Friday, September 6, 2019


Most readers are more interested in how the chukar season is going to be, more than what I'm writing about today and for those my views haven't changed since I haven't been in the chukar mountains since my last post due to the heat. For those interested in more than just the numbers, read on.

Two days ago, Jeff Knetter (Idaho Fish and Game migratory and upland bird biologist) and I were invited to speak to an upper level zoology class at Boise State University. Jeff spoke about how the F&G operates as well as showing many interesting biological facts about upland birds. He finally got it soaked into my head as to how upland birds are aged. Although upland birds were the focus, the main bird discussed was chukar so my perspectives as a hunter was much easier to talk about than I thought it would be.

I spoke of how passionate I am about my dogs, the bird and the country chukars live in. My main points were how important my dogs are to the hunt and how they work for me, why chukars are such a great bird for pointing dogs, the roughness of chukar country, and the other magnificent animals we see while chukar hunting. As chukar hunters, you already know this stuff, but imagine how much fun I was having relaying this information to mostly people that have never hunted the bird nor been to the high desert country chukars inhabit.

But by the end of the class, I learned much more than the students. I'm still trying to process what I've learned about chukars and combining that with what little knowledge I have about the bird to not only be a better hunter but see what I might be able to do to preserve this great bird for future generations to enjoy as much as I have.

Jeff Knetter and I have been friends for several years now and have hunted chukars together several times. We usually leave shop talk at home so it was interesting to find out how complicating his job can be and how important his interaction with the public is.

Jennifer Forbey (Professor) and her assistant, Brecken Robb, were fantastic people with great personalities and super knowledgeable about the internal organs of upland birds and what they do. I was impressed by what they and their students showed me. By the time I left their class I was confident that with their studies we might one day be able to identify more the reasons we have such up and downs in numbers of birds each year and how we might change that for the better.

Many times I have examined the crops of chukars to see what they were eating. My evaluations usually were to see if they were eating grasshoppers, green grass or seeds and that was the end of it. This class goes much deeper as these pictures Jeff took show. I provided some birds from last October for the class to dissect and here's what they found.

This bird seemed to have a lot of mud in his crop but after washing the mud away we were surprised to find a bunch of snails and a wild onion.
I keep track of where I have shot the birds and other conditions so they can compare to another bird shot in the same place at different times and see what changes. These snails were a surprise for all and we were wondering if the muscles in the gizzard were strong enough to crush the snails against the gravel to get to the actual useful food. Examining the gizzard contents showed they were.
You can see the broken shells and gravel in the contents and from there the good stuff moves on down the system to be utilized for energy etc. for the bird. Here is a picture of what the students find when they open up the bird.
But their work doesn't stop there. They take measurements, examine other contents, and record what the contents exist of along with many other things. By many of these findings they can tell the health of the bird and many other things. Who would ever guess that the length of this birds intestines could tell the health of the bird,
They take measurements of the beak and other parts and record them along with the other records. Wow! Things aren't quite so simple after talking with this class. After talking with them there may be an idea out there that the spring conditions aren't as important as I thought and that this years conditions might be caused from last years fall conditions. It's only a possible theory but would be very interesting to finally find what makes for good and bad years. I'm going to stick with the good spring for now but keep my mind open.

This last picture looks like maybe I'm teaching the class but in fact I'm just standing there while the students are teaching me how things work.
In the end I came out with a great respect for their work as well as the F&G's work with upland birds. Together along with the sportsmen we may be able to keep this bird one of the top sought birds in Idaho and available for decades to come. They have already got me scheduled to take a few birds at different times of the season with records and pictures so that their studies can continue. Gosh it's a tough job to do my part.

Good Luck this season.                                                                             


Unknown said...

Life long student. Always loving learning about things I am interested in.
Hope to see you around this year

Greg said...

Can't think of a better person to help with this class. And research is also the perfect reason to get out and collect some birds.

Anonymous said...

Good job Larry.Sounds like everyone learned. Season finally here.Excited to explore Grouse areas.
Alan and the Setter.

Burk said...

Very interesting! Thank you for all this info.

Randy S said...

Young guys are concerned about the birds he can expect to find tomorrow and the older guy about the birds for future generations.