Sunday, January 5, 2020

Chukar populations.

Today after reading a post from Bob Mcmichaels  "Chukar Culture" blog I decided to try and dismiss some of the common myths about chukar seasons and numbers. Understand that I know Bob and respect his and Leslie's abilities to hunt chukars and keep us entertained with his blog. His hunting with Angus and Peat (Brittanies) is well known and his blogs are informative and fun. Rather than stealing his page with a long rebuttal I decided to use my own space to hopefully portray my feelings on a few of his rants.

First, is the mention of moving the daily limit back to 6. I remember back about 10 years ago when we fought to get the limit back up to 8 and the several meetings I had with other hunters and the F&G. The end result was that the reason the limit was moved down to 6 was because of the need to please some hunting groups. All records showed that lowering the limit did nothing to increase the next year's populations. I remember one member of a popular hunting group actually saying "he didn't care if the limit was lowered to two birds because that was his personal limit anyway". He obviously had a louder voice than me.

Most of what I say is just personal feelings, but there is a lot of literature out there to help me out. Every written study on chukar populations say that hunting pressure has very little impact on populations. In fact the average of birds taken by hunters is 8%. This isn't just a guess. Many studies have used radio footed devices to track the birds throughout the season. The main cause of death was from eagles and hawks during the migrating season. Obviously they are much more efficient hunters than humans. Plus they are adapt to getting to where we can't get. One study I read from Nevada said "the effects of seasonal limits has little impact on bird numbers but the problem is for biologist to educate hunters to accept this". Properly informed hunters are an integral part of good game management.

Second, Bob mentioned about moving the opening date of chukar season back a little. He's right. There are lot's of young birds and it would be nice to see them get a little bigger. Be careful in what you wish for. Once we lose it it will be harder to ever get it back. What about those who say January is a bad month for hunting because the birds are forced closer to the roads. I personally don't believe that, but I hear that at times and quickly try and dismiss those thoughts before they get a group together and go complain to the F&G. Those are the people that the game department hear from the most. Why would the happy hunters go in and complain until they feel they are going to lose a good thing. Remember "properly informed hunters are an integral part of good game management". You don't have to shoot the 3/4 sized birds on that early season. Be a little picky. It's easier than you think once you set your mind to it. There is also the complaint that the early season makes it too easy for hunters to slaughter the birds around a water source. This may be true but it wouldn't matter whether the opening day was September 20 or October 10, that opening week will still be the same slaughter until the birds have been educated. Opening season of everything is pretty much the same.

Every game department in the northwest pretty much have the same feelings about chukar and hun hunting. It is pretty much self regulatory in the fact that hunting pressure decreases as the chukar population decreases. In other words, there will be more chukar hunters on those peak seasons and hunters give up soon on the down years. Since I've been hunting chukars in the 70's I can vouch for this.

As far as the atv's and utv's, I wish many of the people that use them in the way that Bob mentions wouldn't do so. They give chukar hunting a black eye in my opinion. My way is boots on the ground and using the side by side just to get to an area. I don't believe the guys that are just riding on the atv while their dog is up hunting are killing as many birds as they are educating but as long as it is legal we have to accept it. I just know the places I hike to can only be accessed by foot unless you are an eagle.

One last thing I'd like to mention. Another hunting companion asked me why the F&G doesn't build guzzlers in Idaho like they did in Nevada. It's pretty simple, guzzlers do not improve chukar survival, productivity or availability to hunters. Think about it. How many times have you found hidden seeps or springs while chukar hunting. Utah State did a study on the effects of available water on chukar populations and their final conclusion was "installation of rain-catchment devices is not a feasible technique for improving chukar habitat."

I try and learn as much about the chukar seasons as I can because it is the dogs and my favorite time of the year. I always go with the intentions of getting 8 birds but that seldom happens. Yes, I do stop hunting  an area because I don't see many birds and am satisfied with fewer birds. I do try and do everything possible to keep the bird numbers up but am still conscious of what really matters. What really has an affect is what I have no control of.

Pretty much, each season becomes hit and miss as far as chukars go. This year was a prime example. I really thought with the spring we had it would be a banner year, but according to most it was just average. I had several good hunts and honestly saw a lot of birds and did see a lot of late young birds but chukars don't have a calendar. Range conditions determine chukar production but our hunting attitude is what makes for great chukar hunting.


Chukar11 said...

