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Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was carved by the world’s great flood, and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

–Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

The final two paragraphs of Maclean’s first story, written in his seventies, may be one of the most-quoted chunks of literature about the west, maybe because it’s an anthem to an original wildness we continue moving away from in ever-accelerating fashion. Maybe it’s just beautiful and has to do with water that moves (all water moves, but at least we can watch and listen to it move in rivers, and feel it if we get in it). I connected with this story when I was much younger and falling in complicated love with fly fishing, a romance that’s recently been rekindled for some reason I’m not sure about. But I am sure that it (the book and its final paragraph) connects to chukar hunting in some ways that might resonate with other bird chasers. The connections are visible: whether it’s on Instagram or in the flesh, we see people fly fishing accompanied by bird dogs; we see other drift boaters on the Missouri with big, bearded German breeds; in the “off season,” we see Idaho Chukar Foundation posting pictures on Facebook of what he calls “water chukars” he’s landed in some mysterious aqueous artery. There’s a stereotypical ethic, I think, that each activity shares: a honed-down pursuit of elusive, beautiful prey, based ninety percent on knowledge and the other half on patient perseverance. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why. But there is a connection. It’s centered on the people, and cultivated in them. In a way, all things we experience as people eventually merge into the one person we are. We’re like rivers.

Fly fishing with bird dogs requires more stops than usual, which is good for everyone.

Earlier this spring we received the following message on Chukar Culture from a reader we’d never met.

“Hey Bob and Leslie, I feel like I know you at least a little from your blog. I have commented a few times. I live in Butte, MT and have spent the last 22 years “researching” trout populations within a 60 miles radius of my home. I would be pleased to take you out for a day or two this summer on some of my favorite streams.”

Chris and his wife Becky took us to a special place dear to them, where he knew we’d have a good chance of catching some Arctic Grayling.

One of many grayling we caught that day

The reader, Chris, knew from reading our blog that we’d be in Montana fly-fishing for much of the summer as soon as school got let out. After some emailing back and forth, Leslie and I took a day off from fishing the Missouri and drove down to Butte for our fly-fishing blind date. We put the coordinates of Chris’s house into our GPS. As we got closer and made the right turn into his subdivision we had a deja vu moment. The previous year, driving from Missoula to Bozeman we detoured into Butte to buy fishing licenses, and after leaving one of the local sporting goods stores to continue our journey out of town our GPS took us by mistake into the same neighborhood and down the same street past Chris’s house.

Peat inspects his first grayling Chris and Becky

The main reason we continue this blog is because of the real connections we make with people who are also passionate about it.

Next upland hunting season will be our 10th sharing stories, photos, and occasional videos. This blog, and the videos that sometimes accompany it, continue to thicken the web of life for us. Just today, a Turkish man who’s coming to hunt Hells Canyon with his son this fall, sent me a comment asking about the Turkish music on one of our videos. I loved this chance to share a connection with a stranger through both bird hunting and music. The musician, Arif Sağ, whose music I used for the sound on this particular video has a song called “Erzurum” (which I’ve used on another video), which is one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been, and pretty remote, in the mountainous, arid eastern part of the country, which reminded me a lot of the area between Bozeman, Helena, and Butte. Chris, from Butte, was stationed in Erzurum when he was in the Army. I’d never imagined I’d meet another person who’d been to Erzurum, much less catch Arctic Grayling with him in a high mountain lake in Montana.

Erzurum, Turkey

Then there’s Haris from Cyprus, and our emailed conversation about Brittany puppies, which has led to a regular correspondence. Someday I hope he’ll be able to visit us with his Brittany Molly. And Larry of Moby Goes fame, who’s become a kind of guide for me about the ideal; he knows he’s at least responsible for several of my students eating chukar legs at lunch. And of course Gabe and Katie of Sunburst Brittanys, whose dogs have upgraded the foundation of our lives, and — I imagine — will continue to do so.

