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CHUKAR HUNTING BETTER IN WINTER
Chukar Hunting Gets Better as Winter Hits
The birds stay in a smaller area, making it easier to find them.
Falling snow is good news for chukar hunters. Once snow starts to fall, chukars—which roam over a larger area during the warmer months—concentrate in smaller areas. That makes it easier to find the birds.
Chukar partridge also they live in some of Utah’s driest areas. That’s another reason why they’re a great bird to hunt in the winter. You won’t have to worry as much about getting your vehicle stuck in snow, or hiking through deep snow, like you might while participating in other hunts. Colder weather also makes hiking less strenuous. And rattlesnakes are hibernating now, so you don’t have to be concerned about them either.
“In my opinion,” says Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, “winter is the best time of the year to hunt chukars.”
Robinson says another advantage to hunting chukar in the winter—or anytime during the season—is the tasty meal the birds provide. “Chukar are the best-tasting game bird in Utah,” he says.
Be aware, though—to put a tasty meal on your table, you’ll have to earn it.
Another thing you can earn is a coin for completing the state’s “Blister Slam.” The slam is one of six upland game slams in Utah. You can learn more about Utah’s Upland Game Slam at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandslam.
This winter should be one of the best winters ever to get out and hunt chukars in Utah. Hunting success this season has been well above average. “Hunters are reporting great success this season,” Robinson says. “They’re seeing more coveys and larger coveys of birds.”
The state’s chukar hunt runs until Feb. 15.
More information about where to find chukars is available in the 2015 – 2016 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook. You can get the free guidebook at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks. The distribution map is on page 36.
Before hiking up a hill to find chukars, you can save yourself time and energy by getting familiar with the landscape chukars live in. Robinson says chukars need three things: Cliffs for roosting, shrubby cover near the cliffs and seeds and grasses to eat.
In Utah, this habitat is usually found just below ridgelines at about 4,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation. And the habitat you’ll find chukars in is steep—very steep.
To make the most of your energy supply, Robinson suggests hiking up to a ridgeline, and then walking along the ridgeline and then down from the ridge.
Chukars run uphill to escape hunters. And they flush downhill when spooked. For these reasons, getting above the birds will give you a big advantage. “There can be a lot of walking involved,” he says, “but it’s a great way to stay in shape through the winter.”
Robinson suggests waiting until midmorning before heading out. Giving the sun time to soften and melt the snow can make it easier to navigate steep chukar habitat. “When the ground is frozen,” he says, “hunting chukars can be like trying to walk on a Slip’N Slide.”
There is an advantage to being out at first light, though. “The birds feed mostly in the early morning,” Robinson says. “If you listen closely, they’ll often tip you off to their location.”
Robinson says chukars live in coveys that typically number between five to 30 birds. “When the covey is feeding,” he says, “it always posts a sentry. The sentry sits on a rock that provides it with a good view of the surrounding area. If the bird sees you, it will call out to alert the other birds. There’s a flip side to that, though: the sentry’s calling will alert you that a covey of chukars is in the area.”
During the early part of the season, chukar spent a lot of time hiding from migrating raptors. Now that these predators have moved elsewhere, the birds are free to spend more time finding seeds and grasses to eat.
Unlike many upland game birds, chukars are not restricted to pockets of habitat that have stands of trees in them, so their habitat is expansive. In the winter, though, snow reduces the amount of area in which the birds can find food. Robinson says in the winter, you should look for chukar on south-facing slopes. The snow on slopes that face south melts faster. That lets some grasses green up for the chukars to eat.
“That’s one of the big advantages to hunting chukars in the winter,” Robinson says. “Because the north-facing slopes have snow on them, the snow essentially cuts in half the areas where you’ll find chukars.”
To hunt chukars, you have to hike up steep slopes. Make sure the boots you’re wearing provide good traction and ankle support. Robinson also suggests wearing your clothes in layers. Wearing layers will allow you to remove a layer if you get hot while hiking. Then, if your hike brings you to a cold and windy ridgeline, you can put that layer on again.
Shots at chukars often come at fairly long ranges. Robinson suggests using a 12- to 28-gauge shotgun, with a modified choke, shooting shot shells loaded with 4 or 5 shot.
Bringing a trained hunting dog with you can also be a great idea. Trained dogs will help you locate the chukars. And they can retrieve the birds you shoot. “That will save you from having to hike down steep slopes to find birds on your own,” Robinson says.
