California’s general hunting season opener for chukar will be on Saturday, Oct. 17. The season remains open through Jan. 31, with a daily bag limit of six and triple the daily bag in possession.
Originally native to southern Eurasia, the chukar (also known as partridge) was brought from Pakistan in 1932 to be a game bird. It is now plentiful in northeastern California (east of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range) and the Mojave Desert. It can be found below sea level in Death Valley, and as high as 12,000 feet in elevation in the White Mountains. A chukar range map is available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website.
A relative of the pheasant. the chukar has short, rounded wings and a short neck. They are mostly greyish-brown with a buff belly, distinctive chestnut and black bars on the wings and a black line that runs across the eyes and down the throat. Their call is a distinctive chuck-chuck-chuck, from which their name is derived. Skilled hunters who can replicate the call will find this tactic useful.
Hunters are most likely to find chukar in arid open spaces with a water source nearby. They roost on slopes with at least a 7 percent grade, and find cover in rocky outcrops and cliffs. In the early morning, sitting by a water source might be a good strategy, while midday hunters would be more likely to find the birds feeding in more open spaces, particularly north-facing slopes. Late in the day, a hunter on the move might work their way around the perimeter of a pond or the edge of a creek, keeping an eye out for chukar as they move to and from the water.
Like pheasants, chukar are more likely to run than fly when disturbed. When they do take wing, they head for rocks or tall grasses. Seasoned hunters note that chukars always run uphill, but fly downhill. Anticipating the birds’ movement is key to success.
Chukar are not difficult to find without a dog, but a retriever will be helpful in locating downed birds.
A 12-gauge shotgun is appropriate to hunt chukar, but some hunters find that a lighter 20- or 16-gauge gun is easier to carry for a long day in the field. No. 6 or 7 ½ shot in 2 3/4 inch shells are a good choice. Please note that as of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting upland game birds on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves. Please plan accordingly. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.
The habitat and weather may make for a more difficult hunt than some other game birds, so it is important that chukar hunters be prepared before starting the hunt. Proper clothing, including broken-in boots with good traction, is essential, and blaze orange is highly recommended. Hunters should carry water and let others know where they are going prior to beginning the hunt. Hunters must also carry a valid hunting license and, if the hunter is 18 years or older, an upland game bird stamp.
It is the responsibility of every hunter to know and follow all laws. Before hunting chukar or any game bird this season, please check the bird hunting shoot times online for that week (northern California and Southern California are different). The full upland game bird hunting regulations and a summary for 2015-2016 can be found on CDFW’s website.