KSL Outdoors: Chukars

Coming up tonight on KSL Outdoors.
I got one!
One of Utah’s toughest hunts also has one of the longest seasons.
Looks like a hen, pretty bird.
Some tips on hunting the chukar partridge.

Let me introduce you to a couple of friends of mine, Alan Smith and Bret Wonnacott. Crazy, nutty, chukar hunters. Right Bret? We are not all there. I don’t know if I’m crazy, I’m obsessed. That’s our goal today. We are going to go out and show you areas where you can chase chukars, show you how to do it. We even brought two champions, Tic and Sunny along, the ugly setters right here. They take after their owner. Alan you said you guarantee that you are going to get us our limits? I am going to guranteee I’m going to find you enough birds to get your limits. Yeah I don’t know about that, we’ll see. You haven’t seen me shoot yet. Hey a good show on hand tonight, we hope you enjoy it. Let’s go get on the hills. ok, let’s do it.

We are going to walk up the ridges to try and save our legs a bit. There is some canyons there that I know the birds hand into. We want to get as high as we can, because that’s where they like to hang out.

The chukar is no doubt one of the more challenging birds to hunt in Utah. This is a bird that loves remote, rugged mountain country, especially cliffs. They sprint like a roadrunner, usually uphill, have eyes like an eagle and the wariness of a fox.

The good news this year. Chukar numbers are as high as they been in nearly two decades.
Chukar numbers do kind of an interesting thing. They kind of cycle and every 8 or 9 years we get these really high peak years. We had one in 98, 2006 and then we are seeing one this year. We did our flights in August and count the number of chukars that we see. The chukar per square mile was very high. So we are in one of those great peak years.
Chukars occur in every county in Utah, with the biggest population on the Westside of I-15 in the Great Basin.

Having a dog, especially two champions like Tic and Sunny, sure increases your odds, but they can’t shoot the birds, they can only find them.
Chukars are hard to hit, they are fast and they are usually flying down and away from you which is a hard shot to practice.

We’ve got to do better. Those things are working u… Fetch!
dead bird! Find it! That a boy. Right here. drop. good boy.
beautiful birds.

They wear a mask like a bandit, because they rob you of your dignity. and this one bird is all we get to eat tonight unless we find some more. (laughs) But we got one, let’s go find some more.

Utah has fantastic chukar habitat and food for chukars like cheat grass and bunch grass. What we don’t always have is water. That’s why the DWR and the Utah Chukar Foundation have built nearly 700 guzzlers across Utah. This is a small game guzzler. primarily for chukars but it has about 12 different species that use it out here in the west desert. It’s consisted of a steel roof. Kind of sloped a little bit and it goes into a rain gutter. Down through a pipe into a tank that’s buried here if you can see that. and it holds about 350 gallons of water. Then there is a ramp on the front end of that tank where the birds can go down and get a drink of water.

Most of these guzzlers and most chukars are on public lands, that in itself is another reason to chase these birds.
it makes it so it’s a sport that anybody can enjoy as long as you want to drive out to somewhere that is remote, but that’s what makes it nice.

We’re joined today by Brett Urie and Cody Walker. They’re taking us to a area that earlier in the season held some birds. We’ve got a fresh six inches of snow, perfect conditions for the dogs.
not so much for us humans.

My name is Bret Wonnacott and I have a chukar problem.

Why do you chukar hunt?

That’s hard to explain to some but if you like to challenge yourself physically and you like good dog work. I don’t know what better sport there is in the world. Chukars hold well for the dogs. they test a dog, they test your body.

When you don’t know they are there and you are walking along, and you see the dog hit point, like we did several times today and you walk in and there is birds there. It’s such an adrenaline rush. It really is.

I hit that second one, I got one!
Get him Remington. Good boy, get him, get him. oh another one!
Good boy. wow that was fun! that was awesome. Nice shooting.
bring it here. No, brings it. Oh that’s all you are going to do. Good boy ok, loose. Look at that, nice retrieve and we think we’ve got another one down. Young bird. Yeah it’s a year old probably. Red legged devil. Yeah buddy that is why you hunt for that adrenaline. Sunny had an awesome point. We came over here and there is tracks all over this hillside.

Yeah having dogs is a big advantage for chukars. You know their densities are not real high, so you’ve got to cover some ground and a dog helps a lot with that and then holding the birds to keep them running up hill. A real experienced chukar dog a lot of times will learn to get above the birds and pin them down. Which helps the hunter catch up to them and get some shots.

Oh pressure is on. no pressure guys. they are right in front of you on the right hand side.
ok here we go! Oh they got one, kind of sailed. Yeah they got one.
Fetch it! Dead!
and another big advantage when you do down a chukar, it’s usually such steep country that they can fall 200-300 yards downslope from you.
He got it nice!

And having your dog run down there and get them is a lot better than loosing that elevation and having to climb back up the mountain.

Good boy buddy. Come one let’s go.

South facing slopes are important. We had fresh snow last night so the south facing slopes were not as bare as you’d like them to be. You’d like a couple of days of warm sun to melt some of the snow off of those south facing slopes and expose some of that green cheat grass that’s underneath. If you can get that to happen, it’s a lot easier to hunt. Not only is it a lot easier to walk south facing slopes but the chukars will be there feeding particularly underneath rocks.

Well we’ve got a bird hit and that’s why it is kind of key to have a dog with us, it sure helps. Not only are you dealing with some really steep terrain, but they are able to find the bird that you can’t. So we’ve got all three dogs looking for it.
Good boy, good retreive.

So how do you tell between a female and a male? that little bump on the leg, that’s a male. They have the little bump right there. Young male there? Yeah and a big mature male would be a lot heavier in the body and that bump would be bigger.

Alright I’ve decided that the only people crazier than chukar hunters are lion hunters. Because that’s the only other people I know that would do what we did today. Yeah we are not all there. But we had fun right. You guys have a screw loose! Hey a big thanks to Brett and Cody they took us to a great spot and you know use some of those tactics and tips that we gave you, get out there, find it, you’ll find some chukars and have a great time. Nice meeting you. Thank you. Yeah anytime. Appreciate Brett that was a lot of fun. Crazy people. I’m Adam Eakle, KSL Outdoors, reminding you to get out with your family your friends and make some memories like chasing those crazy red legged devils outdoors. We’ll see you next weekend. Goodnight.

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