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2022-2023 Chukar Hunting Season Forecast

All indicators are pointing to strong chukar numbers this season across the West.

2022-2023 Chukar Hunting Season Forecast

There are few upland endeavors more frustrating, and equally rewarding, than hunting the wild chukar. (Photo By: Kali Parmley)

For many die-hard upland enthusiasts, the physical and mental exertion that chukars demand makes them the pinnacle of western upland bird hunting. From the unforgiving mountains they call home, to their innate ability to taunt you to the top of the mountain and laugh at you all the way to the bottom, births a lifelong addiction to their pursuit.

Having hunted chukars for more than 20 years, I have seen the ebb and flow of population numbers across their range from booming to seemingly non-existent. On years when it was good, we often pushed a dozen or more coveys per day. On slower years, we only flushed one or two coveys all season. The 2021-2022 season as a whole was relatively slow with lower bird numbers than the year prior. With that said, there were still isolated pockets of decent bird numbers that give me hope for a solid rebound this fall. Most of the West also experienced a mild winter followed by a wet spring which has left the landscape teeming with better than average cover and much needed feed.

After talking with upland biologists from several states, the general consensus is very optimistic that bird numbers are higher this year than last. With that said, below is a state-by-state breakdown for some of the top-producing chukar states and what biologists are predicting for the upcoming season.

Primary Chukar Hunting States

Nevada

Season Dates: October 15, 2022 – February 5, 2023

Daily Bag Limit: 6

The great state of Nevada is a chukar hunter’s playground, with endless miles of pristine chukar habitat scattered across nearly 48 million acres of public land. According to brood surveys conducted by Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) this summer, populations are increasing (up 61% from last year) but still below average, and highly variable from mountain range to mountain range. “We are still suffering the effects of horrible drought,” said Shawn Espinosa, Upland Game Specialist for NDOW. “Even so, we had promising survey results in central and northeastern Nevada in Elko County.”

Humboldt and Washoe County have long been Nevada’s top chukar producing counties, but hunters may need to expand their search this season. “Humboldt County will likely only be fair this year and Washoe County will be mostly poor due to ongoing drought conditions,” added Espinosa. Nevada may require some additional boot tread to find pockets of birds this year, but rest assured Nevada is the chukar hunting destination in the West and there are plenty of coveys to chase for the savvy upland hunter.


Utah

Season Dates: September 24, 2022 – February 15, 2023

Bag Limit: 5

Chukars in the Beehive State can be found in nearly every region, but the greatest concentration of birds is found in the vast, remote country west of the I-15 corridor. Chukar hunting in Utah last year was spotty, but most would consider it a down year in terms of numbers, with very few juvenile birds killed in smaller covey sizes. However, this year, numbers are looking up!

“Bird numbers are looking much better than they did last year with a lot of chicks being seen in our survey counts,” said Avery Cook, Upland Biologist for Utah Fish and Game. Counts in the northern region of the state have shown a drastic improvement of 2.4 juveniles per adult bird and an even bigger spike in the central region with 3.5 juveniles per adult bird. This may not sound like much, but both regions reported a 0.1 juvenile per adult bird average last season. Cook also mentioned that “the return of some monsoon moisture this summer really kick-started the grasses and forbs that have led to higher chick numbers and better overall cover.”

two chukar hunters walking in the cheatgrass of the desert
As a Utah resident and passionate chukar hunter, Cook’s outlook for this upcoming season has me chomping at the bit to hit the hills and wear out some boot leather. (Photo By: Kali Parmley)

Idaho

Season Dates: September 17, 2022 – January 31, 2023

Bag Limit: 8 (combination of chukar and gray (Hungarian) partridge)

Idaho is teeming with opportunity to chase chukars across the entire southern half of the state and back up north to the Hells Canyon region along the Oregon border. Like Utah, numbers were down last season, but early reports are pointing to a promising 2022-2023 season. Unlike some of the surrounding states, Idaho does not participate in any form of official bird count surveys, but early field reports are sounding promising.

“We are receiving observations of good chukar brood numbers from various regions around the state and I am certainly optimistic for this fall,” said Jeff Knetter, Idaho’s Upland Game and Migratory Game Bird Program Coordinator. Knetter contributes several factors to these encouraging reports including a mild winter, wet spring, and “much better cover this year than in years past.”

Knetter also pointed out that while numbers should be “at or above last year’s population,” numbers will vary from drainage to drainage. Like anywhere else, chukars will make you earn them, but that is one of the many reasons that these masked bandits so addicting to pursue.

Oregon

Season Dates: October 8, 2022 – January 31, 2023

Bag Limit: 8 (combination of chukar and gray (Hungarian) partridge)

Upland hunting in Oregon, and specifically chukar hunting, has long been an overlooked gem of opportunity. With the majority of chukar hunting being done along the eastern edge of the state, these opportunities are not as far away as they may sound. According to Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) 2022-23 Game Bird Forecast, chukar hunters will, “likely have an above average year with quite a bit of variation across the state.” Mikal Cline, Upland Game Bird Coordinator for ODFW said, “Oregon received some substantial spring moisture at just the right time to put good cover and feed on the ground and I think the chukar chicks have done very well.” Strong chukar production has been reported along the John Day and Deschutes drainages as well as the Baker portion of the Snake River.

When asked what geographic features were best to find chukars in Oregon, Cline chuckled, “The steeper the better.” And she is not wrong. Cline followed up by adding, “Any rimrock country adjacent to some sort of water source is a great place to start.”

two chukar hunters on rimrock in the desert
A bounty of birds just might be waiting if you can find water and navigate the rugged terrain. (Photo By: Kali Parmley)

Secondary States to Hunt Chukar

While the previously mentioned states may rule the West when it comes to chukar hunting, opportunities are available to chase these devilish birds in several other states. Below is a breakdown of season dates and bag limits for every state with a huntable wild chukar population.

(click each state below to be directed to their hunting regulations and more information.)

Arizona 

Season Dates: September 1, 2022 – February 12, 2023

Bag Limit: 5

California

Season Dates: October 15, 2022 – January 29, 2023

Bag Limit: 6

Colorado

Season Dates: September 1, 2022 – November 30, 2022

Bag Limits: 4

Montana 

Season Dates: September 1, 2022 – January 1, 2023

Bag Limit: 8 (combination of chukar and gray (Hungarian) partridge)

Washington

Season Dates: October 1, 2022 – January 31, 2023

Bag Limit: 6

Wyoming

Season Dates: September 15, 2022 – January 31, 2023

Bag Limit: 5

Chukar Hunting Tips

One of the most appealing aspects to hunting chukars is the fact that they are not tied to agriculture areas which generally coincide with private property and limited access. The mountains that chukars call home are by and large located on millions of acres of public land that we all have access to. Chukar habitat can vary, but steep, rocky mountains intermixed with sage brush and cheat-grass is a great place to start. Early in the season chukars will be tied to water sources. Hidden guzzlers, ponds, and brushy high-mountain streams are a lifeline in September and October for these birds. After the snow falls, focus your time and attention on burned-off south facing, cheat-grass slopes.

The stars are aligning for a banner year of bird hunting so lace up your boots, grab your bird dog and your favorite scatter gun, and trek into the unknown to pursue one of the most incredible game birds on the planet. Chukar hunting will get in your blood and take you to the top of some of the most isolated, desolate, and beautiful mountains that you will ever climb. No matter how many chukars I have killed, I still get the same sense of amazement every time my Lab brings a bird to my hand—and that is what keeps me coming back year after year.

chukar hunter in desert with english setter hunting dog
The hard work of getting after chukar is always worth the reward. (Photo By: Kali Parmley)


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