“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.
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.
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.