Finding chukars will pose work-out for hunters

Nevada Department of Wildlife 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 chukar 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 chukar 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 of chukars is about 83,000 birds and, relatively speaking, we've had above average years for three out of the past four years. In 2006, we estimated approximately 104,000 chukars harvested, which is still 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 that one simple thing would make the biggest difference...rain.

"While Upland game populations certainly can benefit by positive changes in habitat management or projects, in the long run, timely receipts of precipitation are ultimately responsible for population performance on an annual basis," said Espinosa.


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