What’s in a Name

“What’s in a name? That we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  –William Shakespeare

I’ve never called myself an upland hunter. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s too broad of a term. I don’t hunt quail or pheasant, and don’t usually go out of my way to hunt ruffed or dusky grouse in the deep draws with thick pine trees or hawthorn stands like Bob fancies doing. These days, when I do feel the urge to shoot a grouse it’s because it busted wild from the ground and wasn’t near any trees whatsoever. The first bird I ever shot was a big ruffed grouse from a tree limb down by a watery creek bed. My shooting it was probably more from the frustration of Peat’s insistent high pitched barking at it rather than me wanting to get my first bird under my belt. According to his breeder, Peat had come “from a long line of barkers,” and at the moment I shot that bird the pup was yapping his head off while standing on his hind legs at the base the tree with his little tail stub wagging furiously. Peat’s immediate retrieve directly to my hand shut him up, but I learned that I prefer shooting at a moving target in the air or one that I don’t have to think about too long before pulling the trigger. I wept for that bird on that early September morning and all the others that have since followed. That grouse was the first thing I’d ever purposely killed besides maybe spiders (which I try to avoid anyway because it would mean getting close to them to do it).

I like hunting chukar, or I might say I’m obsessed with chukar (alectoris chukar) and the wild and expansive open spaces they call home. I thrive on the adrenaline rush of not knowing where a covey might bust from after a sustained point by the dogs as they work together in beautiful harmony. Hunting chukar also suits my competitive personality. Hunting with Bob, I’ve been known to recklessly traverse a steep scree slope just to beat him to a point. I like the challenge of putting myself into position near the dogs to see the covey rise, up close.

The past two months so far, the boys, Angus and Peat haven’t been finding and pointing as many chukar as I’d prefer, but instead they’ve been finding gray partridge (perdix perdix), also known as Hungarian partridge or “Huns” as we call them. I’ve been busting these Huns often in prime-looking chukarish terrain. I’m talking about higher elevation rocky outcropping or just below these rocks on the steep sagebrush covered undulating slopes.

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Uphill point on Huns

Recently, I was very surprised when Peat brought a retrieved bird to my hand only to discover it was a Hungarian Partridge. What’s in a name, anyway? Maybe I should start calling myself a Hungarian partridge hunter instead of always referring to myself as a chukar hunter.

In chukar country, when a covey busts, most often flying away from you at rapid speed, you sometimes shoot regardless of whether you know if it’s a chukar or Hun. Most times you don’t have a chance to identify the species beforehand. In the hand, Huns don’t look anything like chukar and are typically smaller, and they usually don’t hold as long as chukar and often don’t often make any noise when they bust. I’m no expert, but I’ve been hiking the chukar hills for years and it’s still hard to tell the difference in that split second the birds take off. Ask any seasoned chukar hunter and they’d probably tell you the same thing.

Chukar partridge and Hungarian partridge hunting season here in Idaho coincide with each other, which is a good thing because I’d feel terrible to shoot a bird out of season. If any of you are reading this wondering why on earth anyone would shoot at a bird she can’t identify haven’t hunted chukar in habitat that is also home to Hungarian partridge.

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Peat backing Angus on a covey of Huns
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Ridge top Hun
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Hun and gun

When Peat brought that most recent Hun to my hand, I said in disappointment, “Oh…it’s just a Hun!” Thinking back on it, I now feel bad for my lack of gratitude while stuffing it into my bird pouch. Have I turned into a chukar snob or connoisseur of fine chukar? Lately, my shooting has been way off, so any bird I can manage to knock down — even “just” a Hun — is something to be grateful for.  Do the dogs care what kind of bird it is? Do they even know if it’s a chukar or Hun? I think they’re just happy and proud to bring any kind of bird to me so they can be lavished with the thanks and the praise that follows.

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Peat backing Angus on flatter more typical looking Hun terrain
Bob heading to a covey of Huns, Peat was pointing earlier this season

 

 

 

14 Replies to “What’s in a Name”

  1. I’ve been experiencing the same phenomenon this year, Bob. More small coveys, they seem to be spookier than the chukar I’ve seen so far. Granted I hunt with a flushing dog, but they still seem to get up and go faster. Beautiful birds.

