Red-legged Devil Birds: 4 Reasons Wild Chukar Hunters Hunt
Wild chukar hunters are a prideful, boastful, full-of-themselves, secretive and ultra-competitive bunch. One might say wild chukar chasers think they are God’s gift to all of the hunting world. If you want to know what it feels like to be straight-faced lied to, ask a chukar hunter where they hunt. If you want to hear a hunter brag of the miles they’ve hiked, falls they’ve taken, ankles sprained, boots worn out and guns they’ve bent, broken and banged up, ask a chukar hunter what chasing wild chukars is like. If you want to hear two people one-up each other’s story all day long, listen to chukar hunters talk. Chukar hunters think they are a special kind of hunter. A dog whispering, ultra-hiking, sharp-shooting, one-in-a-million gritty yet refined kind of outdoorsman. I say this from experience because I too am a wild chukar chaser.
The chukar was brought to North America from its native range including Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan as another game bird to hunt. They live in hostile environments of arid, steep, rocky mountainous terrain of 4,000 to 13,000 feet. Chukars have found similar extreme habitat in parts of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon. Chukar habitat sounds, and is, more like wild sheep hunting than game bird hunting.
Many people across the country have a cock-eyed perception of what chukar hunting really is. The skewed perspective comes from photos of hunters on flat or semi-rolling farmland hunting pen-reared birds. This is NOT real chukar hunting and is slightly offensive to those who belong to the small group of hardcore chukar hunters in the Western U.S. Real wild chukar hunting pushes even the most capable backcountry big game hunters to their physical and mental limits. Real chukar hunters call them red-legged devils for a reason. It’s an abusive relationship between the hunter and the chukar where the hunter is most often the victim.
All In or All Out
With wild chukar hunting you are either all in, or not in at all. Casual wild chukar hunters don’t really exist. They usually go once, maybe twice, and have had enough. Those who are part of the small cohort of serious chukar hunters are red-legged devil bird chasers to the core. They live for it. It’s their existence and consumes their lives (and finances) throughout the year. One of the largest barriers to entry of real wild chukar hunting is a good bird dog. It isn’t often folks happen upon and flush chukars. They disappear into the craggy, steep, unforgiving terrain. On top of this they hold tight, letting predators walk on by. You will be hard pressed to find a serious chukar hunter without multiple dogs.
Die-hard chukar hunters know no off-season. Even after a long liberal chukar season officially ends, the real chukar hunter is still climbing, slipping, and falling across rock infested terrain. The only thing absent is the gun. This is when cameras come out and chukar hunters head even further from civilization to scout areas absent of man’s touch. Frankly, the addiction never stops. The desire to see a dog’s chest heaving, its nostrils flared vacuuming in oxygen with anticipation as you walk ahead to flush the drug is always burning. It’s a fix chukar hunters continually need – and there is no methadone.
The cliché is – you go once for fun, after that it’s for revenge. This is only partially true for the obsessed hunter who grinds, day-after-day, month-after-month, and year-after-year. Revenge turns to admiration. Admiration for the bird, for the ankle folding terrain, the slipping, the sliding, the shots missed, and most of all time spent with your k-9 compadre. With all this said, here are 4 reasons wild chukar hunters keep at it year-after-year.
4 Reasons Wild Chukar Hunters Hunt
1. Man’s Best Friend
This is absolutely number one for almost any serious wild chukar hunter. Continual success in chukar hunting is done using a good chukar dog without a doubt. Misery loves company, and a relationship forged between dog and handler in the beautifully torturous terrain chukar hunting is becomes special. As previously stated, the dog is one of the biggest barriers to getting into chukar hunting. But once you have one, the dog is the biggest barrier to leaving the sport of wild chukar hunting.
2. Liberal Season
Because participation and success is low, chukar hunting season lasts for months. For example, Utah has a season spanning from the end of September through mid February. Then on top of that, serious wild bird enthusiasts continue to run the dogs on chukars until they start nesting, usually around the start of April. It’s the hunting gift that keeps giving.
3. Off-Season Workout Program
It has been said many times – you won’t see a fat guy couch potato 10 miles in and 2,000 above the truck on a chukar mountain following bird dogs. Chukar hunting is one of the best workout programs a person can participate in. It is interval training, cardio, leg day, climbing, and lifting, all rolled into one workout. We’ve recorded hunts on our GPS covering over a dozen miles and doing 4,000 feet of elevation change. Take up serious chukar hunting and those winter pounds you used to put on will be a thing of the past. Additionally, you’ll be in the best shape of your life going into big game scouting and hunting season.
Whenever someone asks what the best recipe is for chukar, the answer is anything you would do with chicken. Seriously, the meat is light in color and light in texture just like chicken. Anything you cook with chicken you can replace with chukar meat. It is so similar no one will even know.
Wild Chukar Recap
So let’s summarize here. Wild chukar hunters are prideful. Wild chukars live in some of the toughest, physically and mentally demanding terrain in the West. It is a difficult species to hunt and demands a lot of time, money, and a good bird dog. The bird dog is one of the best parts of chukar hunting and is what keeps most hunters coming back. Real wild chukar hunters are all-in and become obsessed with this little devil bird. The seasons are long, you’ll stay in the best shape of your life, and chukars are crazy delicious. If all this sounds like a helluva time then find a local chukar conservation chapter or friend who can show you the ropes. Before you know it, you may be one of the pridefully obsessed chukar chasers climbing snowy covered bare slopes in sub-freezing temperatures next winter.
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