The longer I survive, the more connections strike me, and the more I look for them and, usually, appreciate them. In a way, they’re the only things which matter, and have everything to do with how we see things. Connections we miss hurt us sometimes (but often we have no way of knowing), although some we know will hurt us but we make them anyway; dogs are like that for sure. This blog has connected me, very favorably, with so many people and experiences real, digital, and otherwise that I feel I owe everyone who reads this a big “thank-you.” So thank you: the connections Leslie and I have made through Chukar Culture make our lives bigger and better in lots of different ways. I tried to express some of this six years ago when I made a video for a class I took after my first year of teaching. It’s called “Only Connect,” after the mysterious epigraph from a novel. The fact that each of us is the connector of all the things that make us who we are means that we need other people (and animals and hobbies and curiosities…) to make us who we are. I share it again because its main idea, as obvious as it is, still haunts me, just like this blog and Norman Maclean’s water.

Only Connect - Take Two - YouTube
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When Peat was 7-months-old, we took him hunting with Angus to a place where his day of hunting lasted exactly 15 seconds. Upon arriving to our hunting destination, we let both dogs out of the pickup and before we knew what was happening we saw Peat streaking a 200-yard beeline to a covey of Huns that were hunkered down in the sage. Standing next to the pickup, we watched in horror as he flushed them before we could get there and then he proceeded to chase them for another 200 yards. Bob was furious and immediately banished him to the pickup and into his crate of shame for the remainder of the hunt. He sat there, staring out through the metal grates wondering what he’d done wrong.

Yesterday, I took our old Jeep out for a long drive with the dogs on dusty, washboard, gravel back roads near that place with them bouncing around in the back and thought of Peat and his rough start into the world of hunting his first season. If you’ve been following this blog since we got Peat, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The following video is a tribute to the dogs. Most of us wouldn’t be doing this compelling sport if it wasn’t for them.

Upland hunting, bird dog pointing and retrieving compilation. - YouTube

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Leslie wouldn’t dream of promoting herself, so I’m gonna. I’m doing this because, obviously, I’m proud of her, but also because some of you might find this interesting.

Leslie’s been making jewelry for a long time, but only recently began making her own silver charms, and only very recently set up an Etsy site to sell her wares: Taisie Design.

Her interest in chukar has crept into her production aesthetic, and she designs and makes sterling silver charms that have a chukar’s profile portrait, among other things. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, but if I did, these earrings would be my go-to bangles. I like her aesthetic.

Leslie sports her own chukar earrings while briefly caressing a lovely specimen from the Missouri (click on photo and expand to see the earrings).

She also makes, under the business name Salubrious Wax, some wonderful soy wax candles for which she’s designed regionally specific scents. Unlike her jewelry, these aren’t available on her Etsy site; you can get them from The House That Art Built (Ontario, OR), Kaye York Gallery (Cambridge, ID), or Barn Owl Books (McCall, ID). Or you can contact her and try persuading her to send you some candles. They’re good things.

As a recent retiree, Leslie now suffers from never having a day off. Some people joke about that, but for her it’s true: she’s always up to something new in her studio out in the shop. She doesn’t tell me much about what she’s doing or planning, and sometimes doesn’t even show me when she’s done with something spectacular and I only find out when I go in there to steal a tongue depressor or borrow the heat gun.

Leslie working with Peat in her studio.

The other creative outlet Leslie employs out there are her mosaic mirrors and windows. Like the rest of her stuff, she takes her time to get everything just the way she likes it. It’s a good thing we don’t rely on her income and that I rake in the mind-boggling salary of a public school teacher. Otherwise, I’m not sure how we’d make ends meet.

Leslie’s latest mosaic, currently on loan to me for my classroom.
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We all have our stories about how bringing a dog into our lives changed it, enriched it, or sometimes made it more complicated. We have our own tale going back to the beginning of Chukar Culture and where it all got started with this one particular Brittany named Angus who is now 12-years old. Looking back at it all, because of this one dog our lives ended up taking a route that might have gone in a different direction or maybe we wouldn’t even live in a part of rural Idaho where we purposely put ourselves to be closer to abundant public lands for chukar hunting.

