Photo by Brent Stettler, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
More Chukars this Fall
You should find more chukar partridge in Utah this fall. With the exception of some areas in the west-central desert, chukar numbers appear to be up across most of the state.
And three other upland game birds—Hungarian partridge, sharp-tailed grouse and sage-grouse—also appear to be doing well.
Hunts for all four of these birds start Sept. 25.
Rain last spring
Dave Olsen, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says rain that fell last spring and early summer provided the birds with better habitat. He says good spring and early summer moisture is critical to upland game birds. The moisture helps the vegetation grow and provides newly hatched birds with plenty of insects to eat.
“This year, Mother Nature delivered in the moisture department,” Olsen says. “Nesting temperatures were a little on the cold side, though.”
Olsen says the colder temperatures that accompany spring snow or sleet storms can sometimes create problems for birds that nest on the ground.
Olsen provides the following preview for each of the four hunts:
DWR biologists use helicopters to survey chukar populations in August each year.
The biologists conduct two surveys. One survey takes them over Tooele County. The other survey takes them over Box Elder County. Both counties have some of the best chukar habitat in Utah.
Biologists who flew the Tooele County survey route in August recorded the fewest number of chukars they’ve observed in the past decade.
The news from the Box Elder County survey, and reports from other areas in Utah, was more encouraging, though.
For example, a team from Brigham Young University is working on a multi-year water and wildlife research project in western Utah. Their research area stretches from the Dugway Proving Grounds south of Tooele to the Mohave Deseret west of St. George.
Olsen says members of the research team have seen more chukar partridge this year. And DWR biologists in southeastern Utah also report seeing a fair number of chukars in that part of the state.
“Overall, hunting for chukar partridge should be better than it was last fall,” Olsen says.
If you hunt chukars this fall, Olsen has a reminder: don’t drive your all-terrain vehicles or other vehicles near water sources.
“The vegetation around these water sources is important habitat,” Olsen says. “It provides security to wildlife in the area. And it protects chukars from predators when the birds come to the water sources for a drink.”
More information about hunting chukar partridge is available in an audio interview at the DWR’s website. You can hear the interview at www.wildlife.utah.gov/radio .
Hungarian partridge are another upland game bird that appears to be doing well this year.
Huns are found from Cache County to as far south as northern Utah County. But dry farms in Box Elder County, and brushy areas near those farms, are the state’s Hungarian partridge hotspots.
Olsen reminds you that these hotspots are found almost entirely on private land. Before approaching landowners to ask for written permission to hunt, ask yourself this question: If you allowed someone to hunt on land you owned, how would you want that person to treat your property?
Olsen says that’s the same way you should treat private property that landowners give you written permission to hunt on.
“If you treat landowners and their land with respect, there’s a decent chance they’ll allow you on their property in the future,” Olsen says.
Special permit to hunt sharp-tailed grouse and sage-grouse
A small game or combination license is the only license you need to hunt chukars or Huns.
Hunting sharp-tailed grouse and sage-grouse is different—in addition to your license, you also need a special permit for the bird you’re hunting. And all of the sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse permits for this fall’s hunts have been taken.
If you obtained a permit, Olsen says you can expect a good hunt.
Utah has two sharp-tailed grouse hunting units, one in Cache County and one in eastern Box Elder County. Most of the sharp-tailed grouse hunting that happens on the units happens on private land.
“Please remember that you must obtain written permission to hunt on private land,” Olsen says. “And once you’ve obtained that permission, please treat the land and the landowners with respect.”
Overall, Olsen says Utah’s sage-grouse populations are doing well. Plenty of birds should be available to hunters who drew a permit.
“The wet spring did appear to have some effect on nesting sage-grouse,” he says. “Snow that fell late last spring reduced nesting success in some areas.”
On a positive note, the improved habitat conditions the storms created appeared to benefit the chicks that did hatch. Olsen says most of the sage-grouse chicks that hatched this past spring made it through the summer.
If you hunt upland game this fall or winter, Olsen asks for your help:
Keep a journal
After the hunting season is over, you might receive a telephone call or an e-mail from the DWR asking you about your hunting experience. To provide accurate information, Olsen asks you to keep a record of where and when you hunted, and how many birds you took each time you went.
An easy way to keep track is to use the agency’s Upland Game Hunter’s Harvest Record. The record is found on page 24 of the 2010 – 2011 Utah Upland Game Guidebook.
The free guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks .
Olsen says the information you provide is valuable in helping biologists monitor the condition of Utah’s upland game populations and trends in the populations.
Give a wing
If you obtained a sage-grouse or a sharp-tailed grouse permit, biologists would like you to supply a wing from each bird you take. Having the wings allows biologists to determine several things, including the gender of the birds taken, the nesting success of the hens, when the chicks were hatched and how old the birds are.
You can deposit the wings in wing-collection barrels. The barrels will be available at many of the state’s popular sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse hunting areas.
You can also drop the wings off at DWR offices from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
More information about hunting upland game in Utah is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame .