Chukar forecast increase for 2013
Chukar and Hungarian partridge season opens Oct. 12 and runs through Feb. 2, 2014. The hunt is open to both resident and nonresident hunters with limits set at six daily and 18 in possession. Shooting hours are sunrise to sunset.
Aerial chukar density surveys were conducted from August 19-22, which was the same week of August the surveys were conducted in 2012. Weather conditions were considered adequate across all transects with temperatures in the low to mid 90s and mild winds; however, a noticeable amount of smoke was experienced on several transects stemming from wildfires burning in California.
The overall average number of birds observed per square mile across all transects was 41. This represents a 35 percent decrease from the 2012 average and an 18 percent decrease from the long-term average of 49 birds per square mile.
Even though this suggests that overall bird numbers are down, most biologists reported at least some reproduction observed during the surveys, which was a bit of a contrast from the 2012 surveys where very little to no production was noted.
“One of the best things you can do is get into shape and get your dogs into shape,” said Shawn Espinosa, upland game biologist at NDOW. “If you haven’t hunted in Nevada before, you might want to go out and look at some spots to hunt and see how things look. Don’t be afraid to try new areas, or travel a bit more to experience other parts of Nevada. You can also talk to big game tag holders and find out what they have been seeing in areas they have been scouting or hunting in to gain information on chukar numbers or production.”
Although fall conditions in 2012 likely benefitted chukar by providing much needed green-up of forbs and grasses.
December snowstorms brought some heavy snowpack that forced chukar to lower elevations where food sources were scarce.
This coupled with weeks of very cold temperatures where inversions lingered well into January likely led to some winter mortality. February and March were relatively dry months in 2013 with some improvement in April in May, but likely not enough to set the stage for good production and chick recruitment overall. A few areas experienced some localized storm events which positively influenced production, while other areas that did not experience these storms may have also had good production for which there may be no good explanation.
Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the overall outlook for the 2013-14 chukar season is poor to fair with a few bright spots. Chukar hunters will likely experience fewer coveys and smaller covey sizes this year, which will create some frustration.
Hunters may experience better success by moving to an adjacent mountain range if they are not finding birds. As an example, it appears from this survey that the Pine Forest Range experienced fair to good production while the Jackson Mountains survey revealed poor production and low bird numbers. This is ironic in that the two ranges are separated by only eight miles at certain points. Similarly, observed chukar densities in the Selenite Range were well above long-term averages for that particular range while the east Granite Range transect was below average.
In terms of potential places to avoid, biologists observed that survey plots that experienced an extensive amount of wildfire in the past had relatively low bird numbers, especially compared to historical figures. Transects in the Argenta Rim, Izzenhoods and Rock Creek reflected this. Habitat conditions and water availability were considered poor in the Double H Range while the Jacksons Mountains and Lava Beds had poor water availability compared to past years.
While our aerial density surveys cover a representative portion of traditional chukar habitat and hunting areas in Nevada, there are certainly other locations that support the species and where biologists have captured relevant biological information.
For example, limited brood surveys conducted in Churchill County, also a popular chukar hunting area, indicated 5.0 chicks per hen. Although this is not particularly great, this level of production should stabilize the population.
Brood surveys conducted in adjacent Mineral County were much more positive as 10.2 chicks per adult were recorded. This should lead to
some moderate to good chukar hunting opportunities for those familiar with Mineral County mountain ranges.
Of interest, a few survey plots showed noticeable numbers and production of California quail. The number and size of California quail coveys in the Granites and Santa Rosa survey plots were somewhat impressive while chukar numbers did not necessarily correlate to these observations.