The reality of getting my first puppy and converting from a cat person to a dog person didn’t come until later in life. Growing up in rural Eastern Oregon, we always had a menagerie of outside cats and kittens that I’d dress up in doll clothes whenever I could catch them. We did have a couple of dogs, my Mom had a small white poodle that only liked her and my Dad inherited a bird dog, a large Weimaraner from a neighbor that lived down the street. My dad wasn’t a bird hunter or any kind of hunter for that matter, but Greta, named after my Dad’s aunt, lived in a kennel in the backyard and was never let inside the house. Every once in a while, I remember my Dad letting her out of the kennel and into our fenced back yard to run. My brothers and sister and I would all run for cover in fear of her running over our bare feet as she did hot laps around the grassy yard. At the time, I didn’t know that this would be my first introduction to high energy bird dogs.

Back in 2007, Bob and I had only been married for about four years and were both 44 years old, over the hill, I thought at the time. We both met and married later in life and this was about the time when people stopped asking me if I’d ever have children. Bob was working in the aviation industry and was in Calgary, Canada while I was home alone with a few evenings to myself. On the first night, I decided to start looking for Brittany puppies for sale. Bob and I had talked about getting another Brittany, probably another female, orange and white, just like Glenna, our only other dog at the time. Glenna was one year old when Bob and I first met, but I wanted one just weaned to experience early bonding with my own dog and to see what it might feel like, and I hoped it might fulfill my lack of not having children and the maternal instinct that I thought was deep inside me.

Sitting down at the computer I searched “Brittany Puppies Idaho.” The website Gun Dog Breeders came up and I found a link to Sunburst Brittanys. Wow, that was easy! I clicked on the link, and photos of a litter of tri-colored American Brittanys popped up on my screen. I was smitten! I loved the coloring and especially their cute caramel colored eyebrows, and — best of all — they would be ready to come home with their new owners in a week. I forwarded the link to Bob to check them out and then immediately emailed Sunburst to inquire about availability of the females. The breeder, Gabe, replied back the following morning, and informed me that of the litter of 10 puppies, eight were male, 2 were females but the females were already spoken for. My heart sunk. Later that night, I called Bob on the phone and told him the bad news. He said, “We could get one of the males as long as we can name him Angus.” He’d fallen in love with the photos of them too and wanted to go look at them as soon as he got home.

Angus’s litter, born June 2nd, 2007. Sire and dam were Sumac and Sage. Angus is at the far left.

Bob returned from his business trip just before bedtime, a day earlier than expected. Excited to go see the puppies he rode his motorcycle 14 hours non-stop from Waterton Lakes, Canada to Boise with only a couple of quick stops. In the morning, we drove out to Emmett to meet Gabe at his kennel located on a hillside at the base of Squaw Butte. Interestingly, Squaw Butte, located North of Emmett, was one of the main places in Idaho where chukar flourished rapidly when they were first introduced as a game bird in Idaho back in the 1950s.

Gabe’s operation at Sunburst Kennels in the early years, as far as we could see, was just a small fenced-in area in the backyard for the puppies. We could tell right away that Gabe was very passionate about what he was doing and wanted to make sure we got the dog we wanted. It didn’t take us long; Angus was the only one that came running to us. We left Emmett that day with wee Angus, a week earlier than recommended by most authorities (42 instead of 49 days). For years, we wondered — whenever something wasn’t quite right with Angus — if we’d taken him from his litter too soon. If we did, then he and we have gotten over it. Some experienced hunters have told us he’s the best bird dog they’ve ever seen. I’m certainly not complaining (or taking credit for his ability and skill; I’d blame Gabe on that one).

Baby Angus

When we arrived to Sunburst Kennels and met Gabe for the first time, we weren’t really looking for a hunting dog, we just wanted another Brittany. At this point in our lives, Bob hadn’t been doing much hunting because of his very busy job and because Glenna was one of those bird dogs you’d let out of the truck and then would disappear for hours before finally returning when she felt like it. When she did get the whim to hunt it was for herself, and she’d move every bird for miles into the next county. These were the days before we owned or started using electronic dog collars to control the dogs.