    1. Leslie’s been out more than I have this season, so her take on birds is better than mine. But I’ve seen birds bust way wild, and birds hold as tight as I’ve ever seen, and nearly everything in between. Not sure what to make of that, but I’ll take it: seeing birds is where it’s at, and I’m seeing birds. Yes, they’re beautiful.

  2. Another good one. I have taken Pointing Dog Journal, Gun Dog and numerous other publications for many years. You stories are as good as the best.

  3. I’ve been hunting chukars and Huns for years and continually guess wrong on what spp is flushing. Right there with you rbut love Huns as much as chukars. Both are a gift to experience.

  4. I enjoy huns. I find them a challenge . I dont hike high enough to see many chukars
    I enjoy your blog and videos and pictures your wife takes.

    1. Alan, Thanks for reading my blog post and commenting. Huns are challenging, they seem to fly faster.
      We’re hoping to focus more time on this blog the remainder of the season. Hopefully more hunting accounts, videos, and photos as we head out today for a snowy hunt. Cheers, Leslie

  5. Just returned from a three day hunt starting in Yakima WA. on the indian res, hunting quail with life long friends. Found big coveys when we walked them up. the dogs were a termendus help both in finding and retrieving. Day two was on the Snake river Central Ferry. It was first time time with a boat – hunted down river both sides. While looking for chukar dogs managed to kick up successfully two rosters, one green head mallard, one quail and three chukars. what a day! The third and final day was again in the boat from Vantage up river on Wiskey Dick side. the most rewarding of all days not for the number of birds but for the success the dogs, Annie a two yr old GSP and Tracher a 10 yr old chocolate lab, who is only able to work on three legs these days maybe his last days hunting. Annie locks up in a sagebrush draw, banked by rock bluffs on three sides. I instinctively new this was going to be a tremendous opportunity. Annie held the point long enough for these 70 yr old legs to catch up while helping the lab up the rocks. The 20 bird covey busted in what we call the Fleur de lis, which has only happen one other time in 50 yrs of hunting. the first chukar fell at my feet that Annie brought to me with tail wagging. the second was a corkscrew behind me as i dropped it down the hill. I saw Tracket head after it like he was a young pup again. I returned my attention to Annie to congratulate her on a perfect job. Now i was beginning to worrie about Tracker as he was out is sight for what it seem like forever. Not to worrie he is a seasoned Chukar dog. He come from way down the hill doing the three legged shuffle all the way to my hand; where he promptly laid down for a much deserved rest. it was a life fulfilling moment for Chukar hunter and dogs. Day four we are home bragging on each other’s action and licking our wounds. Making plans for the next adventurer.
    Mike L
    PS. i do not understand everything you write but i like the way you do it.

    1. Mike, thanks for the great story! What a gift these creatures are, huh? Without them, we’d be sitting on the couch eating Doritos. I can only hope to be doing this when I’m 70! Good luck recovering and getting back out there! Thanks again for reading, and for writing to us!

  6. I don’t hunt Chukar or any bird, but I love reading your stories. Your neighbor and friend Sam Holmes is who got me interested in reading and listening about hunting Chuckar. Keep on with the stories, you have an appreciating fan club.

    1. Thank you Alice.
      We hope to keep up with some more stories and photos the rest of the season
      We find inspiration for our future blog posts in many things such as the dogs, the land, the people. I struggle with writing about myself and prefer to highlight others…like Sam for instance. I’ll will miss the opportunity to hunt with him again this season while he’s enjoying warmer weather.
      The weather is starting to get cold and more snow soon on the way. We’ll try and get out as much as our bodies will tolerate before our season ends on Jan 31, 2019.
      Cheers, Leslie

  7. In seasons when there have been good numbers of both huns and chukars in the same area, we have had many instances where coveys of both birds flushed from the same spot. Often it was when we were following a covey of huns. I’ve always wondered if the chukars decoyed the huns to land among them. We’ve had heated arguments on whether the last covey flush was huns or chukars after one dog retrieved a chukar to someone and another dog brought back a hun to another shooter. We have been supplying the east coast with soft hackle fly tying feathers off Idaho huns for the last 27 years.

    Cliff Rexrode

    1. Cliff, Thank you for sharing your observations on the birds. Wow, we’ve never had a double retrieve of a Hun and chukar at the same time. That is cool!
      You guys should get together and write some essays and memories of hunting birds in Idaho. I’m sure you must have lots of amazing stories that would make a great book. I’m serious!
      Enjoy the holidays and hope to see you next autumn. Cheers, Leslie

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