Hunt Diaries – A Shikar in Chakwal and Beyond

Shahzad Zafar, Lahore

Went on another brilliant shikar this last weekend and it turned out to be a long, hard and a more than rewarding outing despite the weather forecast and fear that the rain might ruin it for us. Myself, Azam and Arshad (our help) left Lahore around noon Saturday and picked Ijaz and his borrowed dog (Doug) on the way from the Motorway and then stopped in Bhera for half an hour to have lunch and to collect Sitar and another pup (It was named ‘Come On’ during lunch and it sure has a long story for another day why he were to be named this) that was going on his first shikar.

We reached our Rest House near Chakwal (in a game sanctuary) around 5:00 in the evening and found our lovely host waiting on us who is Asif Khan’s friend from University. Asif and his friend Owais were coming from Islamabad and were due to arrive a bit later. Myself and Ijaz went for a stroll around the Rest House to get a view of the lovely setting. I then had a cup of tea as Azam and Ijaz are not avid tea drinkers and we sat outside in the garden facing the lake with lovely hills behind it. As you all are aware the winters are not here yet in the usual full swing and it felt lovely sitting out feeling not too bad in our light jackets. Small wind cycles came in intervals probably due to ‘tunneling effect’ and they in turn brought a bit of chill. Logs were lit in due course and we all huddled with hands stretched on fire and it felt wonderful. After Asif’s and Owais’s arrival we sat outside for a little while till the cold permitted and then moved inside with the logs now simmering beautifully in the ‘parat’ to have dinner and the rest of the chit-chat continued inside. Asif and myself wished for cards which he had forgotten as tonight seemed lucky for him and me while the opposition apparently was weak and we could have settled a not so old score for the record.

The chit-chat went on till midnight and then we hit bed to get up real early. I was the first one to get up on Azam’s alarm for Prayers at 5:15 (which he conveniently turned off and slept again) with me tossing and turning after that so I got up. When I came out Ijaz had gone outside to get fresh air, a smoke and to relieve himself. We got ready and had a light breakfast and then moved for the shikargah. We left on foot and as the area where we were permitted to hunt was a fair distance away it took a time for the first partridge to flush. Here I must add that of the two dogs that we were hunting on one was a pup, a very good looking one but it was his first time out ever (he did good and pointed on a couple of birds beautifully and was initiated nicely on this shikar) and the other was Doug, an oldie who looked rather ڈگ from every angle. He though had an aristocratic air about him and carried himself gracefully for his age and did not wander off unnecessarily. Despite his looks and what his Punjabi name would suggest, Doug turned out to be one of the best dogs ever that I have hunted on and there was not a single false point or a bird that he flushed from far away. To me he was the most handsome and the best pedigreed ever. The only disadvantage that we might wish to attribute to him for the sake of it was that since he was a large dog and also old be was a bit low on stamina and seemed slow in the afternoon and also seemed a bit of hard at hearing too.

The morning was a decent one and despite missing on the first small covey and later on another large one cleanly, the bag was quite decent. We wandered off to the edge of the sanctuary where we were met by the ‘game’ folks and they told our host a spot which was saved from shikaries. Since it was a fair distance away and would’ve taken a lot of time reaching, we decided to move to another that our host had in mind and that turned out to be an exclusive ‘blacks only’ spot. And what a real black bonanza it turned out to be this time of the year and we had a lovely time. Asif Khan got the first big black male with a clean shot and it proved to be an awesome spot from there on. We then took a small break and had sandwiches and then moved right away to the evening spot that the locals (where we were hunting blacks) had suggested.

On the way we came across a lovely model village that had its hilly boundaries covered with stones as a fortress to save it from land slides, the roads were wide and fully carpeted with street lights and a clean surrounding. As soon as we reached the spot we were met by a gentleman tilling his lands. This decent Malik Sahib offered us whatever he had to eat and Asif and Ijaz did justice to some daal and roti and I had a few large spoonfuls of great tasting ‘saywian’. We did not rest at all and again hit the fields but no partridge flushed for the next 45 minutes and our energies came to a devastating low without the bhhrrsssss.

