 2 Durstan Specials in 20 ga, one has ejectors, but really never shoot either of them, probably should get rid of them and turn them into something I would shoot.
Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Location: Ballymoney Northern Ireland
Thanks for sharing your hunt Wyo , beautiful but tough part of the country for sure , Rusty your faithful companion looking good as usual and great photos , next season will soon creep around at least we can keep telling ourselves that .
All the best WJ.
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