Another right on comment about chukar populations, hunter can be there own worst enemy, hunting has no impact on the population, only good old Mother Nature can control them, hard to get casual hunters to believe this, but 80 to 90% of chukars, Huns, and quail perish every year, you can not hurt them with hunting, but try to convince some people of that, we have areas that are very heavily hunted in Nevada, close to population centers that had the biggest populations this year, after a few days of heavy hunting pressure, just try to kill them, no way, but after everyone stops hunting there, just climb high into the big bowls and you will have good hunts, also I hunt many areas that get hunted very little, not many birds this year, chukar populations run up and down on there own cycles and only mother nature’s really knows the outcome of the hatch, which you need a good hatch to have good hunting, but there are always enough birds left to repopulate a area,so please stop thing hunters control the population, they can not, in Nevada bring us wet winters with not huge snowfalls, that last for months, summer that breaks in early June, and guarantee a great season to follow the next fall, if hunted or not if you did not hunt a mountain for 10 years there would be no more birds in there, than if hunted or not. Limit 6 or 8 does not matter to me, as I get older 6 is enough, but 8 is ok as it will not change things, another great post and hopefully this will change someone mind

Tuckers Chukars said...

Excellent comment. The only thing I could add to that is the only thing that is accomplished with a shorter season is keeping the hunters with a real passion for chasing chukars from going more. I'm one of those guys. Birds or no birds I can't get enough. I spend as much time in those same hills during the off season with my dogs but it just isn't the same as actually going through the motions. If a person doesn't think the season should be long, than don't go. At least you have an option. It doesn't work the other way around.

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

b'rd dwg

I know why I love hunting chukars but I am completely bewildered why any healthy adult wants to ride around in a UTV just to kill the birds. Habitat and weather are the deciding factors for all the bird populations. Seasons and bag limits are not a factor with chukars. If there was no closed season and no bag limit I seriously doubt if there would be a negative impact on the population except more pressure would make the birds more difficult to pursue.

Tuckers Chukars said...

Amen. Besides the dogs, that is why most people hunt chukars. It's not easy and great exercise.

Anonymous said...

I agree that hunting has little impact on bird numbers.In fact let’s look at my last hunt on a large flat where I often find Huns. The setter had seven points on Huns,with only one covey getting up wild. My hunting buddy missed twice on the first rise. I shot three times on the next rise.This was repeated on the next points,I did see feathers fly on the last covey,we found the bird latter and had to knock it down again.Our take for the day was one bird. I’m sure the hawks did much better than we did this day. I enjoy these hunts and some days knock down more but I love watching the dog work. we did ride the side by side in which left me enough energy to walk the flat for 4.5 miles. So in short our take for the day in no way threatens the bird population and the crazy thing is I can’t wait to go again. Maybe our shooting will improve. Next august I will be 69 and hope to keep hunting and trying to get even.
Alan and the setter

Tuckers Chukars said...

Perfect post on late season hunts, Alan. In fact sometimes any time hunts. I relate to all facts mentioned. I too have a side by side used to get to a hunting location rather than beat up my truck. I have my hit and miss days but still love watching my dogs have a ball doing what they love. I'll turn 69 next month and hurt like hell after each hunt but can't wait to go again.

I hope you and Gracie have a great finish to what looked like a great season for you.

Joe carolla said...

Another report down here in Nevada, I am 65 and hunt chukar 2 to 3 days a week, most days I should kill my limit, but some days my gun refuses to shot straight, yesterday got caught in the worst blizzard on a hill I have ever been in hunting chukars, got 3, today 9.2 miles saw 4 bunch,s of Huns, only 1 shot, killed 1,I have by me and my hunting buddy’s count, 176 different hunts in Nevada, so I never hunt some place more than once a season, no matter how many birds I see, have not seen another hunter since 2nd day of season, luv all the wild places chukars live, I have hunted brownie reservoir area many times in your great state, also Oregon and even california a couple weeks ago on a tip, saw 4 covies there and no other hunters only 20 miles from Reno, keep up your great reports enjoy them very much, I h7nt with 1 English point she is almost 5 years old and never gets tired, but did reserve another puppy today hopefully to be born in a few months, another pointer: thought you would enjoy a report from the best chukar hunting state there is

Tuckers Chukars said...

Thanks Joe. It started snowing here about an hour ago and I was thinking of staying home tomorrow but because of your report I'm going to see if I can get a few chukars in the snow. I doubt I'll get 9.2 miles. Good for you and thanks for the inspiration.

Bryan Huey said...

Joe you inspire me great read. I’m 62 and give thanks for every day I get on the hill. Been hunting Chuckar since i was 11. My dad loved it and I am caring the torch now. Tucker Chuckars is a great read and I agree totally with above thoughts. Thank you for sharing. Keep on doing what you do. My thought was this would’ve my last dog if all went well he’s 4 maybe not.

Burk said...