LEAD SHOT CONCERNS
In the recent chukar study done in Utah it was surprising to find that 11% of 461 chukars analyzed contained ingested lead. It has caused us to think hard about the possible effects of lead on birds and to consider changing shot to a non-toxic load.
The provided links below include additional information that may be of interest to you as well. When you consider that most of us hunt over pointing dogs and shoot shots that are under 35 yards, steel shot becomes a very viable option and even if you pay for expensive, heavier non-toxic loads the cost over a year is fairly reasonable for most upland hunters considering the majority of us generally shoot less than 500 shells a year at upland species.
We are encouraging additional research be performed to provide additional information and determine what this means to the chukar populations.
At any rate it is something to think about and be aware of.
More information on lead can be found at:
Board meetings are held every other month on the 2nd Tuesday. The meetings are at Scheels in the upstairs board room from 6:30-8:30 PM. We meet in the downstairs eatery for dinner from 6:00-6:30 to catch up if you like.
We are looking to add 1additional board member, if you are interested please attend the September meeting.
UPLAND GAME SLAMS
As a foundation we encourage you and those you know to participate in Utah's upland slams. The $20 adult and $10 youth participation fee is used to generate money that will go completely to upland projects in the state (much like an upland stamp) that our foundation will have a voice in choosing. In other words, it is a great way to donate to upland game in Utah while challenging yourself to explore all the upland opportunities Utah offers.
To encourage further participation we as a foundation will offer the following incentives: 1) Complete any slam and show your token/certificate at the February banquet to receive $20 worth of raffle tickets. 2) Complete your ultimate slam and show your token/certificate before the banquet and receive a free single dinner package, or equivalent value discount on a different package at our February banquet. This is a great way to support upland game in Utah and challenge yourself.If you want to apply for the limited entry upland tags in Utah you have until July 22 to enter the drawings. Some of the upland slams require harvesting a limited entry species.
Additional information can be found at:
It all started with a lie, I was asked to go pheasant hunting, but as we left the agricultural fields of a lush valley bottom and up a steep craggy canyon I knew that I had been deceived. As we drove to the head of the canyon, I stared at the steep ridges and sheer cliff faces, I was uncertain if I really wanted any part of this “chukar hunting” expedition. I shot 3 chukar that day over the points of a young german shorthair. Following my crash course with chukar hunting, like many chukar addicts, I began studying chukar habitat. A seasoned chukar hunter knows how important cheatgrass is to chukar. While cheatgrass may be great for chukar, it is an introduced grass that has aggressively inserted itself into native plant communities that have been disturbed. Chukar thrive in these disturbed ecosystems and have adapted well to cheatgrass infested landscapes. The amount of chukar habitat has generally been increasing as wildfires have stripped sagebrush and juniper from western landscapes. While chukar hunters generaly take solace in the fact that the number of acres of habitat keep growing, many chukar hunters have not considered that chukar habitats could be at risk due to other invasive weed species. Medusahead is an annual grass with a similar lifecycle to that of cheatgrass. It establishes and forms a dense thatch layer that can preclude other more desirable species from persisting or establishing. Medusahead has long stiff awns that discourage consumption by grazing livestock and wildlife. Although cheatgrass has awns, it provides forage when it is green and succulent to chukar, wildlife and livestock. Unlike cheatgrass, the green leaves of medusahead are not generally palatable due to the concentrations of silicates in the leaves (silicates are a mineral found in sand and quartz). Eating medusahead may be like chewing on sand paper. The concentration of silicates in the leaves renders it almost useless to foraging wildlife and livestock unless their food is limited. Even more concerning is the ability of medusahead to outcompete the more favorable cheatgrass. Land managers in Idaho, California and Nevada have been struggling as they have watched medusahead out compete cheatgrass to become the dominant vegetation across thousands of acres. While cheatgrass is not the most desirable vegetation in the eyes of most land managers, it is more desirable than medusahead. Medusahead seeds are moved about very similarly to cheatgrass the long stiff awns are notorious hitchhikers on vehicles, clothing and the hair of animals. Once medusahead seeds establish, they begin developing this dense mat of thatch that breaks down slowly because of the silicates in the leaves, effectively creating conditions only suitable for medusahead seedlings.