Malik Sb then met us on our way back and took us to his piece of land that was on our left and said that here were a few coveys that were left for his political friend from Jhang and he could not let us see go empty handed. Ijaz was not in a mood to move even an inch and at that time the partridge started to call. It was a ‘Neubron Injection’ as Ijaz puts it for all of us and we were up and about in no time. Even though the evening was not as fruitful as the morning session but it was a beautiful outing overall and we had a more than decent bag to brag end of the day and getting our bag limits. We then rushed back to the Rest House to collect our stuff and after the final photograph thanked our lovely host who was on his heels all the time to look after us and then set off to our next destination at a private invite . Asif could not go as he had work the next morning and instead we had some friends from Jhang joining us at Balkasar for another long journey who were were already waiting for us at the interchange and we did not stop to exchange pleasantries as the journey was long.

Reached late that night and our hosts were kind to have hot dinner waiting for us. We did more than justice to the desi murgha, rice, raita and fresh salad and since we were tired we hit bed right away. I had a beautiful nights’ sleep and slept like a baby and got up in no hurry (as had made sure Azam’s alarm was switched off). Our hosts told us that the partridge this year had had a great breeding season and despite a couple of shikars they had saved a lovely patch for us. Azam and I have hunted here a number of times earlier and have had a mixed bag. Our shikar last year was nothing to write home about. But indeed this time around we were in for a surprise. As soon as we stepped in the shikargah partridge started to flush in great numbers (grays and blacks alike with the hosts requesting to go easy on black males esp and we let go of 6-7 easy blacks) and the devastating friends from Jhang with Azam were at it : ). We started shikar at 9:15 and were done with the morning session by 12 noon with no urge to hunt more in this session. Doug worked brilliantly well as usual. The highlight for me came when a large covey of grays flushed from in front of me only and most of them went on my left. I set my eye on one I wanted to get and fired. From the corner of my eye I could see a bird (parallel) slightly behind and above my bird and at that shot both the birds fell dead as stone. Indeed it was planned by me deliberately to get both ?, I waited long enough to have both the birds in line and then when I was sure I had them both I fired with surety and ease.

Had lunch at the dera and this time we took a couple of hours rest as the bag was already phenomenal. Our guide (who had a lovely small local pointer by the name of mundri, white and chocolate patched, and who was amazing in the field, full of energy the whole day long and worked to her masters’ voice as if she literally understood Punjabi like us : ) and looked towards her master all the time. He made her work like a professional and would have done wonderfully well if he went to a field game dog competition) then took us to another spot that was a fair distance away. We reached the spot at 3:45 and were already cursing that a lot of time was wasted in reaching there. As soon as we set off in the jungle by the side of the fields partridge flushed like crazy going off in all directions. It was the start of something special as the number of birds that flushed in the next hour was something unusual. All large coveys and all grays. But what I witnessed with them large flushes was the race of all us seasoned shikaries as if we wanted to outrun the birds and then shoot them. It is one evening I shall like to come back and start all over again as we were running as if to outrun each other and the dogs indeed seeing us were running even faster and much ahead of us and am sure were surprised as to what had gotten into us. We indeed made a hash of it all and even though got some birds eventually but it left us all quiet and pondering end of the evening.

A covey of see see also flushed from a distance and no shot was offered to them. We were specifically left knock kneed in a patch of wheat fields that were a 4-5 acre single patch and smack on the top of the corner of a hill that opened in a valley like the Grand Kenyon. We cornered the partridge in the field (or at least that is what we thought) from all directions and then them birds flushed everywhere in regular intervals. Around 20 birds flushed in a span of seconds and most of us had easy shots and witnessed the worst shooting in decades. I broke open my gun before the evening came to a close in disgust. Ijaz vowed to come back soon to get even with them partridge : ) and we left this particular lovely shikargah with a sigh but overall way too satisfied and indeed rounded it up with a final photograph. Went back to the village and had dinner and then set off for the real long journey home and reached Lahore late and tired to the bone after yet another great and a memorable trip.

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