AS A BIOLOGIST, most of my interaction with wildlife has been limited to tadpoles — at least until last year. In January, I decided to try hunting for the first time. I wrapped up my last Hunter Education course and asked a coworker, John, if I could go chukar hunting with him over the weekend.
I brought my golden retriever, Duncan, hoping he still had some genetic remnants of “birding” in him. That part didn’t work out so well. Duncan quickly abandoned me to hang out with John and his two dogs. I hardly saw him the rest of the day (good-for-nothin’ mutt).
I learned later that John flushed and shot a chukar about 20 minutes after we split up. And Duncan’s hunting instincts are apparently intact. He jumped right in with the experienced dogs to retrieve the bird. I really wish I’d seen it!
I actually saw a chukar on that trip. It flew up behind me and rocketed past my head. At the time, I was scrambling over icy boulders — shotgun slung over my shoulder — focused on safety pointers and random thoughts:
- Don’t accidentally shoot John.
- Don’t shoot John’s dogs.
- When am I going to see a chukar?
- Don’t shoot Duncan.
(Yes, I did think them in that order.) The rest of the day, I held my shotgun in front of me with both hands. I was ready for another opportunity, but it never came. I hiked until I was sore and gave Duncan an earful on the way home. He knows me too well, though, and shrugged it off. Next time — with sufficient canine bribery — I just might have better luck!