Lower Chukar numbers test hunters’ skill, health | NevadaAppeal.com

Lower Chukar numbers test hunters’ skill, health

Don Quilici

Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) game biologist Shawn Espinosa seems to be an optimist at heart.

Despite a decline in the number of Chukar this season, Espinosa still thinks there is at least one positive to a smaller population.

“Chukar hunter health will definitely benefit. Hunters will have to spend more time in the field and burn more calories,” says Espinosa.

Drought conditions and a loss of habitat due to wildfire have both contributed to decreased numbers in the Chukar population.

Espinosa reports that a largely adult population will make things that much more challenging for hunters.

“With the lack of young birds, hunters will be pursuing coveys that have most likely had experience with hunting pressure and will be taking to the wing at greater distances,” he reports. “Not only will hunters most likely be taking longer shots, especially towards the latter two-thirds of the season, they will most likely have to cover more ground to find birds this year.”

Espinosa points to several “above average” years of Chukar hunting success that may have hunters expectations set a little too high.

“The long term annual harvest is about 83,000 birds. Relatively speaking, we’ve had above average years for three of the past four years. In 2006, we estimated 104,000 Chukar harvested, which is well above the long-term average. This year, the prediction is for something along the lines of a more “average” year,” he explains.

While several things will need to happen to see the Chukar population head back up, Espinosa states one simple thing would make the biggest difference: Rain.

“While Upland Game populations can benefit by positive changes in habitat management, in the long run, timely precipitation is ultimately responsible for population performance on an annual basis,” said Espinosa.