Idaho Opening Chukar Season–September Cast N Blast
Opening weekend of the Idaho chukar season had our small group getting on the water in Hells Canyon under cloudy skies. After a summer of really hot, really dry weather and chukar coveys right on the Snake River under every bush the weather finally went crazy in September. Hot days still, but thunderstorms EVERY night, especially in the mountains! That trend turned slowly into a host of days of pouring rain. Most bird hunters agree that type of weather changes the scope of what to expect for your hunt. That was the topic of conversation the first day of our 5 day hunt trip when we saw no birds at all on the water. The guys had to take to the bank and use the dogs to search out the birds’ eating grounds.
Given the dry, arid climate of Hells Canyon, chukar coveys will typically stay near the Snake River for the water they need. This is just one part of why this Hell Canyon Cast and Blast trip makes for incredible hunting. Hells Canyon is accessible only by boat or by foot from one or two access points over 32 miles of river corridor. The access being as it is, to truly see and hunt this canyon you have to do it over a number of days. But the one thing you can’t control is the weather. And the weather this fall brought so much crazy rain that the birds didn’t need to come down to the river!
JR, his 17 year old son Weston, and their long time hunting partner and friend Bob took to the hillsides with North Star guide Brad Abbott and two dogs–JR’s red lab Ruby and Brad’s shorthair Keizer. 2nd guide Mike Hicks tracked them from the water and listened for birds—that weren’t talking! For their efforts they managed to jump a couple coveys and got some shots. Hoping for the sun to come out and warmer weather, everyone was anticipating the hunt over the next few days as the terrain opened up and became more easily accessible.
Second day’s hunt brought lots of hiking incredible country! Our gear boat guides (myself, Travis & Kori) moved the camp down river and the hunters hiked nearly that entire section, covering all kinds of elevation, and probably more than 10 miles. The weather stayed cloudy with brief bits of sun and an afternoon thunderstorm that brought out the rain jackets and washed out the bird scent. That day resulted in nearly every scrap of salmon dinner being consumed and Weston being trumped into a 7 minute freezing water soak-down in Sheep Creek (if Brad could do it, he could do it), a tributary of the Snake River that comes all the way from the peaks of the Seven Devils Mountains.
Though Day 2 still didn’t find the numbers of birds we were expecting and more rain came down overnight, crew and hunters alike were up early the next morning with a new plan. Determined to not be outdone, the hunters took off early—guides convinced that we’d find birds on Day 3 in a couple places where we know they hang out. Although we had to compete with a few hunters we caught up to downriver, our efforts proved fruitful and the guys and dogs chased birds all over the mountain that day. The sun came out and everyone’s spirits were high! We decided to lay over and further hunt that particular area the next day as well—ate steak dinner that night with down-river Dutch oven spuds and enjoyed fresh baked apple pie by lantern light under a starry sky! Life was good……
…..as our blog denotes, life is good but is like a river. Unexpected. Up and down. And definitely a little out of control. Our early morning start the next day was thwarted by a downpour starting at 5am. Everyone got up, ate breakfast, and went back to their tents for a morning nap! When the rain lifted at about 11am, five of us headed up the mountain. The dogs worked every draw and bush for about an hour when Keizer pointed on a covey sitting right on a rock bluff above us. Brad and Wes moved into position and when the birds flushed they got their shots. Shortly after that the rain started in and didn’t stop again. The clouds settled in, and we finished our loop. We could hear chukar up above us but no one wanted to keep climbing in the slippery conditions! We returned to camp for some warmed wine and appetizers, small mouth bass poppers (Brad’s secret recipe) and some time by the camp fire.
Whether you spend your time hunting or fishing, or enjoying the evenings over the fire with a plate of dinner from our fabulous menu, this Snake River in Hells Canyon Cast N Blast trip will make memories you and your family/hunting buddies will remember for a life time! We enjoyed getting know these guys and are planning a trip again next year!
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