This weekend I was able to take advantage of the extended Utah chukar season. This year the season started two weeks later and ran two weeks longer. I was very supportive of this regulation change for two reasons: first, it’s cooler for the dogs on the opener, and second, the birds are not as reliant on water sources, so they are not as tied to the guzzlers when people start hunting them.
We had a great hunt this weekend, the weather was overcast and chilly, which made good conditions for the dogs and the hunters. Even better, there was a fresh dusting of snow on the hillsides. I love to hunt chukars after a snow because you can figure out where they are and what they are doing by tracking them.
We knew the general area we wanted to hunt, so we were driving along surveying the area. We stopped at one spot that looked good and right away we heard chukars calling to us. One would think that I’d have learned by now that when I hear chukars calling I should just walk away. Needless to say, I haven’t. We shelled up and took off after them. About two-thirds of the way to the top they started calling to us from a steep box canyon back below us. After muttering, we made a plan to go back down and come at them from two sides. As we closed in, I called out that we had them surrounded and they should come out single file. Being the ghost sirens they are, they simply vanished.
The snow did help out. While working my way up the mountain, I came across a single fresh, fresh chukar track in the snow headed up and across the slope. Allie (my lab) and I got on the track and determined to follow it out. Sure enough he led us all the way to the top. I figured he would probably run to the top and fly off the other side, but I thought I’d track him down and find out. In this case it paid off, sort of. We tracked this bird all the way to the top and around an edge. Just as we came around the edge two birds flushed, one right at me flushing from the dog, and the other down and away. I was able to down the first bird with the right barrel and hit the second bird, a far shot with the left barrel. The second bird cocked his wings up like a courting pigeon and sailed way, way down the mountain. Allie quickly came back with the first bird, and I sent her after the second. She made a great retrieve on the second working her way down mountain following the scent. Where the second bird came from is one of those chukar mysteries.
Later Allie and I were able to get a third bird low on the hillside when she picked up scent and worked over a knoll and up a small drainage and flushed a lone bird. She was still in the drainage and didn’t see the chukar fall. Together we went back over the knoll to look for the downed bird. Once over the rise we could see a tiercel kestrel stooping back and forth after something down in the draw. For aÂ three and a half ounce falcon, he was pretty optimistic about catching a 20 ounce chukar. We apologized to the kestrel and gathered up our third bird.
With the kind of chukar year we have had this year, and for so late in the season, I felt really lucky to have bagged three birds. My hunting partner had about the same luck that I did, so we headed back to town having had a great day. What we learned from this trip: late in the season the birds were single males or in pairs and were widely distributed, rather than in flocks. Birds were at all elevations on the mountain, but based on tracks, more of them were on the lower 1/3 of the slope.