Winter Chukar

Santa brought us a new video camera but with all the snow and cold temps we had to wait for a little burn-off. We went out yesterday to try it out and see if we could find any birds. It was fun. For us.

The recent cold snap and snow resurrects some ethical questions about when you should stay home instead of hunt. It seems to me that regardless of whether Angus and I can brave the cold, there should be a “mercy rule” for hunting upland birds when it gets below a certain temperature or wind chill, or when snow and ice vastly reduce the available cover. “Fair chase” should apply since it doesn’t seem fair, and doesn’t seem like hunting, when you can just scan for small patches of burn-off and find birds with higher-than-normal frequency. Which is what we did yesterday. Granted, we slogged through lots of snow to get to those places, so maybe that factors into fair chase. I don’t know. What do y’all think? Do you have a set rule for yourself on when you won’t hunt?

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14 Replies to “Winter Chukar”

  1. One year my hunting partner and I agreed to a five bird limit, roosters only on valley quail because there were so many birds and our dogs were so good that it didn’t feel like real hunting. Now on Chuckar, they have whipped me so many times I don’t think I could ever feel sorry. It would be more like revenge.

  2. Over the years I have decided that there is no fair chase when it comes to chukar, except the roads. I admit to always trying for 8 birds, even though it doesn’t happen that often. When the conditions get poor for the hunter the birds usually do much better and most hunters stay home.

    Today was a prime example for Conner and I. We saw as many birds today as any hunt this year. We had plenty of great points that took forever to get to but Jake would hold anyhow. Our reward was a few birds, several bruises, and some new scars on the shotguns. A few times we wondered if we fell, how far we would go before we stopped rolling.

    Sometimes I wonder if chukars have ever heard of the fair chase rule.

    1. Your opinion holds a lot of weight for me, Larry. Good to know. My only concern – it’s actually more of a question – is about hunting impact on over-winter survival. Hard to know, but I like your common sense approach: when it’s not fun any more because of the weather, the birds get a break from nutcase chukar hunters, right?

  3. By the way, Great video again. I felt your pain at the end when you were trying to get back on your feet. I can’t count how many times that happened to me today.

  4. Good debate Bob. Personally I do not have a problem with it. Just keep it fair chase and we are part of predator cycle. And from what I understand, habitat has more impact than predators on numbers.

    “Similar annual death rates occur in most upland game bird populations whether they are hunted or not. Some populations have been shown to exhibit compensatory mortality. The outcome of compensatory mortality is that the overall number of animals dying annually does not change much even though causes of death may differ from year to year or from one area to another. Because of this tendency, the often-held belief that populations can be “built-up” by not hunting is often incorrect. ”

    To Larry’s Point on fewer folks hunting when the weather is crap:
    “Hunted upland game bird populations are generally subjected to density dependent hunting pressure. This means that when populations are low, hunter pressure is also low and does not reduce populations to such low levels that they are unable to recover to population levels supported by the habitat when weather conditions are favorable.”

    I have heard of negative impacts on Quail if a covey is busted up right before dark (i.e. they won’t last the night alone) so I try to leave Quail alone an hour before sunset. Have not heard of this for any other game bird.
    Oregon DNR does a pretty good job of laying out out the potential impacts but leaves it to the Divisional and Regional Directors to make a call on season closures during harsh winter weather situations.

    “These conditions can impact segments of populations. There is little
    that can be done to alleviate the effects when these conditions occur, including stopping hunting. In fact, a hunting closure may have the opposite affect by allowing more birds to compete for what little food may be accessible. Populations, which are stressed in winter, may have many weeks to survive before spring. When these conditions occur, the stage is set for several undesirable social situations. Birds that are concentrated along roads in valley floors allow unethical hunters to harvest birds illegally by shooting from vehicles or from the road. Another issue is the ethical concern on the part of many hunters, landowners, and non-hunters that the birds should not be hunted when they are so stressed and concentrated. But again, many of these birds may not survive the winter.”

    1. Hey Ivan, good to hear from you, and thanks for the extensive, informative comment. I recently learned about the unethical pickup bed hunters slaughtering chukar along the roadsides nearby. I guess I’m an idealist still, after all these years.

  5. Just got back to Montana after a weekend of hiking steep, icy ground, sweating through my jacket, being chilled when walking the ridgelines, falling, filling my barrels full of snow, falling again and swearing (just once) while chasing chukars. I loved every minute of it.

    I feel much worse for our upland birds of central Montana right now. More snow, more wind and very few sunny slopes for the birds to survive on. With that said, I try not to hunt one area too hard or bump a chukar covey too many times. Chasing them from morning until mid-afternoon and not letting them fill their crops doesn’t seem ethical to me.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jay. Your account of last weekend sounds eerily familiar. I can’t say I disagree with your comments about ping-ponging chukar across the winter landscape. It’s not like they need the exercise, right?

Chirp away

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