A pointing dog’s ultimate challenge and a wing shooter’s nemesis, the chukar is a high speed game bird that runs like the wind and flies like thunder. They live in the arid, high desert regions of many Western states, scampering over upland basalt rim rock ledges. When being pursued the wily birds hold up just long enough for you to get within a 40-yard shot, lift the shotgun, swing and pull the trigger. If you’re not startled by the take-off you might get lucky and hit one.
Over the years, I’ve crossed paths with many coveys and managed to hit a few birds. But when you ask most bird hunters if they hunt chukar their reply is usually the same, “Hell, I gave up chasing those devil birds years ago.” They may have learned their lesson but I have yet to learn mine.
I can’t give up on the chukar. In fact, I’ve only become more obsessed by these mischievous, Eurasian upland birds that were introduced to North America in the mid 1950’s. And today, I head out to chase these devil birds.
As we near our destination, fog rolls over the hills and we drive into the thick of it. The fog is so dense that the truck slows to 40 mph and I can only see 20 feet in front of me. Skeptical of the conditions, we don’t say much and keep driving until we hit a muddy dirt road that is slick from last night’s rain and rutted from years of use. A little further up the hill I park the truck. We will be hunting Bureau of Land Management (BLM) backcountry land.
In Oregon, the BLM manages 16 million acres of public lands, giving hunters endless opportunities to experience a quality hunt with few people in sight. Today we are the only people for miles. I’ve hunted this spot for a number of years so I know where to go; I’ve crossed these rusty fences and watched chukar dive from the breaks escaping six-shot pellets by the dozen. I hope we see a few coveys today.
Hunting chukar provides an opportunity to experience wide open, undisturbed space and watch the dogs work. My dog Cedar is excited. He’s been here before. Lifting his nose in the air, he follows the scent. He’s not even 15 minutes from the car when his tail starts wagging faster and faster. His shoulders drop, he points and starts creeping in. I whoa, Cedar stops, moves in a little closer and the birds flush just out of range; no shots taken. Chukar are amazingly skittish at times, making a shot difficult but I’m confident we will see more.
We keep working the break. The wind is in our favor and Cedar works into it. Suddenly, he takes a hard right, slouches down and creeps forward like a cat trying to sneak up on a mouse. We all move slowly, trying to ambush our target. Cedar holds point and Lucas and George move in. A covey of 20 birds flush. Shots are fired and a bird hits the ground. Cedar breaks and yelps out a victory cry. He disappears and a few minutes later prances back with a bird in his mouth.
Join us in ensuring public access to BLM backcountry areas. Part of my work with the TRCP is to ensure that backcountry areas such as this are conserved by keeping core fish and wildlife areas intact. We want to maintain public access to backcountry areas – while balancing the needs for energy development. Without this balance, our favorite places to hunt and fish will be lost forever.
Watch the video below to find out how you can get involved.