State releases 2016 chukar forecast
There’s a bumper sticker out that says chukar hunters are walking proof that duck hunters are smarter.
On Wednesday, the Nevada Department of Wildlife released the 2016 Chukar Forecast at ndow.org.
This year’s forecast reports that the overall outlook for the 2016-17 chukar season will be good and should provide better results than last year overall.
Increases greater than 60 percent were observed in the Argenta, Lava Beds, Sheep Creek and Double H transects. Unfortunately, six transects saw a decline in numbers. The most significant decline was apparent in the Santa Rosa transect with a 66 percent decline from 2015. Lesser declines were observed in the Pine Forest, Sonoma, Izzenhood, Rock Creek and Granites transects. There seems to be some fairly drastic variation, even within specific areas, and mountain ranges adjacent to one another can have quite different results. Overall, results of the survey were positive with a 5 percent increase in observed birds per square mile compared to last year, and this year’s average is 28 percent greater than the long-term average.
“Even though the increase wasn’t quite what we expected, there are still some bright spots to look forward to. Several transects saw some significant increases and there are certainly many other areas around the state besides those identified in the forecast that will exhibit similar results this year,” said Espinosa. “Don’t forget about mountain ranges in Churchill County or even those in southern Lander and Eureka counties. Those can be very productive as well and you will encounter less people.”
Everything looked like it was falling into place for the upcoming chukar hunting season. Fewer hunters in the field last year resulted in a smaller harvest. A solid fall that provided plenty of green vegetation was followed by a winter with one of the best snowpacks in recent years. A mild February and wet spring in late March and early April had Shawn Espinosa, upland game biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, thinking 2016 was going to be a banner year. But while surveys predict a better season than last year, the chukar boom never quite materialized.
“We were a bit surprised by some of the survey results, especially in the Santa Rosa Range where we saw a drastic drop-off in chukar numbers. Sometimes, even when you think conditions couldn’t be much better for production, Mother Nature plays tricks on you,” said Espinosa. “Perhaps winter conditions were more drastic than anticipated in places like the Santa Rosa Range or late snow storms could have negatively affected early nesters. Effects of the drought still persist, and that may be playing a role as well.”
Chukar and Hungarian partridge season will open Oct. 8 and run through Feb. 5, 2017. 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. The full Chukar Hunting Forecast is now available and can be found on the NDOW website at ndow.org.
The state began aerial chukar density surveys in 1975 with the use of a helicopter. There are 13 survey plots, or transects, that have been surveyed since then and care is taken to survey these plots in the same fashion each year. These transects are flown in a grid pattern where the aircraft flies up a drainage, fairly close to the ground, and down the adjacent ridge. Biologists record the number of birds observed with care not to “double count” coveys.
An upland game bird stamp is required for anyone age 12 or older, to hunt upland game birds, except turkey and crow. The $10 stamp is available at NDOW offices, authorized license agents statewide throughout Nevada and online at ndowlicensing.com. Funds from the stamp sales are used to support guzzler maintenance and habitat work that benefits upland game bird species.
Espinosa does have some basic advice for sportsmen looking to get out there this chukar season. “Always try to get yourself and your dog in better shape well before the season opens. Using chukar hunts as the method to get into shape will only leave you frustrated. Carry plenty of water for you and your dog early in the season. Pay close attention to the condition of water sources and look for tracks or sign around springs or on dirt roads near streams to help locate birds. Use the water development atlas to help focus hunts in drier areas. Respect other hunters in the area and if there is someone parked in a particular canyon, try one or two drainages over. Remember that some popular chukar hunting areas burned during the summer of 2016 including the Izzenhood Range and much of the Virginia Mountains. Avoid these areas to have a better experience in Nevada’s outdoors and to reduce stress on wildlife populations that continue to use these areas.”