Glenna died when Angus was only three, and Bob finally took Angus chukar hunting for the first time. Aside from going grouse hunting a couple of times, Angus naturally pointed chukar, having honed his skills on squirrels in our backyard. From one of his first points when tagging along with Bob during his chukar hunt, I captured a photograph of Angus pointing and we knew we had something special. Chukar Culture and our blog started at this exact moment.

Young Angus, natural chukar pointer and the photo of the moment that started it all.

When Angus was eight we decided to get another Brittany from Sunburst. Bob contacted Gabe to see if any more of Angus’s line was around. To our disappointment, Angus’s line was no more. Gabe said that he was expecting a litter from a set of new totally different dogs that he was certain would be great hunting dogs. So, four years ago, we got Peat, our second Sunburst Brittany and my second puppy, and this time I got to name him. He’s a combination of American and French Brittany with a beautiful orange and white roan coat and scattered ticking on his forehead. We like his funny and affectionate personality, his smaller size, and his off-the-charts natural hunting ability and prey drive. Gabe was right, this line is fantastic! (If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know the true story on Peat.)

Bob and I sat down with Gabe and his wife Katie recently at their beautiful home and kennel, now located next to the banks of the Payette River in New Plymouth, Idaho. We got a tour of their kennel and met a litter of adorable 5-week-old puppies almost ready to go home to their lucky new owners. Katie, with the help of Praire, their 10-year old daughter, cooked Indian chukar curry from an old family recipe, sharing some of their chukar breasts from the past season. Over this and some delicious local craft beers we had some intimate conversations about life, dogs, hunting, ethics, and how it seems as we’ve gotten older the number of birds harvested isn’t as important as much as the experience of being out there hiking around public lands in some incredible places around Idaho with our family and dogs.

Gabe told us how a Brittany changed his life. A fifth generation Idahoan, Gabe grew up upland bird hunting in the chukar hills near his home in Emmett with his family, and hunting pheasant in the the empty fields nearby before they were all turned into subdivisions. Gabe became interested and fond of the Brittany breed after reading a book about them when he was a kid. When he returned from his two-year church mission following high school, he said he was a changed person. With some soul searching he said he had to make some tough choices and re-examine the path his life should take, and it started with getting his first dog of his own back in 2002, a Brittany that he named Sumac. Another choice, even more portentous, was to leave the church. He said he hasn’t regretted that decision, but that he has suffered some strained personal relationships with family and some friends because of it. During this transition, he met and married Katie, started his own family, and decided to become a Brittany breeder, all in a short period of time.

Sunburst Brittanys, the early years. (This and the following photos are courtesy of Gabe and Katie Mouritsen.)
Sumac, Gabe’s first Brittany.

Gabe and Katie over that past 14-years have meticulously bred their dogs. Gabe has done extensive research on pedigrees and genetics, and has found what for him is the perfect combination of Brittanys not bred to be field trial dogs but bred specifically for hunting and for family pets. Their approach works, but it’s no accident and they’ve worked very hard to build their kennel to where it is today. Not everyone looking for an upland hunting dog wants a dog like the ones they breed, but most of their new litters are sold before they are even born, and their dogs are now all over the United States, as far as New York and Alaska. We’ve been lucky to have had two of them and hope to get our third in the next couple of years.

These days Katie has taken on more of a major role in managing the kennel now that their three children are in school. Besides just taking care of the dogs on a daily basis she’s learning more about gun dog training and handling and just this past season, Katie decided she wanted to upland hunt and did all the proper things to make it happen. The cool thing about Gabe and Katie is that besides breeding these amazing hunting dogs the whole family upland hunts together. This past season their oldest boy Nathan got his first chukar while out hunting with his younger brother Kurt, and Prairie can’t wait until the day her arms are strong enough to carry a heavy shotgun so she can start chukar hunting. A multi-generation Idaho upland family for the future! A very happy and wonderful family, I might add.

