The only wild chukar partridge you'll ever see on a flat place is one in the
middle of your dinner plate. But to get him there, you must hunt country that
God abandoned and the Devil took over.
There are 10 states with chukar hunting and I've hunted in three. Oregon
hunters take the most birds. Nevada is second to Oregon and Idaho chukar
numbers can be excellent.
Hells Canyon on the Snake River is the deepest gorge in North America --
it¿s deeper than the Grand Canyon and ideal for chukars. I hunted out of a jet
boat near White Bird, Idaho, and also from a ridge about 2,000 feet above the
Salmon River. You lose about 10- to 15 degrees of temperature from bottom to
top, and pick up vegetation.
Hells Canyon: Perfect Chukar Habitat
But the moisture doesn't get to the lower hills and valleys, which are arid and
rocky -- perfect country for chukars. You can start at the top and hunt first
for ruffed grouse in the brush patches, then blue grouse in the conifer-clad
ravines, chukars on the open slopes, then Hungarian (gray) partridge in the big
fields along the river.
Hunters should carry a bottle of water for man and dog and watch for heat
stress in the dog. Both you and your dog must be in fabulous shape to hunt
chukars. The dog must have foot pads like an Indian fire walker, and you should
wear stiff-support rock boots, not slick-soled. Your gun should be one you
don't mind getting banged up because inevitably you'll take a tumble and whack
it on some rocks. Go for a fairly tight choke -- say improved and modified for
a double or modified if you're stuck with one barrel.
I'm partial to No. 7-1/2 shot, but some use 6s, some 8s. Chukars flock to 50
or more and hold middling well for a pointing dog. Many shots are close-in,
especially on scatters, which tend to sit tight. A covey flush is a confusion
of birds exploding into flight, a flight that ranges from 50 yards to as long
as half-mile, depending on how alarmed the birds are.
Zero In On Water
Chukars are never far from water and come to the river in the afternoon for
water. The rest of the day, they'll be near springs or wet seeps or in the few
shady spots, such as sumac thickets (which often harbor a wet seep). Chukars
almost always roost on south-facing slopes, so start your morning hunt there.
One day we hunted our way down the mountain, taking turns shuttling the car
around a switchback or two so one hunter was with the car, while the others
were working their way down from above.
The car jockey stood a good chance of getting some pass shooting if the
others flushed birds, while the hunters above got the chance to shoot covey
rises. The thing is that the birds run uphill, fly downhill or at the same
level. If you see chukars running, you must make a flanking sprint that will
show what kind of shape you're in. You'll never catch them by running straight
after them -- make a wide circle. There are almost always late-flushing birds
from a covey, which is why many chukar hunters prefer an automatic.
Notches A Double
I missed a bird that flushed into the brush. Then I missed a couple of blue
grouse that flitted through the trees. I got into a thicket and flushed a huge
covey of chukars and cursed fervently as the other two hunters picked off the
birds that I couldn't see. It was mid-afternoon when a pair of chukars flushed
over me. As neatly as if I knew what I were doing, I dumped the left one, swung
to the right one and dropped it -- a double on the first open shots I'd taken!
We worked downhill toward the Salmon River and a jet boat that was to pick
us up. Just above the landing there was a large hayfield, cut to ankle-high
stubble. My Brittany, got birdy, then went on a hesitant point. One more step
and a huge covey of Huns erupted 40 yards from the dog.
We followed the covey and killed a couple before ending the day by watching a
beautiful woman, who could make slopping hogs a wonderful spectator sport, land a 25-pound sturgeon from the jet boat. Some days you just can't lose
for winning... .
For more information on Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, call 509-758-0616, or visit www.fs.fed.us/hellscanyon/overview/index.shtml
For a fine selection of Upland hunting gear, click here.
Joel Vance is the author of "Grandma and the Buck Deer" (softcover $15); "Bobs,
Brush and Brittanies "(hardcover $25); "Down Home Missouri" (hardcover $25); and
"Autumn Shadows" limited edition, signed $45). Available from Cedar Glade Press,
Box 1664, Jefferson City MO 65102. Add $2/book for S/H.