Usually pronounced "chucker" in the U.S., the name is often attributed to the
"chuck-chuck-chukar" song that the birds make, usually just before they
move out on the ground or on the wing. It's been said that
the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, adventure, and a nice meal on the table
(see some of our favorite chukar recipes),
and thereafter, it's entirely about getting even (because that first hunt can be
a real challenge!).
First brought into the U.S. by Illinois game breeders in the late 1890's the
Chukar Partridge originates in southern Asia. Midwest and western states expiremented
with large scale releases of these birds during The Great Depression, and that produced
flocks of various sizes in Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Idaho, and
Washington state. In Great Britain, hybrids between this species and the also introduced
Red-legged Partridge are common.
The releases were hit and miss, with some being abject failures. After some years
of figuring out what sort of terrain and climate appealed to
these birds, we're now looking at healthy populations that reproduce in the
wild and thrive in fairly large numbers. Chukar are routinely used as training birds,
and thus many are released into areas that may not, in the long term, support
a wild population.
Chukar like rocky, vertical terrain, and will fly well from traps and other ground
plantings when suitably annoyed. Once they're in their home turf, though, it can be some rough hunting. Bird
dogs can easily get injured seeking and retrieving chukar in their preferred environments,
so be thoughtful about your approach, and caution your dog. When these birds are
spooked on their home ground (usually a rocky hillside), they'll either run up
the hill in search of stoney cover, or fly downhill, using the drop to put on
a burst of serious speed to elude their foe. You can use your awareness of those
tactics to better place gunners and dogs when approaching a hilly hotspot.
The Chukar (Alectoris chukar), is a gamebird in the pheasant
family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, the gallinaceous birds.
This partridge has its
main natural range in southeastern Europe, and is the eastern equivalent of
the similar Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa).
A resident breeder in dry, open and often hilly country, it nests
in a barely lined scrape in the ground, usually laying 8-20 eggs. Chukar eat some
insects for protein, and a wide variety of seeds.
This is a chubby, powerful bird, with a light brown back, grey breast and
buff belly. The face is white with a black gorget. It has rufous-streaked
flanks and red legs. When disturbed, it prefers to run rather than fly,
but if necessary it flies, abruptly and swiftly, a short distance on
rounded wings. The relative bulk of the bird means it takes a moment to
really get moving, which provides hunters with a fairly close-in shot.
The chukar is very similar to Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca), but is
browner on the back and has a yellowish tinge to the foreneck. The sharply
defined gorget distinguishes this species from Red-legged Partridge. The song
is a noisy "chuck-chuck-chukar-chukar" that can be heard a
Some Chukar Hunting Tips:
- These birds will often be up and running on the ground when you or your
dog approach. They are quick movers, and if you're hunting semi-wild
pen-raised chukar on a preserve, they may not be cagey enough to know
when it's really time to fly. This means
pressure on your pointing dog and a foot race for your
flusher. So, what do you do when your dog is pointing a walking bird
right out in front of you? If your dog is mature enough to hold that
point, try throwing your hat at the bird (really!). It will likely take
that as a serious invitation to get on the wing.
- Partridges can be tough little buggers. This means that when they're
flying in a sprint and moving away from you quickly, a humane kill can
depend entirely on a solid hit from your shotgun. Make a point of using
number 6 shot so that you have enough oomph to bring that bird down
quickly. These are not just slightly bigger quail - they're sturdy birds!
- You're going to go to a lot of trouble to
bag your limit of chukar - so
be sure you've got some good
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