Probably the most asked question posed to me is “where can I find some chukars to hunt?” That’s quite a loaded question and can sometimes get you shot. Most chukar hunters guard their hunting locations like they do their bank account. On a lot of sites people get down right nasty to the questioner. “Get out there and put your boots on the ground, that’s what I did, is a common response.” I have a few guarded spots, but have no problem giving people a general idea of where they might find chukars. 90 % of the people who try chukar hunting usually find another species to hunt. Partially because they are hard to find and secondly because of the terrain they like to inhabit.
I live just north of Boise, Idaho and from here there are literally hundreds of different chukar hunting locations within a two hour drive and a thousand more within a four hour drive. Some of them are accessible from a paved road, some off dirt roads and some you need a atv or utv to access. But once you get there, they almost all require a lot of hiking. Usually the hike is in steep terrain.
Over thirty years ago I started hunting chukar with Greg Allen. One of his favorite sayings was “we can get a lot of satisfaction out of that hill.” In other words the mountain was steep and miserable looking and by the time we got to the top and back we would be beat but probably had some good action. To this day I still look at chukar mountains as gaining satisfaction.
So, to those who don’t know what to look for, here are some pictures of good chukar country along with some notes of how I usually hunt the area. A few of you might recognize these areas but most of these pictures could be just about anywhere in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah or Nevada. Probably even more states but these are the only ones I have hunted.
First of all, you have to know that chukars are what I consider a high desert bird. Although they are sometimes close to timber they prefer the sage, cheat, bunch grass, etc. that the high desert has to offer. Like all animals they need water, but it takes very little water for a chukar to survive. In the summer they will usually be close to a water source but as it cools they can be miles away being able to get their water from the wet vegetation. That water doesn’t necessarily have to be a lake or a stream, but is often just a seep in a draw or sometimes on the side of a steep mountain. Most chukar country is also range land and by following a cattle trail or game trail you can often find these small seeps.
These high desert areas in southern Idaho and southern Oregon are perfect spots to find chukars.
This is steeper than it looks. Throw in all the rocks and rock slides and you can see why it takes a long time to get to your pointed dog. When you do finally get to your dog you trip over a rock to spoil the shot.
Above this rim might also be a great place to find chukars and is probably a little gentler. But after opening day be prepared for birds to hang close to the ridge and dive over the edge. If you are lucky enough to get a shot and connect you can see where your bird would end up. It could spell disaster for a bird dog hard in pursuit of a cripple.
Sometimes you can find some less steep country to hunt. As long as there is feed there is the possibility of your dog finding birds where you actually have both feet on the ground when you shoot.
Here’s one of those opportunities I just mentioned. Grady has the birds holding and I had no excuse for missing a shot that would produce a easy retrieve for this area. We were headed for that far ridge when Grady locked up. I’m not saying that there aren’t birds down low in this draw but for some reason I head for the most satisfaction.
Almost to the top of these steep ridges is where the boys like to go. They are the better predators so I just follow their lead. These steep hills are not only rough on me, they take a toll on the dogs. Dead and crippled birds fall forever down hill and dogs will follow them all the way to the bottom if they have to.
Almost all of the reservoirs in southern Idaho and southern Oregon have areas with chukars. Many of them have more gentle terrain and with a little snow chukar tracks can give away their locations.
The sage brush helps give the birds cover and a good dog can hold them a little easier.
This picture is of one of those reservoirs in Idaho with a paved road to it. As you can see the hill is fairly steep with some good cover. The fog came in and the birds were plentiful but usually gone in the fog before I could muster a shot.
As I mentioned earlier, the birds will have some type of water source during the early season. This seep was way high on a chukar mountain. It looks like it may keep running downhill but it disappears into the earth just past the tree. All the droppings around this area showed that chukars were not far.
When the snow falls many chukar hunters get excited about the birds moving down. In some cases the chukars do move lower but in most cases chukars don’t move down but move to those high ridges that the snow has blown or melted off. Us two legged animals have a tough time getting to those cleared. Chukars just flap their wings a few times and they are happily eating.
If you’re lucky you might find a trail that leads you up a canyon. You can walk that trail as high as you want and then head for the ridge and hunt back towards the rig. Sometimes you might pick up a bird or two on the way up. On this particular trail I followed it up the draw until I gained 1000 ft. of elevation. I then went up the ridge another 500 feet and hunted the ridge top back.
Of course we all know the Snake River canyon. I could hunt the rest of my life and never cover what I haven’t covered so far. Much of it is untouchable unless you have a boat. Most of it that you can get to is straight up. The good thing is that most of it and it’s tributaries hold chukars. It just depends how much satisfaction you want.
I saved the best for last. You probably recognize this picture. It’s that No Tellum Mountain we all talk about. It’s the easiest place that I hunt. It has never let me down as far as finding chukars and huns. I’ve hunted it every year for 26 years and never seen another hunter. I have found a few spent shotgun shells but I’m quite sure this other person is as tight lipped about this area as I am.
So there you go. A good idea of what to look for. I’m sure many people have hunted these areas before. I very seldom run into another hunter although there is evidence they have been there. For the most part they are hard and that’s what keeps most hunters from going there. If you don’t love to chukar hunt you usually won’t return to those areas. But if you get hooked like I am you’ll be looking for that area where you can get the most satisfaction.