[UPDATE: This is a re-post from almost exactly a year ago. I don’t mean to be snarly, but I get emails every day from people wanting to know where to find chukar. I guess this surprises me a little because I must have assumed that people realize chukar hunting is mostly about exploring public land and learning — for themselves — where the birds are. Here’s my response — in advance — if you send me a message asking where to go:
Thanks for your message. I’m seeing exponentially more hunters in places I never used to see anyone. That’s good (for hunting/public land support) and bad (for me and the solitude I used to have while chukar hunting, which was one of the main attractions for me). I also get messages like yours nearly every day. And I’ve written about this more than once on the blog: chukar hunters know that the birds are where they are, which often is the opposite place the same birds were yesterday. All that being said, I’d say that with all the unseasonably early green-up they could be anywhere. I’ve already had days this season where we saw zero chukar where we had seen many coveys 5 days prior. With two amazing dogs on a long hunt in the best spot I know, last weekend I got one bird. Meanwhile, a friend of mine, with no dogs and a wee OU, limited in an hour in a spot I thought was garbage. The short answer is, I don’t know what to tell you (and probably wouldn’t if I did). Honestly. I’d just look for green up (it’s not everywhere); that’s where we’ve found birds, and not necessarily super close to a water source. Personally, if I could afford it, I’d be hunting in eastern Oregon rather than Idaho based on the reports from last weekend’s opener there.]
One thing I love about hunting chukar is trying to find the birds. That involves working with my dogs, looking at maps, doing lots of exploring (often in vain), figuring out why birds are where we do find them and why they’re not where we don’t. It’s a mysterious thing, and — for me — defines chukar hunting. It’s not pheasant hunting, and it’s not quail hunting, and it’s not sharptail hunting. It’s definitely not grouse hunting, although the big ones are sometimes a bonus I don’t pass up when they present themselves. And I usually miss those. But all of this keeps me coming back.
Another thing I love about hunting chukar is tempting fate: sometimes I try a new spot that looks terrible just because I think it might actually be good; lots of evidence continues to amass supporting the concept that I have my head up my butt so — as George Castanza did for a while on Seinfeld — sometimes I like to try the opposite of a good idea.
Which brings me to the main point when it comes to addressing a question I’m getting more often on this blog: chukar are where you find them.
Even if I told someone exactly where to look for the birds (something I’ve told friends in the past), chances are they won’t be there (my friends confirmed this). Moreover, I like getting skunked without running into other hunters, and have had good luck doing just that for the past two decades and I’d prefer to keep it that way. And more moreover, there are no such things as “secret spots” anymore; anyone can get a digital topo map app and find all the telltale signs of chukar habitat if they spent 10 minutes reading about it on this or any other of the great bird hunting blogs out there; if you’ve watched any of the dozens of videos I’ve posted on the blog or my YouTube channel, you might have noticed we don’t go out of our way to disguise the locations we hunt because it’s not that hard to figure it out. But there’s no sure thing, which is why I think chukar hunting is a good metaphor for life; if one wants to be assured of shooting chukar, a game farm would be the best bet.
So do yourself a favor if you want to be a chukar hunter and get out there and explore all the amazing public land while it’s still open to us all. Find the birds yourself and you’ll be prouder for it, and in better shape because of it.