Idaho upland family
Nathan and Kurt admiring a grouse up close. Serious props for the hats they’re wearing.
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The landscapes where the birds live dictate where you’ll hunt chukar in the West. Terrain covered in sagebrush, bunch grass, scree veins, and rocky talus outcroppings high up in the clouds is typical in this part of Idaho. You’ll encounter steep traverses and sidehilling that make you wish you had tightened your boot laces tighter. Later in the season, in December and January, it gets snowy, icy, and slick which slows you down especially if you have to posthole it. These hard-to-get places on public lands that can only be reached on foot are what the allure and fuss is all about. It is man and his dog against nature and its elements, or in my case, woman against nature.

We reminisce and think about these beautiful, wild, and remote places and will plan our hunts next season to purposely seek them out. The reality of it is, you’ll walk a lot, sometimes for hours to find them and only see one covey on good days, but it’s these special places and your attempt to put yourself into position to shoot over a pointing dog that makes you go back another day, and another day, to try again and then dream about the coming season and doing it all over again.

A Walk for Chukar - YouTube

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“The man must learn to know his dog as a personality, not a formula.” -George Bird Evans 

“Peat No!” I yelled at the top of my lungs as he booked full speed through the dog door and outside to the backyard with a big piece of cauliflower firmly gripped in his mouth. The piece had rolled off the kitchen counter and onto the floor. I followed him outside to the backyard out of pure curiosity to see if he’d actually eat his sudden treasure. He did eat it. It surprised me because our dogs have always disliked raw vegetables in any shape or form. Peat has an uncanny knack for appearing to be sleeping but the second somethings falls on the kitchen floor or when a bird hits our big living room window outside, he’s all over it. Angus with his deafness hasn’t been part of this game lately. A sad reality.

Two-month old Peat

The week before, while getting the toaster from the pantry, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lightening streak zip past me. Peat was just starting to bolt through the dog door with a plastic package in his mouth that he pulled off the shelf behind me. I managed to grab his fast, furry hind end just as he was halfway to a corn tortilla bliss.

I started making handwritten lists of things Peat has snatched and taken through the dog door. I’m not sure why I started it, but maybe because deep down in my perverted mind I thought it was funny. How can you get mad at a bird dog that is so obsessed with putting things in his mouth and carrying them around?

Prescription glasses, two pairs — one of Bob’s, one of mine — were the bigger ticket items Peat carried outside and destroyed. The rest were smaller items, like a $10 coffee gift certificate, boxer shorts belonging to a guest, throw rug, entire pan of brownies that were in a plastic container, silicone computer keyboard protector x 2, kitchen sponges, 3-, dime store reading glasses (several pairs of which he’d sometimes bring back inside to chew on some more in front of us like it was no big deal), kitchen spatula, custom osage wooden spoon, entire loaf of nice artisan bread, insulated cooler bag, Tupperware container + lid, fleece blanket, towel from bathroom, lunch bag with apple inside which he pulled out and ate in front of us while we were in the hot tub staring at him with disgust, pot holder, brewing equipment foil insulation, Zippo metal hand warmer, Kitchen-Aid mixer lid, stack of old Christmas and birthday greeting cards, expensive fly-tying rooster hackle, Tupperware bowl full of huckleberry muffins of which he ate the entire batch. I’m sure I’m missed things, but you get the picture and not everything was destroyed. He’s very selective. He ate some of them and has earned more than one trip to the vet. Remorse was nowhere to be seen in Peat’s visage.

Boxer shorts, not our guests but another pair found by an alpine lake.

Bob on the other hand isn’t so amused by Peat’s shenanigans because during Peat’s first season of hunting he grabbed from Angus’s mouth at least the first 6 chukar Bob shot that season and refused to return them. I don’t think Peat really cared. Bob did.

Yes, it’s okay that you blame us or me. We put things where there is a good chance he might grab them. The one second you let your guard down he takes advantage of it because he’s no dummy, plus he’s one fast mofo. I’m sure some of you can relate and have similar stories of your own high energy bird dog and their attempt to get your attention. We didn’t have a dog door until Angus was about three years old but do remember him managing to squeeze one of the large couch cushion pillows through the medium-sized dog door to take outside to chew on. Angus had his share of destroyed objects but not as many. You forget these things and end up with another puppy sometime in your lifetime again, and then you remember. Some of us, like a bad habit, keep doing it over and over.

