You’ll earn this dinner
Why I love hunting the wily chukar partridge.
I HAVE HUNTED all the upland game species in Utah. Each has unique aspects that make them fun to hunt; however, chukar hunting offers a great challenge and a lot of enjoyment, bruises, smiles, falls, scenic views and memories.
I especially like hunting chukar partridge late in the hunting season. There are several reasons for this:
1. No rattlesnakes
2. The temperatures keep me and my dogs cool as we hike up, and up some more
3. The snow makes it easier to locate birds
Staying in shape during Utah’s cold winter is another benefit to hunting chukars throughout the entire season.
A little life history
In order to increase hunting opportunities, chukar partridge were extensively introduced to Utah in 1951. They are native to Middle Eastern countries. They’re beautiful birds with striking plumage, a dark mask and side barring.
Chukars live in steep, rocky habitat with grasses and shrubs. When I say steep, I mean very steep. I always joke that if I can pet my two-foot-tall Labrador while he’s standing on the hillside above me, by sticking my arm straight out perpendicular to my body, I am in the right spot for chukars.
These birds prefer to be on the ground; that’s where they spend most of their time. Late in the year, they prefer to be on ridgelines and south-facing slopes. The sun melts the snow on the slopes and provides open habitat to get food, which is their primary concern during the long winter months.
They eat seeds, green grass, forbs and insects.
My latest adventure
My dog Gauge and I like to hunt chukars in Tooele County. About a week ago, we drove to one of my favorite spots to chase the elusive bird. Way up high we heard the telltale call of the chukar.
We began the long hike up the mountain. Our trek started once the sun had already been up for a while. There are two advantages to this:
1. The scenting conditions are better for dogs
2. The ground isn’t frozen, which means I fall down less (I always fall at least once during a chukar hunt)
During the late season, I switch from 7.5 shot and improved cylinder choke to 5 shot and a modified choke. My shots are farther in the late season because I use a flushing dog and the birds have been hunted.
As we approached the birds, Gauge’s thick tail began to helicopter around. This means I’d better get ready for some birds. All at once, Gauge flushed up two chukars: one went to the right, the other went straight to my left. I pulled up and took one shot at the bird flying to my right and down he came.
Gauge was on top of it in an instant. He’s great at retrieving downed chukars.
I had no shot at the second bird. I suspected there were more birds on the ridge, so I hiked my way through the boulders and steep slopes.
About five minutes later, Gauge’s tail helicoptered again. A lone chukar flushed in front of me, headed straight away; I pulled my gun up and shot once just as the bird was about to disappear behind the ridgeline. The bird crumbled in midair and fell out of sight.
Gauge charged towards the cliff’s edge and came to a skidding stop. We had to walk around the cliff to get down to the bird. Gauge searched the rocky slide until finally he found the chukar buried under some cover.
Two shots and two birds in the bag.
I hunted for another couple hours, but didn’t see any more birds. I was happy to spend time outdoors with my best friend. I love getting out of the house during the winter months; harvesting the two birds was just an added bonus.
The main reason I hunt chukars is for the challenge, but best of all, they taste fantastic!
If you’re interested in the thrill of a chukar partridge hunt and you’d like to learn more, see DWR’s website for tips. The season doesn’t end until Feb. 15, 2014, and chukar numbers in Utah are climbing, so you’ve got plenty of opportunities to get out there!