Chukar Hunting Gets Better as Winter Hits

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Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Press Release

The onset of winter is good news for chukar hunters. Once snow starts to fall, the birds concentrate in smaller areas. That makes it easier to find the birds.

Also, fortunately, chukar partridge live in some of Utah’s driest areas. That means you won’t have to worry as much about getting your vehicle stuck in snow or hiking through deep snow like you might while participating in other hunts. Colder weather also makes hiking less strenuous and rattlesnakes are hibernating now, so you don’t have to be concerned about them either.

“In my opinion, this is the best time of year to hunt chukars,” stated Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Upland Game Coordinator Jason Robinson.

Robinson said another advantage to hunting chukar in the winter, or anytime during the season, is the tasty meat it can provide. “Chukar are the best-tasting game bird in Utah,” he said.

Another thing you can earn is a coin for completing the state’s “Blister Slam.” The slam is one of six upland game slams in Utah. You can learn more about Utah’s Upland Game Slam at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandslam.

This winter should be a good one to get out and hunt chukars. Robinson explained that so far this season, hunting success has been above average.

“Chukars aren’t abundant everywhere, but good pockets of birds are found in chukar habitat throughout the state,” he explained. “This winter, I think some of the best hunting will be on the western side of Utah.”

The state’s chukar hunt runs until Feb. 15.

More information about where to find chukars is available in the 2014-2015 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook. You can get the free guidebook at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks. The distribution map is on page 35.

Before hiking up a hill to find chukars, you can save yourself time and energy by getting familiar with the landscape chukars live in. Robinson said chukars need three things: cliffs for roosting, shrubby cover near the cliffs and seeds and grasses to eat.

In Utah, this habitat is usually found just below ridgelines at about 4,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation and the habitat you’ll find chukars in is steep, very steep.

To make the most of your energy supply, Robinson suggests hiking up to a ridgeline and then walking along the ridgeline and then down from the ridge.

Chukars run uphill to escape hunters and they flush downhill when spooked. For these reasons, getting above the birds will give you a big advantage. “There can be a lot of walking involved,” he stated. “It’s a great way to stay in shape through the winter.”

Robinson suggests waiting until mid-morning before heading out. Giving the sun time to soften and melt the snow on the ground can make navigating steep chukar habitat easier.

There is one advantage to being out at first light, though. “The birds feed mostly in the early morning,” Robinson said. “If you listen closely, they’ll often tip you off to their location.”

Robinson says chukars live in coveys that typically number between five to 30 birds. “When the covey is feeding, it always posts a sentry,” he explained. “The sentry sits on a rock that provides it with a good view of the surrounding area. If the bird sees you, it will call out to alert the other birds. There’s a flip side to that, though: the sentry’s calling will alert you that a covey of chukars is in the area.”

Earlier in the season, chukar spent a lot of time hiding from migrating raptors. Now that these predators have moved elsewhere, the birds are free to spend more time finding seeds and grasses to eat.

Unlike many upland game birds, chukars are not restricted to pockets of habitat that have stands of trees in them, so their habitat is expansive. Robinson said that in the winter, you should look for chukar on south-facing slopes. The snow on slopes that face south melts faster. That lets some grasses green up for the chukars to eat.

“That’s one of the big advantages to hunting chukars in the winter,” Robinson stated. “Because the north-facing slopes have snow on them, the snow essentially cuts in half the areas where you’ll find chukars.”

To hunt chukars, you have to hike up steep slopes. Make sure the boots you’re wearing provide good traction and ankle support. Robinson also suggests wearing your clothes in layers. Wearing layers will allow you to remove a layer if you get hot while hiking. Then, if your hike brings you to a cold and windy ridgeline, you can put that layer on again.

Shots at chukars often come at fairly long ranges. Robinson suggests using a 12 to 28-gauge shotgun with a modified choke, shooting shot shells loaded with four or five shot.

Bringing a trained hunting dog with you can also be a great idea. Trained dogs will help you locate the chukars and they can retrieve the birds you shoot, which will save you from having to hike down steep slopes to find birds on your own.

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