I’m the first to admit that Peat isn’t perfect. He’s not spectacular, and he’s a total piece of work. Bob blames it on not enough exercise in the off season. I blame it on Peat being Peat. I could also blame it on some bad advice we got from a dog trainer friend that told us when Peat was a puppy, “Don’t yell at him when he puts something in his mouth and try to make him give it up; he might get confused and think it’s a bad thing and then not want to retrieve anything.” Some of us aren’t the best dog trainers and handlers, and we are included in that group. Peat, our badly behaved dog at home turned into a fantastic upland hunting dog. The only downfall from Peat is now Angus has to be coaxed into releasing a retrieved bird to hand because of his fear that Peat might intercept it.

We almost gave up on Peat. I’m glad we didn’t. Don’t ever give up on your puppy or dog. He or she might come around and surprise you, and allow you to buy that new pair of glasses you really wanted.

Fond of finding things to carry around. Peat pointing with a bone in his mouth.

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Chill and yellow

“On longer evenings
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.” — Philip Larkin, “Coming” (excerpt)

Lots of things coming. Coming up. Coming soon. Coming back. Coming too soon or too late. Just coming. Some things unexpected, like Peat yesterday triumphantly coming to us with a Canada goose egg in his mouth. He delivered it to me, the gorgeous large warm beige shelled pre-bird and I managed to return it to its future siblings in the nest while mom screamed in the river; with all the rain and the nest just at the edge of the water in the willows I wonder if it was, or will be, all in vain. I spent some night currency wondering if geese can move a nest filled with eggs.

Speaking of birds (how odd), a new season is coming, and lots of grass is coming up and this gets many of us excited about big broods of chukar chicks to come. This often happens to us about this time of year, and sometimes it’s warranted or reasonable or logical, and other times it’s just stupidity talking. Or hope. “Hope is the thing with feathers,” as Emily said.

Other things will come between now and the season, which is like having that autumnal hope in the bank, sitting there acquiring interest faster than Jeff Bezos’s new ex-wife’s new savings account. For us, the thing between is summer and fishing, this time with our first drift boat, a nod to latent insanity and, ostensibly, our dogs: they can come with (even though they’re mildly pissed off about being confined to the floating thing), which — in the past — they couldn’t, so this should be interesting.

Angus doesn’t want to be left behind again

More rain is freaking coming, too. The hope is that the earth in Hells Canyon won’t be talcum in late September, as it was last year.

Something’s coming from Leslie; yesterday she shared her second bombshell of the week with me (the first being her wonderful post and video): she’ll soon have me put some of her chukar-inspired creations on the blog’s store. I’ll let her let that cat out of that bag, though. Sometimes I know what’s good for me.

I’m contemplating getting some new hats, too, but not sure if anyone’s interested in that. We’ve got some left, but don’t push them. It’s coming to that.

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“Range after range of mountains.
Year after year after year.
I am still in love.”

– Gary Snyder

Spring break this year, we drove across the West and past many, many mountain ranges in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Montana. I didn’t dare sleep in the car or stare at my phone while being a passenger moving past them because I’d miss them. Instead, I gazed across the landscapes or would read my tattered paper maps, splayed across my lap and try to find out the elevation of the highest peak that I could see in the distance. On one particular mountain in Nevada, I tried to imagine the route I’d take to the top. Looking out the back window as we drove past it, Bob asked what I was doing and I told him I was trying to figure out a good route to the top. He asked if I was planning on doing that anytime soon. I told him no, but anything is possible.

The western United States is blessed with vast areas of public lands in the middle of nowhere that rarely get stepped on by a human foot, but it doesn’t make them any less special or less valuable.

It wasn’t until spending time the past few years hiking around the chukar hills that I realized how important they were to me. On our road trip across the West, I started reflecting back on all the many hundreds of miles hiking up and down these mountains and back to the beginning. I felt like talking about it in the video (below).

