Challenging Oregon’s Chukar and Huns
By Gary Lewis
Half the challenge of upland bird hunting lies in finding a spot to hunt. Locate good bird-holding habitat and you have a place you can return to every season with a reasonable chance for success.
Chukar habitat is steep, dry, almost inaccessible and generally unsuitable for anything but wildlife. Much of the good ground is found on public land and access is generally not a problem. However, hunters should be certain of the ownership of the land before they hunt.
Most hunters use dogs to locate birds, and find it easier to approach likely areas on a sidehill or hunt down from above. Getting above a chukar is hard. A good map may show an old winding road that may be navigated by four-wheel drive. But in most cases, the best cover has no roads to it and the hunter is forced to walk uphill from a road or river canyon.
Early in the season, when the weather is still dry and hot, chukars will not be far from water. After fall's first rains, they may be more widely dispersed. Cheatgrass is one of the chukar's principal food sources, though the birds may also be found in agricultural areas close to the river and canyon habitat they prefer.
Hungarian partridge are birds of the wide open spaces and can be found in cropland, sage and bunchgrass country, like that found in southeast Oregon, and from Madras north to the Columbia and east to the Snake River. Look for foothill habitat close to irrigated agricultural lands for the best hunting. Huns have an understated beauty, with a form that follows function. Wings of white and mottled brown allow the bird to hide from predators by holding still. A pastel-grey on the breast blends on the head with shades of brown. Their eyes are surrounded by a pencil-thin border of red. Flanks and breasts are splotched with markings of chocolate brown. Huns are as spooky as chukar, faster than quail, and smart enough to run, circle and hide. Add to all that its taste on the table and this import from Hungary is a welcome and worthy quarry for the best dogs and hunters.
In Umatilla and Morrow counties, chukar and Hungarian partridge may be hunted from October 9 through December 31. In the remaining eastern Oregon counties, the season runs October 9 through January 31, 2005. Bag limit is eight birds, with the exception of Lower Klamath Hills Regulated Hunt Area (bag limit two birds).