Snowcockalypse 2013

Looks birdy.. also a good reminder to not
bring your dog snowcock hunting.
               “To be humbled is to be awakened.”

When I was in a philosophy class years ago my professor quoted that silly line and it somehow navigated it’s way through (and probably because of) the bong resin brain of my late teens and crammed it’s way into the disarrayed and crammed closet of memories marked “Not Important, but don’t forget.” I don’t recall who he was actually quoting, some mythicized shaman, buddhist, or philosopher, but that doesn’t really matter. That silly quote resurfaced while driving my sleeping companions home after four days in the Ruby Mountains chasing Himalayan snowcock. Although I was thoroughly exhausted I felt very awake and alive in ways that are proving more elusive and special as I slowly leave my youth. Being conscious that you’re not going to be able to have adventures at this pace and scale forever makes you suck the marrow out of every peak, meadow and footfall that takes you between the two.
After getting home and sleeping off the weekend I am feeling more awake and wired than the neighborhood speed freak who pretends he’s stock car racing on his Huffy at 3AM. That may be pushing the limits of comparison, but it gets the point across.

I’ll tell you a few things to save you some time in case you’re pressed for it and need a flash of elusive bloodlust –

1. – We didn’t kill one of the bastards. So if you’re looking for a happy trophy ending it won’t be at the bottom.

2. – We learned that they act much like a super-galliformes order of their cousin the chukar. They run up and fly down, you know all that chukar jazz.. but they do it on a scale that is much more massive, impressive, heartbreaking, and endearing. We also learned a lot about approach, habitat, and how f’n lucky you need to be to get a shot off at these things. They can be compared to a mountain goat with wings, or a chukar with eagle eyes and an easily frightened temperament.

3. – We will be back next year. Maybe a couple of times if needed.

With that, here’s a brief photo narrative of our weekend in the Ruby Mountains.

We hiked in at sunset, in fresh snow, and weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make it to, or even find, our planned camp…
Five miles, a couple thousand of feet, and a few hours later..
…fine American bourbon at our intended destination. It warmed us up for the cold night bivy. 
Jesse’s newest gadget – a micro-foldable wood stove. Worked great with dry wood.
My $3.01 backpacking stove. I believe Jesse built this can. 
First Approach
Steeps. .
Saw our first snowcock on this nasty traverse – flew behind and below us without a sound..
We didn’t jump around to shoot it cause we woulda rolled down this..
The most glassing we’ve ever done bird hunting. It’s necessity here.
Perspective: Andy is on the point on the right, Jesse is that black dot on the next cliff up.
We did have some eager brookies after having a few snowcocks slip our grasp.
The second night we were almost blown off the mountain, and after the wind persisted in the morning we headed for a lower base camp.
After some wind sheltered aspen grove sleep on the third night, we headed up to another spot to give it one more go.
I ended up at the second row of cliffs on the summit ridge just from the right, but couldn’t scramble around it with out possibly kicking boulders onto Andy, who was walking the scree below the big cliff face.
Jesse glassing the right side, Andy and I the center.
A few thousand feet down to the valley.
I chased some fresh tracks in the snow to just above this point.. I also found some good size mountain lion tracks.
Jesse worked this ridge and spotted three birds who were just out of range, then hopped up the hill, off of a cliff, and out of his life.
I can’t wait for next year. This is the most fun you can have hunting game with out a tag.

14 responses to “Snowcockalypse 2013

  1. Gotta admit, had no idea what the hell a Himalayan snowcock was, so I Googled. Interesting. I found this SI story (seriously, a hunting story in the formerly great SI as late as 1992, who knew?).Don't know if you've seen it, but here's the link http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1004448/So I'm assuming no dogs, right? Spot and stalk, or just stumble-and-blind-luck? Interesting that the article I linked to said they're so difficult that fewer than 300 birds had been taken since the season was opened.Is that a hunt open to non-residents as well? Have to get drawn in? The snowcock is now on my must-hunt list…

  2. I had the same reaction to that SI story when we were doing our research.. what the hell happened? No dogs. Some guys do it, but I don't trust them in this terrain, see the top photo for evidence. And to tie this in with your second question, I think they would be a detriment to the hunt as we were spotting and stalking equally with stumble blind luck. I believe the reported number of harvested birds since 1971 is 82. Yup. The hunt is open to non-residents, you only need to get a free Snowcock Permit from NDOW, as well as the obvious licence and upland stamp. If you get the itch next September, you're welcome to join us. Just start doing wind sprints up the stairs with a bag on your head to prepare. But honestly Chad, you're welcome to join us.

  3. Very very cool post. I'm a new follower and definitely dig your stuff, felt like I was right there…what a great trip! Keep 'em coming and I look forward to reading more in the future.Spencer (Featherandfinblog.com)

  4. Bummer, I feel like everybody drew tags this year. 061 – 064, 066 – 068. I did most my scouting in the Independence Range so I'll probably stick to 062, but I have some buddies up there right now with cow tags and they're telling me hunter density is pretty high so we'll see. Hopefully it'll thin out by the end of October.

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