Nevada and Oregon start their chukar seasons in Oct.. Utah starts late Sept. (it looks like the last Sat. in Sept.) Utah ends on Feb. 15 and Nevada ends the first Sun. in Feb. OR ends Jan. 31. Does anyone know why those states start later than Idaho? The only reason I've ever heard for the mid-Sept. start in Idaho is because outfitters like to have "cast and blast" hunts then. Every time I've heard the Idaho F&G Commission consider an Oct. opener the outfitters show up at the meeting and say it will ruin their business. BTW, outfitting for chukars isn't legal in ID. The way they get around that is by saying the chukar hunting they do on the "cast and blasts" is "incidental" to the fishing trip.

Tuckers Chukars said...

Burk, I always appreciate your input.If I remember right, Idaho tried an earlier season than what they have right now. It was on the Salmon. I'd have to look back a ways to prove that but even though they found that early opener had no effect on the birds they had enough complaints to settle on the current season. The main reason they stopped the real early season was because people didn't like the ethics of people shooting chukars from the boats. For a selfish reason I agree that it isn't ethical. Later I was involved in the same meetings as you were, Burk, at helping to stop shooting from the boats about ten years ago. But, let's be honest. It didn't provide more birds it just stopped something that wasn't ethical in our minds.

Many people claim they don't like shooting 3/4 grown chukars. Than don't. Those early birds usually are getting up close enough to know the difference. And we surely don't want to complain about their size as a reason to close the early season because where would that leave us for grouse. Once again we would have different hunting groups fighting amongst ourselves instead of together.

The last couple of weeks has been real educational for me. This discussion can go viral real fast. I've found that most of the reasons people give for a later opening date are selfish reasons. Just as my reason to keep it as it is is selfish also. Many people don't like the heat. Than don't go. Others don't like snakes. Don't go. Some have told me it's a slaughter around the water holes but they told me they never actually saw it happen. The only positive reason I have heard was that if all the western states had the same opener hunters would be more scattered that day.

Once again, in my opinion, (which isn't much)our reasons for wanting shorter or longer seasons are selfish. The data gathered in the past fifty or more years has proven the seasons we have will work just fine.

Burk said...

Larry, We agree on most things. The question, though, was why the other states have a later opening date. I'd like to know what their reasons are. I know a few people I can ask but I just never thought of asking the question before the recent discussions came up. As for 3/4 grown birds or even younger than that, I'm not sure most guys can tell or even care. I think most guys just shoot anything that flies. I'm sure I've seen late hatch birds in mid-Sept that were no older than 6 weeks and probably less. I'll always remember one of my dogs leaping and catching a real young chukar as it flushed on opening day. The season ending dates in Feb. interest me. If I had a choice I'd take 2 weeks in Feb. instead of 2 weeks in Sept. If we want a longer season that might be worth considering even if we kept the mid-Sept. opener. The only reason I can think of against it would be stressing birds in poor condition. Most guys, though, wouldn't even go out in Feb. because of cold and poor road conditions. I hate all that mud on my boots and truck. This year I'm avoiding it by heading to Kansas soon for Bobwhite and pheasants.

Tuckers Chukars said...

Good luck in Kansas Burk. I understand the question you asked and I forgot to mention that maybe a better question is "are there more birds and better hunting in those states because of their later opener?"

Two weeks in February sounds terrible for me, but I'd be all for it if it didn't mean losing two weeks in Sept. I went over to the big pond today and luckily the roads were snow covered so no mud. But the hunting was tough for me. Watched birds running all over the hill in up to a foot of snow. Dog's could see them too which didn't make dog work any better. Also watched birds flying all over the place. The big birds were keeping them busy flying and talking. I made it up the slope, slipping and sliding and didn't break or hurt anything today. I even got some great points and some birds. I'll always go when the season is open, even if it was in February but I'd rather go when the going is easier and I don't have to tear up roads and rigs. And you're right about most guys, I didn't even see another rig today.

Unknown said...

I hunt chukar in WA and ID. I agree with your position on seasons and limits but there is one factor that must also be addressed in an honest discussion about seasons and limits. As hunters we often gauge our impact on the birds by the number of birds killed. The amount of stress we apply to the birds when we push them around the hills is also a factor in their ability to survive. The conditions under which the birds are hunted is also important. The time of year, weather, presence of predators, availability of food and water are all factors that combine with the stress birds experience under pursuit. Allowing widespread motorized access to remote terrain also puts increased stress on birds. At 61 I only have a few years left with "chukar legs". When I'm no longer able to walk the hills, I will not be shopping for an ATV of any kind. Every chukar hunter knows the birds win eventually.