Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alectoris chukar

Having a few days to piece myself back together after all of the falls in the last week, I've decided to take some time and pass on some observations I've made in the past twenty or so years regarding chukars. Today is the 29th of December and the last of a snow storm is passing and my grandson and I are going to get back after them tomorrow.
I am not a game biologist so don't hold me to any of the things I am about to tell you. These are just my personal observations and views on hunting chukars.
Chukars and huns pair up early in the spring. They are not like pheasants or Turkeys where the male has several females to take care of. The only fighting you'll see with the alectoris chukar is defending his territory and partner. In my observations, it seems to me that huns pair up a little earlier than the chukars. I've seen huns paired up early in February at times. Chukars stay in coveys a little longer and are usually paired up by mid march. They are not nesting yet, just paired. So this is a good time to be out training your dog. The birds are more scattered now and seem to hold like early in the season.
The nesting period seems to be similar to pairing as far as timing between the huns and chukars. The huns tend to nest two to three weeks earlier than chukars. The huns are normally nesting early April  to early May while the chukars are late April to mid May. Both prefer dry open slopes, although the hun tends to pick flatter spots for their nests.
Chukar and hun hens both lay one egg a day or an egg every other day . Clutch sizes vary from 10 to 20 eggs. Incubation period starts after the last egg is layed and lasts for 24 days. At this time it is very important to stay away from the nesting areas as it is vital the mother stay on the nest. She seldom leaves the nest except for a short feeding or watering period. It is very important she maintains the temperature of the eggs for maximum incubation. Once the hatching starts, the peeps and movements of chicks in the eggs travels along the nest and the covey is hatched within usually just a few hours.

Shortly after hatching, the coveys are formed. If a nest is lost and eggs don't hatch ,renesting will often occur. There usually won't be as many eggs. If one or more birds hatch, the mother will not renest. Only if she loses the whole clutch. If you think about it, it would be impossible for her to raise a covey and also set on eggs at the same time.

I have seen chicks hatch as late as mid August and have seen birds during the hunting season that were probably even hatched later than that. My personal feeling is that the majority of birds are hatched mid June. Huns are a little earlier. Spring conditions usually dictate the hatch.
Chukars will fly individually at two weeks but usually don't fly as a covey until approximately four weeks and that is done with the parents.
The habitat that Alectoris chukar prefers is dry mountain slopes. Huns prefer the less steep terrain, but will also be often found on the steepest slopes. Although most hunters prefer to hunt the rocky benches that chukars use for shade and cover, I prefer to hunt the steep open slopes that have lots of ridges and draws for the birds to fly around to. I like to parallel the side hill, pushing the birds ahead of me. The chukar usually flies downhill but makes a sweeping turn once over a ridge and actually will be back at the same level you first jumped them. They fly down and run back up. Anyone that has spent much time chukar hunting will attest to how fast they can move up the steep ridges.
Although the huns tend to like the dense brushy cover, I've found that chukars prefer open hillsides unless they are hiding from predators flying above. Chukars have a harder time getting off the ground without running than a hun does. Maybe due to the fact that they are a little bigger body wise with the same size wings.
Early in the season hunters tend to hunt near watering holes or rivers. I've never found this necessary. Chukars will go as far as two miles to water and then feed there way back to wherever they want to go. But they will continue to use these watering sources until they are harassed away. It doesn't matter whether they are hunted on September 15th or October 15th, they will keep using these places until they feel it is not safe. The only thing moving an opening date from September to October will affect is the size and age of the birds.
I try and hunt as many different area as possible. I have over 50 good places to hunt chukar in Idaho and Oregon. Some areas are down one year and great the next. I try to never over harvest an area knowing that I'll be back again next year. Although chukar hunters don't have much effect on populations it is possible to over hunt an area especially the easy to get to ones.
Predation doesn't have much effect on chukar and hun populations either.  I have, however, seen Coopers hawks that are quite deadly on chukars. One chukar can fill a Coopers hawk belly for several days.
Idaho has a limit of 8 chukars and 8 huns in one day while Oregon has a limit of 8 which includes both chukar and huns. That makes a day in Idaho a little more desirable.

When the snow starts flying I usually find the chukars up higher on the ridges. They prefer the wind blown south slopes although they can be found running on top of two feet of powdery snow when they have to. Huns and Quail are more likely to gravitate to the low lands and can be found while driving the roads. Although Chukars can be found low, they tend to use there legs more and will head up hill to avoid contact with humans.
The average lifespan for a chukar is two years.


Pete said...

Very informative post. I am always interested in getting more educated on these fascinating (and challenging) birds. I also like the pictures, esepcially the first one - it looks a lot like the terrain we hunt here in the southern california high desert. Cheatgrass in volcanic rocks/boulders. And usually with a cliff on the backside, which Mr Chukar and all his buddies will fly off as soon as you get within about 70 yards...

larry szurgot said...

Boy do I hear you there. They make sure that you're good and winded too.

Karl said...

Great info Larry, thanks for writing it up. Nice to see the impressions of The Legend!

larry szurgot said...

Thanks Karl. I've been very lucky to have some great dogs to teach me.

wingnut said...

Solid gold Larry,, I REALLY enjoy reading your blog,,
No doubt it has helped me to become a much better bird hunter,,

larry szurgot said...

Thanks Tyler. The word is that you don't need much help when it comes to hunting.