Chukar hunting Journey - YouTube
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I almost didn’t go on a blind date with him but I ended up meeting him anyway and it was because of a bird dog. That was 18 years ago this month. Before agreeing to meet him in person for the first time, I saw a photograph of him kneeling next to his 6-month-old puppy. “What’s not to like about a single guy who has a cute dog? He can’t be too bad,” a good friend of mine said as she was encouraging me not to back out of giving him my phone number. At the time, I didn’t know much about Brittanys, but I agreed they were both cute.

Glenna Skye and a couple of ruffed grouse.

We spoke on the phone, a landline, before meeting in person for the first time. We talked about the basic stuff and it seemed like everything was going well but he insisted on knowing what I looked like first. I found out later that he’d been burned before or set-up on false pretenses by a woman that said she looked exactly like Mariah Carey. He said, “Mariah Carey’s second cousin, four times removed, if that,” or something like that. I’m a firm believer that looks aren’t everything, but it was only fair that he had the option of backing out if he didn’t like what he saw.

These were the early days of the Internet, the AOL and dial-up years. Online presence wasn’t so easy to come by. Today if you want to find out what someone looks like it’s easy to just Google their name or Facebook or Instagram search them. The only photo that I could come up with was from the webpage of the bicycle team that I was racing on. It was group postcard photo but it was better than nothing. I told him where to find the photo online.

I’m the tall one in the back, fifth from the right.

We agreed on a public meeting place, a brewpub in downtown Boise. He came straight from work and got there first. I came straight from the gym, and when I walked in the door he was expecting someone in workout clothes and he didn’t recognize me at first. The funny or ironic thing about our first meeting was that his co-worker in the cubicle next to his had the same photo posted next to his computer because his wife was also on my cycling team. My blind date had seen the photo of me almost every day for a year without knowing he’d eventually meet the one fifth from the right.

After good beer, dinner, and conversation he invited me over to his house because he was anxious to check on his young dog that had been home alone all day. I agreed to go to this strange man’s home to meet his dog Glenna, and I didn’t even think twice about doing it. It was getting late and I stayed for just a few minutes before I drove back across town to my own home. I liked him. I think his bird dog liked me.

Bob proposed on top of an Idaho mountain inside an old decommissioned Forest Service lookout about 1- 1/2 years later. The following year, on a clear sunny day in August, in-between wildfires that had blanketed the skies with smoke most of the late summer, we got hitched on the top of a different mountain, and after the ceremony rode our mountain bikes down to the bottom on a fun and narrow single-track with family and friends.

Happy Valentines Day to all you lovers of mountain tops and bird dogs out there!

After the proposal.

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We’re hunkered down again today. It was a blizzard this morning when we woke up. Bob and I really wanted to know the wind chill but our weather station anemometer stopped spinning due it to being caked with snow and ice from the cold winds. I’m not complaining one bit about the snow drift that was pushed against our front door when I went outside to get wood for the stove this morning; snow is needed for water this summer. I’m sure later while I’m out there pushing around the snow blower up and down our long gravel driveway that I might complain and utter a couple of choice words, especially if I break another shear pin from the big sticks and branches Peat manages to find from who knows where and leaves them scattered randomly on the driveway now buried in snow.

Today is the day for doing those indoor projects you love and hate. After having papers and receipts spread all over our kitchen bar, Bob just finished our doing our taxes and is now dreaming of a summer of fly-fishing in Montana and he’s doing research on Montana rivers and what kind of flies to tie. He also has a lot of school work to do today like grading papers, figuring out assignments, then practicing the bagpipes. He loves it.

I’m waiting for the winds to stop. It’s pointless blowing snow when it will blow right back in my face. Bob’s recovery from his spine surgery is going well but he’s still not able to lift or move heavy things (or so he claims). Shoveling snow and snow blowing is my project today. In the meantime, I’ve been going through hunting photos from this season and finding the ones that represent just a small taste of our season spent with good people and better dogs.

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