Chukar are originally from the middle east, but can now be found throughout North America. The birds are a member of the pheasant family, but are much smaller, typically just over a foot tall, with a grayish tan coloring and black stripes on their wings and head. They prefer both dry, rocky hillsides and open desert plateaus, depending on the region, and feed on the seeds, fruits, and insects that occupy these areas. They are ground nesting birds, with females protecting their eggs until they hatch. Like quail, groups of chukar are called coveys and can be as large as 40 individuals strong at times. Due to their ground nesting nature, chukar do not fly too often, preferring to run along the ground over taking flight.
Where To Hunt Chukar
After their introduction to the United States, chukar flourished in the northwestern region known as the Great Basin, as these dry, rocky areas provide perfect habitat and plenty of food for the birds. Nevada is largely known as the best state to hunt chukar, boasting the largest population of birds in the country along with a 5-month season and 6 bird bag limit. Western states like Idaho, Oregon, and Washington all have strong populations of birds as well and rarely disappoint.
Chukar Hunting Techniques
The challenging nature of hunting chukar is the main draw to the species. First, their affinity for dry, rocky areas often leads to long, uncomfortable hikes in search of the wary creatures. Fortunately, chukar have a relatively small home range that is often less than a three-mile radius. This means that if you find one bird there are likely more around, and, if spooked, they rarely go far. The second challenge is the bird’s tendency to run, rather than fly. Running birds are much harder to spot than flying birds, so those that stick to the ground often go unnoticed.
In the early portions of the season, birds will often be close to water and in the lower portions of the hills as they try to keep cool in the heat. As the season progresses and things cool down, birds will be high on south-facing slopes trying to warm themselves in the sun.
Many hunters use dogs when chasing chukars, with pointers often being the favorite. Hunters will creep along in likely areas and wait for their dogs to pick up a bird’s scent. Once the dog is locked on to a bird, he will “point” in the bird’s direction, allowing the hunter to get into position before flushing the bird for a shot. Birds typically fly downhill and away from you, making for a shot type that most bird hunters are unfamiliar with. People frequently miss high, so try and keep that in mind when you flush your first covey. In addition, wounded birds can also make it a long distance before finally dying. If you think you may have hit the bird, do your best to follow it, as it is likely fatally wounded and simply making a last-ditch effort to escape.
All manner of shotguns may be used when hunting chukar. However, due to the bird’s quick nature and the fact that they frequently give you “going away” shots, tighter choke patterns are recommended for their increased range.
Chukar Hunting Regulations
Most areas in the United States require that hunters fill out a Harvest Information Program form in addition to purchasing a small game license, as these HIP’s help state and federal agencies monitor the harvest of migratory birds and influence future hunting regulations. They are free and take almost no time to complete, so make sure you do so and have your permit number printed on your hunting license before you hunt.
Chukar seasons are often very long, stretching from either September or October to the end of January. Bag limits typically vary between 5 and 8 birds per day, with possession limits usually being 3 times that number.
Chukar Food Quality
Chukar is considered very high quality table fare, with some hunters believing they are the best tasting of all the upland birds. Their meat is white, tender, and uniquely flavorful. However, like all game birds, it is important to not overcook your chukar as they tend to become very dry when overdone.