Historically in Utah medusahead had only been a problem in Cache county and eastern Box Elder county. However, over the last two years it has been found in Morgan, Salt Lake and Utah counties. There is great concern among weed managers across the state that other counties may also have infestations of medusahead but they have just not found them yet. Medusahead is often found occupying the same habitats as cheatgrass, so in order to detect early infestations of medusahead we will need to conduct extensive surveys in areas that are invaded by cheatgrass. As I considered this problem I realized there is no other group that spends countless hours in the cheatgrass infested landscapes than chukar hunters. Rangeland and wildlife extension specialists at Utah State University have worked with our IT departments to develop an app that train and use chukar hunters as an early medusahead detection system. With the hope of identifying these medusahead infestations early enough that they can be eradicated before they become a landscape problem. Not only can chukar hunters help ensure chukar habitat is maintained they can also help ensure that we maintain healthy and productive rangelands for multiple uses. Look for wide scale release of the app following beta testing this summer.
For more Information about medusahead:
USU Rangeland Management Specialist
5230 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322-5230
PARKER MOUNTAIN SAGE GROUSE COUNTS
Each year the UCWF assists with ongoing research for Sage Grouse on Parker Mountain. The annual sage grouse count will happen on July 31- Aug.1 this year.
Using a GPS (Astro) and your bird dog you will help count and record sage grouse on the mountain. If you do not have an Astro, let Dave know and we will have a few extras you can use.
The UCWF will provide brats/smoked sausage, chips, corn on the cob, and dessert Friday evening for dinner (7:00 ish). Feel free to bring a pot luck item along to add to the dinner if you can.
Dave is also looking for a few people who can help do counts earlier in the week. Let him know if that is something you can do.
Please RSVP to Dave Dahlgren at Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAJOR CHANGES TO HUNTING LAWS
UPLAND HUNTING IN UTAH
2008 is going to be a great year for Upland Game in Utah. Never before has there been such a proactive push for sound upland game management and the UCWF was there to lend a helping hand. Because of your support and strong voice we’re entering a new era in upland hunting.
Among other pursuits, the UCWF pushed for two major objectives: A later opening date for chukar partridge and sage grouse, and to increase hunter opportunity while decreasing complicated game laws. We made a BIG step in these directions. Below are just a few of the up and coming highlights:
∙Starting this fall, you can enjoy some extra chukar and Hungarian partridge hunting during a single, statewide season that begins two weeks later than past years. The season opens the last Saturday in September and runs until mid February.
∙You can enjoy an extra week of sage-grouse hunting. At the same time, adult sage-grouse hens will receive some extra protection, due to the season opening two weeks later.
∙You can enjoy an extra month of forest grouse hunting. The season begins in mid September and runs until the end of December.
∙The general pheasant hunt will run for 16 days across the state, providing hunters with a single statewide general season.
∙Utah has two new quail hunts. The new hunts will be held in Daggett and Sanpete counties.
∙A new sharp-tailed grouse hunt will be held in Cache County.
REASONING BEHIND THE NEW LAWS
With a few seasons of sound biological data in our belts we felt it was time for some much needed changes in Utah hunting regulations. The current regulations were complicated and the UCWF felt it could increase hunter opportunity while keeping upland laws as simple and consistent as possible.
CHUKAR & HUNGARIAN PARTRIDGE: Moving the start of the season back should protect vegetation around artificial guzzlers and other water sources. Chukars are less dependent on these water sources as autumn progresses. As the chukars leave the water sources, the hunters should follow them. That should decrease the amount of vegetation that's damaged by hunters and others driving their vehicles near these sites. It will also give time for younger broods to mature and give hunters a sporting target.
GREATER SAGE GROUSE: The start of the sage grouse season has been moved from mid September to the last Saturday in September. Starting the season two weeks later should reduce the number of mature sage-grouse hens that hunters take. Starting the season in late September will give young birds more time to mature. Broods begin to break up, and the birds scatter more. Not having the birds as concentrated should reduce the number of mature hens that hunters take.
COLUMBIA SHARP TAILED GROUSE: The population of sharp tailed grouse in Cache County has risen to huntable numbers. This new season should give hunters more opportunity and reduce hunter concentration.
FOREST GROUSE: The seasons for both Dusky (Blue) Grouse and Ruffed Grouse have been lengthened. The season extension should give hunters more opportunity while not effecting population levels.
The Utah Chukar & Wildlife Foundation would like to thank the valued support of our members, the Upland Game Advisory Council, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for help in instituting such significant and historic changes.
