Thursday, July 20, 2017


I just got back from a 150 mile dirt road trip looking for birds. I don't usually scout from the road but after my last three hikes I thought I might give looking for quail a try. On my last three outings I saw a pair of chukar which I believe didn't have any little ones by the distance they flew and another single chukar. I was getting a little desperate to prove that this winter wasn't as hard on wildlife as some might make you believe. So I took a drive to places where I knew quail are abundant. In shortly under 150 miles I saw 2 pair of quail. By the time I got home I was ready to concede to the hunters with the half empty glass theory but not before looking at my entries from July of the last ten years.

Summing it up, I've already been out more this July than any other July. My bull headedness has taken over and I so want to prove my early prediction forecast that I'm wasting lot's of time, gas and energy, not to mention getting a little disappointed. In ten years the only decent covey of chukars I have seen in July was the 17th four years ago and there was about fifteen 6 to 8 week old birds with a pair of adults. Yes, I have had a few other encounters, but the month of July should be the month to stay home and save some miles on the truck and legs.

August has been a pretty good month to find young birds if my entries prove anything but the weather conditions seem to be as responsible for finding birds in the off season as it is during the hunting season. Almost every August after a rain or on a cool morning I have been successful at finding birds with young. The surprising note is how many really young birds I find in August. There seems to be quite a separation of age in birds at that time. From week old birds to 8 weeks or better.

The amount of big game animals I saw the last two weeks should have been some type of clue that I was wasting my time being on the mountain. I didn't see one calf or fawn in areas that in June I was constantly coming in contact with one after another. It seems like the only animal out in the sun was this dumb human with a not so enthusiastic dog.

Don't go negative on me. I know deep in my heart there will be lot's of great opportunities this fall and my negative outings were just poor timing and planning. We have never seen young quail around here until the end of July but somehow I though this year might be different. I understand now that July is the month to stay up high in the timber if you want to stretch your legs and exercise the dog. All this month did was make me second guess myself.

Who knows, maybe those that say this winter was terrible on wildlife might be right. I still don't think it was although I may have to back off on my "way to early forecast" of a great year to an average year for chukars and huns. Next month will help get a better feel but the real test for us chukar hunters is when the season begins. I'm still as excited as I was in February for the season start and will be on the mountain as often as time and Jake allow.

I'm looking for some positive vibes out there from some of you to help keep us excited.


Chukarhunter50 said...

Keep the faith. I saw 4 broods of quail tonight as the wheat is harvested. 8-14 chicks with the pairs. On another positive note, saw a blue grouse with 5 chicks the other day in the hills, along with 4 broods of huns with about 14 chicks each. I hope to keep adding to those positive vibes over the next month.

Dave s said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave s said...

Ironically, Drew has reported good numbers of birds recently. It is like you two have traded positions;).

On my side we continue to see pheasant broods over at the farm. We have not seen a brood with less than six chicks.

I am absolutely certain that the quail hatch is late. The good news is all the broods me and my friends have seen nave at least 10 chicks in them.

larry szurgot said...

Thanks David and Chukarhunter50. It's good to hear the positive news. It proves that Jake and I are just not doing something right lately. I talked with a friend that gave me some pretty positive news about the Owyhees. You're right David, Drew and I are quite often on opposing theories but I'm hoping he is right about the birds.

Dave s said...

Larry, you're still the best resource there is for chukar hatch status in Idaho.

I don't think you are doing anything wrong. We may not have any chukars this year. All hatches may be a little late.

The one thing I have learned researching chukars is the absolute paucity of breeding info on chukars in North America. Pretty much two studies that I have found. One is the Christensen study from The early 1970's. The other is the central Idaho study. That study puts first wave of hatching between may 25 and June 6. The second wave more protracted through July. I f first hatch is a week or two late, renest will also be a little late. All I am looking at now is how many birds are with each hen.

I suspect some areas will have low bird numbers this year. Others may have good numbers. I eagerly await your reports, because they are the best we have. Let's keep hoping.

chukarhunter50 said...

Finally found time to do the initial afternoon scout trip on my designated route, July 30, 2017, 38 miles of chukar country. 2015 saw a total count 676 birds 52 broods, 13 birds per group, 2016 total count of 1100 birds 70 broods, 15.7 birds per group.

2017. Lots of crickets, hoppers, it was fun to watch the older chicks chase and pin down a cricket. Grass is taller than I have seen in 20 years, some areas remind me of CRP thick grass that South Dakota pheasants thrive in. Springs are larger than normal with more water flow. Chicks Age Range was 10 day old chicks up to 9 week old coloring out chicks, and every thing in between. Birds were scattered in groups. Unlike 2016 where I saw birds all the time on my scout, 2017 was more like 2015, find them, count, then travel distances before I saw more. Pockets were good, other pockets were barren. Two locations where I ALWAYS see birds, 100 minimum on bad years-300+ on good years, and it has never failed, UNTIL, this year, I have seen and heard, or tracks, or feathers, ZERO birds in those locations. Did I miss them? Is the fact that springs are numerous, grass is tall, food source plentiful, has moved the birds? or did the winter take out all the brood stock that use these areas? My simple mind is at a loss.

2017: 700 birds (AND 1 Blue Grouse), 48 hatch groups. Largest brood was a hen with 23 chicks, smallest brood was 4 chicks. I saw about 80 adults and 620 chicks. 12.9 chicks per hen average. 14.6 birds per group. Brood stock was down a bit from the winter, but hatches were nice sized and scattered in age range. I am surprised at the brood survival over winter, I was worried it would be much less than this.

I will repeat this scout trip on an early morning in the next week or two, and I will be off to Oregon to scout locations also.

larry szurgot said...

Thanks for the great news. Jake and are heading out tomorrow and hopefully we will find it as good as you did. You had a spectacular day and I really am excited about the chicks per hen ratio.