How to hunt Chukar, the toughest bird in the West
Nicknamed “the devil’s bird”, the chukar is not for the good weather hunter. Those game birds Introduced from the Middle East and South Asia thrive in the steep slopes and dangerous terrain of the Great Basin region of the western United States, where they have eluded many hopeful hunters. The good news: Chukar’s seasons are generally long, and public access is probably the best of all game birds. From Washington to California, Chukar country is almost always on BLM land. It is also a tasty bird with fleshy and light flesh between the size of a pheasant and a quail.
Matt Hardinge, 39, has been a hunter since he was 13. He started hunting chukar eight years ago, and now hunting game birds takes up most of his time abroad. After hunting chukar in Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, Hardinge warned that beginners should get in shape before doing so. Even the most conditioned athlete can struggle climbing thousands of vertical feet on this bird’s track.
“I took out a guy who had done an Iron Man, and he was hissing and huffing and struggling to keep up,” says Hardinge. “It’s a different kind of fitness that you can only get by going out and chasing the chukar.”
But if you love adventure, being physically challenged, and immersing yourself in the kind of vulnerability that only nature can offer you, chukar hunting might be for you. Here’s how to do it.
What to wear
“A lot of people compare chukar hunting to hiking or backpacking, but there’s no trail and you’re basically climbing mountain after mountain all day,” says Hardinge. And at 3,500 to 7,000 feet, where birds are typically found, the weather can change abruptly. Technical clothes and shoes are essential.
Hardinge’s lowest is First Lite’s Obsidian Foundry Pants ($ 195), which is light, moisture–moisture-wicking, nylon reinforced at seat, knees and cuffs, plus offers
s exceptional temperature regulation thanks to its merino-elastane blend. With these pants, along with a combination of merino base layers, an insulated vest and a soft shell protective jacket on top, he’s ready to hunt from September through January.
The farthest Hardinge hiked in a day of chukar hunting was 18 miles, but it averages close to 10. Pursuing these birds requires a lot of traversing loose volcanic rock piles, fields of scree and basalt on extremely steep inclines in the absence of trails which can make quite a number even on the most expensive boots. Hardinge typically goes through a pair every season, if not faster, and says he’s destroyed just about every high-end brand available.
Currently, her favorite pair is the Owyhee ($ 360) by White’s Boots, which is relatively affordable, comfortable, durable, and has a protective strip that wraps around the entire shoe.
Choose the right vest
A good mountain vest is essential, and most do not make the cut for chukar hunting. When hunting for pheasants or quail, you drive to a 20-acre field to walk for 30 minutes, then get back in your truck and head to the next one, says Hardinge. When chasing chukar, you often leave the truck and don’t come back until eight o’clock.
Hardinge’s hunting vest must contain at least three to four liters of water for itself and two dogs, as well as snacks, a child rescuer, a GPS, two boxes of ammunition, a headlamp and any extra diapers . And that’s without counting the birds. Hardinge likes it Final Rise Summit Vest System (starting at $ 300), which was designed by an avid chukar hunter.
Choosing a weapon and ammunition
“You can shoot the chukar pretty hard, and they can still fly a mile through the canyon, land and run up the side of the mountain and die later. They are inherently tough birds, and if you hurt one, they’ll crawl under rock crevices and dogs won’t be able to reach them, ”says Hardinge.
12, 20, and 16 gauge shotguns are all acceptable for chukar hunting, but Hardinge prefers to carry a 12 gauge for extra firepower and pellets to kill birds quickly rather than injure them. It shoots a shot size 6 all season thanks to modified and upgraded cylinder chokes.
Choosing hunting dogs
“I wouldn’t hunt the chukar if I didn’t have a dog,” says Hardinge. “It sounds like a terrible idea. “
Good hunting dogs make it much easier to find the chukar and then retrieve it if you manage to shoot one over steep terrain. Hardinge hunts with his two German Wirehaired Pointer, and that’s one of the reasons he enjoys hunting so much. “The work of the dogs is phenomenal. You see them running up a mountain, slowing down and going up to a point, and it’s very steep and dangerous, and rocks are falling, it’s pretty special, ”he says.
Any pointer can hunt the chukar, but Hardinge prefers a medium-range dog. A dog that can walk 1,000 yards can be overkill – Hardinge’s dogs point at 500 yards, and even then it will take him 20 minutes to reach them due to the rugged territory. Fortunately, chukars tend to hold on tight. “Sometimes you can walk right over them before they get up,” he says.
How? ‘Or’ What Find the birds
With a few exceptions, hunters typically find the chukar on steep hills covered in cheaters with rock formations that serve as additional cover and protection. When Hardinge first hunts an area, he lets the wind do the work. Hunting in the wind means dogs can pick up a scent up to half a mile away, which saves a lot of guesswork. Then it assesses how the wind matches the topography, and it plans from there.
“You’re looking at a mountain and you kind of have to strategize on how best to approach it, whether you want to go straight to the most beautiful land for the birds or want to save energy and choose a line. peak to work a little more methodically so you don’t burn yourself out, ”says Hardinge.
He enjoys hunting around perennial springs, especially at the start of the season when birds are looking for water. After the first rain, focus around streams, rivers, reservoirs, storage tanks, or any water source where birds might gravitate to. On windy days, look for small depressions at the top of the draws that allow the birds to take some shelter. Also check out the rock formations that can break through a widely open hill covered in cheat.
Later in the season, Hardinge could focus on the south-facing aspects where the ground is warmer and the snow melts faster, allowing birds to access food by digging less in the snow.
Chukar hunting is a sport of solitude. “Most of the time you chase them out in the middle of nowhere and you won’t see anyone else,” says Hardinge. “Or you’ll be the first or the second guy out there all season. This is how I like to do it. But this isolation obviously involves great risks.
Falls, broken legs, landslides, snakebites and sudden snowstorms are just a few of the dangers in this ruthless country, which tends to be beyond the reach of cellphones. Although he enjoys hunting alone, Hardinge says the buddy system is still good practice. Either way, he wears a My Medic MyFAK kit ($ 175) with additional items for his dogs.
Transportation is another important consideration – drive through this rough country with a reliable four-wheeler only, and be prepared with spare parts and salvage tools.