UPLAND GAME GUIDEBOOK
All of the rules for Utah's 2008–2009 upland game seasons can be found in this year's Upland Game Guidebook. The guidebook is available on the DWR Web site at
It will also be available at DWR offices and hunting license agent locations across Utah.
CURLEW NATIONAL GRASSLANDS PROJECT
The Curlew National Grasslands is a public lands area open to hunting in Southern Idaho. It has a number of popular upland species including sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, hungarian partridge, and pheasant.
The USFS is pursuing a $15,000 dollar grant to help complete a three year $45,000 habitat improvement project on the grasslands. The project's main focus is fencing some valuable tree/shrub rows that provided cover and food for pheasants all year and sharp-tailed grouse and huns during the winter. The old fences have been knocked over and cattle are taking their toll on the trees, shrubs, and vegetation.
The UCWF in partnership with UplandIdaho and Utahbirddogs has sent letters of support for the project and pledged to provide volunteer labor during the spring and summer this year. We have also committed to raising $1000 in supporting funds. These efforts will help ensure that the project will get the grant needed to finish the work. I know many of you hunt Idaho's public lands and will be excited to support this great project. Our goal is to get 100 people to donate $10 each and raise $1000 for this project. Please use the Paypal link below to support the effort. If you wish to donate more than $10 please do so, and please spread the word so we can do our part to help make a difference!
2007 – A YEAR OF UPLAND ADVANCEMENT
A few highlights from the year 2007 that the Utah Chukar & Wildlife Foundation was involved in:
We have been instrumental in getting 17 guzzlers installed in Box Elder County with one more left to install this spring. A huge accomplishment, with many thanks to all who helped make it happen.
We helped determine budget and priorities for certain upland game monies.
We helped establish chukar transplant and guzzler priority lists for each region.
We are currently working on season changes and proclamation improvements for upland hunting in Utah; be prepared to get involved in your local RACS.
Walk in Access has been a great success and you should see many more enrolled lands in future years.
Many volunteers helped with guzzler installations, guzzler maintenance, sharp-tailed grouse counts, sage grouse studies, the current chukar study, and youth hunts.
We have contributed and been an upland voice on numerous wildlife issues/projects.
2007 GUZZLER STUDY UPDATE
Excerpt from a recent study update by Randy Larsen
This document is intended as a short update regarding the progress of the guzzler study. We have now coordinated research between Utah State University (Dr. John Bissonette) and Brigham Young University (Dr. Jerran Flinders) for two years now and have enjoyed a wonderful partnership with these universities as we have amongst all partners. Thanks to all for your help with the current study. This document includes short discussion of a few interesting findings from 2007 and is not comprehensive of all research efforts. We will have a much more detailed report available shortly.
THE BIG QUESTION
One of the driving questions (perhaps the driving question) is whether or not guzzlers benefit Chukars. What little literature is available on this subject is vague and equivocal. We have a three-part approach to tackling this big question.
1) Paired plots flown with a helicopter where one plot has water and the other does not. These paired plots include seven mountain ranges in western Utah and have been flown for the last three years. The results of these efforts have been mixed with some areas showing a consistent year to year higher density estimate in watered plots compared to non-watered plots and other areas showing no difference or even higher estimates away from water. These results are consistent with initial spatial analysis showing that birds from some areas are eating a diet high in water content (Allium sp. bulbs and other succulent plants) and are randomly distributed with respect to water. Chukars in other areas where they do not eat such a high proportion of succulent plants show a tight clumping around water in their summer distribution. Clearly, we have strong site effects and planning for water development projects should consider this information. Guzzlers in some areas where birds can use pre-formed water in plants are unlikely to benefit Chukars.
2) A meta-BACI (before after control impact) design using Nevada’s flight survey information from the last 25 years. We are looking for increases in density of Chukars after addition of water and controlling for strong year to year differences with reference sites flown during the same years. We show a strong (and statistically significant) guzzler effect for two of six pairs
3) A treatment/control design with radioed Chukars where guzzlers are made non-functional in one area (treatment) and survivorship compared to a control area. This experiment was done in the summer of 2007 in an area where Chukars show a clumped summer distribution around water sources. The results of this experiment have been very interesting and represent one of the key developments of 2007. After removal of surface water, treatment Chukars show increased movement and increased mortality in comparison to the control area and in comparison to the previous year on the treatment area.